Arts & Literary

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UKAH HAILS DELTA QUEEN PAGEANT, COMMENDS ORGANIZERS FOR INITIATIVE

missdeltaSINATRA Ent, organizers of the Delta Queen pageantry show has been commended for creating a platform aimed at promoting and encouraging the youths to build and use their talents in a desirable manner of impacting on the lives of others.

Making the commendation, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, described the initiative as a means of promoting peace, one Delta as this is what the new Delta yearns and craves for.

The commissioner, who was speaking at the grand finale and crowning of the new Miss Delta 2016 pageantry held at Swiss Spirit Hotel, Asaba, as part of the activities complementing the Delta Silver Jubilee Anniversary, expressed gratitude to the organizers of the event, particularly the Managing Director, Hon. Odinigwe Odigei for creating such platform aimed at showcasing the cultural heritage, value promoting Delta, as well as letting the world know that the state remains outstanding in many ways.

Meanwhile, the Sinatra boss, Hon. Odinigwe Odigei, while speaking on behalf of the organization disclosed that the idea behind the pageantry was borne out of the desire to compliment the Delta State 25 anniversary, as well as a medium to empower, showcase and build the talented youths of delta state for future performances while commending all the contestants from the 25 local government areas on their efforts to the finals, advising those who didn’t emerge winners to believe in themselves and not to give up on their talents as there will always be opportunities for them in future.

Present at the grand occasion was the state Head of Service, Mr. Reginald Bayoko, Information Commissioner, Mr. Patrick Ukah, Chaierman, Delta State Civil Service Commission, Dame Nkem Okwuofu, Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development, Chief Dan Okenyi, past and present Chairmen of Aniocha North Local Government Area, Hon. Jaunty Okwudi and Hon. Chuks Oseme among others.

In her remarks, the winner of the pageantry, Miss Adheke Oghenekome Lucy, who hails from Ughelli North Local Government Area, thanked the state government and the organizers for creating an enabling platform to promote peace in the state, in spite of the different ethnicities in the state.

 

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AGULU AGOG AS ONYINYE BRINGS COURAGE HOME FOR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE RITES (Igba-nkwu)

David Diai

 

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The Ancient, historic Town of Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State was agog on Saturday 20th August, 2016, when the family of Col. Reuben Nwako welcomed with open arms and a warm embrace, the family of Chief (Sir.) Paul Ngbanwa of Issele-Nkpitime, in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta, into the bosom of the Efele Family Compound, Akajiofor, in Agulu, at the behest of their beautiful daughter, Onyinye Obiajulu Nwako, who was bringing home to Agulu, Mr. Courage Oboli Ngbanwa, the handsome Prince from Issele Mkpitime, to perform the joyous and glorious traditional marriage rites in a ceremony filled with pomp, fanfare and cultural excellence.

ngbanwatrad1Decked in his majestic splendor, complete with his chieftaincy staff, traditional red cap, glittering in his shiny exotic Chocolate coloured attire and beaming with a satisfied smile of happiness and contentment that completely defied the heavy bursts of periodic rain-showers that blessed the occasion, Chief Sir Paul Ngbanwa, the Onwa ne-tili oha of Issele-Nkpitieme and Chairman, Funecolinks Group of Companies, ngbanwatrad14Lagos, accompanied by his elegant and beautiful wife, Chief Mrs. Edith Ngbanwa, the Ugochukwu-Tumeonye of Obior, their beautiful daughters and a colourful delegation of relatives and well wishers from Issele-Mkpitime and all over the Country, came into Agulu, for the sole purpose of taking the beautiful Miss Onyinye Nwako home, as the wife of his son, Courage Ngbanwa, a financial analyst, managing his own thriving financial Company, Divine Ucon Investment Nig. Ltd, Lagos, a daughter in-law to the famous Ngbanwa family and indeed the mother of the next generation of beautiful and gifted Ngbanwa grandchildren to the Glory of God and the enrichment of mankind.

agulu29Col. Reuben Igwebike Nwako, on the other hand boasts an intimidating resume. He is the Chairman at Younes Power Systems Nig Ltd, which specializes in Electrical/Electronic Manufacturing. A Former Director Enforcement, NAFDAC; Director of Investigation/operation, as well as Director Forensics, both in the NDLEA, he attended the FBI/DEA Training in Narcotics interdiction, USA,where he majored in Advanced narcotic analyses and Clandestine Lab Investigations, HE served meritoriously in the FDAC, NAFDAC, NDLEA and Nigerian Army, where he rose to become a Colonel.

He is an alumnus of the grreat University of Benin where he bagged a BSc Hons, Medical Microbiology and Bacteriology, boasts a Professional Diploma in Bacteriology and is an Associate Member Institute of Medical Sciences of Nigeria

ngbanwatrad3Col. Nwako was trained in Law Enforcement and Forensics by FBI/DEA IN USA 1996, trained also at the UN Training School Grand Bassam Ivory Coast 1998 on interdiction of Fake Pharmaceuticals, went to the college of Science and Tech Port-Harcourt and where he bagged a GCE A Level London i.e. “Bachelor of Science” or “BS”, GCE ‘A’Level University of London. He has also had stints at the School of Medical Lab Sciences, LUTH and is a Professional Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology/Technologist as well as an Associate Member of the Institute of Medical Lab Sciences of Nigeria.

agulu26Sadly however, Col. Nwako lost his dear darling wife, Mrs. Ebele Nwako, who succumbed to lung cancer and passed on to the great beyond just a couple of months ago, but the sad mood was only reflected in his dark glasses and the sober mood of mourning defined by his simple embroidered but well fitted pink caftan suit, complete with black cap, that hugged his still athletic frame several years after his retirement from the Nigerian Army in 1995, where he had served meritoriously for 16 years and 6 months.

agulu6The mood of the day became more carnevalesque as the people of Agulu and kinsmen to Col. Nwako started trooping into the spacious Efele Family Compound and not even the happy downpour could dampen the wonderful occasion as Col. Nwako, now in his elements and surrounded by his voluble kinfolk and a smattering array of distinguished retired Major Generals, including our own Umunede born General Mekwunye and flanked with protective solidarity Maj. Gen. R. Nkado, Commanding officer, 68 Military Hospital Command, Lagos and his men in full military uniform, supported by a detachment from Fer Cantonment, Onitsha, prayed for the new couple, wishing them divine blessing including a large family of Six Boys and Six girls.

ngbanwarad17Miss Onyinye Nwako (Bibble), the bride and beautiful daughter of Col. Reuben Nwako and a graduate of Novena University, in the company of her beautiful sisters and dashing brothers, embraced the rain in her elegant and stylish traditional attires as she danced, waltzed and swaggered not just to the drumbeats of rainfall, which magically energized her with vigour and euphoria, but indeed to the beautiful and popular hip-hop Nigerian songs which belted out by the Mercycrew Disk Jockeys and the well mastered promptings by Somto Orji, who was the MC of the day .

ngbanwatrad13Courage Nganwa himself, a graduate of Book-Keeping from the prestigious Babcock University and already a Master’s degree holder before the age of 26, was the epitome of calmness, as he followed through the well packaged ceremony with a gentle, focused and articulate mien, synonymous with great Financial Analysts, breaking into periodic gleans of satisfied smiles which sparkled with his well groomed beard and lit up his intelligent eyes, as he supported his wife all the way through the performing of all the traditional marriage rites and the final climax which culminated in the cutting of the marriage cake to the great admiration of the gathered well wishers and relatives, there by earning the huge respect and satisfactory nods of content from his father and mother.

ngbanwatrad25Dignitaries at the colourful marriage event included some political leaders from Aniocha North which includes Ogbuefi Nnamdi Mohanye, former Chairman PDP, Aniocha North, Hon. Sunday Young Chukwuedo, former Council Chairman PDP, Aniocha North, Hon. Matthew Chinye, Hon. Anslem Odiakose, Hon. Abania and a host of distinguished media consultants, communications experts, the colourfully dressed umu-nwanyi groups from Issele-Mkpitime, as well as corporate and business moguls like Dr. Feyi Olatoyinbo Managing Director WAFO Nig., Ltd Lagos and member of Island Club, Lagos, Mr. Godwin Odibei, Managing Director PHILGOD CHEM, Lagos and Chief Francis Ogbue all from Lagos.

ngbanwatrad4The high point of the occasion was the blessing of the bride by his father Chief Paul Ngbanwa, after which she was handed a cup of palm wine to locate her husband who, beaming like a happy child who had been found by a loving companion, danced round with her to get her father, Col. Nwako’s blessings, after which they both melted into the warm motherly embrace of Chief Mrs. Edith Ngbanwa, who also blessed them with her great emotion and cheering and ushered them into the matrimonial bliss of their bridal dance as husband and wife.

ngbanwatrad11The newly-weds then joined the Ngbanwa family and their entourage to Issele Nkpitime, where a lavish reception was already in full swing, to plan for the white wedding which will come up real soon.

FLASHPOINT NEWS ONLINE was there live in Agulu and will surely bring you the glorious photos and highlights of that ceremony. 

Meanwhile enjoy some of the beautiful moments of the Traditional Marriage between Courage Ngbanwa and Onyinte Nwako, as captured by the candid lens of Alloy, the excellent photographer.

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OF LOVE IN THE TIME OF BUHARINOMICS… –By Aikay Moustaphafa

aik1And so I made stew without tomatoes and we ate without smiling. That is how things are now. We take life as we see it, we don’t complain much.

Wifey voted APC and regrets it. There is no light, there is no water. She wan complain? No! Na who go even listen? All she mutters nowadys is “Baba Buhari don travel again”. And then she shakes her head while looking at me. I will always say nothing. Na me APC people wan take settle their matter? E no go work.

Since the APC has ensured that we will no longer chop tomatoes, I cooked a green stew. Don’t ask me how it is done, wait until I publish my cooking book.

My Sonia is a light eater and she “bites” two spoons and leaves the table. I like food, so I tuck in. Nowadays, you eat as much as possible, because the APC people may wake up and decide that we should not eat again.

She goes into her bedroom to do what am not sure of, but am sure that later I will see empty packs of Hollandia Yoghurt and Super Bites. Kai! Women!

Moments later, she saunters into the living room, I am watching Mohammed Ali on CNN, I am not too sure who he is or what he does, maybe he is Buhari’s brother too. Because I don’t understand how he becomes popular and well liked simply because he punches everyone around him. He must be an APC man o. In the APC, you punch innocent people and you become popular. Just like that.

My Sonia is looking well fed and happy with crumbs of things around her mouth (Babe enjoyed something nice while I ate my greenish stew abi?), and says in her bedroom voice, “Mr Aikay, you should go to the barber’s shop for a hair cut, you know you look nice when your hair is cut low.”

“I never won barb am.”

“Don’t tell me you want to weave it then.”

So, I picked my clipper and headed to Salisu’s shop. There is no light. Salisu cannot afford N145 per liter fuel. And if he does, I cannot afford to pay N500 for a haircut.

I go home whining, my Sonia has a solution for everything. You wan try African Romance?

Happy New Month folks…

– Aikay Moustapha (June 5, 2016)

LOVING CANADA AND HATING HITLER’S CHILDREN; A Review of Amatoritsero Ede’s ‘Gobetrotter & Hitler’s Children’.

By Ikhide Ikheloa

 

edeThe poet Amatoritsero Ede is a diviner and a brooding, sometimes angry one at that. Cast adrift in the materialistic spirit-free wastelands of the Western world he roams free in solo brainy protest. In the antiseptic hallways of shopping malls, and roaming long stretches of highways built to last umpteen injustices, he often stops to jot down furtive reminders of his exilic condition.

The result is trapped in a slim pretty book of poetry: Globetrotter and Hitler’s Children, published by Black Goat, a subsidiary of Akashic Books founded by the Nigerian author Chris Abani. First things first, major kudos to Chris Abani: From a production stand point, this book is an impressive job. It is a gorgeous ode to an elegant production, elevating the use of starkness and sparseness to beautiful, tasteful art. It is carefully edited, brooking no compromise whatsoever in quality. This is how books should be published. It is elegant but yet sturdy. Unlike most books I have been reading lately, especially those “published” in Nigeria, this one did not dissolve in my hands. This was not a book hastily slapped together with food glue.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Globetrotter and Hitler’s Children for many reasons and I heartily recommend it. It is an intriguing window into the soul of an eclectic thinker who is struggling mightily to marry two views of poetry – of the traditional, perhaps overly romanticized, and the contemporary, perhaps, too easily dismissed. Ede has made no secret of his contempt for much of what passes for poetry these days. He has garnered a reputation among respectable connoisseurs of the art as a finicky poet largely because his uncompromising ideals in terms of what he believes should be true poetry. Ede is fond of arguing that today’s poet should strive for a happy medium between the traditional and the contemporary and he has admonished the poet to find an appropriate niche compatible, with, and useful to his or her own talents within the provisions of tradition and then, hopefully, progress from there.

The book evocatively illuminates the poet’s struggles – with life and what poetry should be. It is divided into two sections: “Globetrotters” and “Hitler’s Children.” In the first section, Ede is at his best and it is infinitely worth more than the price of the book. Starting with the first page, this is poetry at its most accessible and it showcases a master wordsmith at the peak of his craft. The poetry, ah, the poetry. The prettiest page is the first page: “Toronto/is Amsterdam/ adrift at sea/ it breathes the open atlantic/ where lines and angles blur/ and bend into mist/ Toronto is Prague/ without her anchoring of/ narrow streets narrow sky/ and/ virgin-tight apartment blocks/ it is London long-jumping/ her imperial shadows/ Trafalgar-ing into space.” (17) Tight and nice. Poetry doesn’t get much better than this. But in Ede’s world, it thankfully does: “amongst the ruin and jazz/ of the old distillery/ young Toronto/ stops outside of troy/ in full teenage glare/ hair streaked with lightening/ because a girl smells better…/ she brushes a suitor’s kiss/ and the sun off her thundering skin” (22). Scrumptious.

The writing life for the sensitive immigrant of color can be tricky and frustrating. Self-absorption is a common affliction. Memories of Africa tend to burden the immigrant. There is an overabundance of documentation of the immigrant forcing life through the shattered lenses of (forced) exile. In Ede’s book, especially in the Globetrotter section, Africa’s memories are not needy; they do not swamp the poet’s sensitivities. In Globetrotters, Ede plumbs every nook and cranny of Canada with his razor sharp muse-eye. The result is brilliant, well, mostly. To the uninitiated, there are some puzzling lines that seemed grafted into meaning, like variations of red hot angst bleeding out of the reddened wayes of torture, and toil. Regardless, the reader’s heart melts with compassion at a life unraveling deep within the cold mystery of a riddle-journey: “Tears long as a calendar year/ and look where the street car has left a scar/ in the brush flower/ as it goes berlin-ing around queens avenue” (19).

The poetry fills the reader’s imagination with wonder; sin-rich opportunities lurk everywhere and the mind makes endless phallic trips: ”What does the endless/north american sky/ reveal/ like those sex workers/ in amsterdam’s love quarters/ she says simply/ I am wide open.” (p20) Yet wide vistas of opportunity narrow into tight-slit perspectives of reality and real despair: “So the street car becomes a train/ in slow phallic rush on laan van meerdervoort/in the hague/ flirting foolishly with the horizon/ the red light flashes /where there are no red-light districts.” (p20).

The section Globetrotter ends up being one long delightful poem, a gorgeous bouquet of pretty words arranged lovingly to produce a gently bubbling brook of immense depth: “here/you may turn the other cheek/ amongst your treeing laugh/many-timbered/ and not be impaled/ by hate’s spiked planks/ but only redistribute air/ lung it up larynx/ air/ streaming over tongue/ mirth-warmed to expand/ lumber up and down/ your tree-trunk torso/ till you shake limb/ after trembling limb… “(p33)

In Globetrotter, Ede uses delightful turns of phrases to unearth poetic gems. There are all these interesting and clever plays on words that flirt with the danger of imagined things. Globetrotter is a fresh poem, fresh as sizzling hissing fresh-baked bread. Perceptive. Nice.

It would be exciting to set Globetrotter to a visual presentation on video with a voice-over – a warm voice caressing all the places Ede’s spirit has been because in those places “where all colours meet/ a rainbow democracy signals spring/…as spring-spruced statues sparkle/ what green leaves and trees do too/ happy as the woodworm is happy.” (23) That would be nice.

If the section Globetrotter represents the accessible and contemporary, the second section Hitler’s Children represents the traditional and aloof, daring mere mortals to even look its way. The title Hitler’s Children does the poem an injustice of sorts. In a sense it does not tell the story that it promises. Unlike Globetrotter which is one long series of movements, Hitler’s Children is a series of unrelated poems. The poems in this section are not all about Germany. They veer and wander all over the place in minds and hearts where Germany is a skin head’s footnote.

The burden of the section seems lost in the opacity of self-absorption and in the dawning reality that several of the poems were written at several intervals long apart with little defining or uniting them. Perhaps the title of the second section should have tamped the expectation of a coherent thread. Take the poem The Skinhead’s Lord’s Prayer. It is an impish play on The Lord’s Prayer; however it misses by a wide margin a desired irreverence and dissolves into giggly clichés. It does however make for an interesting conversation piece, trying to decode the nexus between the Lord’s Prayer and Ede’s Germany.

Their Lord is probably not amused. Not that Ede cares. Almost juvenile in delivery, Ede comes across as a petulant guest throwing rocks at Germany’s dark issues. In the poem, Not in Love, troubling is the imagery: behold the national prick at half mast/ at the international fuck exchange/ rape is amerieuropean. (63) Is this vision, narcissism, or self absorption? This is a one-man Intifada against a Nazi Goliath but these are mostly inchoate lines birthed from poorly suppressed rage. The discipline of the first section Globetrotters gives way to a routine slapdash compilation of unrelated stanzas. And Ede’s poetry yields to an undisciplined militancy.

Beautiful images still escape the chaos: all our folk songs/ ungathered/ like a beautiful note/ strangled in the beak/ of a singing country… (64) And the poem Anike is quite simply delicious in the way it shows off Ede’s gifts: “and at night/when she finally explodes/ you shall have ashes in your mouth/ fire on your tail/ earth shall tremble/ as the volcano coughs. (97).

 

 

About The Reviewer

Ikhide Ikheloa is a reviewer, essayist and journalist. He has published several essays, short stories and poems in online and print journals and newspapers including Eclectica and Fogged Clarity. He writes a weekly column online and in print for the Nigerian newspaper 234Next. His work has also been featured in books and anthologies like Ogoni Agonies: Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Crisis in Nigeria. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah ed. (USA: AWP, 1998) and Weaverbird Collection. Akin Adesokan et al ed. (Lagos: Kachifo, 2008). He lives in the United States.

 

Culled from Maple Tree Literary Supplement

NENGI ILA’S EPISTLE TO THE PRESIDENT: Redefining The Existential Matrix Of Nigeria’s Collective Symbiosis -Review By David Diai

NENIt is not often that writers, especially African writers engage their leaders in a direct, intimate and conversational literary bonhomie, as a way of challenging and directing their focus towards the appreciation and resolution of the fundamental existential vacuums and vacancies in the polity they govern.

Usually and as history has so tritely confirmed, African and mostly Nigerian writers have preferred to employ the lyrical narrative context of the novel and even more the more pilfered and proliferated poetry collections the bulk of which have gone largely unnoticed and even further alienated the subjects of their engagement as a result of a combination of factors, including a crass display of inept ignorance of the art and stylistics of the poetic form and indeed a defined lack of aptitude in the interpretation and translation of society’s structural dislocations beyond the peripheral.

The Newspaper Column has however provided a seeming platform for prose-stylists to explore a more serious engagement of our leaders in the governance and existential discourse, but the eternal argument over the creative credentials of Newspaper Columnists in literary considerations has tended to diminish the scope and import of the columnist as a critical voice in the specific construct of literary documentations genre.

Nengi Ila, however appears to have transcended and subsequently welded the boundaries between the creative writer and the newspaper columnist, but again, that also requires certain authorial clarifications which will be revealed in the course of the piece.

Beyond that, but fundamentally central to this article is the fact that Nengi Ila has published a new book titled Epistles to the President, which has once again expanded the frontiers of our literary engagements by introducing a time tested genre in the authorial landscape: Epistolary.

For the records it is imperative to situate both Nengi Ila and his new work within the contextual framework it must be located. For starters the word epistolary comes from the Latin word epistolary, meaning a letter and an epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents and the usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used.

Recently however, electronic “documents” such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use.

The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story, because it mimics the workings of real life. It is thus able to demonstrate differing points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator.

There are two theories on the genesis of the epistolary novel. The first claims that the genre originated from novels with inserted letters, in which the portion containing the third person narrative in between the letters was gradually reduced.

The other theory claims that the epistolary novel arose from miscellanies of letters and poetry: some of the letters were tied together into a (mostly amorous) plot.

Both claims have some validity. There are three types of epistolary novels: monologic (giving the letters of only one character), dialogic (giving the letters of two characters) and polylogic (with three or more letter-writing characters). The first truly epistolary novel, the Spanish “Prison of Love” (Cárcel de amor) (c.1485) by Diego de San Pedro, belongs to a tradition of novels in which a large number of inserted letters already dominated the narrative.

Other well-known examples of early epistolary novels are closely related to the tradition of letter-books and miscellanies of letters. Within the successive editions of Edmé Boursault’s Letters of Respect, Gratitude and Love (Lettres de respect, d’obligation et d ‘amour) (1669), a group of letters written to a girl named Babet was expanded and became more and more distinct from the other letters, until it formed a small epistolary novel entitled Letters to Babet (Lettres à Babet).

The immensely famous Letters of a Portuguese Nun (Lettres portugaises) (1669) generally attributed to Gabriel-Joseph de La Vergne, comte de Guilleragues, though a small minority still regard Marianna Alcoforado as the author, is claimed to be intended to be part of a miscellany of Guilleragues prose and poetry. The founder of the epistolary novel in English is said by many to be James Howell (1594–1666) with “Familiar Letters”, who writes of prison, foreign adventure, and the love of women.

The first novel to expose the complex play that the genre allows was Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684), which appeared in three successive volumes in 1684, 1685, and 1687.

The novel shows the genre’s results of changing perspectives: individual points were presented by the individual characters, and the central voice of the author and moral evaluation disappeared (at least in the first volume; her further volumes introduced a narrator).

Behn furthermore explored a realm of intrigue with letters that fall into the wrong hands, with faked letters, with letters withheld by protagonists, and even more complex interaction. The epistolary novel as a genre became popular in the 18th century in the works of such authors as Samuel Richardson, with his immensely successful novels Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1749).

In France, there was Lettres persanes (1721) by Montesquieu, followed by Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (1761) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), which used the epistolary form to great dramatic effect, because the sequence of events was not always related directly or explicitly. In Germany, there was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774) (The Sorrows of Young Werther) and Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hyperion.

The first North American novel, The History of Emily Montague (1769) by Frances Brooke was written in epistolary form. And although the the epistolary novel slowly fell out of use in the late 18th century, the form nonetheless saw continued use, surviving in exceptions or in fragments in nineteenth-century novels.

In Honoré de Balzac’s novel Letters of Two Brides, two women who became friends during their education at a convent correspond over a 17 year period, exchanging letters describing their lives. Mary Shelley employs the epistolary form in her novel Frankenstein (1818). Shelley uses the letters as one of a variety of framing devices, as the story is presented through the letters of a sea captain and scientific explorer attempting to reach the North Pole who encounters Victor Frankenstein and records the dying man’s narrative and confessions. In the late 19th century, Bram Stoker released one of the most widely recognized and successful novels in the epistolary form to date, Dracula.

Printed in 1897, the novel is compiled entirely of letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, doctor’s notes, ship’s logs, and the like, which Stoker adroitly employs to balance believability and dramatic tension Epistolary novels have made several memorable appearances in more recent literature and these include the writings of some very famous authors like Fyodor Dostoevsky in his first novel, Poor Folk (1846), as a series of letters between two friends, struggling to cope with their impoverished circumstances and life in pre-revolution Russia; Spanish foreign minister Juan Valera’s Pepita Jimenez (1874) is writing in three sections, with the first and third being a series of letters, while the middle part is a narration by an unknown observer; C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters (1942); Theodore Sturgeon’s short novel, Some of Your Blood (1961), which consists of letters and case-notes relating to the psychiatric treatment of a non-supernatural vampire; Saul Bellow’s novel Herzog (1964) which is largely written in letter format in the form of real and imagined letters, written by the protagonist Moses E. Herzog to family members, friends and famous figures.

There are also writings by the famous horror novel tzar Stephen King in the novel Carrie (1974), which is written in an epistolary structure, through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, and excerpts from books; Alice Walker, who employed the epistolary form in The Color Purple (1982) and which the 1985 film adaptation echoed the form by incorporating into the script some of the novel’s letters, which the actors spoke as monologues; Ronald Munson used an epistolary style in “Fan Mail” (1994), where the entire plot is told using e-mails, letters, transcripts of television shows and telephone conversations, faxes, and interactions with a computer program called ELIZA; Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) which was written by in the form of letters from an anonymous character to a secret role model of sorts; Richard Wright’s Clara Callan (2001), which uses letters and journal entries to weave the story of a middle-aged woman in the 1930s and most recently, “The Confessions of Max Tivoli” by Andrew Sean Greer – 2004; World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (2006) by Max Brooks is a series of interviews from various survivors of a zombie apocalypse. My Sister’s a Pop Star (2006), I’m SO Not a Pop Star (2008), and the third book in the series, My Life on TV (2010), by American author Kimberly Greene, who uses blog posts to move the plot along and introduce key changes in the protagonist’s thinking.

There is no doubt that Nengi Ila is definitely is in good international company with Epistles to the President and he has even moved the genre a notch further in the Nigerian cyber space context because this work is a series of Epistles to the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, posted on the popular social network platform Facebook and the matrix of connectivity between President Goodluck and the writer in this particular context reconciles itself in the fact that Mr. President not only operates an interactive Facebook account, he has even arguably beaten Nengi Ila to the Epistolary documentation genre by actually presenting his own work “My Friends and I” a collection of selected interactive discourses between him and some of his Facebook friends, before the publication of Ila’s Epistles to the President.

Beyond that noted aside however, is the critical fact that Nengi Ila’s Epistles to the President is a more definitive, structured and polemic epistolary collection which not only distils the phenomenal, historic and monumental significance of a Southern President in Nigeria but equally engages that presidency in a series of existential arguments invoking several comparative indices both from within and outside. The Epistles, Twelve (12) of them, traces the political movement of President Goodluck, from his days as Deputy Governor in Bayelsa State through his emergence as Governor and them Deputy President of Nigeria to his ultimate recognition as the President of Nigeria and his crowning moment as the first elected President of the country from the South South and the Niger Delta.

In the process of this trajectory, Nengi Ila not only evokes the ethos of the seemingly endless Niger Delta struggle for emancipation and marginalization, especially with the new strategy of perfidy and invidious attacks both physical and metaphoric on the polity and presidency, by those suddenly out of power, but equally and in unequivocal terms, locates President Goodluck within the proper ambit and context of his collective mandate and authority authorized by the masses as the President of Nigeria.

Each Epistle begins with an apt epigram from such international figures of the universal struggle like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, Kennedy, Aggrey and of course the two pillars of literature, Cicero and Shakespeare. Ila also quotes Wole Soyinka’s the “Idiom Closure” in the first Epistle and uses this to set the tone nicely for the rest of the discourse in the remaining Epistles.

The book opens with an introductory piece called The Making of a President, (after the Profile of the President) in which Nengi Ila outlines the framework of the agenda contained in the Epistles. Tracking President Goodluck to his early days as Governor of Bayelsa state Ila writes “At the beginning, in point of fact, he was not altogether sure of himself.

Greatness was suddenly thrust onto his lap, and he was understandably flustered. He couldn’t believe his good luck. His confidence only grew from day to day but, in all, his humility showed from the first day…He seemed to wonder what was executive about being a governor.

He simply did not care for extra appellations when there was work waiting to be done…A modest and unassuming leader, not given to flamboyance or idle promises, he believed simply in work as a daily code of conduct. His resolve to be the yeoman at work showed in his readiness to appear in casual work clothes rather than ceremonial wear.

To be at the helm of affairs was to be entrusted with a sacred duty to lead his people into a new season of industry, with tangible results to show for it” Epistles to the President is defined by several polished characteristics. It is witty, ditto Epistle V: “…The front page headline was simply irresistible “22 fire fighters sent to save cat. I read the story and got to know that, in the end only one fire fighter climbed to rescue the cat from a rooftop, sirens and all. Immediately it landed safely on the ground, the cat ran away…” It is also laced with sharp reasoning and an eclectic understanding of the critical issues at stake, it invokes the important flashpoints of the Goodluck Presidency, from the tragedies on the campaign trail to the campaigns of calumny and obloquy by certain monolithic national statesmen richly captured by Martin Luther King in the epigram of Epistle II “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”. It equally reconciles itself with the urgency of the transformation agenda by the President in last Epistle, but more than anything else, it elevates Nigerian writing and indeed the collective psyche from a connundrumatic lethargy which has hallmarked a generation in the throes of a redefinition, emblematized by the symbolic national acceptance of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the President of Nigeria. And now to the earlier hinted revelation to wit: Nengi Ila is none other than awarded wining Nigerian Poet, renowned Newspaper Columnist, broadcaster, journalist, culture activist and one of the finest literary craftsmen and engaging thinkers in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and indeed Africa, Nengi Ilagha. Popularly called Pope Pen the first, Nengi has also worked as Speech writer and Special Adviser on Research and Documentation to Governor Diepreye Alamieyesiegha and most importantly President Goodluck Jonathan in Bayelsa State, a position in which he enjoyed a cordial working relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan.

There is no doubt that Epistles to the President is an invaluable addition to the current and unravelling discourse of Nigeria and indeed the debate on our collective future as a nation and it is only to be expected that this will surely be the first instalment in the (monologic) Epistolary engagement of existential relationships as a collective people in the global space of this millennial epoch.

NEGO POETRY CORNER HOLDS THIRD EDITION COMPETITION

The gradually growing popularity of the Nego Poetry Corner of the Delta State University was taken to another exciting level on the 19th of March 2011, when the highly innovative project hosted the third Edition of its annual poetry contest for students of the University.

The contest which took place at Astcan hall, the largest hall in Delta State University Abraka site II, received poetry entries form poets of diverse departments, which were submitted online to the poetry corner website www.negopoetrycorner.com.

The received submissions were then put through a thorough screening/auditions exercise by a select group of judges and in the 10 finalists emerged. The judges included Dr. Roy Omoni Alex a Lecturer in the English an Literary Studies of Delta State University, DELSU Abraka and also the current Treasurer of ANA (Association Of Nigerian Authors), Delta State Chapter and Mr. Pope Green Okome, a Lecturer of over 14 years standing in the Theatre Arts Department of DELSU Abraka.

The Poetry Corner contest proper was thus a keenly contested competition which featured a Red Carpet reception for the dignitaries, poetry and songs performances and recitations from the selected contestants as well as an evocative narration cum dramatization of the history of the Nego Poetry Corner. There was also lots of music and dance.

At the end of the recitations and performances all of which took place under the watchful assessment of the judges, Abednego Oghenechovwiere Omashone a 100 level student of the English and Literary Studies DELSU Abraka emerged as the winner with his poem “NOT AGAIN” taking home the first prize of $150, a dekk-seven branded shirt and other prizes, Okomeno Kenneth Ugbara a 300 level student of the Business Administration Department DELSU Anwani Campus with his poem “WORDS FOR WAR” holding on to the second prize of a $100. Pope Tuggen won the third prize of $75 with his poem “I SAW HER”

Organizer of the Nego Poetry Corner Nwakaego Aghedo gushed with pride at the end of the contest and thanked all those who made the contest a success, especially the judges who took time out of their busy schedule to be identified with the project and indeed the contestants without whom there would not even have been a contest in the first place.

She equally solicited for greater support for the project especially from the Delta State Ministry of Culture and Tourism and indeed all lovers and patrons of poetry in the State.

Commenting on the event, a guest at the show Mr. Samson llaya the Former Rotarator President of DELSU, Abraka noted that, “the contest has really shown that there is a lot more to poetry than I had earlier imagined. I never knew it could be so interesting. I salute the organizers of the Nego poetry corner contest”

In his own comments, a judge and senior lecturer with the Deparmet of Theatre Arts DELSU, Dr. Green Okome said that the Nego Poetry was a step in the right direction especially as its main objective was to encourage young people to embrace Poetry and enjoy the art in a friendly and entertaining atmosphere.

Said he; “I must commend the Co-ordinator of the Nego Poetry Corner contest for this wonderful initiative. It is indeed a laudable project and I am glad to have been involved with it, because it not only helps to get young people involved with poetry, it also encourages the reading and literary culture amongst our youths which will go a long way to improving the overall literacy and educational standard of our leaders of tomorrow.”

Speaking further, Dr. Okome said, “I want to also call on stakeholders in the Culture and Arts industry, including the government and lovers of Literature and the Arts, to encourage this young Lady Nwakaego Aghedo and the Nego Poetry Corner and to see this initiative as another avenue through which our youths can be positively engaged in shaping them to become responsible and literate leaders of the future. I am really impressed with project”

Highlights of the event included presentation of gifts and solo musical performances by invited artists.

The next edition of the Nego Poetry Corner contest will come up in 2012, but the organizers have promised that there will be other programmes and events from the Nego Poetry Corner between now and the next Annual Competition.

Sanya Osha’s Naked Light and the Blind Eye

Review by Chris Dunton, National University of Lesotho

 

The opening of this debut novel gives a reliable indicator of its dominant stylistic tendency, louring, metaphorical, and dotted with quasi-metaphysical formulations: “The window panes had a sombre cast as rain streaked down them like half frozen tears. Night time didn’t seem persuasive. It was as if it didn’t believe in itself.” A pathetic fallacy then leads us into the opening gambit of the plot: “She had gone . . . . My being in its entirety blended with the rain.”

Solomon, the first-person narrator, is sixty. After one of his habitual bouts of violence, his wife, Tani, has left him, being pregnant and taking with her the other children. He meditates on “the origins of my fucked-upness. I felt so twisted and incapable of turning around my life.”

A level of abstraction opens up that threatens to leave the reader beached: “No excuse could be found to be blood, sperm and real tears again through an exactitude that was without antecedents, that wasn’t a correlative of an already lingering presence”—the only possible response to which is “come again,. guv?”  This weakens the musculature of what would otherwise have been a lean, mean novel; a little editorial pressure would have been salutary.

Solomon regards his wife as a “slut”, a money-guzzler, and his life with her one of vacuous “surface glitter.” The depth of his alienation from her is matched only by his own self-denigration (and Osha conveys both with a bleak authenticity).

The style calms down a bit (though still packed with imagery, some of it very striking) as Solomon recalls the history of his birthplace, a moribund backwater populated with cynical drunkards and promiscuous women; he sees himself as perpetuating the village’s cycle of defeat in his own wasted life.

We do get Tani’s low-down on her husband, but her characterization (albeit from Solomon’s point-of-view) is unremittingly harsh: on his view, she is an untransformable peasant (“her mouth stank! She didn’t even know how to kiss properly.”)

All of this is played out in “a city in ruins and in throes of anguish [where] pain and hopelessness had touched everything.” Osha takes the idea of urban entropy to an extreme, producing images that are iconic and yet freshly shocking, for example that of a madman eating a cellophane bag full of rotten melon soup, salvaged from a garbage bin. If one important element in understanding entropy is a breakdown in communication, then that is exemplified here, with virtually no character able to talk constructively to any other, least of all Solomon and Tani.

Part One ends with the introduction of Solomon’s illegitimate son, Ayimola, a poet who produces a startling and cynical piece on Socrates and Alcibiades (which ends with the philosopher unscrewing his prick, sticking it in his randy devotee’s bum, and walking off) and  photographer who achieves some measure of notoriety with his shots of rubbish dumps (the composition of which has for him an aesthetic appeal, a crux Osha could have worked on further, as in critiques of Pieter Hugo’s photos of Nollywood and of computer-dumps in Accra).

Solomon dies, unloved and alone. Part Two opens with the funeral and with quarrels over what remains of his estate. An extensive flashback fills in the picture of the dysfunctional rural community and of his upbringing—a site of delinquency, betrayal, cruelty and vengefulness. Here Osha takes us just about as far from the image of the still-pristine enclave of pre-colonial life as it is possible to go. Acts of theft are paradigmatic of the state of this place: “a destruction of the communal bond, a deep psychological disturbance, a severance at the heart of the community, an injury to peace and truth”—but then it is difficult to see what there is left to injure. (There is, at least, still story-telling. Throughout the village scenes animal fables are performed; this can seem such a tired ploy, but here they are truly enlivening, because they are so judiciously chosen).

A hundred pages in there is the first hint of the wider, national scene, when soldiers raid the village, hunting for young political activists. The generally cringe-inducing blurb for the novel refers to its setting as “the Niger Delta, where unctuous [sic] black oil stains the happiness of the Ogoni people”, which suggests that Naked Light might be a contribution to an emerging sub-genre of the Nigerian novel, the Delta crisis novel, in common with Helon Habila’s The River and Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist. This turns out to be not really the case, as the main thematic thrust of the novel has to do with its multiple domestic crises. Nonetheless, the episodes that deal with the depredations of the military are well-handled.

An aside here. Osha’s soldiers are without exception depraved and their assault on the village is brutal in the extreme. Fair enough: this is what is going down. But whenever I read an account such as this, I remember riding in a bus past Kirikiri jail, with two young soldiers who were crying with shame and anger at what had just taken place: Abacha’s demonstration execution of young prisoners, some of whom were still awaiting trial. “How can I hold my head up now?” one asked. “As a soldier I am hated by my own people.” Which leads to the observation that with very few exceptions (Burma Boy, which deals with the relatively distant past; Song for Night), the Nigerian novel has not attempted to explore the lives and consciousness of the military.

From this point on the plot broadens. With Ayimola now embedded in the familial pandemonium of Tani’s house, in the latter part of the novel he emerges as a central character. He takes up with Henrietta, an artist, half-Swiss. “At over forty she was still a firebrand, she wanted . . . real drastic reform so that the black man could be truly liberated.” The relationship is a difficult one, as Ayimola is afraid she will blot him out, that he will become completely subsumed under the force of her personality.

Henrietta is committed to Nigeria and to trying to revitalize its artistic life (“I’ve been paying my dues to see that things work out in this country.”) Yet her disgust at Nigeria’s violence and degeneration knows no bounds; she sees the fact that she’s entitled to a Swiss passport as a possible escape route. However justified her tirades are, given the evidence on the ground, they still leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Perhaps this is an indicator that the novel is aiming to work as a carminative, prompting the question why on earth should one feel the urge to defend Nigeria?

The last section of Naked Light is like an unraveling spool, with new characters introduced and a deepening sense of the unlikelihood of any fulfilling relationship being founded between any of the characters, old or new—a profoundly alienated cluster of individuals, driving each other to despair in a god-forsaken pit of a city.

Osha has talent bursting at the seams (though it could certainly do with some more disciplined channeling). In Naked Light he seems to have set out to produce one of the most unremittingly harrowing works of fiction yet to emerge from a Nigerian writer (and there is certainly stiff competition here). One could argue that in relation to previous novels on rural disintegration and urban decay he is rather too consciously upping the ante.