We Are Not Yet Free: Nigeria’s Independence Day

Every 1st of October , Nigerians celebrate freedom,

We remember, recall the day we were set free.

Set free?

Were we not born equal to all, were we not born free?


And through the millennia, we have been chasing the elusive promise of freedom.

But we are not yet free,

Not when difference can still result in death in Maiduguri or Maroko

We are not yet free,

Not when difference determines our destiny

We are not yet free

Not till the works of our hands can bless our lands

We are not yet free,

Not till our bodies and minds and spirits are free

Men and women, free from all sorrow, from all of pain.


We are not yet free

Not till our voices are free, not till our voices are heard equally,

We are not free

Not till our minds and visions and dreams are free

We are not free

Not till we see the face of justice,

We are not free

Not when the land confines us,

Not when we are imprisoned by false borders

Not when we are chained by the scripts that aim to define us.

Not till tomorrow is certain.



So this is not yet home

This is not the promised land,

This is not yet uhuru,

We cannot yet sing liberdade

We have not yet tasted ominira

Our journey is not yet at an end,

Our destination is still ahead.

We may be on the mountaintop, but paradise lies beyond the horizon,

Here on the mountaintop, paradise is in sight, paradise is within reach.


Liberty belongs to those brave enough to take it,

Salvation belongs to those with enough faith to believe it,

Peace is for those with hearts big enough to wear it

Freedom belongs to those wise enough to understand it.

And then we will be free.

Then we will be free.

But not yet.




Call for Abstracts: ALA conference 2017 – Africa and the World, deadline 15 November 2016

‘Call for Abstracts: ALA conference 2017 – Africa and the World, deadline 15 November 2016’

Call for Abstracts

African Literature Association Conference 2017

Africa and the World: Literature, Politics, and Global Geographies

ALA2017The theme chosen for the June 14-17, 2017 conference at Yale seeks to engage with and interrogate recent shifts in critical and theoretical frameworks from regional, national, and “postcolonial” models towards “world literature” as a framework for understanding the literatures of the Global South. How useful is the category of world literature in our ongoing contestation of Eurocentrism in the interpretation of African literatures and cultures? What possibilities are offered by African literatures and cultures for (re)imagining the world, including the “world” posited by recent theorizations?

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I Am More


I am more than my skin,

More than this melanin that defies the sun,

More than this pigment that speaks of magic, mayhem and oppression,

That sings of a people lost in the waters, lost in the fields.

I am more.


I am more than my hair,

More than this stringy mass of curls that refuses to bow to acids,

More than this untamed mane that closes schools and offices,

More than this banner of fear and violence.

I am more.


I am more than my curves,

More than this secret language of fetishization

More than the obsession with black exoticism

Which sees my sisters traded to Italy.

More than the savagery that paraded Baartman,

More than the evil that isolated Truganini and killed her people.

I am more.


I am my grandmother’s wrinkles

I am my grandmother’s wishes.

I am the dream that my grandmother had as she trekked through Nigeria’s forgotten pathways

I am my mother’s aspirations

I am my mother’s ambitions

I am the song that my mother sang on the banks of a faraway river.


I am the birth of yesterday’s visions,

I am tomorrow

I am today.

I am the future, the present and the past.

And so are we all.

We are black women,

We are more.

The Failure to Study Nigerian History: A tragedy

When I was in Secondary School, some of my friends and I decided to study history instead of government. Our history teacher was shocked and surprised. It is quite interesting that despite being one of the most feared teachers in school, she became to the four of us the most approachable of teachers. She even managed to fill in the gap and keep up our studies when she was on maternity leave and the school made no provision for us to continue studying – since we were ‘merely’ studying ‘history’ – history said with much derision.

I have often lamented the fact that it is not compulsory to study history in Nigerian Schools. I know of no country that wishes to make something of itself where this is the norm. How can you chart a way forward for a nation that knows nothing of where its people have been, the dreams they have dreamed, the hopes, the victories, the tragedies and triumphs of the past? The answer is it is impossible. A people who do not know their history are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. Professor Marwick argues for the necessity of history, on the grounds that ‘knowledge of the past is essential to society …Without knowledge of the past we would be without identity, we would be lost on an endless sea of time’.

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
Michael Crichton

We do not who we are because we do not know where we have been or who we have been. So we do not know who we may become.

What is Nigeria?

Many argue that Nigerian history began in 1960 (or 1914, if you want to be pedantic about it.) This is of course false. Nigerian history stretches to the dawn of time and far beyond the geographical space of what is now known as Nigeria. History speaks to more than mere facts, history speaks to a continuum that places us in this moment at the epicentre of a movement of human revolutions. Nigerian history speaks to  not only the time of the exile of Ovonrawem Nogbaisi, but to what lay at the heart of the rise and fall of great empires – From Sundiata to Idris Alooma, from Amina to Osei Tutu.

What is History?

One of the most concise descriptions of historiography calls it:

‘the bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians, together with everything that is involved in the production, communication of, and teaching about that knowledge.’

History is also about testimony – it is an account of someone who was there. As we know from court testimony, witness is unreliable because it is subjective. That subjectivity is also part of historiography. The account of the Civil War (1967-1970) would be constructed differently by different sides. Ultimately that subjectivity is as much as part of the history as the events themselves.

But Why is History Important? I hear you ask me…

History helps us understand change and how the society we live in came to be. We now live in a country that knows nothing of MKO Abiola, how can we expect people to understand the coups of 1966, and the persistent effects if they do not know of them? How can we argue for decolonising the mind, when there is no study of the history of the colonial enterprise?

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

Our failure to make the study of history compulsory in Nigerian schools is an act of self-destruction.

We should understand that the past causes the present, and so the future. We sit about and lament the destruction of the present, not realising that our inaction is a blot on our children’s future. We are the moment and should be the movement. Our preoccupation with the failure of our leaders as the sole reason for our national malaise, shows an abject underappreciation for Nigerian history.

As I state in my thesis, when discussing West African  (16th-19th century) history…

‘Many kingdoms suffered from internal weaknesses due to conflicts over succession, weakened central government, ambitious governors or provincial rulers, violent attempts by vassal or constituent states or provinces to secede,  continuously expanding empires that were difficult to administer and/or defend, incompetent, corrupt, extravagant, tyrannical and/or ineffective rulers who employed questionable imperial administration techniques ethnic and cultural clashes between heterogeneous peoples of a kingdom and religious conflict.’

These problems are persistent. Study to solve.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Edmund Burke

History contributes to moral understanding. We assume that we know what the values of our ancestors were. But till we study the people we do not know what they believed.  A past where Amina could lead men into battle victoriously has birthed a present where a woman cannot walk down a street without being told she cannot. A past where the Fon N’Nonmiton of Old Dahomey withstood the might of the Egba, hunted elephants and debated policy, has preceded a present where a man will refuse to speak to woman but insist on meeting her husband. Many nations have a charter of values, while in Nigeria our values seem to be a preoccupation with greed, disorder and violence. The values of history tell a different story.

So we do not know our values, we do not know who we are or where we have come from. History provides identity and  studying history is essential for good citizenship. A people who do not know who they are cannot be good citizens. A country with good citizens will produce good leaders. But if you like vote till tomorrow and cross carpet a billion times, a country with bad citizens will produce bad leaders. Secede till tomorrow, divide a million times, Naija’s problem is staring at you in the mirror. History helps us understand the origins of modern political and social problems. The problems of Nigeria extend from a mix of pre-colonial incompetence, contemporary incongruence with the international system, and colonial artefacts. Our trouble today is a product of where we have been, without taking a journey into the past, we cannot hope to find solutions for today and tomorrow.

“Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”
Jomo Kenyatta

History makes us appreciate that people in the past were not just ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but motivated in complex and inconsistent ways, just like us. Therefore the Nigerian who has a different ethnicity from you cannot be bad, just because they are different, and a person who has the same ethnicity is not irrevocably good. The study of history  helps us to develop the ability to assess evidence of many sorts. We are presented with a great multitude of witnesses to the upheavals of the age; studying their motives helps us to understand ours.

We need to always remember that history is subjective. The lion and the hunter will tell a different story of the hunt. This does not make either testimony false. The study of history makes us realise that someone’s contrary opinion is not an attack for which we need to mount a spirited defence.

Finally the study of history prevents us from being unduly seduced by the prospect of ‘change’. The study of history is the study of change. A knowledge of history helps us ask the pertinent questions. We can step beyond ‘What?’ and ‘Where?’ to ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
Winston S. Churchill

Again, our failure to make the study of history compulsory in Nigerian schools is an act of self-destruction. Destruction of the present and the future.

Freedom and Love and Peace

oppression is an anchor

always pressing downwards

like a dagger in the heart.


the big boss bullies the big man

who bullies the small man

who bullies his wife

who bullies their child

who bullies the small children

who bully themselves

like a dagger in the heart




the nation bullies the poor ones

who bully the different ones

who bully the more different ones

who bully the more more different ones

who bully themselves

like a dagger in the heart



the big nations bully the small nations

who bully the smaller nations

who bully their people

who bully their women

who bully other women

who bully themselves

like a dagger in the heart





turn around

turn around that message of oppression

turn around

divide the multiplicity of oppression

turn around

lift someone up instead


love is a sunbeam

peace is like sunlight

and freedom, freedom like the skylark, flies upward

freedom flies upward