Democracy Day: Abuja writers to the rescue

This year’s Democracy Day left a sour taste in the mouth of most Nigerians. It was a day people would want to forget in a hurry; it was uneventful. By now, there is almost unanimity of opinions that Nigeria is yet to make progress even with a new government in place.

And those who run the government seem to be in agreement that the people’s expectations have neither been met nor is the nation’s fears completely assuaged. Boko Haram is almost on its knees, Niger Delta is smoldering again and the avengers are spoiling for war; the IPOB is still very active.
The ‘unity in diversity doctrine’, which our forebears propounded and tried to manage, is under threat again. Indeed, Nigeria has never been so divided and distracted as a nation since the Civil War.

Not even the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election generated the present level of national anger.
I will not blame all our woes on the current government but will not exonerate them completely either. This is because 16 years of rosy and robust global economy and huge amount of money made from crude oil sale was not adequately utilized to lay a solid foundation to launch Nigeria into a new world.

However, the last one-year has been unprecedented in negativities. Imagine, an emerging middle class is now receding to the lower class; even the upper class is collapsing. Forget about the original lower class, which has almost been sent into oblivion. Let us break it down. By this time last year, laughter was cheap, merriment was in the air; a new government had just taken off and hopes were high. A further breakdown is trite: By this time last year, a bag of rice sold for between N8,000 and N9,000 while tomatoes, always expensive at the onset of the rainy season, was not more than N5,000 a basket.

Today, a bag of rice is between N15,000 and N18,000, while a basket of tomatoes goes for as high as N30,000. I just read in this paper, that even maize, of all crops, is diseased. If you run a big home like yours truly, you need almost N5,000 worth of tomatoes for a good meal of rice and stew… you can guess the rest.
Still on this sorry state, this Democracy Day came with a long weekend holiday to unwind. Trust Abuja people, they never fail to pour out in the streets, joints, relaxation spots, playgrounds and gardens, in their sleek cars to show off their wealth.

That was before though. This year is different; most homes could not afford the basics, not to talk of luxury. The gloom was palpable and for some of us, it would have been a boring, long holiday. Thankfully, Abuja Writers Forum (AWF) came to the rescue in an engagement that dissolved the boredom occasioned by the hard times. The small, but quality audience was enthralled with interesting acts. I could not have put it better than how Majeed Dahiru, himself a writer, did to his WhatsApp friends.

“Memories of Olaitan Oyerinde was brought to life once more at a book reading event organized by the Abuja Writers Forum on Saturday, May 28, 2016. Excerpts from the book titled Olaitan Oyerinde: His Struggles for a Better Nigeria, a biography of the slain journalist, unionist, activist and former principal private secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, was read out by the author, Lois Adams Osigbemhe, to a select audience of writers, critics and literary enthusiasts. The life and times of Oyerinde were once more celebrated at the event.

Works of other writers like Victor Oluwasegun’s collection of short stories titled Beyond Measure and Judah Wilson, singer, songwriter and choreographer, were also available for reading and review. The audience was also treated to soft and inspiring music by budding artistes and entertainers. The convener of the event, Dr. Emman Shehu was at his best as he serenaded the audience with his sharp wits and eloquence. Author and prolific writer, Chido Onumah, labour leaders and other distinguished members of the AWF, were present”.

The excitement that started at the weekend culminated in the presentation of Chido Onumah’s book, We Are All Biafrans at the Yar’Adua centre yesterday. The book, according to the author, is about “the crisis of failed leadership, whether you are from the East, West, North or South, Muslim, Christian and traditional religious adherents. …we all suffer the effect of bad governance that has occurred in the country since independence”, thereby portraying the victimhood of everyone in the face of any conflagration.
Honestly, Nigerian writers have come of age, and as Dr. Emman Shehu put it, there are stories all around us. It is the more inspiring for people like us who have been procrastinating over the years, about chronicling our fascinating lives in a book form, which unfortunately, we have not been able to do. Lois Adams overcame fears and threats in her modest efforts to put the life and times of Oyerinde in proper perspective, even though the state has not been able to unravel the murder riddle that cut short Oyerinde’s life.

For those of us that grew with the African Writers Series of the Achebes and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Mongo Betis; writers who explored colonial, post colonial and neoliberal trajectories of their times, it was painful how that glorious era was taken over by foreign books, which practically killed our history. The Association of Nigerian Authors is, however, rekindling the past with many published works. And thanks to AWF, our Democracy Day event was not all about lamentations and adversities.