Saturday, December 24, 2005

God's Voicemail

I usually delete unread, all 'forward' e-mails that share jokes or wisdom of the ages. When I received this one that read on the subject line 'God on voicemail', I was curious enough to click on the attachment. I have cut off all the preambles and have modified some of the text, and have written a new intro. I have also changed the prayer options to the ACTS system that is very effective.

In the beginning of time, God was very accessible to people on a one to one basis. People spoke to Him from their bedrooms and He spoke back to them. As human problems became more complex and God was being bothered by the most trivial of things, He allowed the High Priests to pick up the requests and deal with what they could and pass the more difficult cases to Him and the Christ.

Later on, the Christ came in the human form of Jesus and walked among men and witnessed that the High Priest had become quite stuffy and used their discretions sometimes unfairly. Some of them were corrupt - a brood of vipers, and when Jesus was crucified, the curtain in the temple was ripped apart, bringing men directly into the presence of God again.

The high priests still have their function, but one does not need them anymore in order to speak to God.

In a recent turn of events, in has emerged that God found the use of the switchboard in the corporate world quite exciting. In a swift move to answer all those critics who think that God has not really upgraded his communications systems to the standards of the technological age, men who only believe what they can see or understand how it works, men who fail to realise that the equipment-free communications systems God already had in place was quite technologically advanced, God moved to install a virtual switchboard so that when you pray, you at least hear and receive some instant attention.

This story assumes your prayer is a telephone call to heaven. Enjoy.

Thank you for calling heaven.

For English press 1

For French press 2

For Igbo or any African Language press 3

For Klingon and all other languages, press 4

If you wish to hear the options again press 9

Please select one of the following options:

A - Adoration: If you are calling just to give praise to God's holy name, to celebrate him, Press 1 now.

C - Confession: To confess your sins now, and to pray for strength to stay away from sin, Press 2 now.

T - Thanksgiving: To thank God for what he has done for you and your loved ones, press 3 now.

S - Supplication: Please note that under supplication there are 2 sub-options; Intercession - to pray for other people, to ask God to have mercy on world leaders, to touch the hearts of the wicked and turn them away from their wickedness, to get the sick better, or any other matter concerning other people, press 4, or for Petition - to ask God for what you need yourself, a wife, a husband, a car, a job, good health, a friend, anything at all you want for yourself, Press 5.

Please be aware that when you pray, God can give you one of three answers, Yes, No, or Maybe. Yes, for what he thinks you are ready for, No for something which in your human wisdom you think you need, but God knows will not be good for you, and Maybe for something he wishes to consider for you but not at that very moment.

Please be patient, all our Angels are busy helping other callers right now. However, your prayer is important to us and we will answer it in the order it was received. Please stay on the line. Or if you know the extention you want press it now, for example:

To speak to God directly now press 1,

To speak to the Christ press 2,

To find out if your recently-departed friend or family member has been assigned to heaven press 3, (If you receive a negative response, press 666 to speak to him in the Departures Lounge to Hell. If he has already been shipped, you will be unable to reach him)

For reservations to heaven, please enter JOHN followed by the numbers, 3 - 16.

For answers to nagging questions about dinosaurs, life and other planets, please wait until you arrive in heaven for the specifics.

For Operator assistance, press 0 now.

If the Operator does not pick up, it is probably because this office is now closed for the weekend to observe religious holiday, in which case you may wish to contact your local pastor.

And if Satan is knocking at your door, simply say, "Jesus, could you please get that for me?"

Thank you and have a heavenly day.

Click on the e-mail sign below to send this to somebody.

Best Wishes and Merry Christmas


Monday, December 19, 2005


In French “Les Lueurs Et Les Sons” means “Lights and Sounds”. I bet you didn't know that, did you?. I too did not know those words until this morning when I had a chance to read a translation of my poem “Lights and Sounds” on the Poesie Du Monde website.

Nicolas Folio and Maria Merrett are building an online anthology of world poetry in French. It was an honour to receive an invitation from Maria Merrett to have my poem featured there as the first poem from Nigeria in the anthology. The page also features a photograph “Tie & Dye Commune, Abeokuta” by Molara Wood. Although the photograph was taken in faraway Nigeria, and is not directly related to the poem, I however find the colourful image of Tie & Dye materials hung out and drying on airing lines, which are the means of livelood and the promise, or dream of fortune for the producers works well with these lines from the poem:

I hang the map on life’s line somewhere
custodian of fortune will see it.

The format, scale and ambition of poesie du monde is exciting. It is also quite different from The Other Voices International Project – an online anthology in English edited by Robert Humes at

The other voices anthology features six of my poems and poems by other Nigerian poets; Unoma Azuah, Uche Nduka, Tolu Ogunlesi and Esiaba Irobi. I can only attempt to put these two projects side by side The Argonaut's Boat – another great online showcase at I have been invited to be a poet-in-residence on the Boat, and I shall be sending materials to the Captian Argo Spier before the year runs out. Other poets on Other Voices would have received similar invitations.

If you would like your poem featured in Poesie Du Monde. Go to and see if your country has been represented. I understand from Maria that they want to have just one poet per country for now until all the countries of the world have been represented and then they would start adding more poets. If your country has not been represented and you would like to have your poem there, send me an e-mail: and I would surely connect you with Maria Merrett.

To read “Lights and Sounds” in French and English now go to click on ‘Afrique’ and then on ‘Nigeria’

Or click on the link below

Have a wonderful day.

Nnorom Azuonye

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Air Disasters: Nigeria holds top spot

Following the December 10, 2005 crash of a Sosoliso Airlines plane near Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, many Nigerians have been numb with grief. They have been too shocked to express in words exactly how they feel. More disturbing however has been the fact that the few who have been able to speak make comments that suggest it is the fault of Nigeria as a country, or the fault of the Nigerian leadership, if the government there could be called that, that a crash like this occured. With obvious references to the poor maintenance culture in Nigeria where air travel is quick beginning to sound like a suicide mission; the aeroplanes are reportedly much too old, and with the hugely advertised corruption in the country, aircraft that are not air-worthy could very well be allowed to fly.

This is why many Nigerians are angry, and are not willing to accept this latest crash as an accident. There has even been the far-fetched thoughts expressed that Obasanjo is sacrificing these people in exchange or partial fulfilment of his evil dues to Satan to ensure a third term in office. Never an Obasanjo person, even I think those thoughts have not been well expressed, but grief does such things to people and somebody has got to be blamed. On instinct, I wanted to see if Nigeria indeed had more crashes than every other country with an airline.

A quick ‘2005 air crashes’ search on Google led me to where I was able to obtain information on air crashes worldwide between September 5, and December 10, 2005. I wrote down all the crashes and the number of fatalities, and worked out the statistics for myself.

In all there were 15 air crashes in the period. A total of 521 people perished in those crashes - an average of 34.73 people per crash. Looking at the individual crashes however, the worst disaster of all was in Medan, Indonesia on September 5, where a Boeing 737 carrying 117 people crashed killing 99 on board and a further 44 people on the ground thereby clocking up a total death toll of 143. The second worst crash was the Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 crash of October 22 near Lagos, Nigeria which cleaned up all 117 passengers. That horrible Nigerian crash is closely followed in the third place by the December 6 Lockheed C130B Hercules crash in Tehran, Iran, which killed 94 passengers and a further 14 on the ground, a total of 108. And worthy of special mention of course is the Sosoliso Airlines crash - a McDonnell Dc-9-32, which claimed 103 people, 75 of them school children.

Incredibly, although crashes in Nigeria only account for just over 13% of the crashes recorded in the period, Nigeria claims the trophy for the most deaths with a total of 220 in the two crashes, a whopping 42.23% chunk of the 521 dead in the period September 5 to December 10, 2005. What can one say to Nigeria, congratulations or condolences?

Interestingly, of all 15 crashes, there were only five commercial airliners. The rest are either privately-owned planes or small cargo flights. The December 8 Boeing 737 crash in Chicago, Illinois, had no passenger fatality at all, although it managed to kill somebody on the ground. I hit at this point just because of the points raised about maintenance of planes in Nigeria. I should imagine that the owners of the private jets would maintain them well. Maybe I am wrong but I still want to see this latest Sosoliso crash and the Bellview one before it as accidents. Accidents do happen. This will not console anyone, I know. I have personally not yet been consoled over the death of my uterine sibling in a bus crash at Ijebu-Igbo in 1982, therefore I understand how the bereaved must be feeling now and how they will still be feeling 20 years from now.

I recall with shame today, the anger I felt when I learnt the driver of the bus that killed my brother had survived the crash, and how I thought of ways to go to Ibadan and kill him. But years have passed and I have come to accept that perhaps it was the way his God wanted it, and I am thankful that I did not dwell on those murderous thoughts and did not harm the poor man who is perhaps still seeing ghosts of people he probably believes his reckless driving killed. I hope he has grown to see it was just an accident.

What I would ask the bereaved today is to say what my mother kept muttering after she learned her son had died just one month after the death of her husband, “God, please do not allow me utter a word of blasphemy.” May God be the consoler of all those who have lost their loved ones. Nothing we can say as human beings can heal them now, all we can do is cover them with prayers. Besides, I have just been reading and hearing all sorts of good things about Pastor Bimbo Odukoya who also returned to the Almighty through that Sosoliso crash, and I suddenly feel that it was not by accident she was on that flight. I didn't know the woman in life. Never even heard her preach once as far as I know, but if she was truly as good a human being and with God as the reports purport, then she might have been there especially for the children, to care for them, to make sure they are not afraid, to help them understand what just happened to them, and to lead them into the greater light of God.

Nnorom Azuonye
December 13, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

degrees of treason

Blogger's Note: Recently the Nigerian government under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo charged Ralph Uwazurike and other leaders of MASSOB with treason. This has become a major cause for concern to many Nigerians, the Igbo people in particular whose sons now face the serious charge and possible murder by the government of that country.

It is diabolical that this should happen around the time the world is celebrating the murder also by an ealier Nigerian government of Ken Saro-Wiwa who aided the same Obasanjo and the Nigerian forces to crush Biafra. Never a fan of Saro-Wiwa myself, I have always maintained that no human being deserves to die the way he died, no matter what he did. I hate to imagine that unless people speak up now, 10 years from now, we might be celebrating 20 years of the judicial murder of Saro-Wiwa and 10 years of the judicial murder of Uwazurike.

It is disturbing that the Nigerian government does not wish to dialogue with MASSOB. This charge of treason against people who just wish to say their name is also a kind of treason. This is why I find the article by Okey Ndibe exciting to read, because it highlights all levels of treasonable acts committed by the Nigerian government.

Degrees of treason
By Okey Ndibe

An administration whose trademark is treasonous conduct has found a new hobby in prosecuting some of its victims on charges of treason. First it was Asari Dokubo. Now it is Ralph Uwazurike, the founder and leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra. President Olusegun Obasanjo's government seems bent on squelching any voice that loudly proclaims the illogicality of the Nigerian nation.

Obasanjo's repressive stance is bound for futility. If it is treason to declare that Nigeria, as currently constituted, is a hollow idea, a territorial space devoid of meaning, a fictional construct, a false notion, an alleged nation, then count me among the majority of Nigerians who think along those lines. For many Nigerians, their nation is an illusion that cannot long be sustained. It is an endangered promise, a stunted, malformed entity. A nation cannot survive when it is founded on injustice, iniquity and fraud. It cannot command the loyalty of citizens.

Nigeria's hedonistic "leaders," men and women too obsessed with lucre to embrace the task of founding a truly coherent community, have squandered the nation's promise. Nigeria is today a shell, a cornucopia of broken, shattered dreams. And the Obasanjo administration is as guilty as any of its predecessors in this vitiation of national potential. The administration lacks the patriotic credential or moral capital to charge anybody with treason. This government has wallowed, and wallows, in treasonable behaviour.

It would be nigh impossible, given space constraints, to enumerate all of this administration's crimes, but a partial list would suffice to make the point. Treason is what happened in Odi, Bayelsa state, in 1999. Odi has entered the Nigerian lexicon as a metaphor for genocide. It is an account of this administration's infliction of death on hundreds of innocent citizens made to pay the ultimate price for the sins of a few exuberant youths. A government that would massacre its own citizens as if they were enemy combatants is a government steeped in treason. As if Odi was not horrifying enough, the Obasanjo government then executed another heinous crime in Zaki Biam, wiping out any moving thing in several villages. It was a case of domestic "shock and awe" before George W. Bush borrowed the phrase.

Treason is the impunity that went by the name of the 2003 general elections. Flush with the arrogance of incumbency, the president and his notoriously misnamed Peoples Democratic Party went about grabbing any state that suited their fancy, any seat or gubernatorial position they desired. It was brazen in the president's home state of Ogun where more "voters" turned out than were in the electoral register. Did ghosts emerge from graves to vote along with people?

In Anambra state, a young political "godfather" wielded both wealth and influence to veto the votes of millions of voters.

Treason is what Chris Uba and other acolytes of the president did in July 2003, abducting Anambra's Governor Chris Ngige and forging his resignation letter. The governor's offence was his refusal to permit Uba to freely dip filthy hands into the state treasury. Treason? Treason is the president's decision to shield the perpetrators of the governor's abduction from prosecution. Treason is the president's failure to call in the police after he allegedly heard a confession from the duo of Uba and Governor Ngige that the 2003 polls in Anambra had been rigged.

Treason is the connivance of the government in a plot to create lawlessness in Anambra state in order to prepare the ground for the president's imposition of a state of emergency in the state. Treason is the wholesale burning of public facilities in Anambra by hoodlums whose "fundamental right to arson" was dutifully, fastidiously protected by officers of the Nigerian Police Force. For three days in November of 2004, these arsonists, often escorted by police, swept through Anambra state, setting fire to radio and television stations, sundry government buildings as well as government-owned buses and cars. The president's response? Obasanjo summoned the governor of the assaulted state and ordered him to negotiate with the masterminds of the conflagration. The conclusion is inescapable: the mayhem had presidential imprimatur.

Treason is when the government empowers Chris Uba with an oil block, thus proving that crime pays in Nigeria. The ruling party, after feigning Uba's expulsion (the mildest rebuke, given the enormity of his crimes), has officially re-admitted him to the fold of party "thieftains." The PDP has unveiled an outrageous plan to install him as a member of the party's board of trustees. Do we not see, then, that the real villains and felons inhabit the inner rooms of power in Abuja?

Treason is a government unable (more likely unwilling) to discharge the most elementary function of governance, namely, the provision of security, the protection of all citizens' lives and property. Treason is a government that slumbered while assassins killed Bola Ige, its own Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Treason is a government that then proceeded to bungle the investigation of the crime and the prosecution of arrested suspects. Treason is the ruling party's bizarre decision to field the most visible suspect, a man who was then in detention, as one of its senatorial candidates.

Treason is when a government turns a fight against corruption into a selective hounding of those "disloyal" to the president, those hostile to Obasanjo's untoward political schemes. Why has no known ally of the president faced embarrassment or prosecution for corruption? Does this president with an imperial cast of mind believe that only men close to Atiku Abubakar, his estranged vice president, are corrupt? Why does Mr. Obasanjo behave as if his own pals are exemplars of virtue and probity, untainted by graft? Treason is when a leader tailors public policy to serve his narrow interests or those of his small coterie.

Treason is the president's systematic emasculation of the National Assembly, his frequent employment of monetary inducement to determine the legislators' principal officers or to quiet the legislators' several attempts to hold him to account, to impeach him. Treason is when a leadership conducts the nation's affairs with little or no accountability to the people.

The rising secessionist rhetoric in Nigeria is an effect of betrayal by this government as well as past regimes. If Ralph Uwazurike's vision of a re-born Biafra resonates with many Igbo youths, it is precisely because this government, like those before it, has slain hope and deepened despair. This government's record of unconstitutional conduct, its anthology of illegal acts, its cynical attitude to accountability, its hypocritical posture on corruption and its wholesale abandonment of ethics fuel the view that Nigeria is emptied of hope, is headed for the terrible abyss.

©Okey Ndibe 2005. All rights reserved. This article was first published in The Guardian online, November 17, 2005. Published at with the author’s permission.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

In Unum Luceant: A message for Umuahians

Some months ago, I set up the Yahoo! group Umuahians for the Old Boys of Government College Umuahia to come together and eat e-Pampam, e-bonzuna and drink some e-kwokwo. It does not matter whether you were a White Shirt or a Black Shirt, it does not matter whether you ragged for mmanu and was never annointed, or whether you did a period of detention or did too many runs, even if you were a Bell Fag or a Crimgbo, and did not like your Magi too much. Let us come together and rub minds in cyberspace. 2009 will be 80 years since Rev Robert Fisher founded that school. We have to give something back. Let's talk about this at

Azuonye, N
Nile House
Class of '83

Monday, November 07, 2005

Six Poems in "Other Voices"

Six Poems; "Dead Sun", "Yesterday", "Unrestricted Access", "Drink With My Friend", "Lights & Sounds" and the previously unpublished "A Song About What Happens" have been included in the cyber anthology: Other Voices International Project Vol. 15 edited by Roger Humes

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

1996 II: Remember Icarus

My prayers are with the families of those who met an untimely depature from us in the recent plane crash in Nigeria. Thankfully we've not had another year like 1996. That year began with the January Zaire African Air AN32 crash at Kinshasa that killed 227 people, followed in July, by a TWA Boeing 747 Jumbo that exploded approximately four minutes after takeoff in New York killing 230. After that, in November, an ADC Airlines Boeing 737 crashed near Lagos claiming 142 lives. November was pretty bad because in New Delhi, an India Saudi/Kazastan Jumbo -jet B747 took out another 349 souls.

I was so horrified that I was wondering if a higher power was mad at humans for flying so close to the sun. That's why I wrote "1996 II: Remember Icarus".
Today, I have just been reading some more about the Bellview crash that claimed 117 lives in 2005. My thoughts are with their families today.

1996 II: Remember Icarus

This is a mad year for air travel
unhappy skies grumble and roar
from Long Island through Lagos
a father here, a mother here,
a child there, roast in the sky
trapped in bellies of birds we built.

(C) 1996 Nnorom Azuonye
First published in Letter To God & other Poems (Nsibidi Africana Publishers, USA, 2003)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

On human relationships & brotherhood

I found this article/dialogue on the web today. It is a deep and interesting study of the relationship between one human being and one another, and the importance of fostering brotherhood.
"The Self and the Emergence of Tragedy in Liberian Society" by Tarnue Johnson.
Click here to read the article

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Isuikwuato Poems



This village is mine
Where in the thick earth
The trailing cord
From my navel was interred.
This village is mine, and
I wish to build a house
Between the hills,
That I may be awakened in the mornings
By the rays of the sun
Split by irokos and palms.
Kom, kom, kom, kom:
The town crier's gong
I hear it even in my dreams.
O blessed memory live;
Night fire and roasting yams,
Moonlighting and moonlight tales,
Beast songs and hunting games
And the palms? O the wine -
Where is my tapper?
Let me sip nature's brew
Even as I sit watching
Men and women
With hoes and with machetes
Marching to their farms.
This village is mine
Where like an uncaged bird
I can sing in the sunshine
Without fear or pain.

©1989 Nnorom Azuonye
(Nsukka, Nigeria)
“Isuikwuato” was first published in Agenda (UK) Vol.28 No. 2 (Summer 1990)


Isuikwuato II

This village complains to the hills,
in my earth his umbilical cord manures
a coconut tree, but he has abandoned me.

Through the valleys her voice echoes,
bring home your bride, but keep your mother
from the stench of a rubbish skip.

This village complains to the hills,
my son's laughter fades from my mind.
He has neither tilled the land nor joined
his age-mates to weed the village square.

If a man sells his broom to pay for the journey
to a wrestling match in a distant village, upon
his return, will filth not chase him away?

This village complains to the hills,
the man that sits too long in the toilet he will
see a spirit. If a man runs away from the filth
in his home. How much longer must I wait
for him to come restore my singing voice?

If I should tell her how long my bags have been packed,
she may not believe me, for nobody counts as wealth
the chicken that doesn't return to the coop at dusk.

My village complains to the hills,
Abaina music rises, but I don't see my son dancing.
Oha soup aroma rises, but I don't see my son eating.
Whatever song they sing to him, whatever they have fed him
it will wear off! It will wear off! He will come home someday.

Yes. I must come home. It's only the mad that burns the roof
of his house and lives in hope that when it rains
the neighbours will say without ridicule, come into ours,
that you may not catch cold and die.

My village must come and talk with me in my dreams
to enjoy again the innocence of my childhood, and sit
by the fire of my early manhood dreams burning as hot
today as they always have in the vault of my heart.

My village calls out my name through the hills
and I must go to embrace her warmth and peace,
This is where I wish to be when I grow old.
Shed no more tears O land of my fathers
for even now I am getting ready to dance
on the hot sands of Nkwonta.
Prepare the drums.

©2002 Nnorom Azuonye
(London, UK)

"Isuikwuato II" was first published in Eclectica Magazine Vol. 9 No. 3 July/August 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dead Sun

(For Emmanuel Okwor Agu)

There are tears for the brook from which I draw
waters of identity, sounds of my tongue
and the story of my name.

I mourn the land of light plunged into darkness
before the first gasp of my third birthday
condemning me to three decades of fugitive life -
even in the bowels of the whale
that crushed and swallowed my homeland,
entombed its banner of The Rising Sun.

I move forward but get nowhere. Attempts
to heal knock toes on stumbling rocks.
Even my Northern sojourn along dusty streets
of Kaduna and Kano, butchering sites
of children of the light, tell of my fretting feet
urged on by hope that out of the ashes of war
unity may sprout. Even this sojourn of reconciliation
is determined by a flight through a crack in the wall
of another slaughtering saga as zealous knives
slashed in defence of gods and mowed down
my brothers like weeds that defiled the gardens
of hallowed grounds.

This is still our story! Time has failed to heal
wounds inflicted by pictures of spattered flesh
that grinned at us from bloodied mantelpieces.
We have yet to learn to sleep, daily reliving
mighty explosions and their afterglow
frozen in malignant memories.

These are cocktails of misery for me in limbo,
my bleeding heels wounded by time, unsure
that I have reason enough to love that whale
in whose intestine I grope, in the dark,
desperately gasping for air.

- Nnorom Azuonye

©2003 Nnorom Azuonye. All rights reserved

“Dead Sun” was first published in Orbis —
Quarterly International Literary Journal
No. 130, Autumn 2004

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Biafran Babies Must Not Be Afraid

By Nnorom Azuonye

Crawling the Internet in August 2005, I found information on a call for submissions to ‘Biafran Babies – Stories Signifying War’ an anthology of “memoirs, narratives, stories, and tales which represent first hand (direct), second hand (received/retold), or imaginary (fictional) accounts of childhood experiences of the Biafran War from the point of view of the Biafran child in any part of the world before, during, or after the shooting conflict.”

This call was made by the anthology editor, Obiwu, who is the director of the writing centre, Central State University, Wilberforce, USA. ( I have known Obiwu for a while, therefore I contacted him by phone to learn more about the project, which I thought was important and ought to be encouraged.

Nearly 40 years since the declaration of Biafra, people are not speaking enough about Biafra or documenting its story for posterity. Not in any substantial way in any case. I felt compelled to place a copy of the call for submissions on my website at

Strangely, barely two months after posting this on my site, I have received numerous e-mails from friends and family in Nigeria expressing concern that I am putting myself in a position where I may be seen as being a part of the cause for the actualisation of Biafra. Particularly, these messages express horror at my insistence in several of my profiles in giving my country of birth as Biafra.

This is quite baffling. All I have done is post a call for submission of essays, poems and short stories for an anthology edited by a friend. I have not asked anyone to go to war. I lost the first three years of my life to that bloody war between Nigeria and Biafra, as I hinted in one of my poems:

I will never know how it feels
to be born in a land not torn
by war, (1)

I should think that I would know better than to ask anyone to go to war or do anything that will encourage strife or bloodshed. As you might know, in some of my editorials I have condemned warfare in any form because;

I sing in the choir of small sane voices,
the often-deemed mad, pools of poets
like clans of cursed scribes, who record
in delightful words,harrowing deeds
that eat the world to death, and capture
the blood for blood war songs of world leaders.(2)

In addition to the well-known marginalisation of Igbo people in the country that re-assimilated them in 1970, are the Igbos really living in such a state of fear in Nigeria? There have been reports of course of the torture and execution of several members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), therefore it is understandable if MASSOB members are afraid. But for the rest of the Igbo people, those for whom Biafra was and is a part of their history, why is Biafra such a taboo word?

Now, for the record, I will never apologise for saying that I was born in Biafra. I was born on the 12th day of July, 1967, six days after the outbreak of the Nigeria-Biafra war. It is therefore not merely a romantic idea, or a desire to ferment trouble, but a historical fact that I was born in Biafra. If I claim to be born elsewhere, it would be a lie.

Other facts concerning my circumstances are, to begin with, following the apparent fall of Biafra and the re-assimilation of the country by Nigeria, I became a Nigerian citizen in 1970. Twenty years later (1990), on a wet day in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, I stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other university graduates and mumbled a ‘pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest…’ I carry a Nigerian passport and the National Youth Service Corps certificate is still in one of my files. Therefore, for all practical purposes, I am a Nigerian.

However, like I have acknowledged and will continue to acknowledge the Republic of Biafra as the country of my birth, even if it exists now mainly in my mind. Mostly by stories passed down by family members, and by the few books that are out there. I encourage all Biafran babies, especially those born between June 1967 and January 1970 not to allow fear of the Nigerian government’s agents force them into denying their history. Let them remember the words of George Santayana; “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I don’t know if Biafra will ever become again in our lifetime. But I have never stopped wondering how things might have been had Biafra survived. I doubt that both Biafrans and Nigerians from time to time don't ask themselves the same question.

There are tears for the brook from which I draw
waters of identity, sounds of my tongue
and the story of my name.

I mourn the land of light plunged into darkness
before the first gasp of my third birthday
condemning me to three decades of fugitive life –
even in the bowels of the whale
that crushed and swallowed my homeland,
entombed its banner of The Rising Sun.(3)

The fact is that there is fear in the hearts of many Biafran children, and this must not be so. These fears betray our brothers and sisters who died in Biafra. Those of them who survive till this day nourish themselves with memories of a fallen nation. But they speak, loudly still:

But we wait
we that hailed the rising sun
and saw it set at dawn

We are the initiates
seers seasoned in redseadeath
returned to the fold with old fears
forged into iron oracles
in the hailfire.(4)

I don’t know about every other Biafra-born child, but that war impacted on my life in more ways than I can count. Should I begin with my family’s material losses, or my relatives who died both as civilians and as soldiers in Biafra? I don’t remember them because I was only a baby, but their photographs talk to me still, always.

This is still our story! Time has failed to heal
wounds inflicted by pictures of spattered flesh
that grinned at us from bloodied mantelpieces.
We have yet to learn to sleep, daily reliving
mighty explosions and their afterglow
frozen in malignant memories.(5)

As recently as the year 2000, my friend Emmanuel Okwor was butchered in Kaduna by Hausa Muslims in one of those disturbances that make it all even harder to forget. Moreso, as the pogroms that happened in 1966/67 are still with us today, even if they are not of the same magnitude.

Even my northern sojourn along dusty streets
of Kaduna and Kano, butchering sites
of children of the light, tell of my fretting feet
urged on by hope that out of the ashes of war
unity may sprout. Even this sojourn of reconciliation
is determined by a flight through a crack in the wall
of another slaughtering saga…(6)

The least we could do is say our name. And we must not forget our story. If we forget, we betray every Biafran blood spilt in Biafra. We betray ourselves.


1. Azuonye, Nnorom. “Fables” Letter To God & Other Poems (2003: Nsibidi Africana Publishers, USA) p.9
2. Azuonye, Nnorom. "Mad Songs" Sentinel Poetry (Online) December 2002
3,5-6. Azuonye, Nnorom. “Dead Sun” Orbis No. 130, Autumn 2004. p.19
4. Azuonye, Chukwuma. “Voices Of The Silence V” Testaments Of Thunder: Poems of Crisis and War(2002: Nsibidi Africana Publishers, USA) p.17

© 2005 Nnorom Azuonye. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sentinel Poetry Quarterly #5

The 5th issue of Sentinel Poetry Quarterly was released on the 25th of September. A beautiful and rich outing, this magazine features "Achebe's Poetic Drive" - a psychoanalytic intervention in the poetry of Chinua Achebe by Obiwu. Poets featured include Iain Britton, Avik Chanda, Geoff Stevens, Anna McKerrow, John Temple Finnigan, Martin Cook, Julian Daizan Skinner, TM Dowling, William Birtwistle, and Jane Gyamfi-Sarkodie.

Sentinel Poetry Quarterly
September 2005 #5
60 Pages of Poetry and Prose
Full Colour Cover featuring "The Fire Next Time" by Victor Ehikhamenor.
UK: £3.95
Ex-UK: £4.95
Price includes P&P.

To order a copy of the magazine, send a cheque payable to Sentinel Poetry Movement to:

Sentinel Poetry Movement
47 Winsford Terrace
Great Cambridge Road
N18 1BQ
United Kingdom

Nnorom Azuonye

Friday, September 30, 2005

Akaraigbo - Nzuko Ndi Igbo

Ndi Igbo ekene diri unu. Site na nkwado umu Igbo ozo dika Uduma Kalu, Obi Nwakanma, Afam Akeh, Obiwu na otutu ndi igbo ozo, anyi ebidola akaraigbo - nzuko ndi igbo na ugorodide zuru uwa nile.

Oburu na ibu onye igbo choro iso anyi na atapia okwu nna anyi ha, soro anyi na atule omenala na ihe ndi ozo di iche iche gbasara ndi igbo, pinye aka na ka akpobata gi.

Udo diri unu.

Nnorom Okezie Azuonye

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The 2nd Sentinel International Poetry Competition

The 2nd Sentinel International Poetry Competition (November 2005) is now on. The last competition in July was a success and was won by Jane Gyamfi-Sarkodie with her poem "Rwanda".

The new competition closes on 7th November 2005. You may enter any number of poems on any theme. Entry fee is just £2 per poem or £8 per batch of 5 poems.

First Prize is £100.00 + 1 year's subscription to Sentinel Poetry Quarterly.
Second prize £60 and Third Prize £40.

Adjudicator is Tom Chivers - editor of Keystone magazine and associate editor Tears In The Fence.

For more details click here.

On the passing of Chima Ubani

I join many Nigerians and lovers of freedom and justice worldwide in mourning the death of Chima Ubani, Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation who died this week in an automobile acciddent, after a protest rally against the increase in petrol price in Nigeria to N65.00 (about 26p) per litre. For a country where over 70% of the population still survives on about 75p per day, paying 26p per litre of petrol is not amusing.

Obviously the people surviving on 75p per day probably don't have their own vehicles, but there is a knock-on effect. Public transport operators and taxi drivers who will pay more for petrol will no doubt increase fares. Cost of transporting goods will increase forcing prices of everything in shops.

It is easy to say that Nigerians should appreciate the global rise in petrol prices. The stuff is nosing towards £1 (about N250) per litre in the United Kingdom for instance. However, it is not easy to convince a people whose country is the world's 8th largest oil producer that they should be paying so much for petrol.

What I am not sure about is if this unfortunate death of Mr Ubani will make the Nigerian government reverse the price increase. It is very unlikely that this will happen. If the increase is a necessary and unavoidable financial drive, it most likely will stick. We will see.

As for Ubani, I never met the man personally. I saw him several times at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, but we were never introduced and never spoke to each other. I liked his politics however. He had spirit and power and a courage that seemed at odds with his small build. People who admired him and revered him made comments like 'great things come in small packages' while the more cynical said 'Small shit wey dey spoil nyash'. Not everybody likes a great one amd Ubani was one. I recall that when my friend Benedict Iheanacho who has since joined the US Army, took part in student union demonstrations and were cracked down by the government's security forces, we teased him and asked him if he thought he was Ubani. In a way, the man's name became synonimous with protest and with resistance against the unjust.

What I can say is that having read the mountains of tributes written to the fallen hero in the press, and in discussion groups, it goes to show why we must make our time on earth count. Look at the end, at our funerals, when our days stop breathing, what will people say? Will they have only good words for us, or would they say 'good riddance'?.

Everybody has good words for Chima Ubani today, except perhaps for some goons of the Nigerian government who felt that he was a thorn on their side. I hope for the safety of their souls that Ubani indeed died in an accident and was not killed as his widow, Ochuwa, alleges.

I wish you, Chima Ubani, a speedy return to live your earthly live again.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Celestine Chijioke Looking For Lost Love

A visitor to my website at left a message on my Guest Book. The message was a brief advertorial for his long-lost love. I feel compelled to help him spread the message. I hope also that his love still feels the same, and better still, is not taken. Here is Celestine's message.

"well, i am really missing someone in my life,
someone who makes me complete.
There was this girl i met since 1998,
in owerri,imo state nigeria.
Her name is chinyere ugorji,
a student of imo state university, nigeria.
Medicine and surgery. I completely lost contact with her.
I dont know how to reach or locate her.
I have being trying every medium to get her,
but all my effort proves abortive.
I dont know if anyone here can help me find her.
Here is my e-mail address if necessary

Wherefor at thou Juliet?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Sordid Rituals

As I have mentioned earlier in this journal, I intend to use it not only to announce what I do, but also to promote the works of my friends and other great works I come across.

In this post I present Sordid Rituals, a collection of poems by artist and writer Victor Ehikhamenor. I shall be crawling the net for reviews of this book, and will post them here.

Ehikhamenor is also the artist whose painting is used on the cover of the forthcoming Issue #5 of Sentinel Poetry Quarterly and the covers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus and Unoma Azuah's Sky-High Flames which appeared earlier in this journal. To grab a copy of Sordid Rituals click on the Amazon link below:

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Three poems in Poetrybridge

I have just seen three of my poems in the freeverse section of the Spring issue, World Haiku Review Poetrybridge.

Poetrybridge as the name suggests is the section of the World Haiku Review that publishes other forms of poetry other than the Haiku to close the gap between Haiku writers and those that write other forms of poetry. The poems featured this time include "A Voyager's Witness", "A Juror Of My Time" and "Liberty" To go to the World Haiku Review now, Click Here

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Nnorom Azuonye

Nnorom O. Azuonye

Born in the Republic of Biafra on July 12, 1967. I have held a Nigerian passport since July 1981.

After my primary school education at Mgbelu Umunnekwu Community School, Isuikwuato, Nigeria (1978), I attended Acha Boys Secondary Technical School, Isuikwuato (1979), before going on to Government College Umuahia (1983). In 1986 a Summer break in London turned into a 1-year A'Levels programme in Sociology, Government & Politics and English (Literature) at Capital College, London (1987), after which I returned to Nigeria and trained for an honours degree in Dramatic Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, graduating in 1990 winning the Academic Prize for Best Graduating Student (Dramatic Arts) that year.

I have had a chequered working life from my student days till present as an Actor with roles including Forest Head in Wole Soyinka's A Dance Of The Forests, Chief Isokipiri Erekosima in Esiaba Irobi's Hangmen Also Die, German Officer in Ebrahim Hussein's Kinjeketile, Dr Egbunike in Nnamdi Ndu's Scars That Mar, and Sergeant in Femi Osofisan's Once Upon Four Robbers. I directed Maama by Kwesi Kay (1989), and Childe Internationale by Wole Soyinka(1990).

In 2002 I founded the Sentinel Poetry Movement and have been the movement's Administrator since then. I edited Sentinel Poetry (Online) magazine December 2002 - February 2005, and have edited Sentinel Poetry Quarterly since July 2004. I remain Managing Editor of Sentinel Poetry (Online).

My publications include Letter To God & Other Poems (2003), and The Bridge Selection: Poems For The Road (2005). My short fiction, essays, interviews and poetry have appeared in several international journals and anthologies, notably; Mindfire Renew, Drumvoices Revue, Eclectica Magazine, The Muse Apprentice Guild, Orbis, Olongo, Agenda, Keystone, World Haiku Review, and For The Love Of God (2004) among others.

In 2005 I established Eastern Light EPM International - an Entertainment, Publishing and Marketing outfit.

I live in England with my wife Amaka, my son Arinze and my daughter Nwachi.

website & blog updates

In the past two days I have been updating, trying to give my visitors more content.

I've reposted "Purple Hibiscus: A Love Story To Nsukka" a review of Adichie's novel by Molara Wood. Go to Purple Hibiscus.

As you probably know, if you follow Nigerian literature, Unoma Azuah's new novel "Sky-High Flames" was released this year by Publish America. I have put some info about the book up and really look forward to a review. If you can write a review of this book, I will be happy to publish it. See Sky-High Flames

Or click here:

If you would like me to inform you when I update my website or this blog, go to my homepage and fill in the join my mailing list form.

Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on anything you see here, and come back again soon.

Nnorom Azuonye

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Early in 2003, I discovered that a gay ministry group had used portions of my poem Brotherhood on their homepage. The poem was used in a manner that changed its context completely and made it appear like gay poetry. I was unhappy about this, and demanded immediate removal of the poem from their website. In turn I also removed it from my site at

However recently I have found that Brotherhood is the top keyword search on my site, and many have asked for it to be e-mailed to them, others have asked for information on where they could buy Letter To God & Other Poems - my collection of poems in which it appears. I have also been touched deeply by the realisation that several people use lines from the poem as their e-mail signatures which show up again and again in forums online. Today, I saw several people in a forum for people with AIDS supporting themselves with words from this poem. This is why I am now putting up the poem in full here on my blogspot. I regret my oversensitivity about the way the poem was portrayed. As a published item, I don't think it is really my place anymore to question how people interpret Brotherhood.

May truth be told when my days stop breathing.
If it proves my one thought, belief, or fear
made life better for somebody,
or somebody better for life,
because I was not lost in a firework of fancy
and unfathomable clues,
that will be my crown of vindication

- Nnorom Azuonye (from Unrestricted Access)


I want to know precisely what I mean
when I call you brother.
Are we merely wayfaring companions,
or is there more to us? Something deeper?

We are seeds of the same fruit,
travelling along a mysterious road of love.
It horrifies me how much this love is tested
day after day, to the very edge of reason.

What exactly is expected of us?
Night after night I think about what we are
praying that someday I shall understand it
and perhaps compose a pledge of brotherhood.

Brotherhood is a force field
raised around true friends.
It is about understanding at the end
of the day, we are free spirits,
with distinctive emotional fingerprints
in each eye of our individual minds
the world wears a unique mask.
We walk hand in hand most of the time
but we really follow our own hearts,
and this in itself masquerades
as the spirit of disunity.
If only we can understand this
we will re-write alphabets of forgiveness,
and live in peace forever.

Brothers are wayfaring companions
on a journey begun at the same point,
at different times, who meet along the way,
in the wild diner off the motorway of life
where they nurture their unique connection.

True brotherhood amazes and uplifts
like wind beneath wings of an eagle:
it is about fears and tears fairly shared,
it is about hopes and laughter fondly enjoyed.
It is about hands mutually holding on tight,
whether cruel storms rage
or dark unknowns haunt,
through calm dawns and warm sunrises
or the injuries of tragedy,
the circle stays rock-solid.
Nothing matters much for too long
except love.

- Nnorom Azuonye

Brotherhood is taken from Letter To God & Other Poems by Nnorom Azuonye (2003: Nsibidi Africana Publishers, Milton USA)