Monday, December 27, 2010

Nwaubani, Ngugi and the Nobel

by Molara Wood

The literary event of the last week has to be not so much the op-ed piece written by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani for the New York Times, but the reactions to it, of which there are many, the tones of which have been of the almost universally aghast kind.

My own reading of Nwaubani’s ‘In Africa, the Laureate’s Curse’ was predictably complicated. I am a great admirer of Mario Vargas Llosa (a worthy 2010 laureate) and many other Latin American writers, people in whose works I’ve found a world closest to that of the Yoruba, from among whom I’ve sprung.

That said, I wanted Ngugi to win the Nobel, it meant a lot to me. He has written great, visionary works. He’s an ideological writer, and without ideological grounding, a writer is just piffle, in my view. He has also demonstrated great courage over many decades and suffered terribly for his art and convictions. Ngugi’s ‘Decolonizing the Mind’ is one of the great theoretical works of African literature, or any literature for that matter. After reading it, you cannot be indifferent; you must take a stand, either you are for or against. I have always had great sympathy for Ngugi’s insistence that we should write in our mother tongues, controversial though the larger body of African writers say it is. And one cannot take from Ngugi the fact that he has put his writing post-1986 where his mouth is: writing first in Gikuyu then translating into English (he’s written his latest memoirs in English, but that is a matter for another day).

Ngugi has produced indestructible works in many genres: drama, novel, essay. ‘The Trial of Dedan Kimathi’ was a memorable playtext in my secondary school days. And what of ‘Weep Not Child’, which apart from introducing Njoroge and co, made me want to discover Walt Whitman’s ‘On The Beach At Night’ for myself? These are among the foundational works of my formative years. We used to chant the titles of Ngugi’s books as though they were mantras. I once thought that if I ever saw Ngugi, it would be like seeing man on the face of the moon. Great, almost mythical writer, who one later had the privilege of seeing in the flesh; and to see the radical writer so human, so aged, almost frail (from the detentions and cigarette torture burns). A beautiful mind surpasses the limitations of the physical body.

And to later discover ‘A Grain of Wheat’, ‘Petals of Blood’, ‘The River Between’ and of course, ‘Decolonizing The Mind’. Had Ms Nwaubani read enough Ngugi, she would never have written the following: ‘There’s actually reason to celebrate Mr. Ngugi’s loss.” There’s nothing to celebrate about Ngugi missing out on the Nobel, and it’s difficult to see how the prize going to someone else becomes a “loss” for Ngugi.

Furthemore, it’s baffling that, nearly 25 years after Nigeria bagged her own Nobel through Soyinka, a Nigerian writer saw nothing wrong in suggesting that a Kenyan should not get the prize. Ngugi, Soyinka and Achebe have since the 60s formed the great tripod of the humanising literature of Black Africa. Soyinka has his Nobel, Man International Booker winner Achebe has been celebrated to the heavens for ‘Things Fall Apart’, and suddenly it’s a Nobel for Ngugi that will spell the death of African writing?

Nwaubani’s argument is deeply flawed; and it is regrettable that someone with a platform like the New York Times to postulate about Africa, chose to use her new-found international voice in this manner. The author of ‘I Do Not Come To You By Chance’ must realise that it will not be by chance that her argument will play into Western prejudices about Africa and African writing. ‘Oh, let’s not give another African a Nobel because, knowing no better, they’ll only copy themselves.’ Might as well go the whole hog and cite Shakespeare’s Iago: “These Moors are changeable in their wills.”

Arguing for the emergence of new styles of writing, Nwaubani lumps Achebe, Soyinka and Ngugi into a questionable sameness, purveyors of what she calls “an earnest and sober style”. But what is so “sober” about Soyinka’s plays, or his prison memoirs, ‘The Man Died’? Or indeed Achebe’s ‘A Man of the People’? Have the likes of Helon Habila, Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta, Lola Shoneyin and Uzodimma Iweala come to prominence simply because they ‘copied’ Achebe and Soyinka? And which of these two has Nwaubani herself copied? Of the supposed sobriety of the triumvirate, Kinna says on the blog, “Soyinka is far from sober. And what of Ngugi’s ‘Wizard of the Crow’, which successfully mixes humour, satire and fantasy and is, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining books by an African author. Is sober the new word for old?”

The part of Nwaubani’s argument that has provoked the most consternation, is the suggestion that literature in the indigenous languages serve only to exacerbate “tribal differences”. She declares, “This is not the kind of variety we need.” Chielozona Eze issued an early rebuttal to Nwaubani’s “cowardly ideas, the core of which sought to suggest that it is separatist for a writer to write in his native language or even to claim that he is a writer from his ethnic group.” As for Carmen McCain, a Hausa literature enthusiast, writing in indigenous languages “is exactly the variety we need.”

My own imaginative universe has been formed to a significant extent by the works of D.O Fagunwa, which I devoured as a child and still marvel to read today, novels that form the bedrock of Yoruba literature, books which might not have had the same power written in English. And what of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and others, whose immortal works were not originally written in a Western European language? What of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and other works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Their initial publication in Spanish has done nothing to prevent them being read the world over through translation.

I suspect Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani could not have intended to be understood as saying a writer should not identify with an ethnic group. The bio on the UK edition of ‘I Do Not Come To You By Chance’ informs that the author “grew up in the eastern part of Nigeria, among the Igbo speaking people” – a construction that reads more like an ethnography citation from 70 years ago, but which nonetheless serves the purpose. But if Ngugi must be denied just so we don’t write Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba literature, it’s fairly standard that Nwaubani’s New York Times piece is a hard sell.

Nwaubani, Ngugi and the Nobel

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A heavy price, paid. (a short story)

by Nnorom Azuonye

That snowy morning I was on a high. I knew I was going to be a part of something that could make a difference to so many lives. Important actions are never without their risks. I understood this very well and I was prepared for whatever might happen.  I picked up the placard I spent half the night writing, tucked it under my arm and walked boldly out of my room. The nearly sub-zero winds slapped me around, but I didn’t mind. Every step I took brought back to mind the question my girlfriend, Cynthia, asked me a million times the night before, ‘Ajoanu, do you have to march?’ and each time I had replied, ‘Yes. Somebody’s got to tell them where to stick the cuts, and fee hikes’.


I went. I protested. I chanted. I waved placards at red-eyed policemen barricading us into a small square. They were constricting us like huge snakes. “Pythons. Bloody pythons” I shouted at them and they turned on me. Three policemen versus little me. One hit me repeatedly on the head with a baton and broke my skull. Two hit me between my legs with batons and smashed my balls. One testicle per policeman.


Now I am laid out like a roughed-up duvet, supine upon a hospital bed and the jury is out on the state of my brain. I will know in a day or two if my brain is screwed. With what is left of it though, I understood from Dr Patel that my chances of becoming a father someday are truly gone with the march. I now have the rest of my life to analyse my actions and determine for myself - in due time - whether the price I have paid is worth cause, or the cause worth the price.

The end.

©2010 Nnorom Azuonye

Monday, November 29, 2010

How amazing life is

In two days, we will step into the month of December, and we shall all be looking forward to saying goodbye to 2010. There must be things you said, wrote or did this year that you are proud of, and some that you are not proud of, and wish you could take back. I am expressing my own sentiments of course, and believing that it may also apply to you.

For me, 2010 has been an incredibly trying year. A year of unspeakable trials and tribulations that have not yet all ebbed, but all of which I have learnt to surrender to God.

There have been three years in my life that I mourned so hard I thought I would die;

1982 - I lost my father, Stephen in September (he was 66). My immediate elder brother, Chidi in October. (He was 19). Finally my maternal grandmother, Agnes Nwosu-Igbo in December. (She was 86).

Then in 2008, my only uterine sister, Ngozi lost her battle against complications of diabetes aged only 52.

2010 however has been too hard, with the loss of my beloved mother, Hannah (nee Nwosu-Igbo) who was 82 and my teacher and friend Esiaba Irobi who passed away at just 49.

When I put these losses together with other trials I have faced, I thank God for the most special gifts in my life; my wife Thelma Nwamamaka, and my children Nwachiamanda Ola Akuoma and Arinzechukwu Chinedum Nnorom - they gave me a reason to carry on and to revisit my father's favourite hymn; Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Everyday that passes, I realise what a master planner God is, and why he planted such a wonderful woman in my life as my wife, and why he has blessed me with such exceptional children.

I set out to write this piece today because of a touching thing that happened to me this morning: I was up from 5am trying to complete the photo gallery at The Nollywood Factory website, and just before 6am my son came into the room. I did not hear him enter because I had, without knowing it, stopped working and bore my head in the palm of my hand. Suddenly I heard, 'Daddy what's wong?'. Arinze is only three years and 8 months old, and still misses the 'r' in wrong.

"Daddy is sad." I said to him, stretching my arms for a hug. He leapt unto my laps and hugged me tight.

"Daddy is happy" Arinze said.

He did not say, 'try to be happy,' or 'don't be said,' he said 'Daddy IS happy.' Then I realised I had nothing to be sad about. Nothing. I mean, I have a family that loves me unconditionally. I have a roof over my head. My health is holding up. My mind, as far as I know is sound. I just have some niggling problems here and there. Who does not have some niggling problems here and there? I shut down the computer, and went to bed and slept like a child. I woke up just after 10am. Happy.

Today, I worship God with all of my being and give thanks for every day. I have even learnt to give thanks for the lives of those whose passing caused me so much grief. I finally have realised that the reason those transitions cut me so much was because of how special the people were, and how much value they added to my life. I have since learnt to appreciate the living, rather than mourn the dead. I have since learnt to make sure I remember they who have passed on as they were in life. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning when everyone has slept and I beat the hell out of my computers' keyboards, I stop, close my eyes and listen to the voices and laughters of my friends - both they who are here and those who are not. It is so indescribable how truly amazing life is, especially the realisation that life does not ever end.

I glorify God. Truly, I glorify the only living God.

- Nnorom Azuonye

Thursday, October 07, 2010

What the President meant to say

“For those who insist that there was a rush to judgment on the part of the President on this matter, it bears restating that what he sought to do was to reassure Nigerians that the perpetrators will be found, a process which could be hampered by a rather casual attribution of the violence to MEND,” - Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation

I just read this rather amusing piece on Next. I don't know what to say. If President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to tell Nigerians and the world that the perpetrators of the bombing in Abuja would be found, could he not just say so?

Why say categorically that MEND was not responsible for the attacks?

Poor Nigeria.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Securing Nigeria's Independence

by Nnorom Azuonye

All Nigerians have something they would very much like to say, or need to say, about the imminent 50th anniversary celebrations of Nigeria's independence from Britain. Social networking sites such as Facebook and blogs have afforded everyone an unrestricted voice to say exactly what they feel without the sactions of an editor, or power.

Clearly, most Nigerians are not convinced that their country has anything to celebrate. Many believe that these highly hyped celebrations will only provide an avenue for further plundering of the country's already over-plundered resources. Many have questioned the wisdom of spending an estimated ten billion Naira to celebrate 50 years of independence in a country where hospitals don't work, school buildings are dilapidated, unemployment is at an all-time high, the political system is in chaos and public institutions have lost their way. What is more, security of life and property in Nigeria now is a concept that exists only in creative visualisations. These realities do not describe an independent nation, they are about a people bondaged by terror.

As a country, Nigeria could not possibly consider herself an independent nation worthy of celebration if her citizens cannot feel safe within their own country. This is the biggest challenge Nigeria faces today; the security of her citizens; the freedom to go about their daily businesses without the fear of being waylaid by armed robbers, kidnapped by the new businessmen of the Niger Delta and Imo-Abia axis, or murdered by political or business associates or opponents, especially those ex-military rapists of democracy who still retain access to their homicidal thugs, those same people who violated and derailed Nigeria's political journey, but have retained their psychopathic lust for power.

As we continue with the countdown to October 1, 2010, we must all channel our energies in prayer for the leaders of Nigeria to find a way out of the quandary of terror in which the Nigerian ship in caught. This is the only way forward. A secure Nigeria will translate into greater international investment in the Nigerian economy. A secure Nigeria will translate into more bountiful innovations by Nigerian nationals in all spheres of life and business in Nigeria.

At the moment, Nigeria only has independence from Britain, but she is yet to secure her independence, especially from some of her own recusant, deranged offspring.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gotta get through this...

Blasting this ol' number by Daniel Bedingfield just before church this morning.
Used to be a sort of anthem for me back in the day when the clouds darkened.

Monday, August 30, 2010

On Complicated Relationships

Facebook has been very good in bringing people I have known in the past back into my life. I know this is the case with millions of other people. I don't know about you, but as soon as I reconnect with somebody from decades ago, the first things I check are their current cities of residence, and their relationship statuses. For me, it foregrounds lines of interrogation about what they've been up to since we last were in contact.

I find it rather frustrating to see relationship status of my acquaintances marked 'It's complicated'. What in the world does 'it's complicated' mean? This is one of the most irritating cliched phrases I come across these days. You are either in a heterosexual, homosexual, or bi-sexual relationship. If you are in any of these relationships, there is nothing complicated about it, unless you are being unfaithful to your spouse with another human being or perhaps with one of your household animals.

In a recent discussion about this, a single friend said to me that he put his relationship status as 'It's complicated' because it was more 'colourful' and signals to the single girls on facebook that his relationship life needs a girl skilled in conflict resolution. Then I asked him if he was in a relationship with anyone at the moment, and learnt that he was not in a relationship, 'but I have a few girls I relate to, who come around to see me' he said.

Now I get it. It's complicated means you are playing the field by relating to several girls without being in a relationship. Perhaps I am the only one who thinks that promiscuity only looks cool if you are James Bond. For everyone else it is something people resort to who have low self-esteem ticking themselves up with every new conquest. 'It's complicated' also means, I think that the person with that status may be asexual, neither relating with human beings nor animals, and might be totally unsure of his or her own sexual orientation, or indeed if any orientation exists at all there.

This post reminds me of a discussion on Facebook where Richard Ali described a certain barmaid as a semi-whore, and I said there was no such thing. A person is either a whore or not a whore. People, friends, you are either in a relationship or you are not. You may be single, engaged, married, or divorced. If you are not sure whether or not you are in a relationship, then leave the field blank.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Priesthood, do I have a calling?

For nearly two decades, I have felt that somehow I might end up a priest, like my grandfather. I even imagined myself, occasionally, as a Pentecostal pastor. However after attending a few of those, while I concede that I have had pastors that truly have the anointing, I am now 100% certain that I couldn't possibly be a Pentecostal pastor.

As a Pentecostal Methodist, I worship majority of Sundays at the Trinity Methodist Church, Plumstead, and when I want that Pentecostal buzz; the uplifting praise worship, the dancing (Although I tend to sway like a big tree rocked by the winds of Harmattan, rather than dance), when I want (or need, I am not sure) that kind of worship energy, I go to Hope of Glory International Christian Centre. ( The pastors there are educated. Pastor Victor is a Lawyer and Pastor Wunmi is a Secondary School ICT Teacher. They are good people and they don't insult my intelligence.

The thing is that lately, I have been having these strong feelings that I must begin training as a Methodist Minister. These feelings have now been complicated by my wife's 100% support of the idea. I however have this voice saying to me, "you only want to do it to please your mother because she was a Methodist Lay Minister". I need a sign. Do signs still show up in the 21st Century? Speak Lord, your servant heareth!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Forever dew

(For Igirigi Ututu)

By Nnorom Azuonye

Mama, at the very moment you passed away,
I was at The Minstrel’s wake, reading ‘A Ceramic Life’
- a poem he had written for his own friend, Chukwudi
who like Chidi, your son, my brother, had walked
the world to dark, young, in an automobile accident.

I did not know it then that the cord of life
that bound us together as two living beings
was being seared out of me by unseen hands;
I burnt up inside for close to an hour.
I thought I was dying as I drank, one cold drink
after another, to cool my insides.

Mother, I didn’t know I was combusting inside
because you were dying in Port Harcourt.

At five minutes to two in the morning
of the 12th of June, I stepped into my home.
My wife’s face, normally beautiful, looked
like the middle of night defaced
by a mischievous graffiti rascal.

‘Has my mother died?’



Like a zombie, I waltzed into the kitchen
and I put on the kettle. Two minutes later,
I was lost in the warm arms of coffee.
In my heart, I hummed a song:

Nnem ejejie la uwa chi o.
Igirigi ututu ejejie la uwa chi o.
Na Port Harcourt.

‘Feel something, Nnorom. Say something.
Mourn your mother.’

The truth, Igirigi Ututu, was I did not know
what would have been right:

To mourn you, I had to accept that you had died.
Done. Gone. Expired.
Passed away like an un-eternal song.

Or to celebrate you, to open my mind
to the endlessness and wonders of our existences,
and sing you – the eternal song, morning dew
now forever dew that neither sunshine nor end
of earthly life could dry, corrupt, or dissipate.

This is how I shall forever remember you,
the way you were in life; cool, comforting,
soothing, loving, forgiving, inspiring.

That very day, I chose to celebrate you.
I even bragged on Facebook
that I had succeeded not to cry,
that I was off to buy dancing shoes
to thank the Almighty for your long life
and for the great privilege of being your son.

Five days after you passed away
I suddenly understood the content of the news:
I would never see you alive or hear your voice again
in this lifetime. The weight of passing’s finality
landed on my heart like a heavyweight punch
and I wept. I wept and wept and wept
until I felt a presence that might have been you;
calming, reassuring, peaceful like morning dew.
Then I bought those dancing shoes.

London. July 15th, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Focussing on Sentinel Literature Festival 2010

As dark clouds that have gathered over my house in the past two months begin to clear and wonderful rays of the sun bathe me,

as I stick a little Ghanaian flag beside my computer monitor and get to the end of my one-day honourary citizenship of Ghana following our demolition of the Yanks in South Africa,

as I accept that my English mates won't be bothering to ask me to tip in to the George & Dragon for a pint of two of Guinness (even though I am not a Brazillian),

I now find laughter where grief has been camping, and from now on, I will focus on making our literature festival in October a great success.

We have been talking with prospective participants and from this week, we shall be updating the festival website with details of those who have confirmed that they will be there. If you are interested in participating in this year's festival, please contact the Artistic Director, Mr Lookman Sanusi e-mail:

We have made a call for submissions of Poems, Short Stories and Short Plays to be published in the Sentinel Literature Festival Anthology 2010 due out in October. The anthology's editors are Nnorom Azuonye (Drama), Unoma Azuah (Poetry) and Amanda Sington-Williams (Fiction).
For more details and to submit your work now visit Festival Anthology Page

The last day of the Sentinel Literature Festival will be the Awards and Recognitions day. On that day we shall be giving out the maiden Sentinel Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of contributions or services to literature. We shall also honour the winners of the Festival Poetry Competition with their prizes and first public readings of their poems published in the festival anthology. The Prize money for this competition is £250 (First), £130 (Second) and £70 (Third). The competition is judged by Roger Elkin.
For details and to enter now, visit the Festival Competition Page

All new information about the festival will be published on the website

Nnorom Azuonye
Festival Director
Call me: 07723 904 913, or 07812 755 751

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Adapting Carman's "The River"

Ezinne Hannah Egwuime Azuonye
(March 24th, 1928 - June 11th, 2010)
Igirigi Ututu, Osodiamamba, Nnekaeze

Carman's 'The River" (adapted to aid my healing)

It doesn't matter who you are
It doesn't matter where you've been
It doesn't matter whom you've lost
Somewhere along the way
There is healing for your life today

There's a river that flows
from the fountain of God
and it heals everything along the way

Yes, I, Nnorom have tasted and know
that for every broken heart
there is healing in my Jesus
Healing in Jesus' name.

Fare you well, mama.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Welcome to Junction Thirty

(For my wife, Thelma, on her birthday 07-06-2010)

Proud little a tune of greatest joy I make
the talents of my choristers I fully employ.

Loud wondrous a sound my trumpeters wake
the jewelled blissfair dancers honour my joy.

Nnorom Azuonye
London, June 7, 2010

Saturday, June 05, 2010


By Nnorom Azuonye


Many nights these days, after I have put the kids to bed, and kissed my wife goodnight, I return to the computer workstation to either try to write, or do some other work and find that I tend to drift away for short crawls through vast grounds of my memory, exhuming to my welcome surprise, many enchanting moments made exceptional by many charming people I have had the privilege of meeting.

Recently, Gbubemi Amas has put up some pictures and information on Facebook. Apparently he has been involved in a film production in Ireland with Kalu Ikeagwu who is now better known as a Nollywood actor. In 1989, Ikeagwu and Obi Emelonye took turns to play R.I.P in Esiaba Irobi’s Hangmen Also Die. Seeing good old Amas still doing the art thing was very nice indeed and I went through my files in search of Rhythm Wednesdays: Reflections on the Anthill Days at Nsukka. I wrote this piece in 2003 when Ike Anya and Unoma Azuah planned to publish a book - Umu Nsukka: The Children of Nsukka – a celebration of the university town with stories, memoirs, poetry etc. For some reason, I failed or forgot to send it to the editors. Reading it again in 2009 has made me laugh, and it has made me pause to cherish a man like Gbubemi Amas for his part in building and running the Anthill at Nsukka.


I drank Gulder straight from a sweating brown bottle in my room. It was a nice room in the Boys’ Quarters at 606 Odim Street, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. 606 Odim Street was the residence at the time of my eldest brother Chukwuma. In 1987, Chukwuma was a lecturer at the university’s Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages. As I enjoyed the lager, Chike, my other brother, sat at the desk in a corner of my room. Drinking his Maltina slowly, he read my poems as they emerged from my Brother electronic typewriter, which worked off a bunch of batteries as there was power failure at the time. Chike had, only months earlier, graduated from the university’s Department of Fine and Applied Arts, and was a Youth Corper at Enugu. A part-time poet himself, Chike seemed to enjoy my work, mostly sonnets – I was obsessed with sonnets in those days. He was quite unsparing in his critiques, and I took it all in good faith.

“Do you go to Anthill?” Chike suddenly asked.

I laughed. I laughed because Anthill meant nothing to me. Frankly, I thought he was being facetious. What would I be going to an anthill for? Was I an ant? My mind was cast back to a conversation I had years earlier with my late brother, Chidi. It was about ahu - a melon cake popular among the Isuikwuato people. Some people call is Egusi or Egwusi akpuruakpu. The crux of the joke being that one day, Nne Chukwuma; my mother had bought some ahu from Aho Nta Market at Eluama, and after eating one of those delicious cakes, I had shouted out at Chidi, who was liberating himself in the toilet, “Hey Chidi i ga-ata ahu?” Meaning literally, will you chew (eat) ahu? Incidentally, ‘ita ahu’ also means to lose weight. It was hilarious, honestly. Chidi did not know that Nne Chukwuma had bought some ahu, and he thought I was asking if he would lose weight. Probably annoyed, he shouted at me, “Takwaa ahu” that is, you lose weight yourself.

After we had both laughed ourselves silly, Chike explained to me that The Anthill was a music and poetry club with poetry readings and live music every Wednesday. Incidentally that day was a Wednesday, and he took me to The Anthill in the evening.


The experience was surreal. As we walked through the gate, the smell of suya slapped me around as if I were a naughty boy, but pleasantly so. I swallowed buckets of saliva and wanted some straightaway, but Chike thought we might get some later. We went inside where I met this guy called Mike Adiele. Mike was an eager kind of fellow that managed to come across both as welcoming and very busy. You know he could but could not spare a minute. Chike introduced me to Mike and the first thing Mike asked as he thrust his hand at me for a brisk shake was what I fed my beards. I had a full bush at the time. Funny guy, Mike, he had some one-liners that I remember till this day. After introducing me to Mike, I met a few other people that evening. There was this small chap with budding locks that everybody seemed to respect, he shook Chike’s hand, and Chike said to him, “Olu, this is my brother, Nnorom. He is in the theatre arts department.” Olu shook my hand, somewhat perfunctorily, I felt, and mouthed something like ‘see you around’ and walked on. Then I met Big George but Big George was in a bit of a hurry; he was going right up to play the guitar. I sat down and listened to Big George and then Mike Adiele began to introduce the different poets. They got up, stood in front of the small seated audience in the intimate room with nets suspended from the ceiling. The poets read their poems and got applauded and they sat down. Up till that point, there was nothing performative about the poetry. The people just stood there and read their lines off pieces of papers. Then this light-skinned guy stepped up, sat down with a guitar and sang what came across like a cross between jazz and soul. I recall thinking, Damn! His voice sounds like silk rubbing against a black man’s hair.’

“That’s Amas Grill,” Chike said.

“With a voice like that, why isn’t he recording albums?” I asked.

“He does,” Chike said, “I think he has made one or two albums. Actually I think his album is called Grill”

“Didn’t you say his name was Amas Grill”

“That’s what he is generally called.”

Later that evening, after Suya and beer, I met Amas and told him what I felt about his singing, and promised to read some of my own poems next Wednesday.

For the next two years, I read at the Anthill virtually every Wednesday except on the Wednesdays I had rehearsals that clashed, or if I was out of town. I had some amazing experiences when I heard poets like Olu Oguibe, Esiaba Irobi and one Okigbo guy. I forget his first name now, but there was a rumour he was related in some way to the late Christopher Okigbo. I recall a certain businesslike purity in Oguibe’s readings, a theatricality in Irobi’s readings, a take this punch in your face style in that Okigbo guy’s readings. Eni-Jones Umuko knocked me silly with his poems in Pidgin English. Wednesdays were mad.

The Anthill also played host to Tunde Fatunde and Uche Nduka. It was a big deal when guest poets came and it was I think during the visit of Uche Nduka that I came in contact with an Association of Nigerian Authors publication, I forget which one now, but I read things there by some Nigerian poets in the Lagos/Ibadan axis that I had never heard about, including the late Izzia Ahmad. I remember then thinking that one day I might read and discuss poetry alongside some of those people in Lagos, London or New York. I was dreaming, even then.


I had some successful readings myself, such as “Save Your Roses” (1988) – an 80-line dialogue poem between lovers in the twilight of their romance. I had written it as requiem to one of my own relationships that had just ended. Uzoamaka Nnaemeka-Agu, my classmate and daughter of a Supreme Court judge, who is now a lawyer herself, was happy to play the female voice. It is funny, that fifteen years later, I can recall her voice rip through the night:

“…then Juliet drank the cup of fools.”

To which I barked:

“…and Romeo was a greater fool.”

I would give anything to find the script of that poem. It probably is in the suitcase in my cousin Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo Edochie’s house in Lagos, or in a Ghana Must Go bag of books and papers I left at my brother Ndubuisi’s house at Aba many many years ago. Save Your Roses was also included in Random Whispers, my unplublished collection that contained most of the poems I read at the Anthill and at the Cultural Centre Board, Calabar. I gave a copy of that collection to Dr Ada Ugah in 1991 for comments, but never retrieved it after youth service. Dr Ugah and I discussed my poetry after I played the Seer in the stage adaptation of his Novel in Verse – Colours of the Rainbow. I later lost my other copy in London during one of my moves from one accommodation to the other. I had bound only two copies of the collection. Hopefully, when I retrieve my luggage scattered in Aba, Kaduna and Lagos following my 1997 journey to the United Kingdom, I might find lose copies of the poems. The ones I read at the Anthill will always hold a special meaning to me.

Have I painted a picture of total Anthill bliss? Yes, Anthill was great, but I had a disaster which I still remember with a lot of shame. No I am not ashamed of it now, but for some reason I remember exactly how ashamed I had been that night. You see, although I always went to the Anthill with the scripts of my poems, I never ever read from the scripts – except for a handful of poems I wrote in Igbo language which I was unable to memorise. One great evening, I was presenting the poem “What Future Are We Talking About?” and could not get past the first few lines. It was a complete disaster as I went on like a scratched record:

The clouds are heavy with rain

Harrowing hints of hate

Rage like burning weights

On the wings of my dreams

I forgot the rest of the lines. I began again:

The clouds are heavy with rain

Harrowing hints of hate

Rage like burning weights

On the wings of my dreams

I forgot the lines again. At this time Eni-Jones Umuko and Olu Oguibe sitting in the front row urged me to read from the script. I said no with my eyes, and in the third attempt I remembered the lines and redeemed myself somewhat.

That experience that showed me that my memory was not infallible made me more sensitive to my work as an actor in the following years. It also meant that no matter how many times I rehearsed my lines and got on stage, I always made an allowance for my memory to fail me. Thankfully though, through the plays “A Dance of The Forests”, “Once Upon Four Robbers”, “The Slave Wife”, “Kinjeketile”, “Who’s Afraid of Solarin”, “Scars That Mar” and “Hangmen Also Die” among several other plays, I only had a memory hiccup in one play, Emeka Nwabueze’s “Guardian of The Cosmos.” It is also the only play I have been in that I do not recall lines from.

As suddenly as the Anthill was introduced to me, it also simply went off the map. I seem to recall that I spent more time on the road in 1989/90 for theatre activities that for a four-month period or so I just did not go to the Anthill, then one Wednesday I went there and it was shut.

I grieved for the loss of what I fondly called Rhythm Wednesdays. I missed my friends such as Ifeyinwa Egemonye who sang a few times there. Goodness, Ifeyinwa was beautiful and sang very well too. I recall that one night I was reading a poem and she sat in the audience eyeballing and distracting me. I remembered Oscar Wilde’s statement that the best way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it, so then, I made an impromptu poem to her right there:


(for Ifeyinwa Egemonye)

When such a bright face

In the dim light I see

The claws of love the tigress

Dig deep into the dark of my world

To bring out the light of my life.

Later that evening I wrote it down for her on a piece of paper and it remains unedited to this day. I walked her and Ifeoma Meka, her room mate back to Okpara Hall. The two girls smoked like locomotive engines, and since at the time I also enjoyed a stick or two of cancer everyday, I didn’t mind too much. I also remember the singing partners Obi Emelonye and C.J. (I am sorry and ashamed that I do not remember C.J’s full name.) Considering how many meals, and drinks I enjoyed with CJ, how many times I visited him, he visited me, or we visited Emeka Uba together, or the parties we attended together, I never got to know C.J’s full name. I remember other Anthill greats like Obiora Udechukwu and Emman Usman Shehu.


I remember the Rhythm Wednesdays of Anthill with a hopeful sadness, like unfinished business of school sweethearts that drift apart when their parents move to other towns leaving no forwarding addresses. Such sweethearts hold on to the memory of their love, young, uncorrupted, unconditional, unsmothering, unquestioning, loving others the best they could, yet trusting that life could not be so unkind to keep them apart forever. I have always hoped that someday, while I am yet able to read a poem, Anthill shall rise again, the rays of her songs’ sunshine undimmed.

Rhythm Wednesdays was first published in Sentinel Literary Quarterly Vol.2 No.3, April 2009

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Africa responsible for 26% of aircraft crashes

"Although the continent accounts for only 2% of global traffic, figures show it was responsible for 26% of aircraft crashes last year. In 2009 accidents on the continent increased sharply from 2.12 to 9.94 accidents per 1.4m flights. The worldwide rate was one accident every 1.4m flights. Bad infrastructure, poor maintenance of aircraft and lack of investment in new technologies are regarded as some of the main culprits. But the African skies are also thick with politics. Some 111 carriers from 13 African countries have been blacklisted by the European Union and banned from its airspace."

Tripoli tragedy highlights Africa's unenviable record on air safety

Bad infrastructure and poor maintenance contribute to continent's relatively high number of plane crashes

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A teacher, a retired manager, a cabin crew trainer and an award-winning writer. Five seconds was the difference between a safe landing and the crash that killed these and 99 other passengers on Afriqiyah Airways flight 771 at Tripoli airport last week.

Nine-year-old Dutch boy Ruben van Assouw was the sole survivor of the carnage that also left two Britons dead. The plane had been due to stop over on its way from Johannesburg to London.

Afriqiyah Airways, born in 2001, is owned by the Libyan government and promotes itself as a cheap way to get to Africa from Europe. It is popular with backpackers and independent travellers and boasts: "We connect Africa to the world." But last week's accident underlined how far Africa has to go to shake off its reputation as the most dangerous place to fly in the world.

Although the continent accounts for only 2% of global traffic, figures show it was responsible for 26% of aircraft crashes last year. In 2009 accidents on the continent increased sharply from 2.12 to 9.94 accidents per 1.4m flights. The worldwide rate was one accident every 1.4m flights. Bad infrastructure, poor maintenance of aircraft and lack of investment in new technologies are regarded as some of the main culprits. But the African skies are also thick with politics. Some 111 carriers from 13 African countries have been blacklisted by the European Union and banned from its airspace. This does not sit well with the African Airlines Association, which accuses Europe of taking commercial advantage. "We are the first to admit that Africa needs to improve its air safety record," Nick Fadugba, secretary general of the association, said last month. "However, while the EU list may be well-intended, its main achievement has been to undermine international confidence in the African airline industry. The ultimate beneficiaries of the ban are European airlines, which dominate the African skies to the disadvantage of African carriers."

The industry in Africa is not taking the criticism lying down, pointing out that not all its airlines should be tarred with the same brush. Earlier this month the Flight Africa Blog published a list of the 10 safest airlines on the continent, in rank order: South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Botswana, Air Mauritius, Air Seychelles, Kenya Airways, Tunisair, Royal Air Maroc, Nigerian Eagle Airlines and Air Zimbabwe.

The inclusion of Air Zimbabwe shows it has stood up well despite the economic and political meltdown in the country. But nobody's perfect: last year one of its planes veered off the runway after colliding with a warthog.

More hazardous than commercial travel, however, are the lives of mercenaries and smugglers who pilot ageing Soviet-era aircraft until they no longer work. The planes have been described as "flying coffins". © Guardian News and Media 2010

See also:

Friday, May 07, 2010

This and That (May 15, 2010)

Previously unpublished poems on any subject, in any style, up to 40 lines long.
Prizes: £150, £60, and £40, plus first publication in Sentinel Literary Quarterly (online).
15 poems from this competition will be published in Sentinel Champions (Print) magazine.
Entry Fees: £3.00 per poem or £12.00 for 5 poems.
Judge: Derek Adams
Results announced 31st July 2010
Deadline: June 25, 2010
Cheques/Postal Orders in GBP only payable to Sentinel Poetry Movement,
Unit 136, #113-115 George Lane, London E18 1AB.
Details/Enter online at
Previously unpublished short stories on any subject, in any style, up to 1,500 words long.
Prizes: £150, £60, and £40, plus first publication in Sentinel Literary Quarterly (online).
4 stories from this competition will be published in Sentinel Champions (Print) magazine.
Entry fees: £5/1 story, £9/2 stories and £12/3 stories.
Judge: Laura Solomon
Results announced 31st July 2010
Deadline: June 25, 2010
Cheques/Postal Orders in GBP only payable to Sentinel Poetry Movement,
Unit 136, #113-115 George Lane, London E18 1AB.
Details/Enter online at

Previously unpublished poems on any subject, in any style, up to 40 lines long.
Prizes: £250, £130, and £70, plus first publication in Sentinel Literature Festival Anthology.
Entry Fees: £5.00 per poem, £13/3poems or £20/5poems.
Judge: Roger Elkin
Results announced 30th September, 2010
Deadline: August 20, 2010
Cheques/Postal Orders in GBP only payable to Sentinel Poetry Movement,
Unit 136, #113-115 George Lane, London E18 1AB.
Details/Enter online at



About a fortnight ago, Professor Onuora Enekwe, one of my former professors passed away. I posted an obituary on this blog, and considering my history with him, and the fact that we did not get along, I was actually quite gracious in the obituary announcement. I praised his work, because his work was good. As much as I tried to dress it up, I was not falling over myself in praise the way he was as a person to me and a lot of people I know. Apparently I offended some of Enekwe's fans with my post and I have deleted it. I also felt sorry for some of the fools who attacked me on this blog because they did not have the courage to put their names against their crude comments in which they called curses upon their own heads and warning me to be careful what I say about the dead. Why, so that I will not die? Who is it that will not die? God bless Ossie Enekwe. I look forward to wonderful eulogies about Enekwe the man, not Enekwe the writer. These will help me know him the way I never had a chance to.



On May 3, 2010, Esiaba Irobi, the self-styled 'Intellectual Terrorist', iconoclast, poet, playwright, actor, singer, and academic was called off the stage by the Almighty director. As sad as it seems, as painful as it is, as difficult as it is to swallow, I keep asking, what more could Esiaba Irobi have given us? He had already given us Nwokedi, Hangmen Also Die, A Tent to Pass the Night, The Colour of Rusting Gold, What Song do Mosquitoes Sing?, The Fronded Circle, Put out the House Lights, Cemetry Road, The Vagina Also Has Teeth, Cotyledons, Inflorescence, What is Tender about Ted Hughes? and Why I Don't Like Philip Larkin and Other Poems. His novel, The Intellectual Terrorist will now only be published post-humously.

The July - September issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly will be dedicated to the memory of Esiaba Irobi. If you wish to write a tribute to him, dedicate a poem or short play to him, please send to by the 30th of June, 2010.

I have previously written a tribute to him in Next on Sunday: Esiaba Irobi, the intellectual terrorist.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Song About What Happens

(For The Minstrel, Esiaba Irobi)

This is the song I told you about,
in the vernacular of spirit
channelled through men like me
lyrics unfettered chip and stir,
then from recesses blow veils away
until lives presumed ordinary
yield unusual stories.

The song rises equally -
for the first breath, and
the certain stillness afterwards;

women whose brows bear kaolin art
dance and ululate through the village.
Where a cry of infancy rises,
there is relief; the woman
with a swollen belly was, thankfully,
only heavy with life.

Men stand in small groups,
to dirge forth fallen kin through
the gateway of ancestral lodges,
the seat of justice.

The song rises for feet that kiss,
feet that shuffle by still, or
rolling feet, on life's dance floor -
when birds and insects sing to unite
the animate and the inanimate,
cousins in one universe.

Do chairs know people sit on them?
Do aeroplanes know they fly?
Do cars know they are driven by men?

Why do lips and heels crack in the harmattan?
Why do crocuses sprout in springtime?
Why do birds lay eggs and humans don't?
Why do men raise arms against men?
Why do we grow old and die?
Why do we cry when a loved on dies?

This song enslaves me
in waking hours,
the story of life couched in rhythms
of screams and silences,
fear and fun.

Listen to the beats…
they are alive, punching tongues
unto paths of honour,
new ways of thinking,
these beats, optimistic, hopeful,
celebrate pockets of friendship;
survivors of unnecessary wars
and hardship.

This song, a journey into the core
of breath, is sometimes just that –
a song, meaning nothing,
like morning breeze
cool and fresh in the face.

This is the song I told you about,
mirror to my face, and the core?
If there is hope and joy
in the lines of our faces,
let there be laughter.
If there is fear and sadness
in the lines of our faces,
let there be tears.

I am a songwriter,
and all I have is this song.

by Nnorom Azuonye

Dr Esiaba Irobi went into transition on May 3, 2010. You can read my tribute to him in Next on Sunday here:

"A Song about What Happens" was first published in Other Voices International e-Anthology vol. 15. (November 6, 2005)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Blogazette This and That (May 1, 2010)

- Breaking Jack Bauer


Breaking Jack Bauer
Jack Bauer is a character that I have grown to admire for his resourcefulness and focus on results. I like Jack because whenever he fails on a mission or assignment, it would never be for lack of effort or commitment. He gives 200% all the time. In Season 8 of 24, Jack has been showing more emotion than he showed in Seasons 1 to 7. I put this down to his discovery that he is now a grandfather, to Teri, named after his late beloved wife. In Season 7, I suspected that the writers of the hit TV series were setting up Renee Walker as Jack's love interest, but it never quite happened. However in Season 8, Jack actually made a promise to Renee that he would be there for her after the crisis they were facing with IRK terrorists who were working hard to derail the peace summit brokered by US President Taylor. I waited with bated breath for the moment that Jack would cross the carnal rubicon, or at least get into a non-violent tango with the troubled spirit that was Renee. The moment came between 8am and 9am, after Jack and Renee left the scene of President Omar Hassan's matyrdom, I see Hassan as a matyr because he was a man willing to die that the world might have peace, and a man who sacrificed himself to save hundreds of thousands of American lives. His giving of himself this way was almost Christlike. The death of Hassan, and the manner of it hit Jack Bauer pretty bad, but what happened next; returning to his bachelor pad, and then having the anticipated sexual encounter with Renee, only for Renee to be gunned down by a Russian hitman, finally broke Mr Bauer. As the hour wound up with a shattered Jack weeping over the lifeless body of Renee Walker, I imagine he will be a man on a revenge mission from 9am onwards. I can't wait to see how those Russian crooks get their comeuppance.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Blogazette 'This and That' (April 24, 2010)


In This and That 24th April 2010
-Babangida: A Country's Terminal Cancer
-Champion Poems becomes Sentinel Champions
-Build Africa (Excel for Charity) Poetry Competition 2010
-Sentinel Literary Quarterly April 2010

Babangida: A Country's Terminal Cancer

waking to English mornings after red-hot dreams
discoloured by pictures of soldiers' boots
glinting in the sun, heels hard on helpless groins
He recalls grumbling silences at Village squares
after fingers raised to choose a people's voice
were broken by a head-hunter lusting to rule and loot,
when drummers hid their drums in small bushes,
petrified women and their humbled husbands
herded barefoot children into disrepaired huts.

A grey time of numbing terror, when the sky darkened
dimmed by liberated fears, tears and confusion.
When men, yet men, gathered in small groups to talk.
Fractured, their future mocked by oversized berets
whose nooses and bullets have in a decade
of brazen bloodletting so silenced finer hunters
and poets, that they who were once men
can only smile passive kolanut smiles in fatality.
(Excerpted from 'Giant on a Tightrope' - Letter to God and Other Poems*)

Those of us who were old enough to process events in Nigeria in the last 25 years know that Ibrahim Babaginda is a dangerous human being, if he is even that. It is mind-numbing that he should even be contemplating becoming Nigerian president again after his disgraceful record that mocked, battered and raped democracy. Now he wants to be a democratically elected president. This is not a laughing matter. Babangida returning to even the electoral process is not only akin to the country catching terminal cancer, it is an insult to every Nigerian alive or dead.

Never a fan of Moshood Abiola, and I did not vote for the man, but there seemed to have been a consensus that he won Nigeria's presidential election in 1993, which Babangida violated and annulled. Just under 20 years later, this clown wants to return to head Nigerian government. He and his cohorts either are convinced that Nigerians in general are stupid and ignorant, or they believe all Nigerians have files missing in their memories.

I urge everybody who has Nigeria's future at heart to resist this spectre of evil waltzing to Aso Rock. Blog against it. Speak against it. Join every group set up to crush Ibrahim Babangida's evil aspirations. I am convinced that our children and our children's children will not forgive us if we allow Babangida back in to complete the destruction of millions of Nigerian lives that he started a long time ago.

If you are aware of genuine anti-Babangida's presidential aspirations groups, kindly respond to this post and leave the groups' web addresses.

"Champion Poems" becomes
"Sentinel Champions"
Champion Poems, the quarterly print magazine started in 2009 to celebrate the very best entries from the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition will be retitled Sentinel Champions from the May 2010 issue. This change has become necessary as the content on the magazine will not include the best entries from the SLQ short story competitions, and may in due course include drama and essays. WIN ONE YEAR'S SUBSCRIPTION TO SENTINEL CHAMPIONS. Every quarter, for the next 4 issues of Sentinel Literary Quarterly, we will give away 1 annual subscription to Sentinel Champions magazine delivered directly to your door. All you have to do for a chance to win this subscription is to (a) write a review of any issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine. (b) write a review of a single item - a poem, a short story, or a play published in any issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly.
Go to click on Past Issues and read to your heart's content. If you feel motivated to review and entire issue. Great. If you feel motivated to review a single item, by all means do so. The review that wins the subscription will be published in Sentinel Champions. If we like your review, even if you have not won a subscription, we will ask your permission to publish it. If you grant us the permission to publish the review, we will make a decision based on a variety of factors whether to publish it online in Sentinel Literary Quarterly or in print in Sentinel Champions.

Build Africa (Excel for Charity) Poetry Competition 2010
Build Africa is a UK Charity working exclusively with young Africans in Africa by building and equipping schools and helping kids achieve success in life through education. One African child's success and independence is to the benefit of the entire world. We have had good response to this competition so far, but more needs to be done. There is still time to enter - anytime up to midnight on the 30th of April, you may enter online. One third of all entry fees will go to the charity. If your poem wins, you will receive a cash prize of £150, second prize is £75 and third prize £35. To enter now, go to

Sentinel Literary Quarterly April 2010
The next issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly will be published just after 9pm on April 30th 2010. This issue boasts some exciting book reviews, short stories, poems and plays. The results of the Sentinel African-Writing review free-to-enter competition will also be announced in that issue. If you submitted a review to SLQ for this competition, hold your breath, you may be a winner of 1 year's subscription to African Writing Magazine. There will also be the results of the SLQ Poetry and Short Story competitions April 2010 and the reports by the judges Claire Askew and Chuma Nwokolo jr. You will also be able to enjoy the first publications of the winning entries. Keep a date with SLQ by visiting anytime from 9pm on the 30th.

Do you want to read This and That every Saturday. Then become a follower of this blog.

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.

Nnorom Azuonye

*Letter to God and Other Poems by Nnorom Azuonye (Nsibidi. 2003)

Friday, March 26, 2010


My Daily Communion with the Almighty God of my life. (Another study of Psalm 23. Five times a day.)
By Nnorom Azuonye

The Lord is my shepherd. I have no difficulty in paying for a roof over my head, affording my transportation, food, clothing and other necessary expenses required to provide abundantly for my family. I lack nothing at all.

I have no physical ailments. My body is fundamentally healthy. I soar in divine health.

He makes me lie down in green pastures where there is abundance of fruitfulness and blessings for me and my family. I am a success.

He leads me beside the still waters thereby giving me peace of mind, peace of spirit, and the courage to face life with calmness, clear headedness and purpose. I do not rush into decisions and I do not speak too quickly, I only do those things which the Lord desires and asks of me with the sense of direction that comes with spiritual serenity. I surrender to His will and guidance.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He keeps me on the side of what is right. He makes me aspire towards holiness. He makes me realise that I live only to worship Him and by my every word, every thought and every action bring honour and glory to His Holy name. I worship Him.

Yes, even though I walk through the valleys of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for the Lord is with me. I live without fear in everything I do – driving, travelling by public transport, walking in the streets where terrorists and criminals operate, visiting the infirm in the hospitals where unseen bugs prowl, I am never afraid because I am covered completely with the blood of my Lord Jesus the Christ. I wear the armour of God.

Your Rod and your staff, they comfort me. There is no grief in my life.

In my times of despair. In my times of sorrow. In my times of confusion. God is the rock within which I take refuge, where nothing can ever hurt me, where neither words of detractors, nor the snares of principalities and powers can hurt me or even come near me. You have put a hedge around me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Where people expect me to fail, I triumph. Where people expect me to fall, I stand. Where people expect me to mourn, I celebrate. You are good and faithful to me, because I do your will and meditate on your law, day and night. You have fortified me with your spirit and your grace. You have blessed me.

You make a way where there is no way, heavenly father. You give me business where there is no business. You make me achieve every target I set for myself. I never fall short because I am in you and you in me. My cup truly overflows.

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the wondrous house of the Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

©2008-2010 Nnorom Azuonye