Thursday, 6 August 2015

Clinique Face Forward Campaign!

I took part in the Clinique #FaceForward campaign. It was an incredibly surreal, amazing experience. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, 22 June 2015

My Favourite Books of 2013

I read Eghosa Imasuen’s ‘Fine Boys’ in almost one sitting, turning the pages of the novel into the early hours of the morning, desperate to discover Ewaen and Willy’s fate. The 90s were a particularly unattractive time to go to University in Nigeria and Imasuen does not shy away from this. The teargas and strikes of the decade are depicted, as well as the cramped classrooms and terror of being forced to ‘blend’ into a cult. Yet, the book still left me nostalgic for the camaraderie of a generation that for the most part ‘alutad’ and continued to tell the tale. I forced the book on a friend who prides himself on not having time to read fiction. He returned my signed copy a few days later, dog-eared and thumb marked. “That was my life,” he said, a little unnerved by how spot on Imasuen had been.

I read about Molara Wood’s ‘Indigo’ on twitter. She was very discreet, tweeting in passing that her short story collection was out without even urging us to ‘grab our copies!!!’ Nevertheless, I hurried to Amazon and downloaded the book. I’ve never encountered Ms Wood’s fiction before and so I approached with curiosity. It can take me months to read a collection. I hate the unevenness of the things. You read a brilliant story, only for you to rush to the next one and discover it’s a dud. Ms Wood has no duds. Obviously, all fingers being unequal, some stories are more brilliant than others. ‘Night Market’ which has the unlikely ingredients of an ex-Sango priest, an American wife and a returnee, is one of the most satisfactory pieces of fiction I have read, a world in a short story. It was so complete, I wondered why any writer wastes paper on a novel?

And then of course Igoni Barrett’s ‘Love is Power orSomething Like That.’ I found the title a bit unwieldy and I wondered why in a collection of delightful numbers such as, ‘My Smelling Mouth Problem’ and, ‘The Shape of A Full Circle’ Barrett and his publishers should have chosen such an amala bolus of a title. Well I read it and discovered why. I found myself chastised by this very nuanced portrayal of that oft caricatured individual: the Nigerian policeman. It’s a fluid piece of fiction that slips into your consciousness and remains there long after it is over. Barrett is also doing something very interesting with language. He’s writing in Nigerian English, not pidgin, which Eghosa Imasuen, does with flair but in Nigerian English: that curious, convoluted, verbose, ungrammatical, profound, lyrical way we have of speaking ‘English’ to one another.

Lastly, the discovery of the year for me was the Congolese French writer, Alain Mabanckou. His semi-autobiographical novel, ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty’ may very well become the definitive coming of age tale of a generation. Communism, dictators, coups and suspect diamonds all feature in what still remains a very funny novel, thanks to the earnest lens through which the young narrator sees the world. I read the book to the end and so saddened was I by how quickly I’d consumed it, I went back to the beginning and started again. It was that good. These four books I’ve mentioned are that good. So grab a copy of each one. Grab your copies now!

First published on YNaija.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Sunita on BBC Radio 3

A short story of mine, 'Sunita,' will be read on Radio 3 as part of the Young Artists Day on May 4 (next week Monday). The story will be broadcast at 22.45 UK time and you can live stream Radio 3 here.

For more details on the Young Artists Day, click here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

My First Gig as a Historian!

Here's a summary of what my talk will be about:

The West African Student’s Union was a London based group, which existed from 1925 to 1966. The W.A.S.U was born out of a very prosaic need: the need for bed and breakfast. Landladies in the 1920s were not partial to black lodgers so the W.A.S.U’s hostel, founded in 1933, served as a shelter for African students seeking lodging in a hostile city.

Yet, the W.A.S.U’s founder, Chief Ladipọ Ṣolankẹ, also had a vision of the Union as a centre for debate and discussion, a place where student could eat good African home cooking as well as meet with the black icons like Paul Robeson, who was a W.A.S.U patron; a place where these students would begin to think of themselves as future leaders. It wasn’t long before Whitehall began to take note. For as independence movements developed on the African continent, the question arose: who would rule when the British had departed? Who else but these young, eloquent, well dressed, confident young men and women who peopled the rooms of the W.A.S.U hostel in Camden Square.

Catch em’ young, became Whitehall’s strategy. Keep them sweet. The W.A.S.U met with Lords, politicians, intellectuals. Union members dined with the great and good. The hostel’s running costs were subsidised by the Colonial Office and complaints about British policy in West Africa were carefully responded to; you didn’t want the Communists to get them.

And yet, little is known about the W.A.S.U today. The flame of many African independence movements, was kept burning in a now forgotten building in Camden Town. Kwame Nkrumah passed through the W.A.S.U. Jomo Kenyatta was affiliated with the W.A.S.U. They went to lectures. They took the tube. And all the while, a continent was waiting.

Full details below. 


Location: S8.08 Strand Campus
Category: Conference
When: 11 (10.00) – 12/05/2015 (20:00)

If you wish to attend a panel, the entire workshop, and/or the keynote, please email


Monday 11 May, King’s College London, Strand Building, S8.08

Panel 1: 10.00 – 11.30
Patrick Griffith (KCL) and Corey Ellithorpe (UNC-Chapel Hill)

Commentator: Peter Heather

‘The Orchestration of Propaganda and Ideology within the Roman and Post-Imperial Worlds.’

Patrick Griffith: ‘Barbarians and bishops as lawmakers: post-Roman political communities and their relationships with the legal ideology of Empire.’

Corey Ellithorpe: ‘Tokens of Subjugation: The Use of Numismatic Symbolism during the High Empire.’

Panel 2: 12.00 – 13.30
Laura Forster (KCL) and Lindsay Ayling (UNC-Chapel Hill)

Commentator: Richard Vinen

‘Contested Memory: English Positivists, Artistic Polemics, and the Paris Commune of 1871.’

Laura Forster: ‘Forgotten Friends: The English Positivists and the Paris Commune.’

Lindsay Ayling: ‘A People Massacred, A Civilization Destroyed: Artwork and Polemics in Dueling Narratives of the Fall of the Paris Commune.’

Panel 3: 14.30 – 16.00
Chibundu Onuzo (KCL) and Mark Reeves (UNC-Chapel Hill)

Commentator: Vincent Hiribarren

‘The West African Student Union and African Independence.’

Chibundu Onuzo: ‘The West African Students’ Union: An Introduction.’

Mark Reeves: ‘Nnamdi Azikiwe, the West African Students’ Union and the 1943 Press Delegation.’

It'd be lovely to see you there.

Monday, 12 January 2015

For Baga

There was a terrorist attack in France a few days ago and a lot has been said about how Nigerians and the Western media have focused on this incident and paid little attention to what is happening in Baga. But I think we need to be honest with ourselves: a terrorist attack in France is news. A terrorist attack in North Eastern Nigeria is no longer news. When a Boko Haram attack breaks on my twitter timeline, I hurry past, rushing to the next banal tweet: a Nigerian comedian's latest gaffe, or an APC/PDP devotee waxing on the virtues of their chosen candidate, or more often downplaying their short comings. A speech delivered at a Presidential rally gets more airtime than a bomb blast because convincing speeches from our leaders are so rare, and explosions are so common.

Sometimes you want to make sure that you're still normal and it is not because you think white lives matter more that you immediately knew what the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag meant but you had to google #bringbackourgirls when that campaign was born. So you try empathy. Empathy is the fruit of an imagination and imagination is something that writers usually have in excess. So you picture yourself in Baga. 2,000 dead they said, though they never agree. When the 'they' is government, 2000 becomes 100. When it's an NGO, add at least one '0' to the government figure. They all say they are lying.

Fact of the matter remains, whether 2,000 or 200, there are a lot of dead bodies around Baga. But then this is not empathy, to walk through Baga like a journalist, taking photos of nameless corpses, stunned by it all but still one step removed, still composed enough to remember that my editor will want both a gruesome shot and a milder image, that I must find survivors to interview, that perhaps a translator must be arranged.

 And so I enter Baga again, and try to become someone born there, someone raised there, who went to the local school, when girls still felt safe going to school. And then these dead bodies are no longer dead bodies, they are my friends and teachers and pastors and imams and brothers and sisters and parents. And then I think it is time for me to jump off this careening empathy wagon because the image of a row of people I know, corpses, bent at unnatural angles, faces destroyed with bullets, is one that I do not want to dwell on. Just from this small exercise in empathy, my face is twitching and my eyes are watering.

So I can still cry for Nigeria. Of what use is that to the people of Baga? None perhaps but it is of some use to our country. The fact is we have put up a wall between ourselves and what Boko Haram is doing. How do you function otherwise? How do you have a job, and go to school, and make your deadlines if every time an attack happens, you bring your life to a standstill? And yet we are lost as a nation if we cannot mark the passing of 2,000 Nigerians. If their dying makes no clamour in us. Tears fix nothing, build nothing, repair nothing but we must still shed them so they can water our resolve, which has withered in these arid conditions. We cannot let Nigeria disintegrate on our watch. We must not. We will not.          

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Coming to Johannesburg!

Date: Wednesday, 12 March

Time: 17:30 for 18:00

Address: Love Books, The Bamboo Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Mellville
GPS: 25⁰ 10’ 27,64” S - 28⁰ 0’ 49, 66” E

RSVP: or 011 726 7408

Please click here to let me know if you're coming. It would be lovely to see you. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


I believe in heaven. I also believe that my belief in heaven has nothing to do with its existence and heaven would remain, whether I believed in it or not. There’s a scene in Peter Pan where Peter explains to the other children, that every time a child says they don’t believe in fairies, a fairy dies. Well my beliefs don’t sustain heaven and my beliefs certainly don’t sustain God.

 “God doesn’t exist,” a friend of mine said emphatically to me over lunch last November. A couple of years ago, this statement would have set my inner workings in turmoil. Then, I was questioning the very foundations and roots of my faith and every outer expression of atheism seemed to me confirmation of what I already knew inside: it was all a sham. I felt that if I stopped believing, then it wasn’t true. Whereas I now realise that the end of my belief would have had no wider ramifications than that. Just as a refusal to stop believing in gravity, does not stop me from living in a world when plates fall and smash on the ground, just so a refusal to acknowledge God does not stop me from living in the world He has created and enjoying His mercies everyday.

 I smiled at my friend, obviously setting out to rile me up and continued eating my lunch. “The existence of God is independent of both of us.”
“Don’t give me that. This table exists. This chair. God? No.”
“Pass me the salt.”
“It’s not that I have anything against people that are Christians or anything like that. I don’t think fire should burn you in hell or whatever."
He was deliberately using a phrase sometimes mockingly associated with Nigerian Pentecostalism, perhaps to annoy me even further. I laughed.
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“If you don’t believe in God then you don’t believe in the devil and therefore you don’t believe in hell. So it’s a paradox to say you don’t want Christians burning there. You should have said something like you don’t want atomic bombs falling on our heads.”
“You win.”

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