Tolu Ogunlesi speaks about #NaijaNoDeyCarryLast


Tolu Ogunlesi
Tolu Ogunlesi
“The point of this collection of satirical pieces, covering a handful of years from Nigeria’s recent history, is that the country repeats itself endlessly as farce. In piece after satirical piece we’re given a privileged glimpse of Africa’s largest circus stage, filled with a cast of clowns whose genius lies in make biting satire feel like breaking news. And yet with all their talent, none can overshadow the biggest star of the production: Déjà Vu. Naija No Dey Carry Last is an immensely entertaining show of words: paeans, parables, plays and epistles; Pius Adesanmi does such a fine job one could easily get away with re-titling it: Pius No Dey Carry Last!”

Tolu Ogunlesi, West Africa Editor, The Africa Report.

Naija No Dey Carry Last is published by Parresia/Premium Times Books. Order your copy via @AMABBooks or @JumiaNigeria

Twitter @pius_adesanmi 

Facebook: Naija No Dey Carry Last 


@Chude Jideonwo endorses @pius_adesanmi ‘s new book #NaijaNoDeyCarryLast @PremiumTimesng


Chude Jideonwo
“For several years, Pius Adesanmi has been one of Nigeria’s most prolific satirists. ‘Naija No Dey Carry Last’ is a collection of writings, written mostly between 2008 and 2010, which takes aim at various public figures, from the late Umaru Yar’Adua to Goodluck Jonathan, Ikedi Ohakim, Farida Waziri, and many others. Adesanmi employs satire and Biblical metaphors to deliver scathing criticism of Nigerian politics and society. 
Nigeria is one country where events are often so unbelievable, that they defy satirical treatment. Still, he manages to pull it off, and I heartily recommend ‘Naija No Dey Carry Last’ to anyone who wants to read about the issues and events concerning Nigeria’s fourth attempt at democracy with a different twist.”

Naija No Dey Carry Last will be out on September 21st, 2015, from Parresia/Premium Times Books. Before then, you can receive a preorder a discounted copy via 

@AMABBooks HERE or 

@JumiaNigeria HERE
Twitter @pius_adesanmi 

Facebook: Naija No Dey Carry Last 

#Parrésia Set to Release @pius_adesanmi ‘s “Naija No Dey Carry Last”.


Full cover: Naija No Dey Carry Last

Naija No Dey Carry Last
It’s been several months of excitement working with Premium Times Books on Professor Pius Adesanmi’s new book. It’s a charm of a book, every single page of it. The cover was designed by the amazing visual artist Victor Ehikhamenor (VEE Global Ltd, Lagos).

Naija No Dey Carry Last by Professor Pius Adesanmi gathers his most important reflections on Nigeria over the last decade, mostly published in his Premium Times, Sahara Reporters and Nigerian Village Square columns. Naija No Dey Carry Last is a tribute and an argument for the place of memory in Nigeria’s socio-politics.

Adesanmi has over the last twenty years established his stature as one of Africa’s leading academics and was one of the first to use social media as a new classroom in which to test out his ideas and engage with our country. Educated at the Universities of Ilorin, Ibadan and British Columbia, Pius Adesanmi, who is presently a Professor of English and African Studies at Carleton University in Canada, has won numerous awards including the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing in 2010.

Naija No Dey Carry Last will be out in bookstores late September. It will be available everywhere–bookstores, via the Parresia website, via Amazon’s bookstore, the Kindle store, everywhere. We will keep everyone posted. Meantime, please follow our social media handles.

Twitter @pius_adesanmi 

Facebook: Naija No Dey Carry Last 

@ParresiaBooks Releases #Parresia2015 List: Okpagu, Ibrahim, Nwosu, Okolo.



Parresia is pleased to announce our 2015 List for the Parresia Books Imprint. Well over a hundred manuscripts were submitted from within Nigeria and from outside the country. Of these, four manuscripts were chosen. Of these four, three are debut novelists, two are new writers, one is an old Parresia author with a new book out and one is an already established, immensely distinguished writer. All four will be joining Helon Habila, Emmanuel Iduma, Victor Ehikhamenor, Chika Unigwe and Molara Wood at the Parrésia Books imprint.

Our #Parresia2015 authors are: Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Maik Nwosu and Amara Nicole Okolo.  

Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu [Debut]

Publication Date: November 2015

Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu is a Lagos based Marketing Communications executive with over six years’ experience, including being an Associate Producer of a pan-African TV show and managing Fabulous City—a community for young & ambitious business women. Her first book, a novella, was published when she was fourteen. She was educated at Queens College, Lagos, and at the University of Benin where she obtained a BA in Fine and Applied Arts. Ifesinachi also holds a Masters from the Pan-African University. She has written several stories, some of which have been published in Sentinel Nigeria, the Femrite Anthology and Saraba Magazine. Ifesinachi has written/produced eleven screenplays.

Lagos Girl is a novel about the unnecessary pressure on women to take on life partners, regardless of who these partners are. Its style, one of realism, explores the psychological impacts of this through the stories of two sets of sisters—Munachi and Nkechi versus Chimuanya and Elizabeth. The role of religion in shaping our decisions forms a backdrop against which Munachi’s story unfolds.

Blurb: Lagos Girl

On a Sunday afternoon years ago, two sisters walk in on their father’s sexual liaison with the family’s hired help which leaves them both scarred in different ways.

Unable to bear the thought of marriage to man she barely knows, the younger and more adventurous one, Munachi, runs away from home on the eve of her traditional marriage, unwittingly resurrecting a long buried feud between her mother and aunty. This conflict leaves a door open for the family’s destruction.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim [Debut]
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim [Debut]

Title: Season of Crimson Blossoms

Publication Date: November 2015

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist with several accolades to his name. His debut short story collection The Whispering Trees (Parrésia Books, 2013) is currently a recommended text in several Nigerian universities and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014 with the title story being shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing. Abubakar has won the BBC African Performance Prize and the Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. He is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow and has been listed by the Hay Festival in the Africa39 list of the most promising sub-Sahara African writers under the age of 40.

Blurb: Season of Crimson Blossoms

The affair between 52-year-old widow Binta Zubairu and a 26-year old political thug and weed dealer simply known as Reza is bound to cause a ripple in the conservative society they find themselves. For Binta, there has always been the need to unshackle herself from the sexual repression that characterised her marriage and a deprivation that typified her widowhood. But beyond that, there is her desire to redeem herself for the loss of her first son, whose tragic death haunts her still. So, when the thug, Reza, whose real name not many people remember, arrives with a heart emptied by the absence of a mother who abandoned him when he was months old and rekindles Binta’s passions, they strike it off.

But their relationship is strained by the demands of their different lives; for Binta her family and questions of morality and shame, for Reza his dangerous life on the other side of the law.

Beyond the disapproving stare of society, there is also the outrage of Binta’s children, who are all older than her lover.

Set against the background of politics and religion in northern Nigeria, this novel unfurls with grace and delectable prose, revealing layers of human emotions and desires.

Maik Nwosu
Maik Nwosu

Title: A Gecko’s Farewell

Publication Date: March 2016

Maik Nwosu is an associate professor of English at the University of Denver, Colorado. He worked as a journalist (and received the Nigeria Media Merit Award for Journalist of the Year) before moving to Syracuse University, New York for a Ph.D in English and Textual Studies. Nwosu’s poetry collection, Suns of Kush, was awarded the Association of Nigerian Authors/Cadbury Poetry Prize in 1995. His novels, Invisible Chapters and Alpha Song, received the Association of Nigerian Authors Prose Prize and the Association of Nigerian Authors/Spectrum Prose Prize in 1999 and 2002 respectively. He has also published a short story collection, Return to Algadez.

Nwosu is a fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany and the Civitella Ranieri Centre in Umbertide, Italy, as well as a member of the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

Blurb: A Gecko’s Farewell 

A Gecko’s Farewell centres on three Africans from different parts of the continent who meet “in the spirit” (online) and plan to found a School of Stories. Etiaba is a village schoolteacher. When he loses his job, he moves to the capital city—and its world of prayer contractors and hope merchants. Mzilikazi’s is the story of “the homeless specter, the boy soldier, the fugitive, the exile”—the story of a black South African dislocated under the Apartheid regime. Nadia is a radical student of photography at the American University in Cairo. She becomes a photojournalist and takes the picture of an Islamist terrorist, an act that endangers her.

These three characters eventually ‘escape’ from Africa, but Africa is in a sense inescapable. They ‘meet’ at an online forum and forge a therapeutic friendship, but their coming together also embeds the seeds of their eventual separation.

In the end, each of them returns ‘home,’ but not quite in the manner that he/she had dreamed. Etiaba returns to Nigeria (from New York) for his father’s funeral and discovers in the tale of a ‘fisherman’ the story that had followed him around the world and which he believes marks his homecoming. Mzilikazi marries a white woman (in London) and chooses his gravesite – or has it chosen for him – beside that of the man who had been responsible for the destruction of his village. Nadia, who had fled (to France) from an Islamist jihad, explores her mind as she prepares for a new life in Nigeria with Etiaba, whom she had become engaged to online. These ultimately interlinked lives in some respects suggest a new (or an alternative) way of being and meaning. As Etiaba muses: “Why should I live in a new world only in an old way?”

Amara Nicole Okolo [Debut]
Title: Son of Man

Publication Date: March 2016

Amara Nicole Okolo is a young lawyer from Anambra State. She began writing at eight while growing up in Kaduna, Owerri, Uyo and Umuahia, early activity she believes has helped in making her the writer she is today. Her romance novella, Black Sparkle Romance, was published in 2014 by Ankara Press, an imprint of Cassava Republic. References to her work have appeared on The Guardian UK and Africa, CNN, Africa In Words, Okay Africa, Brittle Paper and Chimeuraga. She loves cupcakes and green tea, and when she is not writing, she spends her spare time drawing, painting, collecting buttons, establishing her fashion business and taking photos of random places and people she meets on a regular day. She currently lives in Abuja.

Blurb: Son of Man

OUR MEN. . .

A university graduate in desperate need of a job. An illiterate farmer’s vengeance for a dead son. A young pragmatic man humbled by the horrors of incarceration. An old man’s dying gift to a generation. A journalist’s courage in a notorious military government. A youth Corper’s temperance of religion, love and survival.


From the quiet town of Umuahia, to the plains of the Jos Plateau, and the bustling hub of Lagos, these Nigerian men have stories to tell. Stories of life, love, family, happiness, sorrow, pestilence and death—situations faced every day in their lives. Armed with objectivity, some find peace with their resolutions. Others face dire consequences with prices to pay—with their freedom, or even worse, with their lives.


Welcome to Parresia Books! 

Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi,

Managing Editor,

Parresia Publishers Ltd,

No. 9 Oluwole Close, Okota, Lagos.

For inquiries and pre-orders, please email

amu nnadi and Remi Raji headline @BNPoetryAward #Babishai2015 Festival [Kampala]

Our partner, Kampala-based Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, has just released the programme for the 2015 Babishai Festival [August 26th to 28th] at which the $1000 BN Poetry Award will be awarded. Parresia COO Richard Ali sits on the Board and is a Judge for 2015. The BN Poetry Award is the only African poetry prize open to all Africans.

amu nnadi’s through the window of a castle was published by Origami Books in 2013 and won both the 2014 Association of Nigerian Authors Prize for Poetry and the Glenna Luschei Prize. Remi Raji, pen name of Professor Remi Raji-Oyelade, is the Dean of Arts, University of Ibadan, and President of the Association of Nigerian Authors. 

Both writers will be facilitating Poetry Masterclasses.
– Parresia.


Official Festival Poster


9:00am-9:30am Batalo East Dance Breakfast

9:30am -11:00am Empowering vulnerable artists through The Poetry of Dance, Olga Walusimbi of Dance Sphere Studios

9:30am -11:00am Restoring Histories and Herstories with Cross Cultural Foundation-UG

11:30am-1:00pm From the page to the stage – Charles Mulekwa, Playwright & Educator

2:00pm-3:00pm Branding with Babishai, Book-signing, Meet and Greet the authors

3:00pm -5:00pm Kagayi Peter, Uganda’s grand spoken word poet, meets students

3:00-5:00pm Risks and opportunities of political poetry: John Stewart (Zimbabwe)

8:00pm Poetry-in-session with Fatuma’s Voice at Dancing Cup, Bugolobi


9:30am -11:00am MASTER-CLASS with Professor Aderemi Raji-Oyelade (Nigeria)

9:30am-11:00am MASTER-CLASS with Chijioke Amu-Nnadi (Nigeria)

11:30am-1:00pm From the page to the stage at The Uganda Museum with Ife Piankhi (Global
Citizen) and Checkmate Mido (Kenya) 

2:00pm-3:00pm Branding with Babishai, Book-signing, Meet and Greet the authors

3:00pm -5:00pm Femrite, Black Poet & Checkmate Mido meet students

3:00pm-5:00pm MASTER-CLASS on blogging poetry by Fatuma’s voice and Magunga Williams

6:00pm Launch of Boda Boda Anthem & Other Poems: at Goethe –Zentrum Kampala


9:30am -10:30am #Babishai Poetricks adult challenge

9:30am-10:30am When the earth weeps, art also weeps, by Sara Kaweesa (Arocha Uganda)

11:00am -12:30pm Launching poetry on the mountain with Pearl Hoareau, Uganda Travel Bureau

2:00pm-3:00pm Branding with Babishai, Book-signing, Meet and Greet the authors

2:00pm-3:30pm ”Promotion and Revolution: Making Poetry a more Enjoyable Genre’ with Adelaja Ridwan Olayiwola (Nigeria)

3:30pm to 5:00pm Martha Byoga in conversation with 2015 poets and past BN Poetry winners

6:00pm Grand award-giving ceremony of the 2015 BN Poetry winner-Museum Hall


#BNPoetryAward Releases Babishai Festival [Kampala] Schedule


Our partners, the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, which runs Africa’s only poetry prize, the BN Poetry Award, has just released the schedule for the 2015 Babishai Festival HERE. The 2015 $1000 Award winner will be announced in the course of the festival, holding from August 26th to 28th 2015 at Kampala, Uganda. Parresia COO Richard Ali and Association of Nigerian Authors president, Professor Remi Raji, are on the board of the Foundation.



Wednesday 26th August:
9:00am -11:00am Visiting vulnerable groups of writers-/MASTER-CLASS at The Uganda Museum

3:00pm -5:00pm Master-class/book-signing at The Uganda Museum

8:00pm Poetry-in-session/book-signing-Dancing Cup Bugolobi

Thursday 27th August:

9:00am -11:00am #Visiting vulnerable writer groups

3:00pm -5:00pm Master-class at The Uganda Museum

7:00pm Launch of Kampala Poetry Anthology & discussions by Jalada Africa

Friday 28th August:

9:00am -10:30am #Babishai Poetricks trainings/ Poetricks adult challenge at The Uganda Museum

11:00pam -12:30pm Launching Poetry on the Mountain at The Uganda Museum

6:00pm Grand award-giving ceremony, performances at The Uganda Museum

Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva.

#BNPoetryAward Releases Babishai Festival [Kampala] Schedule

  Our partners, the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, which runs Africa’s only poetry prize, the BN Poetry Award, has just released the schedule for the 2015 Babishai Festival HERE. The 2015 Award will be announced in the course of the festival, holding from August 26th to 28th 2015 in Kampala. Parresia COO Richard Ali and Association of Nigerian Authors president, Professor Remi Raji, are on the board of the Foundation.



Wednesday 26th August:

9:00am -11:00am Visiting vulnerable groups of writers-/MASTER-CLASS at The Uganda Museum

3:00pm -5:00pm Master-class/book-signing at The Uganda Museum

8:00pm Poetry-in-session/book-signing-Dancing Cup Bugolobi

Thursday 27th August:

9:00am -11:00am #Visiting vulnerable writer groups

3:00pm -5:00pm Master-class at The Uganda Museum

7:00pm Launch of Kampala Poetry Anthology & discussions by Jalada Africa

Friday 28th August:

9:00am -10:30am #Babishai Poetricks trainings/ Poetricks adult challenge at The Uganda Museum

11:00pam -12:30pm Launching poetry on the mountain at The Uganda Museum

6:00pm Grand award-giving ceremony, performances at The Uganda Museum

Reparations: Should We Allow Big Oil to Invest in Arts and Culture? #ChikaUnigwe


Parresia author, Chika Unigwe.

Reparations: Should We Allow Big Oil to Invest in Arts and Culture?


Chika Unigwe 

Keynote Address at the Writivism Festival 2015

[Delivered on the 19th of June 2015 by Richard Ali at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.]


Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is an immense pleasure and honor for me to be here tonight, in one of my favorite cities – goat meat does not taste better anywhere else- and at an occasion celebrating literature.  Thank you to all who have made this possible.

It has been wonderful to observe first hand the renaissance of arts and culture all over the continent. In Nigeria, especially, where I am from, there has been a resurgence of cultural events and an increase in the number of literary prizes,  including the NLNG sponsored Nigeria Prize for Literature with a prize tag of $100,000, making it one of the most generous literary prizes in the world. For any writer, the gift of time and space which that amount of money can give is a blessing.

But it is not only on the continent that oil companies are investing in arts and culture. For the past four decades, BP has contributed significantly to UK arts and culture, partnering with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, Tate Britain and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Shell donates substantially to the Science Museum. Marathon Oil funds educational projects in Houston. And the list goes on and on.

Yet, in  recent years, there has been a  steadily growing discontent  among artists and cultural activists about the oil industry’s connection to the world of  arts and culture. They have spoken out calling on institutions from the Tate Museum to the New Orleans Museum of Art to draw an ethical line around sponsorship by the BBW (the Big Bad Wolf ie oil companies.)  The year that I won the NLNG Prize for fiction, I was asked by fellow artists if I felt  conflicted by it, “tainted” as it was by oil money..   There are artist-activists who are  cynical about oil money and arts sleeping together, as it were, and very often accuse Big Oil (as these companies are called) of attempting to whitewash their image by connecting closely to arts and culture. If Big Oil is trying to make reparations for its sin, these activists would not let it. Big Oil’s sin is a mortal one for which there can’t be, must not be any expiation. Writing in the Guardian in January, 2014, Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls on “people of conscience” to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change…

The fact is that Fossil fuel companies not only contribute to the devastation of our eco system, they have also been known to actively encourage oppression of citizens who get in the way of business as usual.  Nigeria is a case in study.

The Royal Dutch Shell began oil production in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria in 1958. Throughout the early 1990’s , at the behest of Shell, and allegedly with Shell’s financing, Nigerian soldiers used deadly force against the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, in a bid  to quell  a growing movement against the oil company. We are all aware of the execution of the writer and activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, founder of MOSOP

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP),  a human rights group founded in 1990 that is committed to using nonviolence to stop the repression and exploitation of the Ogoni and their resources by Shell, and one of nine activists unlawfully executed by the Nigerian government with Shell’s complicity.

When Archbishop Tutu calls on “people of conscience” to break ties with oil corporations, it understandably strikes a chord.

However, there is a certain polarizing militancy to such calls. It is as if Arts, popular culture, concern about the fate of our climate and oil must not and in fact, do not mix. Many of our fellow  artists-  who advocate a total rejection of Big Oil sponsorship do so because like a majority of us, they care about the climate as much as they do about arts and culture. They live in hope like I do that one day  green energy will not only become affordable but will completely usurp fossil fuels. Their concerns are legitimate. Their arguments are valid. But those arguments completely disregard the complexity of the issue. They disregard other valid facts: 

Fact: Big Oil isn’t the only major business interest that is open to supporting the arts today. The Booker Prize was first sponsored by Booker McConnell , the English food wholesaler, viewed at some point as the epitome of colonial oppression in Guyana.

Arms companies sponsor galleries and arts festivals. The Nobel Prize (and its money) comes from Alfred Nobel, who was an arms manufacturer. Why the calls for one to be barred from investing in culture but not the other?

Fact. We are still years away from completely replacing fossil fuel with green energy. While we wait for such a time to come, at the moment we live in a world where we cannot avoid fossil fuel.. Besides, “oil and gas money” is our money too: every time we use electricity; every time we put gas in our cars, in our generators, we are contributing to “oil and gas money.” And what better way can these industries repay us than by ploughing back some of that money into our communities.

Fact. Public funding for arts and culture  – is either dwindling in some cases and non-existent in others. Big Oil’s money  has joined forces with contributions from other sources to combat what must be, and I use this phrase very seriously, an arts and culture famine. Galleries  like the Tate can operate  at the world-class level they do and remain free thanks in part to BP sponsorship

In the United States, John Paul Getty, founder of Getty Oil established the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1953. The trust,  which  is the world’s wealthiest art institution operates the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, and the Getty Conservation Institute.  

 In Nigeria, Chevron and NLNG sponsor literary prizes and writing workshops, driving a branch of arts that for a very long time, suffered drought.

Many of our governments on the continent have little regard for arts and culture. The renaissance that we are witnessing is mostly thanks to corporations and private initiatives.  How many museums worthy of the name  do we have in Kampala? In any of our big cities in Nigeria? How many art galleries do we have funded by the government? How many public libraries? One of my most poignant childhood memories involves meeting Tony Ubesie, a very popular Igbo novelist whose Igbo language novels were used in schools across the Igbo speaking parts of Nigeria in the 80[s and 90’s. Ubesie was also a newscaster, I believe.  One day, my father’s driver broke my father’s rule about giving rides to strangers , offered Ubesie a ride. I was the only other person in the car and the driver begged me not to tell my father. We drove considerably out of our way to drop Ubesie  off where he had to be. Apparently, his  only car had broken down and he was having trouble replacing it. Ubesie who ought to have been treated like a cultural icon: carried like an egg by the state government  by virtue of his contribution to Igbo language literature,  symbolizes for me the way our governments, my government  places little value on the arts. A few years ago, I was a guest at a literary event where the state governor  sponsoring the event chided writers and poets for wanting to live off their writing. To show how devoted he was to the Arts, he boasted of a theatre  he was building, to be named – not after any Nigerian writer dead or alive- but after a beauty queen.

Before former president Goodluck Jonathan initiated the Bring Back the Book campaign in 2010 (a project which already started dying down 2 years after it was initiated) , and apart from the Lagos International Book Fair, there was hardly any initiative to encourage reading (or writing) on a federal level

A nation that can allocate N0.5 million clothing allowance to each of its senators but cannot / will not maintain museums, libraries and cultural events is the enemy of the writer. It is the enemy of anyone with a conscience.  

Accepting corporate sponsorship of art- is not the same as advocating non-criticism of corporations.  When John Berger won the Man Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G., he used the opportunity to criticize Booker McConnell. Berger called the award “distasteful” and accused Booker-McConnell of being responsible for the “modern poverty of the Caribbean.” donated half his £5,000 to socialist activists.

As long as the sponsorship has no implication on what art is made and on who has access to the space and the means to make and consume that art, as long as the sponsorship is not a bribe to buy our voices and our consciences, as long as it does not censor our pens, then by all means, let us use the money for the force of good.

Through our work as writers, we must actively demand that governments make funding available for our cultural institutions and for arts. We must continue to demand the highest level of environmental stewardship, not just from the oil companies but from our leaders too.  We must continue to advocate for oil and gas companies to diversify their investment portfolios and invest in renewable energy technologies. We must ensure that they do not pour money into lobbying governments to shy away from meaningful, from constructive environmental policies. These are what we MUST do.

What we must NOT do, and I cannot stress the necessity of this enough, is bar oil companies from investing in arts and culture. 


Isaac Ogezi reviews Maryam Bobi’s #Bongel [Origami 2015]


Maryam Bobi, author of the novella #Bongel

In as much as the proponents of the pure school of art will pontificate art for art’s sake, literature cannot be wholesomely divorced from commitment. Achebe could not have put it more aptly when he stated that ‘The whole pattern of life demanded that one should protest, that you should put in a word for your history, your traditions, your religion, and so on.’ Consequently, it is nearly impossible for a woman writer who has had a firsthand experience of sexual inequalities in her sexist community not to try and ‘put in a word’ for her sex. The emergence of feminism, a protest movement in literature and art, is geared towards redressing apparent anomalies and wrongs against the disadvantaged woman in society. In Nigeria, Flora Nwapa, the first woman novelist, blazed the trail with her 1966 novel, Efuru, followed by Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen, Ifeoma Okoye’s Behind the Clouds and Men without Ears, Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn, Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus¸ to mention but the most prominent.

It is regrettable that after almost six decades since the publication of Nwapa’s Efuru, it is not yet Uhuru for the plight of women in a male-dominated world. The Jahiliyyah-like condition of the woman, despite the appreciable progress made over the years, Nirvana  cannot be said to be attained, paving the way for the cries of aluta continua to still rend the air from the feminists’ camp. Maryam Bobi’s recent novella, Bongel, is a timely contribution to this hue and cry.

Set in the contemporary, cell-phone era, Bongel revolves around the title central character, Bongel, a Fulani medical student at the El-Khamar School of Medical Science. Through the sly handiwork of her course-mate friend and room-mate, Kauthar, a romantic relationship is engineered with the latter’s elder brother Abdul, studying in the UK. Unfortunately, Bongel has reckoned without her sordid past. Given out in marriage without her consent by her despotic father at the tender age of twelve to the rich Alh. Tanko, a man old enough to be her father, she had a stillbirth which she was blamed for killing the child. This precipitated her divorce and ironically the golden opportunity to resume her truncated education. The plot,  rendered in a limpid, pacy and confident language, interspersed with snippets of flashbacks, Bobi can be said to have arrived almost made as a writer, to borrow Achebe’s excited welcome of Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.  For a debutant novelist, her prose reads like that of an experienced writer’s at the top of the tree. The reader cannot resist such luscious expressions: ‘… she kept to the shoulder of the tarred road’ (p. ix), ‘Images flew around in her mind. She would love to arrange them orderly, to create a coherent panorama’ (p. 10), ‘… she feared that she was beginning to veer away from virtue’ (p. 14), ‘… the rotten ones who perfume themselves  in lies and deceits’ (p. 61) and ‘Bongel felt washed back to land by the waves. The storm had calmed’ (p. 93). Good expressions like the above helped to accentuate the writer’s themes most poignantly and succinctly. It is trite that literature cannot effect revolutionary changes like politics, nor can it shoot a gun, but there is no gainsaying the fact that a well-executed piece of work can pack quite a punch on the face of a nihilistic and sexist world.

Through the effective use of apt imageries, the reader is made to empathize, or better still, feel vicariously Bongel’s near-death experience when her ancient husband, Alh. Tanko, the man with ‘kola nut-stained teeth’ (p. 72), rapes her in the name of consummating the marriage with his child-bride:

“… he became so furious he took the wrapper off her body and pinned her on the bed. Bongel felt her executioner grunting like a pig, breathing hot tepid air down her face, and burying her in an envelope of arid smells. The tearing pain that hit her brain was worse than any pain she had ever felt in her life … another volley pain [sic] struck her, going off like a giant bell. She wanted to hold her head together for fear it might explode but found she was suddenly too weak to even move her hands. Her pelvis, abdomen and thigh muscles were burning and pulsating. At that moment, rational thoughts became impossible for her. She could not recall anything at all …’ (p. 68).

The impact of the above soul-stirring description coupled with other images-laden episodes in the work is worth more than several girl-child legislations which are more often than not obeyed in the breach than in their observance.

Undoubtedly, Bobi is not a writer sold on the oft-regurgitated theory of art for art’s sake. She is a writer brimming with a catalogue of messages; a writer of commitment. In the first place, what African writer is not? According to Achebe:

‘I believe that it is impossible to write anything in Africa without some kind of commitment, some kind of message, some kind of protest … So commitment is nothing new… In fact, I should say that all of our writers, whether they’re aware of it or not are committed writers.’

However, commitment is not without its snags especially when not skilfully handled. Any wonder then that most Marxist or feminist works of art are unreadable propaganda tracts? This is perhaps the major lapse in Bobi’s Bongel, thus reducing the work to a compendium of societal ills against women – child marriages, the deprivation of the girl-child education, vesico vaginal fistula (VVF), oppression of women in marriage, favoritism of the male child over his female counterpart, the list is inexhaustive.  Because of the desperate bid to cram too many themes into the work, the love story between the heroine Bongel and Abdul is slight, usurped by preachy flashbacks on women’s victimization in a patriarchal society such that even the least Suyayya novel from Kano Hausa Market Literature is more engrossing with plot complications than Bongel. Alas, in literature we estrange our readers with so-called serious themes at the expense of spellbinding plots while romance and thriller writers hold their breaths on the edge with masterful storylines, leaving us with no choice but to embrace our comfort-zone alibi that people are no longer reading. In consequence, the character of Bongel is not developed satisfactorily. In spite of her ugly past, it is expected that she will be wiser and more wary in subsequent relationships, but no, she is not created to learn from her past experiences. Just like Nora’s famous shutting of the door on her marriage in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House resounded positively across the globe, Bongel’s spirited effort to negotiate a truce with Abdul, who is not man enough for her,   in the end of the book is a  big fatal blow on the feminist posture of the work. Most likely the writer has allowed the benign feminism in Alkali’s The Stillborn to negatively influence her to the point of cheapening her central character. In the older writer’s work, Li’s relationship with Farouk is that of a valid marriage which has birthed an issue but the same cannot be said of Bongel’s starry-eyed romance with Abdul. Again, one of the perennial weaknesses of most feminist works by women writers is the pathological obsession with male stereotyping. Male characters never live in their works. For example, Abdul, Alh. Tanko and Bongel’s father are all cardboard, stock characters not imbued with flesh and blood or any redeeming features by their gender-partial creator. If anything, this robs the work of depth, verisimilitude, subtleties and great suggestive meanings. One of the first lessons a writer learns in writing ‘enter-educative’ works is that subjects like VVF and HIV are better subtly suggested instead of devoting nearly two pages (pp. 76 -77) on them like academic papers.

Similarly, for a work well-packaged in terms of high paper quality, font size and cover-designs, the publishers cannot be exculpated for allowing some careless  errors of syntax find their way into the work, to wit: ‘a mere two days’ (p. 6), ‘his minted breathe’ (p. 16), ‘ in variance with’ (p. 23), ‘a little ways ahead’ (p. 30),   ‘such  ugly incidences’ (p. 50), ‘other girls’ marriage’ (p. 60), ‘battered under’ (p. 66), ‘must have ensued from his joints’ (p. 67), ‘resulted to’ (p. 76), ‘… the pain that hiding these three dark passages’ (p. 93). Additionally, on two or three occasions, tenses are used indiscriminately such as: ‘Bongel has been pregnant’ (p. 27), ‘contrary to what Kauthar thinks’ (p. 27) and ‘she wouldn’t be as devastated as she is now …’ (p.8). In a third-person narrative technique in the past tense, the use of present tense can only be used sparingly in streams of consciousness or interior monologues or when  making reference to a universally immutable fact. It also seems the writer had the West in mind as her audience when she was writing this work as can be gleaned from expressions like these: ‘… that reminds me that it’s haram, something wrong’ (p. ix) and ‘It was a customary tradition among the Hausa-Fulani people’ (p. 74). This appears to be the norm now, though unfortunate, that when writers are divulging some terrible facts about their cultures, they often obsequiously turn to the West for a mark of acceptance.

The foregoing notwithstanding, Bobi is a fledgling albeit promising writer who deserves attention and help. She, along with her older countrywomen Razinat Mohammed and Halima Sekula are fresh exciting female Northern voices trying to carve a niche for themselves on our literary landscape. It is, however, worrisome that since the publication of Alkali’s The Stillborn in 1984, Northern Nigeria is yet to produce another female writer who can hold a candle to that literary matriarch. It is long overdue now.


Isaac Attah Ogezi is a noted playright and fiction writer. He practices law and lives in Keffi, Nigeria.