By Toyin Falola
I was in-between spaces and places when Professor Nduka Otiono informed me that he had been appointed as the new Director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University in Canada. This appointment, which is for a three-year term, takes effect on July 1, 2022. I was excited and wished I had more time to listen to his vision. I have been privileged to read his great works, write a review on his latest poetry collection, and interact with him from time to time. It has been a string of good news from our wonderful African colleagues in Canada. His new portfolio allows me to re-introduce him to the public.
Otiono obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in English from the University of Ibadan in 1987 and a Masters of Arts degree in the same course and university in 1990. In 2011, he earned a PhD in English from the University of Alberta. He has worked in Media Journalism for over a decade, with extensive experience in editorial and management roles in print journalism, particularly literary and cultural journalism. He was the founding editor for various newspaper literary supplements such as This Day, National Mirror, and Post Express Literary Supplement (PELS) and worked with top-ranked media houses in Nigeria like The Guardian, Vanguard, The Sun, Flashpoint, and The Nation.
Otiono has characterized himself as a man with a coat of many colours. His major strength and ability effectively straddle numerous fields while placing the agencies of Nigeria, Africa, and the African Diaspora in high regard. Peering into his training in professional media, he has contributed significantly to the Department of Communications, as well as being cross-appointed to the Department of English Language and Literature, School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University, where he has contributed with other professors to make the School of Journalism and Communication a leading centre in Canada. Most importantly, the infusion of African journalism into the curriculum has established his position as a credible source for strong opinions on public affairs.
Similarly, Otiono’s grand knowledge and research experience in Oral Literature and African literature is another of his contributions to academia, as he successfully researched street stories to engage orality, popular culture, and the postcolonial condition in Nigeria. Based on these, he has distinguished himself as a Nigerian academic on oral culture. Many of his works are on the plane of redefining and reconstructing African literature through the lens of the digital space. In a bid to impact the digital space and pave the way for upcoming scholars to sharpen and develop their skills and for research using digital tools to appropriately initiate policies, the preservation of African memories and African history, he has imbibed the method of finding a nexus between Digital Humanities and African Studies. Notably, one of such works is the introduction he wrote in honour of Pius Adesanmi on Death and an African Digital Towncrier.
Likewise, in his contributions to African literature, he has published various poetry anthologies and chapbooks where he has made impressive landmarks, coupled with the indelible impact that separates him as an exemplar figure in writing culture, particularly poetry. Recently he published DisPlace: The Poetry of Nduka Otiono (2021); his other works include Voices in the Rainbow (1997), Rivers Within (2007), and Love in a Time of Nightmares (2008). These books, which have won awards such as the James Patrick Folinsbee Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing and Honorary Mention in the Association of Nigerian Authors/Cadbury Poetry Prize, address diverse sociopolitical and psychosocial aspects of living in Nigeria and the diaspora.
Otiono has contributed to post-independence Nigerian writing by featuring poets across the country in an anthology titled Camouflage. This collection, edited by himself and Odoh Diego Okenyodo, brings together a new generation of writers from Nigeria and the diaspora, aged 24 to 46. These authors are highly recognized in various contexts, from winning international honours to participating in writers’ forums. This book is about Nigeria’s post-independence circumstances and fresh realities, and the link between ideology and aesthetics that tends to affect the Nigerian experience is also effectively problematized and dramatized in the anthology. Readers are treated to a unique and interesting surreal experience of confronting the unknown and traversing various styles and ideologies while reading the book because the anthology lists each contributor’s work alphabetically rather than thematically.
Otiono has contributed to the locally specific constructions and representations of women in Nigeria and Africa in literature and popular culture by showing his diversity in writing and research efforts. He has delved into the various reflections on the place of women in major African and Nigerian novels, poetry, and even drama. For example, Wemen: An Anthology of Men Writing on Women (1998), “Colour Me Ba(r)d: Orality and the Feminist Question in Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn” (2015), and “Catherine Acholonu (1951 – 2014): The Female Writer As a Goddess” (2019), rendered the machinations needed to appropriately understand the relationship between gender and power, discussing how readers should move past the old, binary-based conjectures in research on women and women’s writings.
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For his numerous contributions to education, teaching, and literature, Otiono has won many prestigious grants such as the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships – Advanced Scholars, where he was the principal investigator; the FASS 2020 COVID19 Research Assistantship Fund; the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, and the F. S. Chia Fellowship; Andrew Stewart Memorial Graduate Prize. In 2002, he was a Grantee, Embassy of France in Nigeria, for the trip to Chambery, France, to attend the International Society of Oral Literature in Africa (ISOLA) conference, and in 2003, he was a Fellow, British Council Cambridge Seminar on Contemporary Literature, Downing College, Cambridge University. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University for a year in 2011, during which time he was also named Visiting Assistant Professor and was nominated for the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence. Then, in 2015, he was awarded the Carnegie African Diaspora Scholar Fellowship, Delta State University in Nigeria. In addition, he was a Fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Boston’s William Joiner Centre for War and Social Consequences. He earned all these due to his interdisciplinary focus research focuses on oral literature in Africa, the digital humanities, popular urban stories, and the role of Nigerian theatre and its nexus with postcolonial Africa.
Otiono is an accomplished literary writer who has won many prizes from Ibadan to Canada. In 1987, he won the prize for the second position in the annual Christopher Okigbo Poetry competition of the Poetry Club, University of Ibadan. A decade later, he won the Association of Nigerian Authors/Spectrum Prize for Fiction in 1997. His most recent literary prize came a decade into the twenty-first century when he won the prestigious James Patrick Folinsbee Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing.
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Otiono has significantly contributed to media outreaches and has about two dozen international and local TV and radio appearances with significant contributions to community-building and public debates on socio-cultural issues about Africa and the African Canadian experience. He also belongs to various professional associations, notably the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, the Canadian Authors Association, and the Association of Nigerian Authors. With his new appointment as Director, he has truly earned it, and he will surely move the Center to the next level. Congratulations!
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Tussle For Supremacy: A Catastrophic Phenomenon Of Power Failure In A Lawless Society
By Grace Ego Omoni
In the literary world appreciation of the works of art such as the novel and the play is used to explain the author or playwright writing style. One major feature is the plot. Sometimes, a novel or play might have only one plot but is not uncommon to see or identify a plot or plots within a major plot in the narration or drama. The essence is to make the work more interesting and exciting. The subplots hang on the main plot tenaciously. In other words, there is harmony between the subplots and the main plot. The subplots act as support to the main story.
The writer sees the happenings in this nation from the perspective of the above literary style used by authors and playwrights. The events and occurrences in such a time as this in Nigeria can be labelled as a dilemma of a collapsing nation. How do you fathom a situation where some areas in this country especially in the northern geopolitical zones where they now have illegal and unscrupulous individuals governing, making obnoxious policies or laws and imposing them on the citizens of a democratically elected government with impunity ? How do you describe a nation where this new breed of lawless bandits impose taxes of various kinds and degrees on helpless rightful inhabitants? How do you explain a situation where people are restricted from the freedom to live, to work, to worship, to express themselves and of movement? Are we being made to conclude that there is another “government” within a GOVERNMENT legally and democratically elected to govern the people?
On the 27th of June in Channels Television, two Honourables from Kaduna State and specifically in Birin- Gwari Local Government area were interviewed about the state of security there. The responses are very worrisome.
According to the Honourables, their people are being taxed unabated three times a year for the past three years. It was also revealed by one of them that about 300 to 400 million naira has been paid to these imposers to allow the people plant, grow and harvest their crops. Apart from the above, the farmers are forced without any choice to give these men two bags of grain from every ten bags produced at the end of the harvest season! The farmers cows are rustled indiscriminately.
Moreover, this new breed of unconstitutional governance has a team of soldiers with their own outfits parading and harassing the inhabitants. It was also stated that movement from one village to the other or the farms is now highly restricted because of the the insurmountable insecurity saga in this local government where there is a chairman with his elected leaders and a state government with a sitting governor.
When Channels Television interviewers asked whether the government in power was aware of the situation and the predicament of the people, he cleverly dodged the question by asserting that everybody knows about it! Incredible!
Why are the State and Federal Governments not saying or doing anything? Would they say that they are ignorant or oblivious of the fact that there are people exercising power and authority in this Local Government and probably other constituencies in and around the country? Why the silence knowing very well that silence means consent? Do they not have security agents and CIDs who from time to time give pieces of information and security reports to the government? How do these men communicate with one another? Is the government no longer in control of the communication networks in this country? Is this illegal “government” making policies and laws and imposing them on the helpless inhabitants being recognized and authorized to carry on like this? This unconstitutional independence seems to have come to stay.
However, Nigerians have not been officially informed that the country now has another “government” within this nation called Nigeria. Is it not a shame and unthinkable that a group of mad infiltrators have overrun some parts of the country just like Russia is doing to Ukraine? Unlike Ukraine, there seems to be no resistance on the part of the leadership of this nation. Are there no strategic synergy and efficient professionals to track down these imposers? Are the security plans being given prominence in the social media just a mirage? Are the Federal and State Governments by their slow actions and silence implying that the tussle for supremacy between them and these bandits or terrorists or rebels or secessionists has overwhelmed them? Can there be any tangible explanation why the government of the day cannot crush and squash this mindless killers but could proscribe IPOB from existing? Why this lopsided mentality? Why this nonchalant attitude from the powers that be? Why this unwritten compromise? Are the State and Federal Government technically waiting for these bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen to hold the other geopolitical zones to ransom, topple and take authority over a democratically elected government? Has insecurity now become one of the rights of the Nigerian citizens today? Is the government of the day not seeing the impending catastrophe speedily meandering into the nation? Is Humpty- Dumpty the new name for the government that is supposed to be in control of all affairs in this nation? The situation reminds me of a poem titled: “Humpty-Dumpty”
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall;
Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall;
Not all the kinsmen and and not all the horsemen can put Humpty-Dumpty together again”!
Take it or leave it, Nigeria is tearing apart. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria has been overrun by a deadly generation of evil men and are operating an “illegal government system” in various parts of the country. The people are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Loyalty to the terrorists is now being forced on the inhabitants. The people are under serious pressures! Insecurity is becoming more threatening than ever before. There is defence for them and the government is not forthcoming.
Solutions to this situations are not being wholly accessed by the government of the day. The economy has deteriorated and crippled. Farmers can no longer produce crops to sustain them not to talk of distributing to other consumers near and far. The common man is helpless. School children in these affected areas cannot access quality education due to the vulnerability of the terrain. Travelling as part of life has been terminated. Movement from one place to the other is now restricted for fear of being kidnapped, raped, robbed or killed by these infiltrators.
Traders cannot engage in businesses for fear of being stripped of their goods and money. Worshippers stand the risk of losing their lives in their churches and mosques. In fact, these so-called bandits are by their actions, placing ban on Christianity as a religion. Thus, freedom of worship as the individual’s right is already being wiped out in this nation.
Again the latest according to one of the Honourables is that a law has been imposed by these bandits that there should be no election campaigns in the area for the forthcoming general elections. Politicians cannot go to this area to campaign due to this instruction. Do people abide by it? Do we have a government within a government just like we have a story within a story in literary works? What a disaster!
Strategies towards the government restoring and regaining authority and supremacy over those trying to usurp power
*Government should legalize the possession of firearms. After all bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen are freely moving about with sophisticated guns and weapons without being arrested and prosecuted. This suggestion has become inevitable so that people can defend themselves when attacked. The Zamfara State Government and some others are advocates of this suggestion. If implemented, it will curb the excesses of these bandits. The Judiciary, the legislature and the State Government should as a matter of urgency pass a bill and implement this policy;
*The security system of the country should be beefed up; sophisticated weapons, walkie talkies, good network services and sound vehicles should be made available for the law enforcement agencies to combat insecurity. You do not expect the police or the army to confront terrorists with inferior weapons;
* The police, navy, army and the air force need to facilitate their people with modern tactics and methods for maintaining peace and order;
* The communication networks in this country should be utilized by the government to fight and win this tussle for supremacy;
*Government should come up with a policy or a statement to condemn and crush the activities of these culprits trying to usurp power. Arrest, prosecute punish them accordingly;
*Government should find a way of handling this issue of paying ransom to kidnappers. Imagine paying criminals and authentic government workers do not get good pays or even being paid on time. University lecturers have been on strike for the past five months because of failure of the government to do the needful;
* The security and care of those in the IDP camps should be improved upon;
*Government should create jobs for the teeming youths. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Today, the only jobs available in Nigeria are Yahoo syndrome, Keke and Okada riding, Uber driving and permit me to say, banditry, kidnapping and killing;
*In the meantime, the government should stop pursuing shadow! This madness of election campaigns should stop. Who are these politicians going to govern? The people who have no means of livelihood, dying of hunger, living under fear of insecurity and whose land are being grabbed under their noses?
* Government should in all ramifications rise up and squash and crush the activities of these men now operating as a “governing body of a new nation” within a democratically elected government with immediate effect and alacrity.
Nigerians rise and demand your security, peace and tranquility now instead of selling your votes to those who are out to keep you in perpetual slavery and fear of a bleak future.
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End Of A Beautiful Debate On Women
By Tony Afejuku
At the point when I was readily ready to bring to an end a debate with happiness on the subject of women in our polity of politlies of politrickians, my inspiration waned because it lost its enthusiasm. I don’t know why. I didn’t know why. I could not know why. On my writing table there was no wine of inspiration for me to sip from. And the idea I earnestly wanted with excelling quality in its galloping train neither yielded nor illuminated itself to me forthwith. But something else did. It created its peculiar raptures which indicated that what was debated was worth it and that what I am going to express now to sum up the debate is worth saying. Now what is this something that entered me to toss my heart into raptures and to remint my brain with flavours of fragrant sensations which yearn after thirst that is thirst after thirst on behalf of women?
A day before this column appeared last Friday, an event of monumental significance world-wide escaped us all in this land of lands: your country my country our country. Thursday, June 23rd “marked on the United Nations Calendar” the “International Day for Widows.” And the broad theme was “Invisible Women, Invisible Problems.” All the professors who debated what I wish to call the Nigerian women conundrum did not remember the event, and made no ounce of reference to it. Of course, their respective blossoms of ideas reached me before Thursday, 23rd of June, but it is still bewildering that they did not anticipate the event in their submissions. Even yours sincerely the seemingly ingenious columnist did not remember the great day. Why? The answer is simple. A widow is a woman. And no widow in our part of the world is in full fig in our imagination. June 23rd never rang a bell in Nigeria. It was invisible here despite the visible problems they face month by month, week by week, day by day, second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour. Our governments – central and states – did not galvanize us to mark the day. Our civil societies’ organizations completely ignored or did not remember the day. Our media also unremembered the day. Even Nigerian women themselves in vantage positions by-passed the day without qualms. And surprise, surprise, surprise. Professor Mrs. Razinatu Mohammed, the only female debater mysteriously forgot to give form to the “International Day for Widows” in her lavish debate. How could this sumptuous writer, critic and feminist to the core forget to defend widowhood in her delivery which she did with grace and sweetness in this column? Widowhood has its challenges in our society. It degrades the woman immeasurably. And the younger the woman, the younger widow, the more immeasurable is her degradation and predicament and trauma. Even if she is rich and a woman or widow of substance, nothing is guaranteed in her favour. Her status, whatever it is, has no bearing to her advantage.
Our men in politics in their Ogbonistic characteristics, sensibilities, temperament and countenances victimize the widow exceedingly without inhibitions. Their ogbonism (as Tony Eluemunor would say) overshadows their concern, regard and sympathy for widows whom they show no kindness as they should. Widowhood is victimhood with a greatly tragic theme in Nigeria. I don’t want to navigate the depressively depressive nuances of widowhood – because widowhood and its tragic theme of victimhood was never really carved or scripted into any shape in my initial delivery and the debate it inspired. But it should have crossed the minds of the debaters starting from the irrepressible columnist Mr. Tony Eluemunor and Professor Agharese Osifo, the eater of books, on to Professors Igho Natufe, Razanatu Mohammed and Ibrahim Bello-Kano. In fact, let me take Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano to the dock. His rich remarks were rich perplexities which he expressed in terms of ANTINOMIES, contradictions that cancel contradictions and re-introduce contradictions – as his reflections clearly did or seemed to do – as I perceived. And some examples he tendered in his endeavor to lay blame on women in politics sounded as those of the far-gone pessimist and the ultra-conservative male chauvinist who would want us to see or admire him as a “Feminist-Not-Feminist-Enough.” He called the late British female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “milk-snatcher,” for example, to undermine her political sagacity, combat of light philosophy and intellect. For Ibrahim Bello-Kano, a Professor of Critical Light, a term I am coining for him, Margaret Thatcher was possessed of the treacherous spirits of darkness.
He may be right (without my conceding that he really was/is). But was/is he right to employ her to make a blanket statement regarding infamous political leadership and fallible rule of women? Certainly not, I submit. Angela Markel, a Ph.D. in Chemistry, like Margaret Thatcher, until recently was Chancellor of Germany for several years. Until the end of her healthy tenure Germans felt and enjoyed the fortune of happiness. Most of their debatings were preciously in her favour.
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I can go on and on to deconstruct Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano. But he is my reader whose response(s) to my essay and column I should applaud whether or not I am in perfect agreement with him. I am glad that he and others read me. But he cannot be criminalizing and decriminalizing women at the same time; he cannot be invalidating and validating at the same time; he cannot be validating and invalidating at the same time, and his intellectual gymnastics and acrobatics in argumentation do not really do credit to his intended point, effect and result. The confusion and contradictions contained in his sumptuous submission put our women-folk in jeopardy. Nigerian women should unite, as Professor Igho Natufe, a foremost Political Scientist of uncommon objectivity and transparent radical engagements, enjoins them to do if they must eject themselves from the clutches of their male oppressors. In the great Warri Kingdom of the Itsekiri centuries ago two enchanting sisters and princesses – Uwala and Iye – did precisely this – what Professors Natufe and Razanatu Mohammed, rainbow writer from the savannah, have enjoined them to preach without a mask that grieves or grins. The men must loose, untie their tyrannical hold on the women. And they must compel themselves to change their attitude to widows in the spirit of nobility that should give us a new society – as Professor Igho Natufe informed me via a post of an ample helping. Professor Rajan Barret of Mahatma Ghandi’s land concurs. Nigerian women are not the property of Nigerian men. I concur and re-concur. Women, unite! Break the yoke of oppression! You must! You have the power! You have the bosom of positive courage! Unite!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Poverty, Ignorance As Political Weapons
By Victoria Praise Abraham
The Nigerian people have been reduced to a bowl of rice and Amala, come every election cycle and this time it is no different, but worse. Poverty has been weaponized to the point of no return. We have never had it so bad.
Poverty has been weaponized. Ignorance and illiteracy rule the average Nigerian and we are in dire straits, totally impoverished by the politicians who rule as kings and Lords in Nigeria today. It is a sad day to be a Nigerian
This particular pathetic situation started many decades ago but over the years, it has become magnified and greatly enlarged to a horrific point .
Politicians are ready to kill to win elections, they engage in open vote buying and selling in our political landscape.
The same obviously played out in the Ekiti elections of last weekend. The same happened in the Osun elections and we are in a very perilous time because Nigerians have never been poorer.
Poverty has become weaponized and sadly the average Nigerian is very hungry and has refused to think beyond his belly.
A hungry man or woman is totally desperate and can only answer the call to satisfy his or her stomach nudgings.
The years of political mismanagement have gone on to pulverize the economy and the average Nigerian.We are now in sad times. The Ekiti elections show us that our politics is now for the highest bidder.
Unfortunately, all political parties use this political tool of trade called vote buying.
Where do we go from here? How do we stop this menace? Where did we miss it? Who do we blame for this disease called vote buying in our political landscape?
It seems that we are bedeviled with bad leaders, politicians and bad people who cannot always do right by their conscience.
This whole charade will certainly play out in a bigger version in the 2023 general elections and this means that the entire process will play out in the interest of the highest political vote buyers winning most if not all the elections.
Poverty has been weaponized. The Nigerian people have been pulverized and we have all entered one chance! The word one chance is a Nigeria word for a bad situation…… Entering a kidnapper’s vehicle.
Only God can deliver us from the hands of our politicians, and only God can help the average Nigerian because it is a very pathetic situation that they have to go through every election year that continues to leave them with bad choices of leaders decades after decades.
May God Almighty be the 3rd force that will save the Nigerian nation from further sliding and degeneration come 2023.
Let us all be prayerful as true patriots and lovers of Nigeria so that we can be saved from ourselves because Nigerians are the biggest problem of Nigeria. We must become the solutions to our problems going forward.
. Abraham is a writer based in Lagos.
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