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Writers convened at Ake for the second edition of Ake Arts and Book Festival. It only made sense that President Olusegun Obasanjo who lives sort of close by  and who is himself an author should be there to mingle with fellow authors.

The publication of his memoir, titled My Watch, is the most recent in a sizable list of books published by the former president of Nigeria.

His session with Patrick Okigbo was one of the many high points of the five-day festival.

On Friday the 21st, he sat before a capacity audience and talked about everything from his childhood days to his life and work in the Nigerian Army.

Nigerian author, Ukamaka Olisakwe, posted a good bit of live Facebook updates during the event, which I loved and have shared with you here including a photo-story of the event.

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“Waiting for Olusegun Obasanjo. The hall is spilling over. Great thing I have a front row seat. Or nearly-a-front-row seat. lol.

Ok. Baba don come with him entourage. Ha! We have to stand in welcome. Ok o.

Patrick Okigbo III is an excellent moderator!

Baba is telling us the story of how his father met his mother. Great narrator. Surprisingly.”

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“His teacher asked him on his first day at school his date of birth and he said, ‘ok, I will ask my mother.” He got home and asked his mother and his mother said, ‘oh, that’s simple. you were born on ifo market day.’ That’s all.

His father asked him what he will like to be and he said, ‘I will like to be a vehicle mechanic.’ His father, disappointed, asked him if he won’t like to go to school? And he said ‘if you send me, I will go.’ And that was the best thing that happened to him, Baba says.

His father didn’t want him to go to the school in the village because those schools were second best.

They tried 6 schools and they wouldn’t accept him. Because they always came late.”

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“His father’s idea of a hardworking man is that you must wake up by 5am before sunrise and you must be sweating in the farm by noon. Else you were lazy.

He did well in standard two, but he couldn’t spell ‘shokoloko bango she!’ This man is hillarious!

The second most distinct thing in his life was that he attended Baptist High School. Because it was just Baptist High School and others. lol.

He left school without a testimonial.”

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“He wasn’t accepted Fourah Bay (a higher institution). Last year, he visited the school and told them that the had rejeced his application. They went to their archives and found his application. Then they gave honourary alumnus. He is no. 1 on that list. lol

Now the army stories.

Patrick Okigbo III: “in your view, should Nigerians remember Chukwuma Nzeogwu as hero or villain?”

Olusegun Obasanjo: In my book I said he was a patron and nationalist, but he was naive. I don’t know how you’ll want to make him a hero or villian, but he was my best friend. He didn’t tell me about the coup, because if he’d told me, I would have known whether to dissuade him or join
him. He didn’t give me the opportunity of choice. But he was my best friend.”

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Pat. Okigbo: “Why hasn’t the government apologized to the victims of the pogrom.”

Olusegun Obasanjo: “You’ll have to go from the beginning and then you’ll figure out if there was need for apology or not…In 1966 there was a coup and all those killed were non-Igbos…by whatever you may want to explain it, it was difficult for the North not to see this as it was: an Igbo conspiracy/agenda. And then they made they mistake of making Nigeria a unitary system and the North saw this as, 
truly – to them, an Igbo domination…so, once you were Igbo even by association or the way you dress or your name, you were seen as the (dominant). That’s how the pogrom started.”

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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