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Award winning Nigerian poet Chijioke Amu-nnadi is currently embroiled in sexual molestation scandal which broke on Facebook a few days ago.

The first inklings that something was afoot came when a number of young writers on Facebook put up cryptic posts about a ‘god of poetry’ who had been molesting young female writers. No names were mentioned until January 13 when a post was shared on Facebook by writer and filmmaker Daniel John Tukura.

It was a statement from Juliet Kego Ume-Onyido of Whole WoMan Network, an NGO based in Canada, calling on “anyone of you who will be willing to speak to me re some Sexual Abuse/Harassment/Manipulation cases we’re investigating in my organization . . . In particular, today, I’d like to talk to you about the ones in the literary circle regarding Mr Chijioke Amu-Nnadi,” that revealed who the ‘god of poetry’ was. She went on to state at the end of the post that “Mr Amu-Nnadi has been duly informed about this investigation.” (click here to read full post )

The Allegations

A dam seemed to have opened after that because a few days later Abuja-based freelance writer Miracle Adebayo and Mary Ajayi, writer and 2015 MILEAD Fellow, put up posts on Facebook about how Amu nnadi kissed them without their consent.

Miracle Adebayo: “However at some point during the festival, I was in his car with two other people. He specifically asked that I sit in the front seat while we drove to get food. I didn’t object because I saw no big deal there.

“Along the road, we stopped for the other occupants to get something from a shop. In those few minutes; Amu-Nnadi, a man I thought I could trust, forcefully kissed me.” This happened at the 2014 Ake Book and Arts Festival where she met him for the first time. (click here to read full post)

miracle-Chijioke Amu-nnadi

Mary Ajayi met Amu-nnadi at the Writivism Festival in Uganda in 2015 in her capacity as the festival’s blog editor. “As I greeted him and introduced myself, he hugged me. Then one of the minders and I accompanied them upstairs to settle in. After we found their rooms, we all made to leave. I was going back to the ground floor to continue work; he offered to see me off a bit. When we got to the first floor (his room was on the third), we stopped to wrap up our chit chat. I didn’t see what happened next coming. It just did.

“He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me.” (click here to read full post )

Mary-ajayi-Chijioke Amu-nnadi

The allegations of both women threw the Nigerian literary community into an uproar and Facebook almost caught fire from the reactions varying from disbelief, calls for a response from Amu-nnadi – who had disabled his Facebook account – to support for his alleged victims.

The Apology

Apparently giving in to calls from respected writers, including Ikhide Ikeola, to speak up, on Tuesday, January 19, Chijioke Amu-nnadi reactivated his account and put up the following post on his Facebook wall, and cc’d the President of the Authors Association of Nigeria.

My dear friends and colleagues, I have read and heard a lot that has been said about how my manner of interaction with some younger female writers within our literary commune has been quite inappropriate. With sincerity I accept responsibility for the hurt a writer’s excesses have caused you all. I wish to humbly seek a lasting healing for all affected and all concerned because it was not my intention to hurt anyone. I truly regret this. I am deepy sorry and I apologize without reservation to all affected. DO FORGIVE. Thank you all for reading and for your understanding.

Cc.
Pa Ikhide
Denja Abdullahi, The President, ANA

This apology sparked a lot of outrage and battle lines were drawn: on one side those who believed the victims should accept the apology and move on and on the other those who did not see his statement as an apology or admittance of guilt but a ploy to douse tensions.

“When we declare Chijioke courageous because he wrote a carefully coded statement of regret, we imply that his accusers’ anguish is of little consequence. I am a big fan of Chijioke’s poetry. But my admiration of his poetry is besides the point. If he violated women in the manner that several of them have outlined, then a full investigation ought to be made,” Okey Ndibe, a prominent novelist, commented on the post.

okey-ndibe-Chijioke Amu-nnadi

A backlash of this scandal is that calls are now being made for festival organizers to have ‘clear code of conducts for every participant they invite.’

The AkeArts&BookFestival tweeted from its handle ‏@akefestival: Ake Festival condemns all acts of sexual harassment/ molestation/ violence. We’re committed to creating a safe space for all.

No reference to the issue has been made by the organisers of the Writivism Festival.

The Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA has also not made a statement on the matter.

Further Revelations

Reacting to Amu-nnadi’s apology and the idea that the case was now ‘settled’, Mrs Juliet Kego Ume-Onyido put up a post of Facebook stating that the Amu nnadi case went beyond the literary space. (click here to read full post )

How it Stands

For now, the scandal has been restricted to social media, blogs and a couple of national dailies.

The young women involved have not stated if they will be pressing charges against Amu-nnadi or not.

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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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