Human traffickers have officially been cursed. On March 9, Oba Ewuare II, the traditional ruler of the kingdom of Benin, in southern Nigeria, put a voodoo curse on anyone who abets illegal migration within his domain. At the same time, he revoked the curses that leave victims of trafficking afraid that their relatives will die if they go to the police or fail to pay off their debt.
Before being smuggled into Europe, women and girls in the area, which falls in present-day Edo State, are made to sign a contract with the traffickers who finance their journey, promising to pay them thousands of dollars.… Seguir leyendo »
Last year, the world reacted in outrage to a CNN video showing black men being sold as slaves in Libya. Many of us in Africa joined in, feigning shock at a level of dehumanization that thrives variously in many of our countries. The gruesome experiences narrated by some of the migrants are similar, for example, to those of the typical domestic staff in places such as Nigeria.
Many middle- and upper-class Nigerian families hire people to work in their homes, carrying out tasks such as cooking, cleaning and babysitting. Known as “house help,” a good number are children sent by their parents to work, sometimes becoming the main breadwinners of their families.… Seguir leyendo »
We were late getting to Chibok. Our driver was delayed. On the way to meet us, he explained, he had seen a mother carrying a sick child on her back and stopped to give them a lift to the hospital. By the time they arrived, the child had died.
Two years ago, more than 200 girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok by Boko Haram. A few dozen have since escaped, but a vast majority remain prisoners of the Islamist insurgents. A Nigerian nonprofit group, the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, had asked me to organize a team to interview the families of these girls, in order to create a book memorializing them.… Seguir leyendo »
In February 2016, I interviewed 16-year-old Zara John, who was freed from Boko Haram by the Nigerian military in March 2015. She told me how much she relished her life with the Islamist militant commander to whom she was married off while in captivity for about a year, how he had taken care of her and provided all her needs.
"If I had a gun when the Nigerian military came to rescue me, I would have shot at the soldiers," she says.
There are any number of reasons why a teenager would feel this way about a man who was part of a group that razed her home before abducting her and several other girls, women and children in her community.… Seguir leyendo »
In the south of Nigeria where I am from, many believe that the terrorist group Boko Haram is some sort of karma inflicted on the north. People carry on with life as usual, while carnage rages there. Even the local news media no longer bother providing regular information on the insurgency. Last month, the massacre at Baga, in which Boko Haram slaughtered hundreds, received relatively little coverage.
This disconnect is partly a result of longstanding regional and ethnic resentments. Southerners, who are mostly Christian, see the largely Muslim north as backward. The colloquial term for a typical northerner is “aboki” or “malam”; the words literally mean “friend” or “mister” in Hausa, but saying “You’re behaving like an aboki” is a way of telling someone off for acting daft.… Seguir leyendo »
My close friend Mercy, when she heard about my novel, congratulated me: I had found out “what the white people wanted to read and given it to them.”
Mercy had a point. The idea for my book may have been independently inspired, but the approval of “white people” was crucial. Success for an African writer still depends on the West.
In the past decade, all sorts of marvelous things have happened for African literature. African writers have won or been shortlisted for some of the most prestigious literary prizes and accorded prominent display in leading bookshops. Contemporary African voices are finally telling African stories.… Seguir leyendo »
My friend's eight-year-old daughter burst into tears while watching a Boko Haram video release on TV the other evening. The terrorist group has been receiving the kind of local and international media coverage that could make even a Hollywood megastar explode with envy. At the current rate, the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, might as well be given his own reality show.
I understand the reporting of a bomb blast: the need to let the world know about 234 missing school girls is obvious. Updating us on the world's efforts to rescue the abducted girls definitely makes sense. But why should law-abiding citizens be bombarded with the megalomaniac audio and video rantings of every Shekau recording forwarded to the press?… Seguir leyendo »
Late last month, a workman on his way to my house rang to explain that he was running late because of the mayhem caused by a bomb blast in the city. Instantly, I was skeptical. There couldn’t possibly be another bomb in Abuja. Not with all the tedious checkpoints on major streets here, and the thorough checks at the entrance to public buildings.
After a series of terrorist attacks beginning in 2010, security in Nigeria’s capital city was augmented significantly. Abuja had not experienced any major bombings since 2012. The situation appeared so improved that President Goodluck Jonathan boasted in February that terrorism had been pushed to the fringes of our country.… Seguir leyendo »
In December 2010, Nigeria experienced its first wave of terrorist bombings at Christian churches. In 2011, we had our first-ever suicide car bombing, at the United Nations headquarters here. The explosion rattled my nearby office building. Flinging myself on the floor, I assumed it was an earthquake. A bomb was still the last thing on my mind.
Just a few years ago, we thought terrorism was something that happened in faraway countries, like Israel. Now we know differently; the threat hangs over us all the time.
Some weeks ago, shortly before Nigeria’s independence day, I received a mass text message. Nigeria was going to turn 53 years old a few days later, on Oct.… Seguir leyendo »
In America, all men are believed to be created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. But Nigerians are brought up to believe that our society consists of higher and lesser beings. Some are born to own and enjoy, while others are born to toil and endure.
The earliest indoctrination many of us have to this mind-set happens at home. Throughout my childhood, “househelps” — usually teenagers from poor families — came to live with my family, sometimes up to three or four of them at a time. In exchange for scrubbing, laundering, cooking, baby-sitting and everything else that brawn could accomplish, either they were sent to school, or their parents were sent regular cash.… Seguir leyendo »
The Nobel Prize in Literature was presented to Mario Vargas Llosa at an awards ceremony on Friday in Oslo. This reawakened the disappointment felt by many fans of African literature, who had hoped that this would be the year for the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. But there’s actually reason to celebrate Mr. Ngugi’s loss. African literature is better off without another Nobel ... at least for now.
A Nigerian publisher once told me that of the manuscripts she reads from aspiring writers, half echo Chinua Achebe and half try to adopt Wole Soyinka’s style. Mr. Achebe and Mr. Soyinka, who won the continent’s first Nobel in literature in 1986, are arguably the most celebrated black African writers, especially in terms of Western accolades.… Seguir leyendo »
Once again, the Lion of Africa is upset. This time, with the BBC. From Nobel Laureate to hoi polloi, Nigerians have, over the past many days, roared a range of emotions in reaction to the BBC documentary, Welcome to Lagos, which showed a side of our beloved city that some of us have never seen – real, live Lagosians subsisting on refuse dumps.
"There was this colonialist idea of the noble savage which motivated the programme," Wole Soyinka said about the documentary. "It was patronising and condescending." Dalhatu Tafida, Nigeria's high commissioner to the UK, described the documentary as, "a calculated attempt to bring Nigeria and its hardworking people to international odium and scorn".… Seguir leyendo »
I’ve heard it said that we Nigerians are the happiest people on earth. We’re also accused of being passive about issues that would stir up revolutions in other countries. For instance, it’s been just over a week since ethno-religious violence left hundreds dead around Jos, a city in central Nigeria, but the slaughtering of our fellow citizens has already largely faded from our headlines and conversations. The general response to announcements by the police that they have apprehended some of the butchers is, “Oh, really?” Few people I know even care to hear what the brutes have to say for themselves.… Seguir leyendo »