Call for New African Writing

New African Writing is hosted by the ABC Literary Cafe at The Life House, and Kachifo Limited, publishers of Farafina Books. This event will provide an opportunity for emerging African writers to showcase their work and be exposed to critique and feedback from established writers.

Emerging writers are requested to submit any piece of prose of no more than 5,000 words. Thirty pieces will be selected from the submissions, and the writers will be invited to read five minutes of their work during the event. Our panel of distinguished writers will be on hand to critique their work on both days of the event. The thirty selected pieces will be subject to further editing and review by both the panel and Kachifo Limited, and the top fifteen will be included in an e-book of short stories to be released later in 2012. The stories not selected for publication in the short story collection will be published on the Farafina blog. The closing date for submission is February 5, 2012.

The New African Writing readings will be held at The Life House, 33 Sinari Daranijo Street, off Younis Bashorun Street, off Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. The dates are February 10 and February 24; the time is 6pm.

Submissions should be sent by email to shortstories@kachifo.com. All submissions should include the name, phone number and email address of writers. Selected writers should be available to read their work at the events, or have a representative available to read on their behalf. However, provisions have been made for writers who may be selected but unavailable to read their work.

Update: The contest is now open to not just Nigerian writers, but to African writers living in Africa.

Book ‘n’ Gauge: An Afternoon with Bobo Omotayo

Book lovers and literary enthusiasts, and everyone looking to relax and have a good time this weekend, are invited to the 8th edition of the monthly book reading, Book ‘n’ Gauge, which comes up this Saturday, 28 January 2012. This edition will feature Bobo Omotayo, writer cum blogger, reading to the audience from his book, London Life, Lagos Living. There will also be spoken word performance by Ndukwe Onuoha and music by Ese Peters.

The event will take place at Debonair Bookstore, 294 Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo, Yaba, from 2pm to 5pm. Bring five friends along and win a book. Early birds also get gifts. You don’t want to miss it!

Book ‘n’ Gauge is organized by PulpFaction Book Club, and aims at creating a platform where reading is seen as hip and cool. 

Fiction: Akané

It would seem that there has been a gap in Nigerian literature, as far as fantasy fiction goes; but there is a growing crop of emerging Nigerian writers in fantasy fiction, and today we feature an excerpt by one of them. Enjoy this piece by Eugene Odogwu, entitled Akané.

Iba descended with much reluctance, crawling his way down like a snail without worries. Iba’s stomach on the other hand had long since declared war on his body and was dealing deathblows within. As the hunger grew, an idea had begun to form in his head and with each passing moment, it had grown into a fully-fledged plan. Iba was going fishing, tradition or no tradition. He was certain that if the Orabé felt anywhere close to what he was feeling, they would hand him the biggest net and point him in the right direction.

It was a simple plan really. He would sneak through the bushes over to the farthest side of Ngasa where he was sure anyone hardly ever ventured and there he would float upon his eko, cast his net and wait for the poor fishes. Oh, how he would eat every bit of them. Iba smiled at his plan as he watched Nda rise white and graceful to bear witness to his actions.

As soon as he decided that it was dark enough Iba ran to where he had hidden his eko and striking stones and brushed aside the palm fronds he used to conceal them. Dragging the wooden bulk of an eko—flat and thick as it was and carved from a single trunk—through the low grass was a lot more difficult than he had imagined, more so on an empty stomach. After what seemed like an endless rhythm of huffs and puffs, he arrived at the farthest bank of Ngasa and managed to push it unto the water. He retrieved his net and ikpo, the fat, short staff used to quiet the most stubborn of fishes. Iba waded into the water, cast his net and tied it to the rear of his eko.  Straddling his eko and using his arms and legs, he paddled away from the bank, dragging the cast net behind.

Far from the bushes surrounding the bank, far from the chirps and rustles of crickets and hoppers, a chilly silence seemed to surround Iba. Ngasa’s surface, black and depthless, rippled under Nda’s silvery gaze, almost seeming alive. Iba shivered slightly. The chill, the silence and, of course, the hunger breathed fear into Iba’s mind. What if the stories where true, he thought. What if the Orabé had creatures that punished those that broke tradition? Iba cast a quick look at the bank wondering how quickly he could reach it if anything happened out there. I should go back. Yes, now while I can.

Read the full story on Eugene’s blog.

FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL: NIGERIANS SPEAK III

Mixed reactions have followed the government’s decision to price fuel at N97 per litre, and the NLC’s subsequent decision to call off the nationwide strike. While some Nigerians are relieved at this, most feel disappointed and betrayed by the government and the labour congress, and skeptical that any real change has taken place.

Fela Durotoye, entrepreneur and public speaker, has this to say:

As I watched the events of the last 36 hours unfold, I have had to explain to my wife and children why I am so silent, so angry and so sad at the same time.

My silence comes from being in awe as I witness the unprecedented yet amazing collaboration of MILITARY and MILITANTS in accomplishing a common goal… to silence the voice of the people.

I am so angry that precious lives have been lost as ordinary citizens protested against an unjust policy that was clearly not thought through, and yet our President describes these fallen heroes as the “adverse effects” of the protest.

I am angry that our President made so many open-ended promises without clear deliverables or deadlines and thought we would be gullible and simple-minded enough to say OK.

Read the rest of his commentary here.

Okey Ndibe, writer and political commentator, writes:

Those who last April hailed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as a consummate democrat and people’s man must now solve the puzzle of how their man shed his tame demeanor for the armor of violence. It is remarkable that, despite the provocations of a failed, inept and corrupt state, Nigerians exhibited extreme restraint during their protests against raised fuel prices. By contrast, Jonathan – who has accumulated no funds of trust since finding himself the president – decided to unleash soldiers on largely peaceful protesters.

Please visit his website to read the full commentary.

And here’s a fictional analogy by Tolu Talabi, a writer:

Here’s how I think it happened.

We’ve been told that over 75% of our budget goes to paying the executive and legislative arms of our government. I think that is an understatement. I think the amount is more like 150% of our budget.

I think the President opened the national treasury, which I assume is a gilded chalice set to the right of his throne on a stool with a purple pillow.

President Jonathan reaches for this chalice after submitting his budget for 2012. After asking for ₦1 billion for feeding for himself and the vice president, and ₦57 million for phone calls for the year, and ₦1.3 billion to fuel generators at his house, money that he wouldn’t need if he just paid that amount into the power sector…

Read the full story here.

Noruwa Edokpolo writes this:

You can almost touch the feeling of helplessness on the part of those that put in everything into the recent citizen-led confrontation with the Government upon hearing that Labour had called off the strike action. As I write the jury is still out as to whether labour sold out or not. My concern is not really about the conduct of labour as I mentioned in my previous write up that this struggle has gone beyond labour.

To the grieving Nigerians both young and old, Christians, Muslims, male, female, Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba or whatever else they have used to separate us in the past, which we have convincingly broken with the display of solidarity throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria all through last week till date, I want to say please don’t give up; don’t throw up your arms in despair as if to say there is no hope for Nigeria.

Don’t grieve because we have actually achieved a lot;

• For me the number one gain is the shattering of the myth that Nigerians are spineless and that we are unable to speak with one voice.

• Also very important is that as a people we have found our voice, no longer will it business as usual.

• Also very instructive is the power of information. All the information about the cabal, the budget breakdown, etc. has come about as a result if the passage of the FOI bill.

• Twitter, Facebook, BBM, the almighty social media has finally shifted the balance of power, they can no longer stop us.

I imagine there are more gains than I have stated above but these are the ones that come readily to mind. The most important question now is what happens next. To answer this question let us glean from some of the hard lessons that this episode has taught us.

Firstly, we need a voice that Government can relate to beyond labour. How can we get from Ojota to Aso Rock to negotiate for ourselves, as you will agree with me that it’s no use shouting on the roof top when they will not allow you into the main house where the actual meeting is taking place. My humble suggestion is we need to get involved in the way our country is being run.

This is a golden opportunity for the Civil Society Organisations to come out boldly and articulate their aims and objectives so we can join the ones that approximate to our personal preferences. It is also a time for people of like mind to start coming together to form what I choose to refer to as “Accountability Teams.” Let’s start asking questions right from the LGA’s to the State all the way up to the Federal Government.

Secondly, we need to get involved in the political process. It’s either you are going for office or you are working for someone that represents the New Nigeria of our dreams or you are actively engaged in stopping a known 419er from getting there; whatever the case we must get involved.

Thirdly, from now on it must be close marking for Government. For example they have said that the PIB will be passed within one week; we must put pressure on them to ensure that this gets done, we must insist that Government follows through on the reduction in the recurrent expenditure contained in 2012 budget. The Oil Minister has said that EFCC will be invited; we must follow through to ensure that this is done. No longer must we allow the promises that they make go unattended.

Finally, it is of utmost importance that the leaders of the CSO speak to the masses that all hope is not lost, that the struggle is well under way and that all we need now is to proceed to the next stage. I worry that a lot of the young people may have become despondent, and if we allow them to give up on Nigeria then we are in big trouble!

May God bless Nigeria.

The views expressed in these pieces are solely those of the writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of Kachifo Limited.

FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL: NIGERIANS SPEAK II

Today we bring you this commentary on what is still the most discussed subject in Nigeria today – the fuel subsidy removal. This piece entitled “My Vote for Subsidy Removal”, is written by Okey Ndibe, a writer and political commentator. You can find more of his work on his website.

Mr. Ndibe writes:

Last Saturday, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan addressed Nigerians for the second time in as many weeks. This time, he attempted a multi-pronged defense of his decision to remove fuel subsidy. It was a woeful failure.

Mr. Jonathan’s defense reeked of platitudes that rang false and rhetoric that came across as cheap and unfelt. Did the president expect Nigerians to buy his statement that he “feel[s] the pain that you all feel,” and that he “personally [felt] pained to see the sharp increase in transport fares and the prices of goods and services”? Did even his speechwriter believe that the president shares “the anguish of all persons who had traveled out of their stations, who had to pay more on the return leg of their journeys”?

Jonathan is far removed from the pain and anguish of the vast majority of Nigerians. In fact, he might as well inhabit a different planet from the rest of us. Even if the price of fuel rose to N10,000 a liter, the Nigerian president won’t feel a pinch of it. We, the people of Nigeria, buy all the fuel he uses – and his wife’s to boot.

Ensconced in the island of luxury that is Aso Rock, the man has no real access to the grim desperation that defines the lives of millions of Nigerians. It must be abstract for him. If his powers of empathy were engaged, Mr. Jonathan would not have been in such callous haste to remove fuel subsidies – without touching his own (and his coterie’s) perks and privileges.

Even if there were an excellent case for removing subsidy, what kind of statecraft justified raising fuel prices on the first day of the year? And, with the country still reeling from the Christmas Day bombings that killed and wounded many and shot the nerves of millions, how come Jonathan couldn’t wait for a week or two – even if the case for removing subsidy was unassailable? Continue reading

Fuel Subsidy Removal: Nigerians Speak

The removal of the fuel subsidy in January this year has caused many Nigerians to react strongly, both against and in favour of the removal, though it would seem mostly in the former. Today is day four of the mass strike action in Nigeria to protest the fuel subsidy removal, and so far no word has been received from the government on a possible reversal of this decision.

Even as the nationwide strike goes on, Nigerians continue to speak out on the subsidy removal. And so, in “Nigerians Speak”, we will be bringing to you essays and commentary on this issue from Nigerians from all walks of life. Some pieces may be humorous, some analytical, but all will tell of the fuel subsidy removal from a Nigerian’s point of view. Please note that these commentaries are those of the writer alone, and do not necessarily reflect the stance of Kachifo Limited.

Our first piece is written by Wilfred Oyegun, a social and political analyst, in response to this email from his friend in South Africa concerning the subsidy removal:

Please explain why this subsidy issue causes such a stir among the masses. Here [in South Africa] we are told by a Nigerian reporter that the abolition is affecting the middle class who have cars, thus pollute the cities’ air and by them paying more the government can use more money to uplift the poor. Moreover there seems to be a lot of corruption involved in this subsidy scheme, so are the poor indeed objecting on this issue?

Oyegun’s response:

It is very simplistic to say that the removal of the fuel subsidy will affect only the middle and upper classes. Whilst it is true that these classes have the most private and personal vehicles on the road, the majority of Nigerians are transported in privately owned vehicles ranging from motor bikes to rickshaws, taxi cabs, mini buses and big commuter buses. In a country where there is virtually no mass transportation system, private individuals have risen up to fill that gap and they all use fuel to run their vehicles. What has happened is that transport costs have risen astronomically in order to accommodate the subsidy removal.

In a country where there is virtually no infrastructure and no reliable power supply, the informal economy, which sustains the national economy and keeps it going on a daily basis, relies exclusively on the fuel they buy to run their small generators to keep their businesses going. All these Nigerians now have to pay over 100% more for the fuel that runs their businesses. What happened to government’s responsibility to provide power or empower private investors to do so?

Whilst it is realistic to expect that at some point in time the issue of subsidy removal will have to be addressed, what has grieved Nigerians is the way and manner in which it has been done, without regard and without putting the appropriate machinery in place. The government did not even bother to sell the idea to its citizens over time. There was no discourse, no public debate. It was simply handed down as a fait accompli.

It is absolutely insincere and mischievous for government and its appointed agents, like the reporter you refer to, to say that it is the middle class that is opposing the subsidy removal. It is an old ploy to divide and break up the protest.

The government says that a few oil marketers only have benefitted from the fuel subsidy over the years and that all or some of these marketers did not actually import the petroleum products in the quantities they claimed and were paid for; arguing that these marketers exploited the corruption in the system to forge documents and get paid for products they did not supply. They argue too that some of these marketers would import say 20,000MT of Prime Motor Spirit (PMS), use small vessels to bring only 5,000MT into the port for discharge, submit documents claiming that they had brought in 20,000MT, get paid for 20,000MT, and then turn around and sell the remaining 15,000MT in neighbouring countries. It is also alleged that some of these marketers had no fuel stations anywhere in the country, or had very few stations, and also that some of these marketers did not have tank farms large enough to accommodate the quantities they claimed to have imported.

All these allegations are verifiable and can be investigated. The oil marketers are not phantoms. The companies are known and the individuals behind them are known. Why have they not been arrested and tried? Why have they not been made to refund the billions of dollars they have stolen from the citizens of this country? Are they so powerful that they are above the law?

The truth no one is admitting is that some of these marketers are fronts for powerful people in government and the legislature. They know that if they arrest these people, they will begin to sing and the truth will be revealed.

We have a government that appropriates N1 billion for feeding the president and vice-president annually, in a country where the implementation of the N18,000 monthly minimum wage (just over $100!) is yet to be achieved. We have state governors who have security votes of N500 million in a nation where there is so much insecurity and unemployment is in double digits. We have legislators who are the highest paid in the world! A legislator in the House of Representatives earns twice as much as the president of the US and a senator earns over three times more. The allowances these people earn are prohibitive and scandalous in a country where those who voted them into power are unemployed and hungry. These figures are not a secret; they are freely available. Mind you, none of these people will be affected by the subsidy removal because all their vehicles, personal and official, are fuelled and maintained by the tax payer.

The president announced to the nation that he and his executive are going to sacrifice 25% of their basic salaries. Who is he fooling? Why basic salary only? Why not the allowances as well? Why not the N1 billion food bill per annum for the presidency? Why have the legislators not come out to announce a 50% cut in their salaries and allowances?

Nigerians are out there protesting because the inconsiderate manner in which the subsidy issue has been addressed affects every facet of life—from food to transportation to housing. You cannot tell a people to see what you will do with the savings from the subsidy removal without doing something beforehand to alleviate the sufferings that the measure will inflict upon them. This is not rocket science. It is management pure and simple!

The crucial question of security needs to be addressed. Christians are being killed in the largely Muslim north of Nigeria and the president says to the nation to take courage until the killings fizzle out. What kind of statement is that coming from the president and commander-in-chief of a nation? Do you know that some northerners have been killed in some southern cities since the general strike began two days ago? In Benin City, for instance, most, if not all the northerners that live there have been given refuge in the police zonal headquarters.

Nigeria’s dilemma over the years has been a lack of effective leadership. The country has consistently been plagued with leaders who are insensitive to the wishes of the people they govern; leaders who are inconsiderate and lack the political will to address the perennial problems that have plagued the country since independence. We have had leaders who see political or military position as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, looting the national treasury and piling up wealth for their generations yet unborn. Once we can address the cankerworm called corruption, I believe we will begin to see clearly and feel some shame for how we have mismanaged our country.

I feel passionate about my country, Nigeria, and I feel very concerned for the way things have been. I see a country blessed with so much, yet lacking in the proper management of its enormous resources. Hardly a day passes without me wishing that things were different, and I know that there are millions of Nigerians who feel the same way. The sad question is: who will deliver us from this body of death? How can we excise this country from those whose only interest is to bleed it to death?

Remembering Cesária Évora

The news of the death of Cesária Évora was received with great sadness by Cape Verdeans and music lovers all over the world. The Cape Verdean musical icon, popularly known as The barefoot Diva, was credited by many for putting Cape Verde on the world music map by performing their distinctive morna ballads.

Janine de Nouvais, in her article for The Paris Review Daily, writes:

Before Cesária Évora, being Cape Verdean meant being from an invisible country. When I was growing up in Europe in the early eighties, the islands I called home did not appear on the maps we studied in school…. I distinctly remember how this changed when Cesária Évora became a worldwide sensation. It was sudden and startling; I could now tell anybody I was Cape Verdean and expect them to reply with her name…

Cesária died on December 17 2011—of respiratory complications following a stroke and heart surgery—but her music and legacy will remain with us, filling our hearts and enriching our lives.

Enjoy this song by Cesária entitled “Petit Pays”.

Farafina and iRead Literacy Network: Making a Difference

iRead Literacy Network is a voluntary movement with the goal of ridding our society of illiteracy by teaching people, particularly children, to read. iRead Literacy Network currently focuses on children in public schools and children’s homes that may not have or be able to afford teachers, but hopes to implement a wider range of literacy programmes in the future.

In November 2011, as an expression of our commitment to giving back and positively affecting the lives of Nigerian children, Kachifo Limited partnered with iRead Literacy Network on their second annual spelling bee competition, in which students from over 28 schools in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State participated.

See pictures of the event below.