Thursday 26 April 2012

Boko Haram and Nigeria

A police chief once said that he hoped Boko Haram would soon run out of fools to blow up. He said so in that characteristic way in which we Nigerians vent our frustration by telling slightly tasteless jokes. Black humour always come to our rescue. Under Abacha we joked.  During Occupy Nigeria, even as bullets strayed into the crowd, we joked. And this police chief, confronted with the ineptitude of his force and the foreignness of the mode of attack (but Nigerians love life too much to be suicide bombers), he too he joked. The bombing of schools, churches, mosques, UN buildings, police headquarters, it is not a laughing matter, yet still we joke and I think in the end, it is this that will save us.

Boko Haram is not strong enough to overwhelm Nigeria with force. They have neither the arms nor the funds to stage a military invasion of Nigeria. So what we have instead is a war of attrition. They strike here, strike there and hope that they will wear us down. I have not yet seen the power or calamity or disaster that is capable of wearing the Nigerian down. We can be angered, we can be pained, we can suffer but tomorrow we rise at 4am, rinse our faces and we start again. Not in an automated, mechanic way but in a matter of fact, practical way. And when the pressure builds we fight. And when, that is not enough, we burn each others houses. And if still, all is not released, we will  kill each other. But then we start again and all the while, while we fight and burn and kill and die because the hospital had no drip and the road was not tarred and the light was not working, all the while, we joke. And then we start again not in an automated, mechanic way but in matter of fact, practical way.

This is what suffering has done to us. Perhaps it has made us easily trampled on. Sparks that would ignite a population elsewhere, soon flicker out. Forest fires that would explode another country, flare briefly and die away. Yet, this suffering has also made us very difficult to wear out. In a war of attrition, I will bet on Nigeria every time.

My hope for my country is that we learn to get angry in a constructive way; we learn the angers that builds roads and schools and credible elections and power plants and an honest police force. But I also hope that when finally, the people are aroused, we will not forget how to deal with suffering. It is not to be crumbled in front of, nor cowed by but to be joked at. And when it has done its worst, we start again, not in an automated, mechanic way but in a matter of fact, practical way.

May the souls of all those murdered by Boko Haram today rest in peace.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

SKD Longlisted for the 2012 Desmond Elliott Prize

The Spider King's Daughter has been longlisted for the 2012 Desmond Elliott Prize. It's for debut authors published in the UK and I'm well pleased. We thank God. For the rest of the longlist, click here. I'm in very good company. :)

Saturday 21 April 2012

Once Upon a Time

I stumbled across this beautiful poem on the internet by the Nigerian poet called Gabriel Okara. His book, 'The Voice,' has gone straight onto my to be read list. Anyways, here's the poem.

Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, son,
they used to laugh with their hearts
and laugh with their eyes:
but now they only laugh with their teeth,
while their ice-block-cold eyes
search behind my shadow.
There was a time indeed
they used to shake hands with their hearts:
but that’s gone, son.
Now they shake hands without hearts
while their left hands search
my empty pockets.
‘Feel at home!’ ‘Come again’:
they say, and when I come
again and feel
at home, once, twice,
there will be no thrice-
for then I find doors shut on me.
So I have learned many things, son.
I have learned to wear many faces
like dresses – homeface,
officeface, streetface, hostface,
cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles
like a fixed portrait smile.
And I have learned too
to laugh with only my teeth
and shake hands without my heart.
I have also learned to say,’Goodbye’,
when I mean ‘Good-riddance’:
to say ‘Glad to meet you’,
without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been
nice talking to you’, after being bored.
But believe me, son.
I want to be what I used to be
when I was like you. I want
to unlearn all these muting things.
Most of all, I want to relearn
how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror
shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs!
So show me, son,
how to laugh; show me how
I used to laugh and smile
once upon a time when I was like you.
Gabriel Okara

Monday 9 April 2012

Book Launch!

It was on Monday March 19th and I had a wonderful, wonderful time. It was hosted by my university, King's College London. They've been ever so supportive. First they put me on the cover of the alumni magazine, then they organised my first reading and now the launch. Big up to Kings! My sister took a thousand and one pictures but I'll only put a few up here.

My cousin Opeyemi who was an excellent MC. She came straight from work as well, instantly slipping from corporate high flyer to relaxed MC.

Ellah Allfrey, Deputy Editor of Granta, who asked me some questions about the book that  challenged me I must say.  Also, I look like a giant in this picture.

My friend Jibs, with her pile of books.

Girls are smiling.

I promise I don't know them :)
The support from family and friends was amazing. People came from Ibadan, Lagos and London and they bought books ehn. It was the most books ever sold by Faber at a book launch. We thank God :) I didn't want to leave when the evening was over. I felt like Cinderella going back home after the ball.

I've put more photos on my fanpage album.

Sunday 1 April 2012

E ma Binu

File:Angry face.png

The title of this post, when roughly translated from the Yoruba to the English means, 'don't be angry.'

There are few things more unpleasant than a writer who only blogs to promote their books and has nothing to say but buy my book, read my reviews, like my fanpage. So e ma binu.

I've been very busy though. One 10,000 word essay just handed in on Friday, a 5,000 due in 22 days and another 10,000 to be done before the month runs out. If you think this is scanty excuse, e ma binu.

And of course the novel just came out. Southbank, Radio 3, Oxford Literary Festival, World Service, Black Book Swap, I've gone to all these places talking about my book and hoping to find new readers. They've all been wonderful and I've enjoyed them so much but sadly they've  not left much time for blogging. So please, e ma binu.

And then we have the finals. May 18, the last exam I'll ever write as an undergraduate student and now less than two months away. 

So in the meantime, please buy my book, read my reviews and like my fanpage and as you do, ejo o, e ma binu.
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