Thursday, December 31, 2015

USA Africa Dialogue Series - We are writers and thinkers; we are the problem

I hate to end my year here with a sad note, but I really fear for Nigeria. I especially feel bad for Nigerian youths; they are taking the brunt of the hell that is today's Nigeria. I think of #OccupyNigeria and the recently concluded elections and the energy young Nigerians put into trying to force meaningful change and my heart breaks at the result. These are perverse returns on their investments. Nigeria is firmly in the grip of old men with ossified ideas who unfortunately wield enormous influence and it doesn't look like things will change any time soon. It is not easy to be on the ground in Nigeria and be courageous. That would not be wise. Certainly not in Buhari's increasing Gulag sanctioned by intellectuals.

This dysfunction is in every institution. The arts, especially literature has caught the bug. There are really two competing camps in indigenous Nigerian literature; (a) the older writers (50 and up) who control the purse strings and access to corridors of power (and funding) and who can cut you off at the knees if you try to be uppity, they control the fortunes of the (b) young folks who essentially have nothing, but who write the best, most contemporary and innovative works out there, basically out of nothing. Many of them have nothing but themselves and their peers to work with. The best of them have to hang on to the apron strings of powerful older writers, who even if they are now in the winter of their writing lives, writing nothing of much importance, are still powerful. You cross them at your literary peril. The NLNG prize is controlled by the elders and young folks can just pray to get something out of it, This year, the NLNG prize was unceremoniously canceled, with no explanation as to what happeend to the money. It costs $1 million annually to run that show. When this happened, there were a few murmurs and then silence. No one wants to get in trouble with anyone, who wan die?

It gets worse. Nigeria's 2015 budget has a line item that offers $1 million to the "Pan African Writers Association" based in Ghana. No one seems to know much about them and no one is talking. Why would Nigeria spend $1 million on such an organization when our youngsters are funding beautiful events with their spit, why? This is why I get angry and go on and on. Because we are not nice people. We say all the right things and we join our traducers to do all the wrong things. Nobody ever gets held accountable, no one. Those who put that $1 million in that account will hold their peace until someone yells at Ikhide to stop disturbing the peace. We are Nigerian writers and thinkers. We are the problem. I have said my own.

I wish all of you a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year. I shall be right here when you wake up, insha Allah. Good night.

- Ikhide

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