Her Stories, Our Stories

In the panel discussion, Her Stories, Our Stories, Carmen McCain hosted a diverse group of writers who are talking with the power of their pens. Carmen brings out the voices of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Hadiza El-Rufa’i and Fatima Umar to tell us their stories, our stories of women in the frontline.

Balaraba Ramat Yakubu is a Nigerian author who writes in Hausa and boasts nine novels all in Hausa. Her novel Alhaki Kwikwiyo Ne, ‘Sin is a Puppy’, is one of the few Hausa novels that has been translated into English. She has worked as a screenwriter, producer and director in Hausa movies. Balaraba’s stories focus on issues of child marriage, and women education. She is the younger sister to General Murtala Ramat Muhammed a former Nigerian Head of State. However at the age of 13, Balaraba was taken out of school and forced to marry. This is what made Balaraba to writer her stories in Hausa, stories that will become our own stories through her novels.

Balaraba’s writing touches topical issues in the life of the Hausa woman. Because of these themes in her writing she was threatened, abused and persecuted. The issue in Kano was such that during the censorship board crisis, even PEN International had to be involved towards empathising with the Kano Hausa writers. Balaraba channeled all this experiences in most of her writings and novels. She says during the panel discussion that, it is only in Hausaland that a man divorces you and sends you packing with all of your children away. “The Hausa woman is not a slave, why is she then always the one persecuted?”

The second panelist, Fatima A. Umar is the Editor in Chief at Jaruma Magazine, a platform where northern women speak their minds. Jaruma is an online lifestyle magazine for the modern day women that discuss the challenges, issues, hopes and dreams of a Nigerian woman. Jaruma creates her stories, our stories.

Fatima’s job is to challenge the stereotypes of northern women. She says: “I mean you go somewhere, you speak English as a northern woman, and people are amazed”.

Divorce diaries to Fatima started, as therapy after being divorced at age 21, and she could not talk about all the issues. From the very first issue, Divorce Diaries went viral. On the panel, she says: “I am trying my best to create awareness on a lot of things we do that are wrong.”

Hadiza El-Rufa’i our final panelist is a writer and an architect. Her first novel Life After Death is coming soon from Ouida Books. Hadiza has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath University. She is the founder of Yasmin El-Rufa’i Foundation named after her late daughter. From the snippet read by Hadiza on the panel, her upcoming novel promises then to be a tantalizing teaser especially about writing from Northern Nigeria. This is an indication of a different triangle of the love stories and sexual fantasies of northern women.

In this panel, the stories of the northern woman were dissected, opened up and sliced by heroines of Hausa literature from the times of Balaraba Ramat and her experiences, to the late blossoming writing of Hadiza El-Rufa’i and her teasing write-up as well as the fiery role of Fatima A. Umar and the work that is Jaruma Magazine. The Northern women are rising and their stories told time after time continue to bite and sting against the devilry of patriarchy.

Written By Sada Malumfashi

Kindness in Uncomfortable Places

The Kindness of Enemies is Leila Aboulela’s fifth work of fiction. In this novel, two stories run parallel, in the present and the past. From the snippet she reads during the booklogue discuss, Leila’s latest novel promises to be absorbing with its exploration of politics and religion. This is not a preachy book but it explores spans of continents and centuries.

In this booklogue, Kola Tubosun interacts with the distinguished author, and first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing to a delighted Kaduna audience as explored in these excerpts:

What part of Nigeria surprised you the most?

What struck me about Kaduna is it reminded me a great deal about Sudan. I felt quite at home.

Did you always know the form the novel was going to take?

It started with being a historical novel. But then I felt the reader had to engage with the past by knowing what is happening now. So I created a bridge for the modern reader.

On spirituality and writing

I think the Sufi form of worship is the one that has stood the test of time. And this gives it integrity. The Sufi Sheikhs have been quiet and detached and this is a good thing I think.

On Prizes

They are important as they bring writers to attention. They are very effective and very good. But we need a Man African Prize for novels.

On State of Writing on the Continent

I am struggling to catch up now. It is wonderful to have so many writers that are writing.

On the Arab Novel in Africa

Arabian poetry is really old, for a long, long time. The novel is new and came with exposure to Europe in the 20th century. Before that, Arabs distinguished themselves as poets.

Excerpts

 As Natasha muses:

No wonder that the founders of Political Islam, those revolutionary elite who turned their backs on tradition and worked towards a perfect society, never took Shamil as a role model. Al-Qaeda was a modern phenomenon, with no patience for Shamil’s traditional spirituality and utter contempt for the choices he made at the end of his career.

Natasha also had a fraught, achingly close relationship with her mother, who has died: “She had yellow shoulder-length hair, but near her neck the hair was darker. And her eyebrows too, which she plucked diligently, were darker. My own hair was different — it was like my father’s even though I was a girl and it should have been like hers; instead it was a mistake, a bush to touch and in photographs, a cloud. Like other white mothers with black daughters, my mother had no clue how to deal with it. It left her bewildered and helpless, it made her feel incompetent.”

Written By Sada Malumfashi

Poetry Night

The poetry session as the name implied pulled a canvas of million colors through the night sky and shot stars of fortune on fiery imaginations craving earthly paradise. Canisters of emptied thoughts fell as wordsmiths squeezed metaphoric triggers, sending both pellets and ballistic missiles into unsuspecting craniums and hearts not fully word-proofed to survive poetic assaults. The raging words fired from muzzles of disgruntled poets into auditory auricles seeking consolations ignited volcanoes in the hearts of literary enthusiasts. The night was burdened with energies that exuded ambitious desires, especially to dream-weavers who believed in the barrel of the pen and have been shooting words on blank targets and practicing lyrical aims behind museums, archives and library walls. The metaphysically charged atmosphere invited spirits from abyss of the dead and history to commune with living gods of the pen and to delight in the feast of words set at tables higher than the Olympus and deeper than metal-poles injected into the bottom of mother earth to yield black gold.

Lola Shoneyi’s introduction of the poets was spontaneous. At exactly 7: 37, she invited Dr. Audee T. Giwa of Kaduna State University to the altar of words to empty what he had tasted from Pierian Spring. He spoke of the elasticity of possibilities in modern times, and the plight of men in the hands of women. ‘God cannot give you everything,’ he said, ‘and cannot deny you everything.’ Blessed with a mastery of words, his poem ‘An unknown Eternity’ delivered in perfect rhymes were couched on words sleeker than bones from exhumed corpses. It was a confession of love and the hope that a relationship would last forever.

The suave, afro-carrying Chika Jones came blazing on poetic wheels of steel. His arrival on stage held the audience tight as a bridge of strings even before he uttered a word. Story lines disappeared into philosophical musings rendered with a confidence of a seasoned wordsmith. He spoke of the carefulness of childhood and enduring battles that afforded such a tough existence to assume manly roles. ‘Its not how you walk…’ he said, ‘what matter is you never stop walking.’

Lola extended a hand of love to upcoming poets in Kaduna, bringing on stage Daisy – ‘We Must Die to Fly.’ Dami Ajayi who read from his Clinical Blues and his phone depicted an impeccable picture of a society wrought by crimes, corruption, maladministration and political instability.

Metaphoric lines like ‘Justice is a small bird with a big beak,’ peppered his poetic rendition. Borrowing from hip hop culture, he compared Shekau, the mastermind behind the Chibok girls’ abduction, to Jay Z’s song: ‘Girls, girls, girls.’ He lamented the loss of youth in the Nigerian population especially brainwashed happy-go-lucky bombers who blast themselves in the name of serving a god.

Efe Paul Azino’s electric delivery and wonderful baritone was one for the ages. His employment of urban suburban imagery painted pictures of nightlife across cities as well as unravelling a bohemian love story. The deployment of literary allusions, particularly, book titles weaved a national history that ended up becoming an ode to storytellers. ‘For the last ones left,’ he called writers, ‘my tribe, this one is for you.’

Lukman Hussein’s poem and it’s repetitive ‘There’s more’ gave a musicality encored by the audience. And when Maryam Bukar Hassan charmed the audience with grace and a mellifluous voice with ‘Yes You Can’, a poem dedicated to all on the verge of giving up, the house was roused to its feet. She code-switched to Hausa and again rendered the poem she recited at the opening of the festival on special demand. Aaron came on stage with ‘You,’ ushering in Sadiq Dzukogi at 8:15. Sadiq’s poem portrayed the plight of internally displaced people and the miseries suffered at the camps. After a family poem and a love song to his baby-daughter, Al-Amin Bugaje’s encyclopedic poem stringed a necklace of many subjects: racism, history, fear, explosions, crisis, and courage. His philosophical ending; ‘I believe in everything and nothing at all’ was epic.

Anselm Ngutsav Sessugh of Purple Silver Open Mic delivered a politically charged poem that was at once anti-colonial. His citation of A Hundred And One had the aura of an Old Testament prophet speaking to the wilderness of our minds. Then came the wealth of northern imagery from Sada Malumfashi. His performative poem garnered a lot of responses from the crowd as well as their involvement. Lola came on stage to invite the Lagos talent Titilope Sonuga. She was an epitome of cool, calm and collected. Her delivery was therapeutic. It simmered and seethed into hearts with the surreptitious serenity of a serpent, and was poisonous too. Didactic, transformative, Sonuga delivered thought-provoking lines that experiments with wordplays, metaphors, and rhetoric that melted into a poem recited in reverse!

After James Ademuyiwa came Wana Udobang’s ground-shattering, declarative ‘This Is Not A Feminist Poem.’ She succinctly captured the travails of the modern woman, the six (6) year old girl raped on her way back from school, bosses preying on secretaries, typists and assistants that hoped to support their families on meagre salaries; and the struggles of women in a patriarchal setting. The poem’s rejection from being feminist only reinforced its thematic concerns. She concluded by wishing the best for soul sisters fighting every day to get by, but not before treating the audience to a sumptuous dish of her palate-watering plate of poetic ‘Cat Fish’.

The technical blunder discovered at the overflowing room begged for a long awaited encore. Lola spoke to the conscience of the poets to offer shot pieces to those unable to watch their live performances and the audience were delighted to be served another dish of poetic delicacy.

Written By Dominic Aboi

 

 

Religious Violence: Picking Up the Pieces

This panel was moderated by the amazing Chitra  Nagarajan. The background to the conversation was the fact that in the eighties, the north was more liberal, and how the proliferation of Islamic sects and churches had caused the violence in Northern Nigeria.

Andrew Walker said it was important to put the issue of Boko Haram in context for a proper understanding of the issues at hand. The issue of religious violence usually started with the rise of a charismatic religious leadership who after winning a huge followership, would begin to rebel against other structures of power. Segun Adeniyi said the whole country was experiencing violence and  that was a symptom of a failing state. Abubakar Othman said Islam has always been prescriptive and static, so the problem of violence was not religious, but its use as a platform. This he asserted was because religion was also a victim of violence.

Razinatu Mohammed noted that government irresponsibility and the Nigerian judiciary was compromised and that has made the dispensation of justice difficult. She argued that a responsible government who have the people at heart could always tackle the problem of violence. She also called on government regulation in monitoring preachers and religious bodies.   

More than a Hijabi: Muslim Women Writing for the World

The panel was anchored by Kinna Likimani. The Sudanese writer, Leila Aboulela stated that this was her first time in Kaduna as it reminded her of her native country Sudan. This was because of the similarity in lifestyle and mode of worship; the people entering the mosque with their kettles, the call of the muezzin at prayer time and the dress sense of the Hausa women. She came to writing because she was an insatiable reader and found solace in books and the possibilities they manifest. She migrated to Scotland to be with her husband and two kids after Sudan fell on hard times. She had a short stint in the teaching profession but abandoned it because it was unfulfilling and the children were rude and naughty. Though she went back to pursue a doctorate degree in statistics, she started writing to explore her immigrant status and the women issues around her. More importantly, she wrote to create an image of Sudan to the world.

Zaynab Alkali expressed her excitement at meeting the daughter of her friend. She recalled their encounter with Ama  Ata Aidoo in Dallas, United States on the occasion of her 70th  birthday. She came to writing because she was a bad speaker, and wanted her writing to empower women across spheres. Of prominence in her evolvement as a Writer was the role that Professor Steward Brown played. He established a journal in Bayero University Kano called Kaakaki. He was the first to receive her manuscript of thirty pages, and read it on the BBC while on vacation in England.

Since then writing has become for her a form of therapy. It captured her psychological development as an individual. She recalled the case of a cousin who was married off as a child and later suffered from vesico vaginal fistula and the trauma and pain she endured. She said this made her“…imagination to go wild and she educated her”. This influenced the portrayal of a character in her novels. She decried the lack of psychologists to tackle and manage mental health issues and problems.

For Leila, her displacement from Sudan to the west afflicted her in the form of nostalgia or longing for home. She was often faced with the problem of inner conflict in reconciling her dual identities. For example, when she was in Sudan, she saw herself as a feminist fighting for the economic empowerment of women. In the west, she found their brand of feminism extreme. She was not contesting for equality with a man, but believed in the equality of human beings.

Zaynab Alkali buttressed the point that her characters were mostly secular in nature because she grew up in a family that had three Christians and three Muslims who lived in peace with one another. She gave the example of her father who was a Muslim but who was hospitalised in a Christian hospital and later converted to Christianity, Alkali stressed that the girl child must strive to acquire both western and Islamic education and how to combine the best of both worlds.

On the culture of women wearing Hijab, Alkali stressed that it was not just peculiar to Islam because nuns and even Victorian women wore it, or its equivalent as a sign of modesty, decency, respect and honour. In recent times, people feared the Hijab because women have abused it by hiding explosives. She recalled how she was embarrassed on two occasions on a reading tour of her books at the airport in Amsterdam, in 1994 and in Dallas, 2012. She said she felt she was harassed and gazed with suspicion and hostility because she wore a Hijab. She asserted that the Hijab in the modern context had become a form of distancing between you and the world. Aboulela offered that there should be a balance between spiritual and social life, and worship must be approached with humility. Though wearing the Hijab was not a big deal, it must not be approached with arrogance.

Kinna asked if they were feminist. Leila Aboulela said “in Sudan, I am feminist, in the west, feminism is alienating and extreme. I am not opposed to patriarchy but oppose to injustice.” Zaynab Alkali distanced herself from radical feminism, but aired her support for women economic empowerment. She gave an anecdote to illustrate the nexus between Men and women in society as the relationship between the brain and the heart.

Big Cities, Endless Possibilities

Before introducing the writers, the beautiful Wana Udobang highlighted the dangers of a city. She discussed the endless possibilities that made up a city and the thread of love running through both Toni Kan’s Carnivorous City, and Richard Ali’s City of Memories. She was curious and interested in knowing how amidst the chaos, frustrations and crisis sprouting through city streets and nightlife, both writers were able to maintain a love theme. Kan’s baritone boomed through the microphone and filled the room. He noted that there was always space to occupy. And what couldn’t be done in the village could be done in the city because of its seeming anonymity. Love being natural was inevitable especially in a lonely setting, he observed. For him, the need for connection always made love possible despite seeming impossibilities.

“A city is a sort of space that pulls us away from each other,’ responded Ali. Love in a city story would always ravel itself. ‘While the city unravels you,’ Ali said, ‘love anchors you to a place.’  This he noted was because religious, political and ethnic pressures would disenchant the individual, but it would take love to be stable again.

The multilayered history spiraling through writers’ engagements, the ability to write what one pleased while addressing issues with a didactic twist was asked by the moderator. ‘You don’t read my book to learn anything,’ confessed Kan, ‘when I want moral instructions I read the Bible.’ Kan opinionated that books, like movies were engaged for escape. On the other hand, Richard didn’t set out to write nuanced narratives but couldn’t ignore the foreboding issues within his space.

The moderator asked how both writers handled accuracy in writing. Richard clarified his stand by stating that unlike fiction, non-fiction had the burden of veracity. ‘It is in little discussions that truth comes out,’ he said. For Kan, the writer act as a cartographer. Citing an instance in Carnivorous City, he tried to give real street details and the whole book seemed like a love song to Lagos. But he observed that in 4-5 years, cities would change as well as the landmarks and one would be forced to create landmark for he or herself. And when Udobang raised the question of the unexplored layered complexities of cities; Kan is of the view that Lagos for instance stood as the most represented city in all of African cities though the like of Jos, Ibadan and Kaduna couldn’t be erased. ‘You have to understand the city to bring it to life,’ Kan conclude, ‘or your story would be flat.’

‘It’s an issue of certainty being convenient,’ said Ali concerning the issue of veracity in fiction. he discussed the issue of identity politics which could be found in cities despite having lived for years at the sam time, the centre of City of Memories could be locate on the blend of people across religious and ethnic lines. In lending weight to this, Kan emphasized the authenticity of more than novels as oppose to earlier one where everyone character had a Western name and an ethnic one. This was brought about by the relativity of current texts and the contemporary issues being raised.

In discussing the heart of the two books, the moderator asked what were the challenges of the authors in portraying cities as characters. Kan admitted his portrayal came with a failure to capture what he really wanted: Lagos. In trying to avoid making it seem phantasmagoric, he fought his best to be close to the original, the real, while noting Mainland and Island were two different places in same city. Richard Ali on the other hand said capturing the physical wasn’t really what he meditated upon when it came to Jos, city, but the what was lost and the attitude of seeing each others’ humanity through greetings in every situation. At the end he posited that writers actually put characters to live up their fantasies.

There were heated debates during the question and answers forum, however, the question on modern simplicity and old complexity of language was finally addressed by professor E. E. Sule. He asserted that every writing came with a history and language used in the time or history reflected what was the norm, among other intellectual arguments. The engagement with the audience appeared to be one of the most interesting aspects of the forum and the audience didn’t let the heat to cool for a minute till the panel ran out of minutes.

Written By Domnic Aboi

Finding Your Voice In a Dark Room

The Kaduna Book And Art Festival on its second day amidst registration exercises and literary enthusiasts opened its first panel with a discussion concerning two novels: After The Theft by Edify Yakusak, and Bongel by Maryam Bobi. The discussion which was moderated by Dami Ajayi, dug into the lives of characters as portrayed by each novelist and the motivation behind it. Yakusak’s action-packed novel After The Theft with its cinematic details and thrilling plot lines is a page turner that had the moderator asking how much influence films/movies had on her. Though the simple and innocent answer she gave by saying she watched more movies than she read books registered a hum of disappointment across the room, her ability to depict graphic action scenes were not disapproved. Stating the mindless killings happening in the Southern parts of the state as a pool of inspiration, Yakusak said it was the silence over this great injustice and inhumanity that had propelled her into crafting her characters and finishing the novel.

 On the other hand; Maryam Bobi’s Bongel and its socioeconomic preoccupations roused a hot debate on the topics of religion, culture and morality. She argued that 70 percent of dropout school children were not only from penury-stricken homes, but were mostly women. The old cultural idea of parents choosing husbands for their daughters were brought to the fore. Bobi cited a girl she knew as an example. The girl, she narrated, had a man she was affectionately in love with but was being forced to marry a total stranger by her parents. She blamed the misconception of religion and cultural misinterpretation for the setback and the pulling down of women’s rights especially when it came to making statements about their rights of choice.

 After The Theft by Edify Yakusak continued to whip up sentiments around the killing of innocent people who didn’t have any idea of what was happening, let alone know if they were being taken advantaged of. She highlighted crisis in Jos, likewise killings in the Middle Belt and Kaduna. And also the neglect of mentally deranged persons. The moderator, Ajayi, who was also a doctor was able to pin social negligence that mentally deranged patients have suffered. He lamented the concentration of psychologists in Lagos other than being evenly distributed across the states, as well as the concept of treating and caring for the mentally challenged.

Dami Ajayi questioned the thin line between fiction and facts in Maryam Bobi’s Bongel. The answer was a trip down memory lane. The author excavated memories of a former classmate in primary five (5) who didn’t return after their break and were told she had been married off. since that time, the author said she personally kept piecing the puzzle together to have a better understanding of what society had become and the place of the girl child and women in general in an evolving society.  She cited another incident where a boy was raped in Kontagora but the mild sentence it incurred on the male perpetrator didn’t amount to the magnitude of the committed crime. It is this double standard that she argued against and the need for equal recognition of rights and pride of place for women in a patriarchal setup.

 Questions were asked and were duly answered by moderator and the writers on the panel.  Critical observations with regards to the use of google at the expenses of real field data were seriously debated on.

Written By Domnic Aboi

Art, Activism and the Northern Narrative

Art, Activism and the Northern Narrative

The panel on Art, Activism and the Northern Narrative started with a highlight of Rahama Sadau’s latest role on a thriller that will be aired on Ebony TV. The session was loaded with an explosion of arguments like fireworks. The actress of Northern origin Rahama Sadau was adorned in green regalia, dotted with a touch of yellow. This outfit was crossed with a purple veil that illuminated her beauty. Their conversation with Hafsat Abubakar centred on how artists could balance their obligation to society and their art. Rahama recalled with dismay how her acting talent has exposed her and her family to danger in recent times. She informed the audience that she is from a family of six. Her Dad is an Imam, and has been stoned in the past for a role she took in a movie that offended some people’s sensibility. This attack has made her to have a rethink. In her words, “I am fierce. But I love my family. My sister” It is this mind-set that has made her more cautious in her acting career.  She has been made the face of rebellion in the Northern film industry because she was the first person to go into the mainstream media. She has taken movie roles outside of the Kannywood movie industry. She hoped that “time will change things,” Moreover, as the movie industry has become more competitive and movies from the north are beginning to receive global attention; people have started making exciting movies that overshadow societal pressures. She said other Kannywood actresses like Nafisa and Mariam have also followed in her footsteps by joining the mainstream movie industry. Rahama was frank and open about personal questions from the audience. She revealed, she did not complete her tertiary education, but intends to return to school this year. Sadau was emphatic that, trauma and fear dictated some of her actions and the roles she had played in movies. The controversy that surrounding her video with Classiq and the suspension she was given was another contentious subject during the conversation. Sadau said she felt nothing was wrong with the video. People in the north are fond of linking religion with entertainment. These two are different, “I have no regret demonstrating my passion in any of my craft, and religion is a thing of the mind”

 Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, the leader of MOPPAN and a renowned author of Hausa literature, in her comment made a daring attempt to put Rahama Sadau’s statement into context. She emphasized the fact that the issue between MOPPAN and Sadau was not a personal vendetta. It was a conflict between her and the movie industry in Kano. She claimed that the organisation was trying to mould the actress to imbibe certain values, so that when she goes out the world will see the northern element in her, at the level of culture and religion. This is because, the spotlight is on her. It is through her that the world will see and define a northern Nigerian woman. If she exhibits negative values, that is how the northern women will be perceived. In Balaraba’s Words, “once you have become a star, whatever you do has a direct bearing on your society.” She said, a few years back, they faced a similar issue in Kano, because of it, their homes were traced, they were assaulted, insults were thrown at them in front of their families. So, when this ClassiQ video saga started “I called you to my house and advised you. The things I said, I won’t repeat here. I spoke to you as a mother. You mentioned you don’t care about MOPPAN. No! You should care about MOPPAN. We are colleagues not adversaries. You cannot benefit from MOPPAN and turn around and claim you have nothing to do with it. What we want from women is to marry and give birth to children. When someone watches your movies and read your story, let them see the north in you.”

Rahama Sadau silenced the house when she revealed that her ban by the Motion pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) for an offensive hug on the video of Classiq’s hit song “I love you,” was never officially communicated to her. Neither was she invited to the organisation office to relay a defence. It was important to her for people to understand that she embodies dual personalities. She is anyone her script dictates she becomes and beneath that also a human being with a second life. She said “if MOPPAN claims to be a mother organisation for artist when the video allegation came out,MOPPAN will have called me and listened to me. Today, I have not seen a document detailing my crimes and my ban. I only read about it in traffic and on social media, I have been a loyal member of the organisation”

These exchanges revealed a palpable intergenerational disconnection amongst the northern population. It was a battle between conservatism and liberalism. 

An elderly woman spoke in defence of Rahama. She said most of the opinions of men in the audience reek of chauvinism and the objectification of women. Her anger about the hypocrisy of religion was displayed in her gestures. She threw her hands in the air and looked straight into the audience; in a display of audacity and courage. She described the northern elites as opportunist who only invokes religion as pretence to perpetuate patriarchy. She re-jigged our memories to a recent revelation on cyberspace of the hotel escapades of the former governor of Yobe state, Bukar Ibrahim, with two ladies. She said the north was a hypocritical society. A society that creates disparity between what a man can do to be different from the abilities of women. She said Ali Nuhu can act in movies where he is seen kissing and hugging girls but that same right is denied a Rahama Sadau. The core of her arguments is that Rahama Sadau was taunted because she is a woman.

Kinna Likimani, the literary blogger’s comment boardered on the ownership of the female body and who has the right to appropriate it, the burden of responsibility for children and their welfare as a major task of the women. She said women were free spirits who have the right to decide their own narrative.

Written By Katung Kwasu

Seeing and Believing: Of Southern Musicians and Northern Provocateurs

The booklogue, titled “Seeing and Believing” brought to the literary engagement front two great novelists on their first novels, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim with Season of Crimson Blossoms and Odafe Atogun with Taduno’s Song dutifully moderated by Professor EE Sule.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim started reading from page 295 of his trailblazing novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, and no matter how many times you’ve read the book when Abubakar brings out the character in his own voice, it seems like you are starting the book afresh all over again. Abubakar reads with crimson beauty and a blossoming narrative. Let me give you a taste of this language back to the beginning of the book, a paragraph strikes you with its language:

“Hajiya Binta Zubairu was finally born at fifty-five when a dark-lipped rogue with short, spiky hair, like a field of miniscule anthills scaled her fence and landed, boots and all, in the puddle that was her heart.”

That is exactly how Season of Crimson Blossoms scales the fence and jumps into the puddle of this literary engagement.

Odafe Atogun on the other hand starts reading Taduno’s Song from a part that is a letter. Just like the title implies, the letter is in the form of a song, and this short excerpt is read poetically by Odafe pushing us into the larger than life narrative that is embedded in Taduno’s Song. It is not just the character that pops out of the reading, but also the idea of a notorious city that is Lagos, and that is where we encounter the wildness of Odafe’s imagination.

In the booklogue discussion that follows, we definitely see and we believe. On one side, Taduno’s Song is a character of a southern musician, while in Season of Crimson Blossoms, we have Binta Zubairu as a northern provocateur that breaks patriarchal barriers. Hear her speak:

“And because they were alone in the house, because she had always wanted to, because she could not stop herself, she moaned. With his tongue, he unlocked something deep within her. She soared with tears streaming down her face.”

“I am a dreamer.” Odafe spills the beans. This explains the fable like style of Taduno’s song and the exploration of the power of the art in writing. As a fan of music, its influence towards writing Taduno’s Song is quite reputable, using music as a weapon against tyranny, and Taduno is the character wielding that weapon.

This panel allowed us to see and believe as promised. But even more, the novelists shredded issues of the society and blended them with the stories of their novels and laid the gauntlet to the audience, to think and re-think, towards an inner mind revolution.

The music of a hero against tyranny, and the sexuality of a fifty-five year old widow became vessels that projected fables and provocations in two different societies and challenged us to look at ourselves and crash our stereotypes. Our novelists had simple jobs, they inspired and they provoked, and urged us to look at our society critically.

Written By Sada Malumfashi

Towards Religious Tolerance in Northern Nigeria

The conversation tagged “Towards Religious Tolerance in Northern Nigeria” began on a bright note, as Ahmed Kadaria the able moderator for this discourse introduced her guests and their impressive portfolios. In her words, they were “eminently qualified for this conversation”. Rev. Joseph Hayab as the secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria and works for the global peace foundation and Dr Usman Bugaje as a strong stakeholder in interreligious dialogue and peace building in Northern Nigeria gave the conversation a sense of balance.

Hayab argued that the North has an uncanny character, being both a multicultural and multi-religious setting.  He debunked the notion of the north as a monolithic entity. He stated that an average northerner had always been a peace-loving person who idolised his neighbour. He cited instances where in his native Ham community, a Ham man gave his son a Hausa name, a Hausa man from Sokoto gave his son a name that in Ham language. In fact, his name Hayab was derived from a Hausa man’s name when he worked in Kano. The thrust of his opening argument was that the peasant population in Northern Nigeria were not the actors of ethno-religious intolerance in Northern Nigeria.

He identified the elite and political class as the dividing line in Northern Nigeria. These elite invoke religion as a tool to achieve selfish purposes. He defined the character of religion as being malleable or flexible; and this made it a potent tool for the destruction of society.

Religion he argued was most times manipulated by the political class and religious leaders to protect certain privileges. He condemned the enthronement of sentiments in political appointments instead of competence. He argued that the late Sardauna, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa ran an all-inclusive government that gave equal opportunities to all. But, the crops of politicians today in the core north saw him as a weak leader who gave too much power to minorities. He stressed that this unfair political climate gave birth to religious intolerance.

In a rhetorical style, he asked “when you are sick, do you ask for a Christian or Muslim Doctor, or a competent hand that is experienced and can heal you?; When your vehicle breaks down, do you ask for a mechanic that is an expert or do you ask for a Muslim or Christian mechanic?  He further stated that when the Super Eagles were in the field of play, the soul of the nation was one. He asked that during this football matches, which prayer did the say? Which one works?

Bugaje hinged his argument on the fact that religious intolerance in Northern Nigeria was motivated by bad governance. He stressed that injustice had been an open wound that only truth could heal. Bad policies he argued have ensured that the educational standards to remain low. The level of one’s education to a large extent determined the level of his tolerance for the other. Education encouraged individuals to probe issues and not to swallow any information they heard. He cited the case of forwarding messages on social media without proper interrogation of the issues raised in as an emblematic example of failed education system, starting with the individual.

He faulted the rise of foreign donor organisations that sponsored religious bodies in Northern Nigeria. He said these sponsors did not have the interest of the nation at heart.

He suggested a form of regulation for preachers of all faiths. He said the parameters used for admittance into the Ulamaa (a body of Islamic preachers) must be closely monitored. It seems people just listened to cassettes, spoke good Arabic, grew a beard and wore jump-up trousers to become Mallams. The inadequate communication between the two faiths also posed problems. Whenever there was an interface for genuine dialogue, both faiths withheld important details and seemed to compromise when there was money involve.

He argued that leaders must take responsibility for their failures and the only way to solve the problem of religious intolerance will be if the act of governance would be corrected and the right crops of leaders elected. On the other hand, Hayab argued that to solve the issue of religious intolerance, leaders must be humane and not arrogant in order to run their affairs. He further suggested that there must be a channel of communication between government and the populace.