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Story-Story

Once upon a time, on a fine Saturday, the President’s daughter had a lavish wedding and guests went home with gold-plated iPhones as souvenirs.
But on the following Monday, a bomb went off in the kingdom and killed a hundred people, and then some rascals went and abducted 240 girls from a school!
So incensed was the President by these tragedies that he danced his heart out the very next day at a campaign rally in Kano while there was still grief and shock in the air.
Two weeks later, the President’s daughter is honeymooning and the over 200 girls are probably being raped or killed and those in charge don’t give a damn. Shikenan. End of story…so far.

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How not to lose a war against Terror

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Fiddling while Nigeria burns. Nigeria’s President Jonathan

By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

The Nigerian government and its security agencies have been struggling to contain an insurgency that is into its 5th year and has claimed thousands of lives in attacks across the north of the country.

Along the way, the security forces have lost the little aura of invincibility years of dictatorship has conferred on them due to some basic and very embarrassing blunders by the government and its agents in a classic demonstration of how not to fight insecurity in your country

So here I make prescriptions. Nothing genius about them but at least you would think the authorities should know these, right?

  1. Don’t Use a Sledge Hammer to Kill a Fly

This is very, very basic, not so? But no, not so with the Nigerian security agencies who have always had the idea that every challenge is best tackled with brutal force. Consider the 2009 uprising by the Boko Haram sect and the brutal force the police and military used to quash it. Given that the group even then exhibited some of its brutal antics, videos of the Nigerian military extra judicially killing crippled members of the group and of course the extra judicial murder of the group’s founder, Mohammad Yusuf, was really, really bad PR and gave Boko Haram the impetuous to go underground and re-emerge more deadly than ever, driven by a lust for vengeance, before too much blood got to their heads and drove them totally bonkers.

  1. Don’t be Such Lousy Liars

Seriously the Nigerian security operatives have, during the cause of the fight with Boko Haram, shown themselves to be really, really bad liars. Some of the lies weren’t so obvious. Others were epic in Titanic proportions. One example: then army spokesperson Colonel Sagir Musa (whatever happened to that guy anyway?) told the world with a straight face that the army had killed the face of terror, Abubakar Shekau, even when Shekau was busy updating his internet profile by posting videos online. The army insisted they had killed the man without a single shred of evidence. Since there has not been any retraction, we will assume the military still thinks it has killed Shekau.

But they did retract after an even more disastrous lie when Col. Sagir’s replacement, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade (a whole General) told the most shame-faced lie ever when he announced that the Nigerian Army had rescued 108 female students abducted by the Boko Haram. And it did win the military some good will. Just check Twitter and Facebook after Olukolade’s statement. Such blatant lie from a General!

Let’s not talk about Marilyn Orgar’s many lies on behalf of the SSS. How could one-handcuffed suspect disarm a trained SSS operative and 21 unarmed suspects end up dying as a result?

And don’t say you spent N3bn on CCTV when not even one is functioning two year after.

Seriously, just don’t be such lousy liars!

  1. Don’t Dance While Innocent People are Dying

Don’t. Even if you’ve got a really bad itch or a mortal plague of krorkror that only dancing can cure, don’t. Just sit down and take it like a man. Two images of President Goodluck Jonathan playing a guitar or dancing just hours after many innocent Nigerians have been killed by the Boko Haram really makes you wonder what on earth is wrong with that man and his advisers. Of course if it important to show that the insurgents aren’t winning, that they aren’t making you live in fear, but seriously, don’t just dance, even if the election is at stake. It’s really, really insensitive.

  1. Say Something More than Just “We Condemn this and that”

And this goes to every government official. Stop condemning insurgents attack and say something that will show you are outraged and you won’t let the perpetrators get away with it. Say something authoritative like, “we will ensure that justice is done on the perpetrators of the crime”. And don’t mumble or slouch when you say that, you simply have to exude confidence. Seriously, everyone is tired of hearing you condemn this and condemn that. Just get over it already. It makes you look really weak and dumb. You don’t want that when you are facing a serious enemy.

  1. Stop Exuding Fear

It is important to secure potential terrorist targets, but when all roads passing by police stations are cordoned and blocked off in very ways that exude obvious fear, it just give the wrong vibe. It’s like saying, well, we are afraid so we are hiding behind our fortresses, pick on a market or a school or even a bus park. That is not the message you want to send to heartless murderers like that. When you run into Aso Rock to hold Independence Day parade and other such national ‘celebrations’ seriously it makes you look like a dog with its tail between its legs.

  1. Don’t Punish Innocent People

This is related to the previous. Frankly, those phony checkpoints you set up on the roads that only worsen traffic situations, they are just really, really inconveniencing people. Imagine spending hours crawling through traffic only for you to get to the checkpoint and a fierce soldier, whose brain has been cooked by the sun, looks at your face and waves you on just like that, even if you might actually be carrying a truckload of bombs in your boot. It just makes you look like a bully, period. Frankly, no one likes a bully. And God forbids some maniac detonates a bomb in the traffic hold up you create.

  1. Know Your friends

It may be hard to know exactly who the enemies are since Shekau’s men aren’t exactly in the open, but you should know that the Nigerian people are your friends and it just won’t do to enemise them. Don’t go to a village and shoot down everyone in sight, don’t massacre law abiding squatters in an Abuja building and call them Boko Haram just because their landlord asked you to evict them. And don’t treat people like garbage just because you are carrying a gun. They are as much targets of Boko Haram as you are. That’s the honest truth and you really need to get them on your side. That is what sane people elsewhere do.

  1. Don’t Play Politics with Deaths

I know the temptation is high. This is your opportunity to sell your self, to blame the insecurity on your potential opponents, to create a Wendel Simlin to link anyone who questions the corruption in government to terror groups but let me tell you why it is a bad idea; because people are actually dying.

Don’t prioritise campaign rallies in Kano when blood hasn’t been washed off the street in your backyard and school girls are being abducted. And when you say things like, “they promised to make the country ungovernable” or sell crap notions like, “it’s because a so and so person is president” it just makes you look like a cry baby. You are not the victim. The people being killed are. People like bold leaders so just man up.

 

  1. Remember Nigerians Don’t Want the Baddies to Win

Be assured that your country men don’t want the bad guys, which explains why the baddies are killing everyone, so show them you care when something bad happens, say something, do something that will show that you actually care even if you are pretending. Just pretend well enough and you are good to go. In simple English; be the good guy.

10.Actually Get the Bad Guys

I can’t emphasize this enough. You really need to get these guys. You have battle-hardened military, you have the facilities, right? And you have the resources. So actually get the baddies and get over it already.

But the most sacred thing of all is this: NEVER LEAVE A GIRL BEHIND. You can’t allow people abduct 200 girls from a school and not do anything about it. Bring the girls home!

No kidding, if this doesn’t work, then I will be damned and we will all be lost in shit creek without a paddle, as they say.

 

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Midday Rant

Midday Rant
Moyes is sacked, Nigerians shout Amen! Meanwhile American Actress Mia Farrow is asking on twitter: “It is right to search for the plane, and for Korea’s drowned children, but why such a half hearted hunt for Nigeria’s 234 stolen girls?” (You would think Nigerians should be asking that, not so?)
While Gov. Nyako is busy hollering all sorts of conspiracy theories as if he did not vote for Jonathan (even exhibiting his ballot paper before casting) and delivering the whole of Adamawa State for him, as if it takes rocket science or black magic to tell the man is clueless (just didn’t know he would go so low as to be dancing when people are dying), the BBC is discovering that Boko Haram is paying gangs in Niger Republic to join them and kill Nigerians(something the Nigerian Intelligence with all the security votes should have figured out, right?) Watch the video here (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27107375).
Nothing makes sense in this country, or about this Boko Haram thing. Why was a serving policeman trying to bomb a church during the Easter celebrations in Akwanga (http://tinyurl.com/m954taj). Or what happened to this men who were caught in 2012 trying to bomb a church in Bauchi (http://tinyurl.com/7dxx2rh) Why are we not asking questions?

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Thoughts on Things, Uncategorized

So Long, Gabo

Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, affectionately called Gabo, passed away in Mexico City Thursday April 17, 2014. Sunday Trust’s Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who is also a 2013 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow, writes about his visit to Gabo’s village, the man and his legacy.

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Sometimes, some people contrive to attain immortality by their accomplishments and become living ancestors. But when such immortals pass into the night, it is always stunning for the generations that have been bred on their legends.

I never met Gabo but I felt I knew him intimately. I first encountered his work in 2008 when a friend, who thought there were the faintest hints of similarities between my budding writing and Gabo’s, offered me his novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. I read it and discovered the literary father I didn’t realise I was looking for. I gobbled up everything I could find that Gabo had written thereafter and felt such a connection I had never felt with any other writer before.

This connection was reinforced when in January, 2013, as part of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez fellowship, I walked through the streets of Aracataca, the small Colombian village where he was born and felt as if I have been there before, seen the people before. I felt I knew their stories already.

Walking those streets was like walking into one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s enchanting novels. On the familiar railway platform, an all too recurrent feature in Gabo’s stories, one would expect to see the Colonel, protagonist of his novella No One Writes to the Colonel, sitting on the platform waiting a mail that never comes. What you will eventually see though is the ice house that inspired Gabo to send Jose Arcadio Beundia on a mission to build a city with mirror walls that later became Macondo, perhaps the most famous fictional city in the world, in his most famous novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

You will also see Buendia’s wife, Ursula, sitting, looking into the distance, like one lost in a century of solitude. This Ursula, made of metal, reclines in a little museum dedicated to Gabo in Aracataca. It is a small affair, a disused telegraph office where Gabo’s father used to work. His father too seems like a familiar old friend, and hearing his stories of unsanctioned love for Gabo’s mother, one realises that one had met him through Florentino Ariza, that character who in Love in the Time of Cholera waited 50 years for a woman’s husband to die so he could rekindle his relationship with her.

The museum has personal relics that had belonged to the family – a charcoal iron, old personal effects like typewriters, family photos, including those of his father and mother and other household items and of course, the metallic Ursula that Gabo had created with his words. Most of these things the curator told us were thrown out when the Colombian government decided to rebuild the Marquez family house into a museum to honour the Nobel laureate in 2010. The villagers salvaged the discarded items and set up their own museum, which they maintain at their own expenses.

The new museum is just on the corner from the old telegraph office. Incidentally Gabo himself never got to visit it. He had been living in Mexico the last 30 years and when he had visited Aracataca, the crowd had been so huge he couldn’t get through.

The white walls of the museum bear plaques with excerpts from Gabo’s works. And it is here that one sees the rooms where Gabo’s grandfather, a Colonel, used to sit with his friends and recount their war stories. The curator would show you the window Gabo used to hide behind to listen to these stories, stories that he eventually retold in his own fashion. Even the famous gold fish his grandfather the colonel used to make (those appeared in Chronicles of a Death Foretold) and the room in which he made them are exhibited, as well as the bed in which he was born.

The curator would also show you the drawings Gabo had made on the walls and tell you how tolerant his grandmother had been (Gabo himself had said if she had stopped him from drawing, perhaps he would never have become a writer). It is from her that Gabo would learn one of the most important lessons in his life. You see, his grandmother was a great story teller herself, and in the evenings, Gabo would sit at her feet to listen to her tell the most fantastic stories, some of them so outrageous as to be outright unbelievable. But as Gabo told the Paris Review in an interview, his grandmother told her stories with utmost sincerity that one can’t help believe them.

“For example, if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you. One Hundred Years of Solitude is full of that sort of thing. That’s exactly the technique my grandmother used. I remember particularly the story about the character who is surrounded by yellow butterflies. When I was very small there was an electrician who came to the house. I became very curious because he carried a belt with which he used to suspend himself from the electrical posts. My grandmother used to say that every time this man came around, he would leave the house full of butterflies. But when I was writing this, I discovered that if I didn’t say the butterflies were yellow, people would not believe it,” he told the Paris Review.

It is this trick of adding details to the most fantastical things that would serve Gabo well in his literary career and all through his writing he admitted he tried to recapture the tone with which his grandmother told her stories.

Her stories and tales of The Arabian Night, the copy he had read as a child is an exhibit in the museum, and of course his grandfather’s war stories sowed the seed of what would later become the most successful literary career the Spanish speaking world had ever seen.

The whole of Aracataca has anecdotes about Gabo. The little corner where his father, the telegraph man used to sneak into to court Gabo’s mother, against the will of his grandfather, the church were baby Gabo was baptised and had his first communion.

Everything seems familiar here because Gabo had already introduced you to them. Like a true magician, he put his village in the minds of millions across the world. One realises from this experience that Gabo’s stories, fantastical as they may seem, are loosely based on actual events and actual people and perhaps that was why he had succeeded, outselling everything ever written in Spanish, apart from the Bible. A Hundred Years of Solitude alone has sold over 50 million copies.

And though Gabo has never claimed to be the father of magical realism, he defined the genre and no mention can be made of the genre without a reference to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Perhaps this would not have been possible. From the beginning, Gabo struggled to make headway as a writer, even though as a journalist he was carving a niche with his literary journalism. Until he met Franz Kafka.

“One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories,” Gabo said in his Paris Review interview.

That was the defining moment in Gabo’s literary career.

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At Gabo’s family house in Aracataca during the GGM Fellowship

In the Shadow of Immortals

For men like Gabo, and even Chinua Achebe, who have attained the status of living ancestors, their deaths come with a resignation and an immeasurable sense of loss. Achebe’s death last year taught us that much.

In their shadows, destinies have been forged, and other have perished. While Gabo can boast of a Nobel Prize, (the prize money he forgot he had in a bank account for 16 years, until his wife reminded him about it and he used it to buy a newspaper house) he had at least two museums bearing his name and a whole section dedicated to him at the Museo del Caribe (Musuem of the Caribean) in Barranquilla, where he spent the other half of his childhood.

Such men cast long shadows on their generations and those that come after them. Gabo’s shadow was so huge that a whole generation of Colombian writers were lost in it.

Quite unlike Achebe, in whose shadows many thrived, Achebe never enjoyed the honour Marquez did. At the time of his death, the one thing that bore Achebe’s name in his village Ogidi was a small, dusty library, which incidentally had only two pirated copies of Achebe’s novels.

Gabo was a man who enjoyed the goodwill of his people and his country, and other countries too, truly appreciated him. This was once more demonstrated on his 87th birthday, on March 6th , when a crowd gathered outside his house in Mexico City to sing him Happy Birthday. He appeared in high spirit, dressed in a suit with a yellow rose, (another recurrent motif in his stories)tucked into his breast pocket and thereafter his secretary handed out yellow paper butterflies to the crowd. Incidentally, that seems now to have been his farewell to the world. Finally, an immortal has slipped into the land of the silent ones.

 

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TWO Parrésia Authors on Africa 39 List!!!

Parrésia Publishers

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Chika Unigwe

The much anticipated Africa39 List was announced an hour ago and we are delighted to note that two of our authors, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Chika Unigwe, are on this august list. On the Africa39 list are Chimamanda Adichie, Taiye Selasi and Lola Shoneyin amongst others.

The Project
“The 39 Project consists of the selection of 39 writers under the age of 40 who have the potential and the talent to define the trends that will mark the future development of literature in a certain language or region. The 39 Project was realized for the first time in Bogotá (UNESCO World Book Capital 2007) and for the second time in Beirut (UNESCO World Book Capital 2010), resulting in both cases in a Literature Festival in each city with the 39 selected authors from each region (Latin America and the Arab World): four days of literature, debate and the…

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