Monday, October 29, 2012

Arojah Theatre Returns with ‘The Wizard of Law’

The Abuja based group, Arojah Royal Theatre will on Wednesday 31st October return to the stage with the late Professor Zulu Sofola’s play, ‘The Wizard of the Law’ which is being dedicated to the honour of the first ever Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar.

The play which will feature the likes of Oyewale Oluwatoba, Jovita Anyanwu-Chukwuemeka, Oluwaseun Odukoya and Zeb John among others; is a satire about an old lawyer, Ramoni who has met with reverse and tries to impress his wife during a festive period by purchasing nine metres of lace material on credit at a time he is penniless. The cloth seller, Rafiu, takes advantage of this opportunity to inflate the prices of clothes in other to make a heavy gain. Unable to pay the debt, Ramoni gets into more trouble and desperately looks for a court case through which he could raise the money to pay his debt.

The Executive Producer of the play, Om’Oba Jerry Adesewo said “We were planning to stage the play to celebrate the International Day of Justice in July, that was to come immediately after our last outing. We missed the timing and so decided to find another relevance for the play. That was when the idea of using the production to commemorate the appointment by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, of Honourable Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar as the first ever CJN because we feel it is a lanmark achievement.” He added that the whole idea is to celebrate the CJN by hosting her, her family, friends and well wishers to an evening of theatrical performances.

Directed by Adesewo Fayaman-Bay, the Abuja presentation of "The Wizard of Law", which is supported by the National Centre for Women Development, African Independent Television, NTA Entertainment and the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) will also starred the likes of Zubairu Jide Atta and Lara Owoeye-Wise.

Arojah Theatre’s last outing was in June 2012, when the group put up a weeklong festival of theatre in honour of the Executive Secretary of the National Institute of rCultural Orientation (NICO), tagged Festival of Barclays Ayakoroma’s Plays (FESTIBAP) which was held at the French Cultural Centre.

“This is the first of a very busy last quarter of the year for us. Apart from the monthly Play Reading Party we organise in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Centre, we have two other outings this year and I think it is good but for us as practitioners and for the theatre loving residents of the nation’s capital”. Jerry Adesewo said, adding that the group will stil stage two plays, Adinoyi Onukaba-Ojo’s ‘Sssooommmaaallliiiyyyaa’ which will be entered as Abuja’s entry for the annual Festival of Nigerian Plays (FESTINA) and Dr. Seyi Adigun’s HIV/AIDS awareness play, ‘Call for me My Osheni to celebrate the World AIDS Day 2012.

"The Wizard of Law" comes up on Wednesday 31st October October, 2012 by 6pm prompt @ the National Centre for Women Development, Abuja with a Matinee for students of FCT schools.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Wives at Terra

The Performing Arts Workshop and Studio is back at TerraKulture for the Month of November with another thrilling Play. The play is The Wives written by Ahmed Yerima, and performed by Performing Arts Workshop and Studio. 

The play shows every Sunday in November @ TerraKulture. 3pm and 6pm. Click on the poster for more details.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Abuja Literary Society Holds Bookjam

The Abuja Literary Society features three fast-growing and debut authors in its monthly book feast, known as BookJam. The October edition of the popular and innovative BookJam will headline new authors Sylva Ife Nzedigbo, a vetinary Doctor-turned-writer; mother of three Ukamaka Olisakwe; and, hard-hitting columnist, Tope Fasua, on the 26th of October at the Lifestyle Bookstore of Silverbird Abuja. Joining them will be Abuja Slam Champion and dancehall poet, MacFather G, who recently released a musical album. MacFather G will be performing some of his most popular slam poems and new songs from his debut musical album.   

Nzedigbo, known for his love of social commentary, following his Sunday columns in Daily Times, blog sites and Twitter, recently channeled his passion to the creation of a full-length short story collection, The Funeral Did Not End, a collection of 20 captivating short stories ranging from current and persisting issues of politics, religion, social injustice, culture and tradition. Aba-based Ukamaka Olisakwe is the author of Eyes of a Goddess, her debut novel which throws light on the imperfections of a democratic system that emasculates the people. Tope Fasua is a well-known newspaper columnist, who has put his creativity to the production of the non-fiction, Crushed,  an introspective book on the issues debilitating economic and social development, with Nigeria as a case study. 

The BookJam@Silverbird Abuja is a collaboration of the Abuja Literary Society and Silverbird Lifestyle. It holds every last Friday of the month and is anchored by co-host of the Abuja Poetry Slam, Jide Attah. The BookJam consists of book readings, book signings, musical presentations, raffle draw and a discussion by the guest writers. In addition, there is usually a special Slam poetry performance by some of Abuja’s finest Slam champions.

Sylva Ife Nzedigbo:
Apart from being a regular blogist and columnist, Nzedigbo has been writing creative non-fiction for several years, gradually honing his craft and building a loyal fan base. His first published work a novella, Whispering Aloud was published in 2008.  Several of his works are published in local and international Literary Journals including MTLS, StoryLine, Swale Life, Life As a Human and Sentinel, Nigeria.

He has won several awards as a writer and an essayist. The most recent, 2012 Grand Prize winner, National Youth Essay Contest. He won the second prize at the Ken Saro Wiwa, Candle Light Vigil Poetry and Writing Competition 2010,an Honorable mention, 2010UNESCO/GIO Peace Foundation Essay Contest for Young People, by Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (MISSPIN) and YGC, Africa, National Essay Competition on CybercrimeCompetition and the Abuja Writers Forum, Short Stories Contest.

Several reviewers and commentators have described his stories as ‘well delivered with an understanding of where the ordinary blends with the profound.’  Perhaps, a better description is Australian writer and literary critic’s insightful view, ‘The stories in The Funeral Did Not End are varied in scope and theme, but all show the restless energy of a young author struggling and succeeding at encapsulating the tumultuous awakening of a nation convinced it is mighty and willing to show the world exactly what it can achieve.’ 

Nzedigbo wields successfully, the narrative voice, symbolism, simple diction, Irony, Imagery and allusions in telling reality with a dollop of the hyperbolic to deliver in a fresh light the mundane and an open-end technique bound to excite or irritate readers.

Born in November, 11, 1984, Nzedigbo attended the School for the Gifted, Gwagwalada, and obtained a degree in Veterinary Medicine, in 2007, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Nzedigbo hails from Agulu, Anambra State, the south eastern part of the country which its landscape richly featured in the stories. He also employs a thin line between fiction and realism in his characterization of places, people and scenery.  Nzedigbo works in the corporate communications industry; is single, and likes tweeting with like minds, when he is not writing or reading.

Ukamaka Olisakwe:
For Olisakwe, creative writing began after much encouragement from her friends and while trying to find an escapist means to create, and direct the world to the benefit and empowerment of females and the voiceless in society. She started out with flash fictions published in NaijaStories, an online based blog site for budding writers. Girl to Woman ignited the interest of Sentinel Nigeria, which later published her short story, Running. It was re-published by a South African Magazine, Short Story Day Africa.

Olisakwe has come some ways and waxing stronger. She is the moderator, AfricaReadsWritesTheVision, an online book club initiated by Dr. Claudette Carr of the Jethro Institute, London. The Book Club aims to encourage reading and thinking in Africans and successfully runs monthly book reading for its writers and readers the world over.

Her debut prose fiction, Eyes of a Goddess, is the story of a fifteen year old girl, Njideka, whose family gets mired in political intrigue when her father, broken and disillusioned after a peaceful protest, underwent drastic changes. It is the story of hardship, abuse and most importantly the resilient spirit of those gasping for freedom.

Tope Fasua:
 Fasua has been writing for the past six years in the Sunday Trust, newspaper where he has a weekly column. He is also published by other weeklies across the continent like Modern Times, Ghanaian Magazine, Africa Development Magazine, Inside Watch, This Day, Champion , The Sun Newspaper among others.

In writing his book, CRUSHED, Fasua seeks to examine the peculiar issues militating against economic and social development in Africa, using Nigeria as a case study.  It is a hard-hitting book, which emphasises the need for self introspection, pragmatism, selflessness, a knowledge of history, as well as a vision for the future, on the part of Africans themselves, as well as evidence-based appeals to the more advanced countries, for them to see that a better Africa is ultimately necessary for the good of all.  The book has been acclaimed by pundits to be one of the best to have come out of Africa, in the non-fiction genre. 

MacFather G:
Born George Obinna Ononiwu, MacFather G is a dance hall poet and singer. A former seminarian and graduate of the Delta State University Abraka, MacFather G is the founder of Love Motion, a youth-focused NGO that seeks to develop the talents of young people for national and global advancement. His creativity has led him into slam and spoken word poetry, radio presentation, facial art, and now, music with the release of his album, Came to Do. In 2011, he won the famous Abuja poetry slam competition.

For more information, please write to: .

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Felix Baumgartner

Austria's Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books on Sunday after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission. Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records* while delivering valuable data for future space exploration.

 After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed Sunday a record breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.

Baumgartner landed safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico after jumping out of his space capsule at 39,045 meters and plunging back towards earth, hitting a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. Baumgartner's jump lasted a total of 9:03 minutes. Countless millions of people around the world watched his ascent and jump live on television broadcasts and live stream on the Internet. At one point during his freefall Baumgartner appeared to spin rapidly, but he quickly re-gained control and moments later opened his parachute as members of the ground crew cheered and viewers around the world heaved a sigh of relief.

"It was an incredible up and down, just like it's been with the whole project," a relieved Baumgartner said. "First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I'd just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I'd lose consciousness. I didn't feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We'll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be."

Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that is designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.

Baumgartner had endured several weather-related delays before finally lifting off under bright blue skies and calm winds on Sunday. The Red Bull Stratos crew watching from Mission Control broke out into spontaneous applause when the balloon lifted off.

For more information, please visit: 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Introducing: Nothing Comes Close

Accomplish Press is pleased to announce the official publication of Nothing Comes Close, a debut novel by Tolulope Popoola. The story is a compelling tale of the struggle to preserve love in the midst of daunting challenges. Nothing Comes Close is set in London, Milton Keynes and Lagos, with a cast of intriguing characters that showcase a realistic portrayal of the lives of young, ambitious Nigerians in the diaspora.

The Author
Nigerian born author, Tolulope Popoola taps into her experience of living in the UK to write a book about familiar themes - real people with ambitions struggling to make the right choices in their romantic relationships. The story also shows the tensions of living within two cultures - trying to maintain a Nigerian identity whilst absorbing British values.

“I’ve always loved reading,” the author said. “Growing up, I read a lot of books by authors such as Enid Blyton, Louisa May Alcott and Jackie Collins. When I started writing, I wanted to write about characters and situations that people like me would recognise, without the burden of adding to the narrative of what’s expected from an African story.”

Tolulope Popoola was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She moved to England for her university education where she studied BA Accounting and Business Economics, and a Masters in Finance and Investment. She started blogging in 2006, which rekindled her love for writing and telling stories. In 2008, she left her Accounting job to concentrate on writing full-time. She writes short stories, flash fiction and articles for both print and online magazines. Nothing Comes Close is her first novel. Tolulope lives in London with her husband and daughter. She can be reached through her website

The Novel
The plot for Nothing Comes Close grew out of an online series titled In My Dreams It Was Simpler that Tolulope created and co-wrote with eight other writers. She created the main cast, and picked two of them as protagonists for her novel. “The online series ended on a cliff-hanger.” She said. “I wanted to get my female protagonist to a point where she was satisfied with the choices she had made for her future. With the novel, I got to make that happen.”

The story captures the ups and downs in the lives of a Nigerian girl, her group of friends and her love interest as they try to navigate their lives in London. There are issues such as marital infidelity, career decisions, death, heartbreaks, loyalty and cultural expectations. Each of the issues is dealt with in a sensitive, exciting and entertaining way.

For an enticing preview of Nothing Comes Close, visit the Accomplish Press website to download sample chapters and view its exciting trailer. Nothing Comes Close is available as an ebook and paperback from, Waterstones, WHSmith,, and other online retailers. The book will be officially launched on the 27th of October 2012.

If you want to share the story with your readers, I'd be happy to send you a copy of "Nothing Comes Close" for a review, feature or giveaway; or I can arrange an interview with the author.

Nothing Comes Close explores the usual love story in a very fresh manner, employing lovely prose, suspense and the posing of serious questions to tell an immensely entertaining story. I enjoyed every moment spent reading it. Highly recommended." ~ Richard Ali, Editor-in-Chief, Sentinel Nigeria Magazine.

Tolulope Popoola is a good communicator. Her writing connects readers to the story in a way that makes it easy to relate to the characters. I particularly like her description of objects and events, and how they are tied into the story effortlessly. Nothing Comes Close is a book I will really love to see as a movie, I can actually picture the characters and scenes in my mind already! I hope that day will come. ~ Shola Okubote, Editor of Femme Lounge

In her debut novel, Nothing Comes Close, Popoola, explores a theme familiar to most of us, which is that of finding love. However, an unexpected death, imprisonment, betrayal and dark secrets, add twists that make this book much more than a boy meets girl story. A fine debut. ~ Yejide Kilanko, Author of Daughters Who Walk This Path

One word: Riveting. Sometimes unsettling. That’s how I can best describe Nothing Comes Close – Tolulope Popoola’s novel. I appreciate her ability to create believable characters that readers will find themselves rooting for when it comes to that sometimes complicated life challenge of initiating and building love-relationships. ~ Lara Daniels, Author of Love in Paradise and Love at Dawn

Monday, October 15, 2012

World Cultural Council Seeks Arts Nominations

The World Cultural Council pays tribute to individuals or institutions that have made outstanding achievements in science and arts, granting annually the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, for work in the field of Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy; Life Sciences: Biology, Biochemistry, Medicine, Paleoanthropology, Ecology or Chemistry; and every two years the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts, which may be conferred upon a renowned artist, sculptor, writer, poet, cinematographer, photographer, architect, musician or other performing artist, whose work constitutes a significant contribution to the artistic legacy of the world.

The laureates are typically preeminent researchers or other leaders in their field, whose work has had a significantly positive impact on the progress of human culture. After almost 30 years of such ceremonies across the five continents, these prizes are now widely recognized and highly esteemed in the scientific, educational and arts communities.

All nominations should be submitted with the curriculum of the candidate, clearly stating his or her achievements in the respective field and showing how he/she has made a definite contribution to the betterment of our world.

The nomination requirements are detailed here

Friday, October 12, 2012

Editiq: Business Writing Workshop

Editiq is one of the leading companies when it comes to providing editorial services in Nigeria. Now, they are holding a business writing workshop. This is for everyone who writes- emails, letters, proposals, stories- as long as you use words, this workshop is for you.

EditIQ's Effective Business Writing Workshop holding from Oct. 23-25 is aimed at professionals who write a lot in the course of their work and who would like that writing to get them better results. 
  • It's intensive, with lots of writing exercises and feedback sessions.
  • It's interactive, with classes being limited to 15 participants to allow for individualized instruction.
  • It's affordable at N50,000 per participant for the three days, including food, snacks and materials.

And, a principle that will come up often during the workshop is that business writing doesn't have to be boring! If you'd like your writing to be more fun to write and more compelling to read, you should book your seat for the Oct 23-25 session which will hold at City Hall on Lagos Island

Questions? Don't hesitate to call 0808 524 3423. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

iRead: Back with a Bang

There was a break, now the gathering of book lovers seems to be back with a loud bang. Check out the impressive list of writers for the next reading. 

Writing in a socially challenged society: going the social commentary route. In a nation where many have come to view works of art, be they visual, auditory or the written word, as an escape from harsh reality, some have argued that making these problems the main thrust of works or art constitute a form of double torture. They argue that the man on the street would rather read about happy people, rich people, people in love and people having fun, rather than the problems that stare them in the face every day. They don’t want to read about poverty, sickness, corruption and the like, because they know all about it, these ills stare at them from their mirror, and from the eyes of every stranger they meet on the street. No matter how plausible these arguments sound, the truth is that they are a very false premise with which to judge what one should write or should not write about. That people want an escape is something that everyone can readily agree with, but that they still have to come back to the same reality is another that should not be ignored. It is therefore of great import to record the society as it is, not to mock, but to show. And by showing, attention can be brought to these ills and perhaps a redress began. Perhaps it is with this need to show and become a catalyst for the much needed societal change that a crop of new age Nigerian writers are shunning the urge to pander to the wishes of those who advocate for writers to provide escape for the average man on the street, by making social commentary an integral part of their work.   With the support of Coca-Cola’s “1 Billion Reasons to Believe in  Africa” campaign,  iRead will be hosting some of these young people whose writing have given ample voice to a new generation seeking to change their society for good. Four writers, drawn from across Nigeria, all with strong elements of social commentary in their works published this year will be reading from their work and interacting with the audience about the Nigeria they see now and the one they hope to usher in through their writing.

Venue: CORA House, 1st Floor, 95 Bode Thomas Street
Date: Saturday 13th October 2012
Time: 3-6PM

Ukamaka Olisakwe:
Ukamaka Olisakwe is a new generation Nigerian novelist with amazing talents. Her debut novel Eyes of a Goddess will draw tears out of her readers. She is a banker in Nigeria with a degree in Computer Science. Ukamaka is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Communication and Linguistic Studies at the University of Port Harcourt. She is a young mother of two daughters and one son, and lives with her husband in Eastern Nigeria.

Richard Ali: 
Richard Ali is a lawyer who hails from Idah, Nigeria. He was born in Kano, lives in Jos, Nigeria, and is presently Publicity Secretary [North] of the Association of Nigerian Authors. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine. His novel “City of Memories” was published this year.

Emmanuel Iduma:
Emmanuel Iduma was born in Akure, Nigeria. He obtained a degree in Law from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. His interests range widely, including web technology, digital art, visual art, and creative writing. Emmanuel works mainly as a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and has won awards and received recognition in each genre.Emmanuel is the co-founder of Iroko Publishing, which has published Saraba as an electronic magazine since February 2009. His work in Saraba has been acclaimed globally, including in The Guardian (UK). He is currently the editor of an online mashable anthology of African modernity. He is the author of the novel “Farad”.

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo:
Sylva Ifedigbo is a Doctor of Veterinary medicine, a writer and a Corporate Communications professional.  He is an award winning essayist and author of the novella, “Whispering Aloud” and collection of short stories “The Funeral Did Not End”.Sylva’s Essays have appeared in The Punch, The Nation, 234Next, Nigeria Village Square, Nigeria Dialogue, amongst others. He manages a weekly column on Daily TimesNG.  He is also the features & Reviews Editor of Sentinel Nigeria and an Ambassador for the Coca-Cola A Billion Reasons To Believe in Africa Campaign. 

Red Bull Stratos: New Date Set

Speaking of the power of the human mind, all things are possible. You've been thinking of that novel? Maybe this story would inspire you enough to take a dive.

Monday October 8th, a record-breaking skydiver, Felix Baumgartner backed by a team of world-leading scientists, will take a stratospheric balloon flight to 120,000 feet/36,576 meters above the Earth’s surface and jump.

The mission is dubbed: “RED BULL STRATOS”

Red Bull Stratos, a mission to the edge of space, will attempt to transcend human limits that have existed for 50 years. Supported by a team of experts Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His attempt to dare atmospheric limits holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers.

The Red Bull Stratos team brings together the world's leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. It includes retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Felix will strive to break.

Joe's record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump.

The Jump did not happen as scheduled. Thus a new date has been fixed. 

Felix Baumgartner was surprised and disappointed that his attempt to become the first person to break the sound barrier in freefall had to be scrapped due to gusts of wind near the top of his 30 million cubic foot balloon. Weather permitting, the Austrian will likely get another chance to write history while breaking four world records with his jump from the edge of space on Sunday.

Felix Baumgartner had just climbed into his space capsule and was only moments away from lifting off on his journey to the edge of space when a strong 22-knot gust of wind near the top of the 750-foot high helium-filled balloon forced the Red Bull Stratos team to abort Tuesday's attempt to make the world's highest skydive from 120,000 feet. Even though there was hardly any wind at ground level when the Austrian adventurer strapped himself into the capsule, the gusts of wind at the top of the 30 million cubic foot/ 834,497 cubic meter balloon made it impossible to continue.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Commonwealth Writers' 2012

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize needs no introduction. There is the Short Story Prize and the Book Prize. Visit their website for more information. It is officially open on the 24th of October though ;)

All the best to all the writers who'd apply! This is the best time to start writing :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

GCLF 2012

Port Harcourt, UNESCO World Book Capital 2014 is also the home of the annual Garden City Literary Festival. The festival, which is in its fifth year, is an annual celebration of Literature and the Arts and also a platform for networking between players in the book chain industry. The main features of the festival include; The Garden City Book Fair, Writers’ Workshops, Symposium, book readings, Drama Performances and children’s events. The GCLF will hold between October 15 and 20. There is something for everyone.

The workshops which run for 3 days, are facilitated by seasoned writers. The workshops takes participants through the rudiments of writing, then gives them an opportunity to revise their work and finally present their finished work to their peers, who critique it and offer valuable feedback. On completion of the workshops, participants are given a certificate of attendance. This year Doreen Baingana will facilitate the fiction class and Dr. Obari Gomba will take the Poetry class. Cpt Elehi Amadi and Veronique Tadjo will handle the Master’s classes. The workshops are free but require pre-registration.

The festival also features events, like creative workshops for children, book signings and seminars. 

The Garden City Book Fair, another key feature of the festival, is open from 8am to 6pm daily for the duration of the event. The book fair is open to booksellers, publishers, gift shops, education establishments, banks and others. Patrons to the exhibition in the past have included, Longman Nigeria PLC, Heinemann, Book Craft, Bible Wonderland, Litramed Publications among others.  Port Harcourt is fast developing as a book hub, and with the city clinching the much coveted title of UNESCO World Book Capital 2014, the book industry in the city is expected to thrive even more.  Schools, universities and the general public are invited to come and maximise this opportunity to shop for a variety of books and learning resources all under one roof and at competitive prices.

For more information please log on to  and

Monday, October 1, 2012

What Are You Reading?

Ayodele Arigbabu reading from his book "Fistful of Tales"
Happy Independence Day Celebrations to Nigerians that our blog. Today is a public holiday so no work for many people, so a chance to dig into a book, not that you should not have your nose buried in one most of the time...

Tell us, what are you reading? Some interesting online reads, essays, review, and a free book download.

Igoni Barrett, on Becoming a Writer

Free Download of Richard Ali's City of Memories

Reviews of JK Rowling's first adult fiction

My Caine Prize Story by Tolu Ogunlesi

Ike Anya: Nigerians Dont Get Depressed

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Excerpt: City of Memories

A week after his fiancée left, Faruk’s car treaded a steady seventy on Nigeria’s northeast highway, easing up only when he paused to change gears. The sun bore down on the white Toyota so relentlessly that every few minutes he cursed his not having fixed the air conditioner. He sweated profusely, even with both windows wound down—the underarm and chest of his crème cotton shirt was streaked with brown patches. It was just about 11 a.m. and he already felt lost in the featureless vegetation, fleeing as he was.

He drove past towns no larger than some suburbs of his native city and often, mirage oasis shimmered at the far end of his vision. Long stretches of road were poorly maintained, so every now and then the highway broke up into vague stretches that threw up geysers of dust the minute the tyres touched them. On both sides of the road, dry savannah bore the intense heat without bursting into flames. Yet, there were nomads all along the way in all the heat, herding more cattle than he had ever seen. 

When he drove past herdsmen, Faruk responded to their calls by tooting his horn and raising a fist through the window. All he and the herdsmen had for company were numberless cattle egrets, who were more interested in the cattle anyway. The mostly white cows, equally uncommunicative, wandered about minding their own business—eating grass and occasionally letting drop large blobs of dung. The muscles of his neck strained and twitched as he battled his thoughts, which always returned to Rahila and the flurry of his departure from Jos City.

“See, Faruk, be na son ka kuma. We have to call it off. It cannot work anymore, please.”
“Ba ki so na? What the hell does that mean? Face the issue and say what it is.  Is it you don’t love me anymore or that you are leaving me—which is it, Rahila Pam?”
Sudden anger sparked in her eyes as she yanked her arm from his grip, shocking him with her force.
“It doesn’t matter. Let me go!”
“It does matter, and you know it. Both things are not the same!”
But he had known. Her family. A foreign influence. Like witchcraft.

Her words kept running loops in his mind, broken only by Miles Davis’ 1959 ‘Kind of Blue’ album playing from the speakers. But when the music no longer soothed him, he slipped into his awareness of the heat and thoughts of Rahila—and the love she threw back at him as if it were ash.

He glanced at the rear-view in time to remember that on that particular stretch of road he was alone and had been for quite a while—an hour since he’d passed a lorry laden with assorted farm produce and rustic farmers hanging on to the tailboards of the old Bedford, laughing and singing. They had saluted him noisily, making faces and raising their fists. He had tooted his horn. He smiled at the memory, caught himself looking at the mirror yet again, sighed, and resumed whistling to the modal jazz. Rahila made him think of his mother Ummi al-Qassim, and her madness. She made him think of many other things. Faruk smashed his fist half-heartedly into the steering wheel, tilting his head back like a ram to be slaughtered, his eyes leaving the road momentarily. Rahila—he hated her now, for leaving him, and for leaving him confused.

But his thoughts of her led him to thoughts of her mother, Eunice Pam, who even at that moment was seeking to have him killed. Eunice’s meddling had already seen to the return of his engagement ring and the end of his affair with her daughter. By the time he visited Hussena Bukar, his mother’s closest friend until she died, he was anger-filled enough to burst.

The highway started up a sudden rise so he downshifted his gears, his mind running over the events of the last days, along with the wheels of his car as the Toyota laboured up the steep incline.

The first thing she said on his entering the house was;
"My God, what is the problem? Your face is as long as the Ka’aba’s door!"
And he did look drawn, sullen eyes beneath finely arched brows, thin lips; a lithe young man, he had an ovoid face, pleasant to see. Smooth dark complexioned skin. But only the mole just below his left eye remained untroubled. Hussena Bukar had been at the far side of her porch filled with potted plants, mulching compost with gloved hands unto the roots of a rose bush. She led him to a sofa and shouted for the maid. An old woman, soon sixty; grey hair peeked in neat cornrows from under her Dubaijin headscarf. Her skin was as pale as his mother’s had been.
“Ga abinchi, it’s just a snack, eat up. . .”

Hussena Bukar always adopted the spirit of a young girl with him. Smiling like a coquette, she listened to him. But it seemed to Faruk that a film appeared over her eyes while he spoke of Rahila, as if his words reminded her of something else. He did not know he was shovelling dirt off an event buried for three decades. Déjà vu coursed through Hussena Bukar’s mind as Faruk sat on her porch, telling her about his danger fraught love for Rahila Pam. She had heard these words before—from his mother.

Thoughts like a swirl around a whirlpool spun through Hussena Bukar’s mind.
She shook her head, placing her still supple thin-fingered palms behind her neck. Her thoughts flit to the face of General Hassan Abba, her friend. Hassan Abba had helped her make the most of it—when the twin eclipses of the love mad Arab and the fanatic Usman Waziri had come to destroy her friend. Bolewa! Now, the bloody Bolewa past demanded sacrifice. It wanted Faruk!
Hussena Bukar realized she could not just tell Faruk what had happened at Bolewa. She thought:
‘He needs to travel; he must discover what happened himself.’

Faruk looked up at her. She smiled—then took in a deep breath.
"Faruk, my love, this is indeed very complicated.”
“Yes, yaya.”
“And there is so much you do not know of what has happened before. Just as there is plenty I don’t know of what is happening now with this Rahila and her mother,” she said, slowly ticking off her fingers, shaking her head. ”Faruk, everything that happens has a background. In knowing the background of what is going on, lies clarity and strength.”
"I don’t understand."
"I know, my love, I know you don’t. But what is happening to you now has happened before. I’m thinking what I can do, so that the result won’t be the same as last time. I think we will pull this thing apart and then try to put all the pieces together again, hopefully better,” she said, turning out her palms to heaven. “But you can’t remain here. It will start with you leaving . . . then you will come back knowing. That is how to understand the past, my son. Come, my love, I have some of your mother’s things, her diaries, I think it’s time you had them."
Hussena Bukar led him into the familiar house past the living room to her quarters, a small room with large windows and a gold and green Oriental rug. He fiddled around with a paperweight, uncertain why she wished to give him his mother’s diaries just after telling her about his troubles. What did that have to do with foreknowledge, what was all her talk about the ‘past’? How did it all tie up?
The elderly woman straightened up and placed herself beside him on the ottoman, putting a large brown wooden box in his hands.

Two days later, Faruk went to the Employment Directorate and was informed of a placement for a teacher in the Northeast, if he was interested—a six-month stint while the substantive teacher was on sabbatical.
Fine. Where?
Federal Government College, Bolewa.

He remembered what Hussena Bukar always said, that something coming was on its way all ways. Or, had she manipulated it all? It did not matter, for Faruk trusted Hussena as much as he did his father. He was whistling when he left the Directorate. Yet, within hours of that, his assault on Rahila’s brother had given Eunice Pam the bloody excuse she needed to come after him openly—the protection of her daughters’ love was already stripped off him. Faruk become, in one week, merely the expendable son of a formidable opponent.

The day before his journey, Faruk sat in his father’s office for awhile before the secretary came in with a Thermos flask and coffee things.
“The Colonel will be here shortly, Faruk. Meantime, why not have some coffee?”
Faruk, embarrassed he had forgotten her name, smiled.
“Did my father go far?”
“No. He is in the business district; he called to say you were to wait. Do you want it black?”
“Yes, black. Thank you. I’ll add the sugar.”
His father, Ibrahim Dibarama, arrived just as he finished the cup of coffee, smiled at him and went around the large desk; “Make me a cup,” the older man said, “I see you’ve already imbibed.”
It had been four weeks since they last saw each other and an hour passed before Faruk brought himself to state why he had come, and for that hour his father restrained himself. Each knew the great love they bore the other yet each felt the need for an unexplainable caution. Ibrahim Dibarama’s caution came mostly from pride, of having raised a strong and independent son alone.
“Father, I shall be leaving Jos tomorrow.”
The older man did not reply.
“I shall be going to Bolewa,” Faruk stated. At the mention of that word, his father’s eyes came alive with a malevolent thunder. Just as quickly, Faruk saw the rage suppressed with a simple, superhuman will. The older man looked his son straight in the eye.
“You refuse to tell me about my mother. I intend to find out for myself.”
“Viper-of-a-son!” Ibrahim spat out, “is there anything I’ve not done for you? I have told you all there is to know about your mother, Allah rest her soul, what more do you want for God’s sake?” His voice rose with each question. The secretary, in her office fifteen meters away, felt the tension as one feels the heat of fighting lions even from the confines of a touring vehicle. Faruk, for his part, felt like a young lion caught between the passions of his mounting anger and his respect for his father. He stared back at his father for less than half a minute, opening his mouth to say the first thing that came to his mind. But prudence overcame all and he sipped from his coffee which was now so cold it tasted salty. He steeled himself.
“Father. Is it wrong for a son to want to know all about his mother, to visit the land of his parent’s youth?”
At these words, his father drew back, knowing there was nothing he could do to stop Faruk from this journey. Ibrahim Dibarama knew that not even a fight would sway this boy, his true son—it upset him to be on the receiving end of an obstinacy he himself had instilled. Ibrahim Dibarama’s eyes still held anger, but his mind was far from where they were—his mind on his last days at Bolewa; guns going off everywhere, the shattering windscreen of his car, his wife’s scream, the corpses and the billowing smoke. Bolewa. City of memories, a town of death; a town that had unhinged his life and taken his wife from him slowly, as a virus eats a memory chip. Bolewa. How could he protect Faruk from the legacy of Bolewa?
“You are not going to Bolewa!”
“I am, father. I ask only for your blessings.”
Ibrahim shook his head sadly. He had feared this argument for a decade now and the reasons he had feared it were still the same. His eyes settled briefly on his only child. Faruk sat still in his chair, unsure if his father would try to force him to change his decision again, wondering by what means—if he would. Faruk knew he would not be forced, no matter what.
Just then the grey intercom on the table beeped and was hastily picked up.
“Yes. . ? Who? Okay,” at this the older man nodded an apology to his son before saying, “Okay, put him on. . ,” proceeding to converse with the person on the other end of the line. Faruk poured himself another cup of coffee and finished it to find his father still speaking. Another glance passed between them.

While he answered the phone, Ibrahim Dibarama’s thoughts were on the situation before him. What was he to do? All over the country, unexplainable fanaticisms were breaking out and he and his friends realized that the existence of the Nigerian State was at stake. But, what were they to do about it? And now, his own son wished to leave him and go to Bolewa, that den of fanatics, he thought, that fortress of loss. Viper-of-a-son! Ah, but he could not say he had not expected this day. It was at this point the disturbing thought of his son’s liaison with Eunice Pam’s daughter first crossed his mind. He ended the call and dropped the handset carefully into its cradle.
“You want to go to Bolewa?”
“Yes father.”
“Are you telling me everything?”
“Yes I am,” Faruk lied without losing his composure.
“Fine then, Faruk, you are a man. You have my blessing.”
Surprised but glad at his fathers words, Faruk wanted to tell his father he loved him.
But he did not.

The music stopped but Faruk did not play it again nor place another CD in the tray. He drove on, his thoughts still far away in Jos.
“It cannot work, Faruk. It’s all broken down. I cannot marry you, I’m sorry.”
Rahila, her head bowed in tears, tried to remove the ring then. Faruk, angry, held her hand.
“Why are you doing this?” he demanded.
But she did not answer.
“Here’s your ring.”
Rahila turned away and looked out the window. He grabbed her by the forearm and turned her slowly so she could face him. He wanted to play a game they used to play but his voice had grown husky.
“What are you?” he whispered.
She looked up at him. “I am the mountains; you are?”
“Breeze,” he said.
“We cannot be.”
“I am the sun,” he tried, desperately.
“But, you are not.”
“You are rain.”
“I am not. Not anymore,” she said sadly.
The waters between them broke at that moment.
She tried, against the wall of his silence: “Faruk, I am sorry, I hate to be, but I am, now. You are from the Northeast; I’m from Central Nigeria, we are separated by a whole complication of history and things. I thought it was possible, but I cannot, we cannot, be indifferent to our distinct selves. I am my mother’s child; you are your father’s son. Neither of us can undo that.”
He stayed silent awhile longer—then he bent forward and pressed his lips on her cheek, feeling her shudder. His eyes were closed. Rahila’s eyes were closed as well.
“You are breaking my heart,” he said.
Then he turned away, leaving her alone amid the contradictory swirl of her emotions.
Thirty minutes later on the Northeast Highway, Faruk came to a junction. Straight ahead was Maiduguri, 200 km away. He took the road that led to Nguirama and then on to Maidunama and Bolewa. He still had 300 kilometres before he could present himself to the native land from which he had been for so long sequestered, unsure as he was if he was a pilgrim to his mother’s story or a fugitive from the avenging mother of his lover.

Richard Ali, was born in the early 80’s and has lived in Jos most of his life. He holds an LL.B from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a BL degree from the Nigerian Law School and was duly called to the Nigerian Bar.

Ali has experience in both print and digital publishing, having been Editor of Sardauna Magazine, Kaduna [2004-2007] and being presently Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine []. He is at present a member of the PEN Nigeria Translations Committee.

His poetry has been published internationally in reputable journals such as the African Writing Journal and the Prosopisia Journal. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Excerpt: The Whispering Trees

The Cat-eyed English Witch, an excerpt from Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's collection of short stories, The Whispering Trees

The tiny corpse lay in a multicoloured bundle, cradled in the mother’s arm. She held out the bundle to me, showing me the innocent face that could have been sleeping but was now very dead. The mother’s brown eyes gleamed, not with grief but with a fiery hostility.

 “You killed him, you wicked witch,” she hissed angrily.

The words stung me, like a vicious blow, like the heat had struck me when we first arrived Abuja. It was not particularly strange that she called me a witch; they all did anyway. They found my blonde hair attractive but my grey eyes unsettling. I don’t think they have seen many white women here. They call me The Cat-eyed English Witch and then I’d thought it was kind of…I don’t know, amusing perhaps. But with Manasa standing in front of me, a dead child in her hand; a child I‘d adored, and accusing me of having killed him, it was…shocking, to say the least. 

It had begun in London one fine Saturday morning in Trafalgar square, six years ago, when I first met Bawa. I was sitting by a fountain, watching the pigeons strolling, pecking at the bread crumbs, pairing up and cooing, doing what pigeons do on a fine summer day. Behind me, I could hear the fountain, sighing sweetly like a lover’s voice. Then the pigeons fluttered their wings noisily, cooing wildly and scattered into the air from a threat I hadn’t noticed. Their soft under feathers seesawed gently down to the ground and then, there he was, standing.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.
I looked at him. He was young and handsome, and very dark. I guessed he was Nigerian but couldn’t be sure.
I’d thought he wanted to eat them but felt embarrassed immediately.
“Oh, never mind,” I said instead and giggled at my thought. When I drew out a cigarette from my purse, he lit up a lighter.
“Care for a smoke?” I asked.

He shrugged, sat down next to me and took the cigarette I offered.

We got talking. He’d been a student on international scholarship. He was studying law, he said. He was thirty then and didn’t mind that I was two years older. I told him I was a financial consultant and he wanted to know exactly what that meant. We actually hit it off, sort of. He too loved parties and Dan Rhodes but found English theatres “lame”. He said they lack the “African vibrancy”.

A year later, after he’d graduated, we got married. He too didn’t want anything elaborate so we had a private ceremony at a small chapel overlooking the Thames. His family in Nigeria called. Half the time, I didn’t figure out what they were saying. Bawa told me they were so excited but his parents weren’t too pleased.

“We have to go and get their blessings,” he said.
“Someday, darling,” I said. “Right now, I don’t think I can get away from the office after this honeymoon business.”
“Neither can I,” he said.

I crushed the cigarette in my hand in the ashtray and said, “Come to bed, Hon, we’ll figure that out later.”

One night, he’d come home and told me that his father had died and he needed to go back to Nigeria, where he hadn’t been in seven years. He asked me to come along and I agreed. We landed in Abuja and made the 130 kilometre trip to his village, Akwanga, by car.

I  didn’t have a clear idea what to expect but had half-expected to see semi-nude children, barely able to raise their skeletal hands, their wide, hungry eyes imploring, begging to be saved from…well, whatever. That was the image of Africa I had always seen on the BBC. But these people were vibrant, running about their businesses, displaying their colourful wares everywhere, their sweating faces smiling.

We were lodged in a single room – it used to be Bawa’s room. His grieving mother would not look me in the eyes as most of the others. We didn’t seem to have got off on the right footing. I hadn’t knelt to greet her, as my husband did. When I offered her a handshake she just put her head down. I later understood I’d been disrespectful. You waited until she offered you a handshake or a hug first. The family was large, the house was small but no one seemed to be complaining. I felt cramped by their communality but yet envied it. The way they did things together, like fetching water from the wells, preparing meals and just about everything else impressed me. Though, most of them spoke a kind of English; mostly pidgin actually, some of them were well schooled but still, they had problems understanding me.

“You speak English English,” one of Bawa’s cousins said, “you talk through your nose.”

Bawa was hardly ever around. He had to take care of the funeral and sort out his father’s assets, mostly with his uncles and aunties and just about everyone else in the extended family.
“Do you have to do everything?” I asked. “Your brother could handle it, couldn’t he? He seems responsible to me. He’s got three children, after all.”

“Lala may have three children but that doesn’t make him the first son. I am.” He didn’t need to add that the family’s been unhappy with him because he hadn’t visited home for quite a while. I think they hold me responsible for that too; apart from the fact that I hadn’t given the first son a child after six years of marriage. I’m a career woman, for Christ’s sake, I don’t want a baby!
Well after the funeral, Bawa was still kept busy with inheritance issues. I spend most of the day trying to read a book in the sun or watching the women work, pounding grains in mortars or blowing their breath into the embers in the tripods in order to cook faster. I could work on my tan that way. But Mama asked Lala to tell me that I am a married woman and ought not to be indecently exposing myself and smoking like that. Lala was very diplomatic in doing so but still, I felt trapped. I waited for Bawa to return that night.

“I’m going back to London.”
“I’ve got a great job with a nice corner office at Canary Wharf to think about.”
“But you took time off.”
“I’m mostly alone here in the middle of people who don’t understand me and you are not here most of the time!”
That got him angry and because I was wound up already, we had a row. He slammed the door on his way out. I needed a drink, so, I went out looking for a pub. I found a beer parlour instead; at least they had beer. I drank a little more than was good for me and someone had to call Lala to rescue his sister-in-law before she embarrassed the family any further. He made coffee for me and tucked me in.
The next morning, Lala came back carrying his baby.
 “Thanks for everything,” I said, embarrassed.
“You are welcome.”
“Made a mess of myself, didn’t I?”
“Well, I have done worse.”
“Is that your child?”
“Yes, a boy.”

The boy, just five months old, was cute. He made me think of having one of my own. I held him while Lala talked to me. He told me why most of them would not look me in the eyes because they thought them cat like. Only witches have such eyes, they believed. He told me a lot of things about his family and culture that made me understand them better, made me think of having a go at making things work. We became friends. It was so easy being friends with Lala. He was a teacher at a local secondary school and it surprised me how well read he was. Only he’d never heard of Dan Rhodes before. I lent him “Anthropology and A Hundred Other Stories.” He was so thrilled when he brought it back.

I curtsied when greeting Mama and though we needed an interpreter, her smile said more. Though I could hardly manage any of the chores, they appreciated me for offering to help. Mostly they declined, saying the guest should rest. They seemed less afraid of me and less scary to me as well; most of them anyway, apart from Manasa, Lala’s wife. She was not well educated and had grown less friendly since Lala and I became close. She seemed to have developed this notion that we were equals of sorts because we were both married into the family. I had, at a point, thought that Lala didn’t spend hours talking with her as he did with me; I couldn’t imagine them doing that because he seemed a notch or two above her, well, a lot more notches actually.

I have come to appreciate this people perhaps as much as they appreciate me and I have learnt that we tend to be afraid because we build fences instead of bridges. Their situation is not ideal; not to me at least. Power supply is epileptic, they have problems getting clean water and I waste a lot just to shower. I simply can’t imagine life without a steady power supply or clean water but yet, here are people, living in the midst of these challenges and are able to smile and laugh, even under the scorching heat, the corruption, the institutional brutality and everything else. I realised I lived in a luxury I hardly appreciate.

I had carried Lala’s boy, strapped to my back, as children are carried in these parts. I found it tiring but enjoyable. And the next morning, his mother, Manasa, had come to me with a dead boy, demanding that I bring him back to life with the witchcraft I used in taking him the first instance. She made such a racket and woke the whole house. I cried.

Everyone came out and spoke to Manasa but she wouldn’t budge until Mama came out of her room and slapped her across the face. Then she broke down and cried. Mama hugged me and I wept on her shoulder.

How can I tell Manasa that I could never hurt her child because I adore him so much that it made me want to have one of my own; that I actually have one growing in me?

It’s just that I can’t say precisely whose it is.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim holds a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria. He has written for Vanguard, one of Nigeria’s foremost newspapers, and his short fiction has been published locally and internationally. In 2007 he won the BBC African Performance Playwriting Competition and his first novel, The Quest for Nina, is due out in 2008 in the United States. His latest work, The Whispering Trees was published by Parresia.