Nigeria : A Failed State ?

51mvwoqazcl-_sx329_bo1204203200_« Scapegoating has not helped any nation to evolve ; Nigeria won’t be the exception. The best approach is to search for the cause of the failures and confront it. A country where politics is the chief means of livelihood is sitting on a time bomb. This perception brings about « national cake syndrome »; national cake brings equity in public office; equity in public office reinforces rotational presidency; and rotational presidency, in turn, nurtures the agitation for national conference. »

Robert Nwadiaru introduces us to the present-day Nigeria, the African Giant, a country with infinite riches, both natural and human, yet which still struggles after more than half a century after the independence.

The book that critics have compared to Chinua Achebe’s The Trouble with Nigeria from 1983 transports its reader to Nigeria and  makes him feel like he knows it intimately ; the fine geographical details, as well as the constant references to the political, historical, and economical context in the past 50 years, offer a large view of what Nigeria is and, more, of what it could be. Understanding Nigeria’s present is a way to understand Africa’s development in the larger context of the contemporary world.

If the book analyses closely the reasons of the country’s failure, the blame is put on the political caste: corruption, poverty, poor infrastructure are all consequences of the bad political organization of Nigeria. However, far from being merely pessimistic, the book also analyses possible solutions, therefore making the politicians even more reponsible for the direction in which the country evolves.

Acclaimed by Kirkus Rieviews in 2015 for its first edition, Robert Nwadiaru’s book is sharp, critical and realistic. It is the lucid account of an author and citizen who knows the true potential of his country.

Is Nigeria a failed state? The question is open to discussion making the book a necessary reading in the contemporary world. We are therefore invited to meditate on the burning issues it raises.

Nigeria: A Failed State? by Robert Nwadiaru

978-1632689276 / Tate Publishing (January 27, 2015)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

 

The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi

41yp8iau2bnl-_sx331_bo1204203200_« Obi got home to find Ike asleep beside Nkechi while she watched television. Seeing the image of his family, the one he had consciously created, made it crystal clear to him that these two people were his main priority in life. This was his wife and his son, and he had chosen them. »

On New Year’s Day, Obi Ifeanyi, in his early thirties, happily married and a father, realizes he reached a critical point: is the life he has really the one he wants ? Is love really the way he imagined it ? Is responsibility harder to take that he thought ?

In the time span of one year, in the context of Obama’s second election, the characters of Achebe’s novel all seem to become suddenly aware of the complexity of human relations ; in his circle of educated and open-minded friends, Obi takes a step back from everything he thought he knew and question the values he was brought up to believe in, like marriage, loyalty, or love.

Chinedu Achebe’s novel could be read as a modern version of coming of age in a globalized world in which even growing up isn’t was what it used to be ; education is here replaced by miseducation as if to signify that coming of age evolves with time and society. At different times of their lives, the characters in the novel discover different faces of themselves in relations to others; some of these faces are positive, others are darker and less loyal than they thought.

So what happens when education meets miseducation ? When people meet new challenges and discover that even in older generations human relations were more complex than meets the eye? The characters are never more faced with their true nature than when novelty (be it a former lover, a new job, a new baby, the decision to get married) comes their way.

Obi’s new coming of age is realizing that things are never really what they seem. In a world of intercultural relations, where tradition is redefined and challenged, Obi becomes the icon of a generation who feels they do not have to identitify with something and stick to it, but rather becoming different with every experience.

The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi by Chinedu Achebe

978-1975784140 / CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (22 octobre 2017)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

 

Forbidden Fruit

51a1pyfqibl-sx316-sy316All his life into grey sideburned middle age, Ombima had never really stolen from anyone. He had always worked tirelessly for what little he had. Of course there were those petty offenses, like pilfering fruit from a neighbor’s tree and things like that that everyone does as a boy and which is not seriously considered as theft. But stealing satisfy a burning need he had never done. He had always gone out of his way to keep on his cloak of honesty, even after he got married and the hardships of looking after a family pressed. Today Ombima was going to steal. Not money, not silver. He was going to steal food. Plain, life sustaining food, and it weighed him down with such shame he could hardly keep his head straight.”

How difficult is it to make the right choices and change one’s life?

That is the question Ombima asks himself constantly throughout the novel- a middle-aged married man with two children who should be contented about his modest but happy life, but whose life is rapidly changing the night he decides to steal food from his attractive boss and neighbour Madam Tabitha.

As the plot unfolds, the reader discovers that the honest and kind character changes as temptation, under all its forms, seduces him and shows him another side of life. However, when sickness and death touch his family, his priorities will be challenged.

Stanley Gazemba’s intense and highly visual novel takes the reader into a journey into the human mind and offers a perspective on how vulnerable our principles about life really are. The nocturnal scenes give a particular depth to the plot and make us question Ombima’s uprightness, and reveal a dark, oneiric vision both of the world and of the human spirit- a place and time where control over one’s passions and unknown weaknesses is loosened.

This nocturnal introspection is also illustrated by the web of relations between the main characters (Ombima, his wife Sayo, and their friends to show the character that nothing is ever certain and definitive when it comes to human interactions.

It is in this grave atmosphere that Gazemba’s powerful writing highlight the human attitudes before life’s unpredictability; before temptation and death, Ombima is the emblematic Man torn between good and evil, between love and lust, between duty and freedom.

Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

978-0998642307 / The Mantle (June 6, 2017)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature in an international highschool in France.

The Triangle

109801549-brKalinda could sense Kabaka Mwanga, who sat on a chair in front of the crowd frowning, probably burning inside. Before the match, the Kabaka had been soft and sweet when saying the encouraging words to Kalinda, ‘‘I want you to win that cow. I want to watch you push that man’s head onto the ground.’’ Kalinda had wanted to hug the Kabaka in gratitude. But he knew he dare not. No one hugged the Kabaka, not even his own mother, at least not in the sight of everyone. Mwanga’s face, graced with a budding beard and wide-eyes that softly talked when the two were together, was now a picture of concentration. There was no way he was letting the Kabaka down.”

Buganda, 1885. A monarchic society with a sophisticated culture, strict rules, and a complex hierarchy.

In the proximity of the royal palace of the Kabaka (or king) Mwanga, three characters see their lives intertwined: Kalinda, one of his pages, Nagawa, his second wife, and Reverend Clement MacDonald, an Anglican missionary in Buganda.

Mwanga’s life is woven little by little through this triangle of characters, and is also opening up to the bigger picture of the late 19th century Buganda: a period of religious tensions, of competition for power and of foreign domination ahead. The three stories offer different facets of the king’s life and the way Mwanga is depicted, and with him, the whole country, is more the result of a mirroring effect through other people’ eyes; the royal family, the pages, the villagers, the foreigners, all bring their contribution to the narrative.

Nakisanze Segawa’s novel is written with a sharp sense of observation and in a fluid, transparent language that transports the reader back to the time and place of the plot.

A novel in which feminine figures like Nagawa give meaning to the notion of home on the eve of the bloody religious conflicts of 1886-1889 and dare live their own secret lives.

A novel combining elements of fictional biography, saga and history book, rich with details and true to life.

 

The Triangle by Nakisanze Segawa

978-9970958108 / National Library of Uganda (August 24, 2017)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English to high school students in France.

Crossroads.Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda

5185z3fsyql“The two women who raised me never read books and had little education (…) but each told me in these exact words: ‘Be whatever you want to be. Go wherever your fantasies take you, as long as that place exists.’

For me, that place is in the literary world, where my name won’t trigger any evil suspicions, and I will be accepted for what I am, just like Chinua and Ngugi.

My name is Nakisanze Segawa.”

(from “My Name” by Nakisanze Segawa)

Fifteen stories about women’s statuts, life, ambitions and fears.

Fifteen testimonies of today’s life in Uganda where, like anywhere else, writers shape their own world and want to make a difference in people’s way of thinking.

In these autobiographical stories, some of which are gripping by their sharp observation of everyday life, what is ultimately challenged is narrow-mindedness: from the status and life of single women in small communities where marriage is compulsory, to high education; from male abuses to lesbianism; from pre-defined identities to literature as the free open space of defining oneself.

The authors’ voices are imprinted with a journalistic clear and insightful sense of observation which gives the stories a universal dimension, in spite of their obvious geographical focus. While reading them, one realizes that many injustices are closely linked to the misunderstanding of “culture”; each author gives a personal explanation of their own vision of culture and of how it should help people to evolve and open their minds to the world and themselves, rather than imprison them.

Finally, it is through writing that these female writers manage to create a space of freedom and introspection. It is yet another proof that language and discourse are ways of endlessly reinventing the world.

Crossroads. Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda

9781507680223 / Christopher Conte Editor/ 2015

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English to high school students in France.

Wandering Feet on Pebbled Shores

36008689Of the road ahead no one told him though,

how it bends like a snake, like an English old lane

on and on it goes without end. (…)

Tell the child fearful of vesperides and mirages,

(…) that the road not travelled will remain quiet paths

like voices, buried as silences, in the sepulcher of narrow throats;

but the road trodden will reveal ancient legends and secrets

which no travaler tells but which everyone grow eager ears for.”

(“Migrant Feet”)

No clear origin or destination.

The road as the main focus and as the best mentor.

Eyes and ears turned towards the effervescent world unfolding all around, and soul opened to people.

So sounds and sings the voice in the poems of Godspower Oboido; a voice of a generation born between worlds and between identities, a generation searching for ways of understanding its multi-faceted image rather than accepting pre-defined identities.

The speed with which the poet makes the reader change his place and perspective is quite spectacular: we go from Lagos to New York, from Kano to London and the Russian countryside; we wait and watch the world go by in the Amsterdam airport; we go to the seaside and come back to the buzzing city.

Godspower Oboido builds a journey out of language, in which words and sounds mirror the place they create: “the waters dans/ for our thrill and to the rhythm of tides./ The sand and the sea, they call us.” (“The Sand and Sea”).

International critics and editors have put Godspower Oboido in the line of Christopher Okigbo and Leopold Sédar Senghor as a prominent Nigerian voice of the African contemporary literature. From Lagos and the native region of the Niger Delta to the northern Kano, the poet mirrors his native country with words both tender and sharp, as he tries to see the multiple faces of the places and of himself.

However, besides that, he is also a voice of the international literature, of what Tayie Selasi calls Afropolitans; he is a voice of the famished road echoing Ben Okri’s marvellous world, of the endless journey back and forth, where the origin meets the end; where what matters is to discover one’s selves; where, finally, what matters is to wander and wonder.

Wandering Feet on Pebbled Shores by Godspower Oboido
9781942956419 /Lamar University Literary Press / 2017

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

 

Homegoing

30070018-_uy200_Effia
The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night. (…)
The villagers began to say that the baby was born of the fire, that this was the reason Baaba had no milk. Effia was nursed by Cobbe’s second wife, who had just given birth to a son three months before. (…) “

In modern-day Ghana, in Fanteland, in the seventeenth century, Effia and Esi are born of the same father, but will have completely opposed destinies. One becomes a slave during the slave trade, the other- the wife of a slave trader. For the next three centuries, on each side of the Atlantic their descendants will struggle to make their own way into the everchanging New World where their ancestors were brought and forced to fit. From mine-working to jazz-playing, from slavery to academia, African- Americans become despite themselves a part of a foreign land and their stories are mostly about how to fit and become what they are meant to be.

Like an enchanted tale told by a griot, the story begins with fire taking over the Fanteland, the story of Effia and Esi’s descent mixes traditional Fante and Ashanti folk stories and the American history of slavery in a wonderfully mastered prose. Between Africa and North America, the characters are first torn, then resentful, then accepting their cultural heritage.

Yaa Gyasi excels in entagling the private stories of the characters with the bigger History which both lifts and suffocates the characters; story and History, slave trade and family dramas, the characters of the novel embody how fragile individuals are in the face of history, but also how time helps them go back to their origins. Time cannot heal the wounds of past abuses, but it can offer the chance to the youngest descendents of the old Ashanti-Fante families to make peace with their bruised lives and start over.

Once you understand and accept who you are, you can return home.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

978-0241242735 / Viking / 2016

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

Nqobile: The Story of Becoming

What does the world look like through a foreign student’s eyes ?

What happens when, while going to the Promised Land, you find not the dream you had in mind, but much more and in a much more different form ?

Thus begins Mandhla Mgijima alias Sipho’s novel, like a modern fairy tale : the young Nqobile goes to South Africa, then to America. He likes English-language fiction, befriends white men; he is young and enthousiastic and sees the world as he wished it to be.

Nqobile had successfully forged another relation with white people, an achievement that made him silently proud. Internally, he was glowing. This was something he had managed to do seamlessly throughout his private high school with its white majority. He understood them well and held as a rule that mostly good came out of relations with white folk, and so he had made it a habit of actively engaging with them, especially at his American university.” (p.21)

Then comes the time when he gradually becomes more politically-aware and discovers the complex faces of the American society. The novel constantly refers to contemporary events (the campaigns #Blacklivesmatter in the United States and #Rhodesmustfall in South Africa, the terrorist attacks in Paris) and personalities, like Steve Biko- yet the profound meaning of the narrative lies elsewhere : this realistic scenery is home to a modern tale about how the notions of white and black shape our imagination, our judgement on people and our projects.

The book traces Nqobile’s transformation from an admirer of white men to a man fully aware of himself who has created his own philosophy on race, acceptance and life priorities. It is through the character of Nolwazi, Sipho’s South African publisher, that we learn how Nqobile reaches this awareness. It is also through her eyes that we learn how power relations work in everyday life between students of different countries and cultures. It is, finally, an image of what anyone could achieve if one stopped speaking in the name of truths one doesn’t really believe in.

Nqobile: The Story of Becoming by Mandla Mgijima

ISBN : 978-0- 7974- 8760- 4

Publisher : David Kaplan, Freelanceeditors.co.za , 2016

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France

The Day Ends Like Any Day

In 1990s Nige9781910688298ria, Sam, a young man, begins his life’s journey in O. situated east of Port Harcourt; as the “lazy stroller” he calls himself, he moves constantly in and out of the text in a cinematographic way. He introduces us to Pa Suku, Ma Ike, Ricia, Dora, Osagie, Margaret and all the other characters that mark his path. From the small crowded flat in which he lives with his family to the Delta State University in Abraka he later attends, Sam’s excursion through life guides the reader through past (the Biafran war and some events occuring back then) and present (President Sani Abacha’s years).

Timothy Ogene’s beautiful novel is a new form of Bildungsroman, in which the theme of coming of age becomes a coming of language: Sam’s story is also a journey through books and memories, so much so that a life’s journey is not only oriented forwards, but also backwards.

Like Sam, the reader is constantly going back and forth to the past through words and the images and sometimes the physical sensations they leave in our lives. As the title suggests, the days become not a flow of time-limited sequences, but an eternal present that shrinks or expands through the power of our own mind.

Ogene revisits the age-old theme of identity and transposes it into a world in which identities are constantly rooted out to be planted elsewhere, both never really free from their native soil and enriched by the foreign adoptive soils. The founding encounters in Sam’s life are also the encounters with his own past and his old self, now reshaped and revisited by the passing of time and the inevitable questioning of what life actually means:

Old Jumbo’s flowers were not as unkempt as I remember them. (…) State School One was east of the blocks. But in my head, in my recollection, it is positioned west. What else do I misremember? (…) It does not matter anymore. I remember what I remember, or what I consistently made myself remember. We are, indeed, wired to remember in twos: duplicates and originals. The original loses its composition the farther away we are from it.” (p.145)

The Day Ends Like Any Day by Timothy Ogene

978-1-910688-29-8  | Holland House | 2017

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France

Haunting Identity in The Icarus Girl

41shf-js-cl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Then, without opening her eyes, she was caught in the crisp outward shattering of glass as the mirror crack’d from side to side, fying out of its flame. At the centre of it all was TillyTilly, manically screaming : ‘Seven years’ bad luck ! Seven years’ bad luck ! SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK !

“What are you ?” Jess cried out from her safe place.

Tilly’s reply : “I don’t know ! You know ! You know ! “

 

8 years-old, sensitive, moody, very imaginative, Jessamy Harrison she feels constantly alone and unadapted. Bullied by her schoolmates and sometimes misunderstood by her mother, Jessamy cannot find a place of her own and a person to get along with. But eveything changes when goes to Nigeria to visit her mother’s family. From the extreme heat to the Yoruba language, Jessamy discovers a new, mysterious world which is also hers, paradoxically, and which will show her another perspective on herself and her life.

Jessamy receives a new, Yoruba name, Wuraola, to connect her to the cultural heritage and make her ‘become’ Yoruba. After receiving this name, Jessamy meets Titiola, a Yoruba girl her age with whom she finally seems to resonate. As the story moves on, the reader grows sceptical about Titiola’s intentions (as she is both very kind and very provoking and mean) and starts to question her very existence, until the friendship between the two girls provokes damage and crisis in Jessamy’s family.

Inspired by both English classical gothic stories and Yoruba traditional tales about the double identity of twins, Oyeyemi’s first novel makes the reader question not just “who is who” (Jessamy being also a mixed race), but also why it is so complicated sometimes to understand and accept who we are and why we are this or that way. The cultural difference between the Yoruba town and London, the two languages eventually becomes an extra obstacle to get over for Jessamy, who is already not at ease with her own unsociability.

The ending, however, accounts not only for a major change of perspective on her mother’s family and, therefore, on her own origins, but also on what growing up really means; much more than a modern allegory about cultural tensions, it is accepting some difficult realities about oneself, like fears likely to turn into haunting ghosts, that becomes one of the major lessons of Oyeyemi’s novel.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

9780747 578864 | Bloomsbury | 20o6

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France