“Are there bookshops in Nigeria?” The question posed by a French journalist last week incensed acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
At an event held in a ritzy Paris government building under crystal chandeliers, Adichie launched a blistering assault on perceived French arrogance.
“I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question,” said Adichie.
“My books are read in Nigeria. They are studied in schools. Not just Nigeria, across the continent in Africa.”
The subsequent outrage on social media was perhaps predictable: insults hurled at the French journalist amid accusations of racism and colonial prejudices.
Adichie wasn’t done yet. The novelist, who was born in Nigeria but now lives in the United States, followed up with a Facebook post the next day arguing that the bookstore question was “giving legitimacy to a deliberate, entitled, tiresome, sweeping base ignorance about Africa”.
But not everyone wholeheartedly agrees. “You can’t say there aren’t any bookstores or libraries in Nigeria, that’s ridiculous,” Tabia Princewill, a columnist told AFP.
“But they aren’t pretty, and they are often religious books or educational books. In public libraries, there are almost no books,” Princewill said.
“It’s shameful and it is not being anti-Africa to admit it.
“The African elite don’t want to face the reality.”
– Polarising question –
The bookstore debate is so polarising because it isn’t just about access to books, it’s also about the country’s troubled education system.
As the population of West Africa’s biggest economy explodes, the government is struggling to educate its 190 million people.
Nigeria has a 60 percent literacy rate, one of the lowest among frontier markets, according to investment banking firm Renaissance Capital in a Tuesday note.
There are vast regional discrepancies in the country, with the south boasting much higher literacy rates than the north, yet teacher quality and student attendance are perennial problems.
In her Facebook post, Adichie acknowledged the devastating effect of the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency on bookstores in the northeast.
She said her uncle had owned a store in Maiduguri, capital of northeast Borno State and birthplace of Boko Haram, but it had to close down when the city began to feel “too unsafe”.
While the north struggles to counter the fundamentalist ideology of the jihadists, whose name translates to “Western education is forbidden”, the south has its own issues.
Neighbourhood bookstores in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital with 20 million inhabitants, have to contend with patchy electricity, subsequent mould, and a market flooded with pirated books.
– Pirated books –
Still, some find a way. Kayode Odumosu has always loved books and at age 11, he started working at his school library.
In 1993, Odumosu opened Lagos Book Club in Festac, a small middle-class neighbourhood. His 3,000 second-hand books are stacked tightly next to one another on long metal shelves.
“I sell Shakespeare and all of Chimamanda’s novels,” he says with pride.
On a recent day in Jazzhole — the bookshop Adichie describes as her “favourite in Lagos” — the power is out and the air is muggy. There are biographies of Afrobeat king Fela Kuti next to books on Tehran and Venice.
Owner Kunle Tejuoso took over the family business in 1975. “Well before the birth of Chimamanda,” he said with some amusement.
The bookstore controversy doesn’t bother him much. “I’m used to it,” he said pragmatically. “When Westerners come to my shop they always have a little shock.”
For all Nigeria’s problems, books are an integral part of its culture, he said.
“The literary scene is exploding in Nigeria, we have a lot of new writers who make young people want to read.
“Our greatest challenge is the internet. In the past, young people weren’t so easily distracted,” Tejuoso added, articulating a problem that affects bookstores both in France and Nigeria.
PHOTOS: Ex-convict Returns To Nigeria With 4.56kg Of Cocaine
An ex-convict, Okechukwu Francis Amaechi, has been arrested by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency at the Port Harcourt International Airport for importing cocaine.
The agency in a statement issued on Sunday said Okechukwu finished serving a drug trafficking prison sentence in Brazil in March 2022.
Okechukwu was caught with 4.56kg crack concealed in lawnmower tyres.
UK Government Denies Declaring IPOB Terrorist Organisation
By Sandra Ani
The British High Commission Abuja has described as inaccurate the reports making rounds that United Kingdom (UK) has added the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to the UK’s list of terrorist groups or organisations banned under UK law.
In a statement made available to GrassRoots.ng, titled: “British High Commission Abuja on the UK Government Publications of the 13 April Country Policy and Information Note: ‘Nigeria: Separatist groups in the South East’”, the Commission said, “These reports are untrue. The ‘Indigenous People of Biafra” (IPOB) is not a proscribed organisation in the UK”.
“The inaccurate reporting relates to the 13 April 2022 publication by the UK Government of a revised Country Policy and Information note (CPIN) on separatist groups in SE Nigeria, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). CPINs provide country of origin information (COI) and analysis of COI for use by UK Government decision-makers handling particular types of protection and human rights claims.
“All asylum and human rights claims made in the UK are considered on their individual facts in accordance with our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights, taking into account relevant background country information and case law.
“The CPIN on separatist groups in the South East, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), provides a general assessment of risks faced by individuals belonging to those groups. These assessments are based on an analysis of publicly available country information obtained from a wide range of reliable sources including media outlets; UK and other governments; local, national and international organisations; and non-government organisations.
“This CPIN also acknowledges that the Nigerian government has proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organisation, some members of IPOB have reportedly used violence against the state and members of the public, and advises that persons who have committed human rights abuses must not be granted protection”.
The document is publicly available on our UK Government website, Gov.UK here.
Lawyer Gives EFCC Seven Days To Summon Nwajiuba, Ngige, Amaechi, Threatens Lawsuit
An Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, has given the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission a seven days’ notice to summon serving ministers and All Progressives Congress presidential aspirants.
The lawyer said the anti-graft agencies must summon the ministers and other government officials who have picked up bogus APC 2023 nomination forms to explain the source of funding, as their salaries for four years combined can’t afford such exorbitant fees charged by the ruling party.
Olajengbesi, who is the Principal Partner at Abuja-based law firm, Law Corridor, warned the EFCC and the ICPC that failure to summon the APC aspirants and serving government officials after seven days would attract a lawsuit.
He said the lawsuit would be instituted at the Federal High Court in Abuja and would be followed up to a logical conclusion to rid the political system of corruption.
Olajengbesi, in a statement on Friday, alleged that “The APC is promoting the same corruption that it claims to fight with the outrageous cost of nomination and expression of interest forms. One is not even surprised, after all, President Muhammadu Buhari has found nothing wrong in the pardon of two former governors convicted of stealing billions of naira. APC reeks of corruption.
“By this statement, I put the EFCC and the ICPC on notice to summon and probe all APC aspirants who double as government officials who have purchased the outrageous nomination forms. Be it, governors, ministers and every one of them must explain the source of their funding and must be duly vetted by the anti-graft agencies.
“Taxpayers’ monies must not be siphoned into the pursuit of selfish ambitions by individuals who do not have the interest of common Nigerians at heart.
“I will be instituting legal action against the EFCC and the ICPC at the expiration of seven days beginning from today, April 30, 2022, upon the failure of the two anti-graft agencies to live up to its responsibilities and probe all these government officials.”
APC had days ago pegged the cost of its nomination and expression of interest forms for the presidential election at N100 million, N50 million for governorship, N20m for Senatorial and N10m for federal house of representatives.
Already, Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; amongst others have picked up the forms while others are expected to follow suit in the coming days. They include Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu; amongst others jostling to be the flagbearer at the end of the APC presidential primary scheduled to hold at the end of May 2022.