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Do not begin until you have a large map of Nigeria before you. You will need it: at least for inspiration (or direction), or for the sake of knowing how big the size of the North is. Note: Nigeria is a beloved country and your writing is an importance piece on her largest region.

Your main character should be an imam, or a beggar, or farmer, or a herdsman. Or, all of it. But must be an illiterate and a Muslim who is not interested in science and technology. Or, he should be an almajiri because you love, because you care. However, whoever of these you chose as character must be empty, merely existing because he was born and needs to be alive. Involve him in situations that irritate and annoy the readers. Make sure in your writing, the readers pity him but should never love him or get anything about his humanity. You must do this. Because you so much love Nigeria. And he is the singular reason this (your) beloved country is backward. You can begin to show these in a well set out (a well polished) prologue, because you are a good writer.

You must avoid complex plot(s) and toughened language: the Northerner is simple in thought, frail in worldview and philosophically poor, and should not be portrayed in “high Literature”. Use: ‘Childish’, ‘innocent’, ‘victim’, ‘Docile’, ‘Frivolous’, ‘Trifling’, and maybe ‘Silly’ to describe him. Do not skip these except your poetic license has been seized. He needs nothing other than food, sleep, and always fucking his ten years old wife. See to it that these details are given to the readers: their presence in your text may win you a prize. Or a trip, on a business class, to Western metropolises.

Use the present continuous tense in your narrative. Avoid the past participle tense; the North you are writing about has never changed. Use this verb tense. It reinforces the readers’ consciousness to the currency of your thematic concerns.

If your writing is about a juvenile, the title has to be eponymous: ‘Abdulkadir. The Brave Herdsman’, ‘Mallam Ilia’s Servant’, ‘Dantani, the Beggar’. You may use other titles like: ‘Zubairu, The Gateman’, ‘Zainabo, the Beauty Queen’. Or ‘How Abu Became a Mai suya’, ‘Kwainam the Village Witch’. Use these. You know why you should use them. And if you are writing a ‘serious’ text for adults, always use these words or expressions in your title or as your title: ‘Arewa’, ‘Trials of Ahmadu Bello’, ‘Kano’, ‘Almajiri’, ‘Hausa-Fulani, The Problem Within’, ‘Lord Lugard and The Biggest Mistake’. Or use these: ‘Sharia’, ‘The Wretcheds of the North’ or ‘The Wretcheds in the North’, ‘Why Nigeria lags Behind’, or ‘Aboki’. Use these, it shows you are angry, intelligent and bold. Use them because you are a writer; every writer is angry, intelligent and bold.

Mention early in your writing how much the Northerner admires blood and detests parenting. Include the way he goes about executing this in ethno-religious riots. Never give these pictures without using any of these words: ‘Genocide’, ‘Pogrom’, ‘Jihad’, ‘terrorism’, ‘Ethnic-cleansing’, or you use ‘Zangon Kataf’, ‘Chibok’. Use them as key words when writing about violence in the North. Always show in your writing that the North is an Islamic collective that carries out jihad. It is true. They will enhance the relevance of your writing at international fora. And you know what this means. You know.

Your Northern characters feed on starch, sugarcane, dates and nothing more. They do not know what continental or sophisticated or well-cooked meals are. Never show them eating noodles and spaghetti on dining tables. They have no names, so let them be called ‘Mallam’, ‘Malo’ or ‘Aboki’. Depict them roaming about your city, state or country inconveniencing you and your people with their stench.

Northern female characters must be women in purdah. Do not tell the readers why. Everybody knows. Do not forget to portray all of them as VVF patients. Include how their children and husbands suffer from leprosy and polio. They look pale and pinched. Dirty, smelly and ignorant. Demonstrate how much you know the Northern woman by showing a teen-ager in her menstruation.

Have your spatial setting as a hot and unattractive place. No streetlights, clubs, bars and hotels. It is made up of farmlands, huts, and mosques, with donkeys, cattle, sheep and chicken roaming about. You can include how close it is to the Sahara desert. No school: You should, however, show some children chanting the Quran under a tree. It is the only school in the North. The huts are large abodes because Northerners sleep in there with their animals. Do not feel too revealing about these. What you are doing is good. These non-urban details enhance the importance of your piece. It is for Nigeria. It is for NGOs. You want to civilize your country. Or because you are bold and want to win a prize. Or, you want to just give shape to your thoughts in a fine text.

Temporal setting could be anytime. This year or last year. This century or last century. It is the same North, not much has changed. However, when it is this year or this century make sure you depict the groundnut pyramids in a flashback somewhere around your concluding stage. It must be in a flashback. You know the importance of this.

Be democratic in your writing (after all your beloved Nigeria is a democratic nation). Look at the map before you and notice the North-Central. You should refer to the people there as Middle-Beltans and refer to the people beyond as core Northerners. You must see and get this difference. It will help you. Do not allow the difference get you fidgeted anyway. Treat the North as though it is a lame expanse. Never forget to tell your readers, hereupon, that Northerners in the North-Central are nothing other than foolish ‘Civil Warriors’ and unfortunate people.

Include harmattan-stricken boys sleeping under trees, in mosques, or scavenging on mounds of rubbish among your characters. And include young girls in a mass wedding somewhere in Sokoto or Bauchi. Beside this, give the picture of a naked child, standing shoeless, before a hut picking his nose and eating the dry snot. Do not skip the details of his small (uncircumcised) penis. It means a lot to your readers. Your other Northern characters should include Snake charmers, Islamic clerics, Herdsmen, Blacksmiths, and Rainmakers. They are the true images of the North. Describe, in detail, how they remain the reasons why your beloved country’s North is so poor, and know nothing about family planning. Never deny your readers details on mortality rate, leprosy, poliomyelitis, whooping cough, and malaria. Show that the North is too diseased.

Always use the omniscient or authorial voice in your narrative, because you know everything about the North and can show them in a fine literature. Use this to reveal the Northerner in all he does. Your readers would be glad if they see how he fondles his ‘underage’ wife’s pussy, the penetration, the blood, the moans. Do not tell; show how private and how unromantic the lovemaking is. Because you are a civilized kind. Because, with your all-seeing eyes you know the Northerner.

Or employ the first person point of view to evoke pity from the readers when the character is a homeless, parentless child. Or, when she is a hijab-wearing girl from Kaura Namoda detonating bombs in Kafanchan or when he is the old man from Yola who sells Suya in Ikoyi or Port Harcourt or when he is the aboki from Maiduguri or Kano who guards houses in Lekki and Maitama. Try to do this except you are writing about Aliko Dangote or Mamman Shatta or about the Northern woman you were sleeping with during your NYSC or university days.

On the other hand, you must avoid having your northern character masturbating or wet-dreaming. Deny your readers scenes that depict him having oral or anal sex. He is not that complex. He is a crude simple being. And those are sexual complexities. You know, yes you know.

You will need a lot of crude images to show that the North is too conservative: Anti-progress or Anti Western. Anti-technology or Anti Modern. Anti-Nigeria or Anti-1914. Do not avoid these details in your writing because you so much love Nigeria and your writing is an important opinion about her largest region.

Mention near your conclusion where Ahmadu Bello is saying something about being a Southerner and Christian and being a Northerner and Muslim. Or, Yakubu Gowon saying something about Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. Do not forget this. You already know who they are.

Always end your writing with an ellipsis. Because you do not want to say the other things. Because your readers should think out the other things. Because you are angry, intelligent and bold. Do this because you are a good writer.



Post image by Michał Huniewicz via Flickr.

About the Author:

Pwaangulongii Dauod is a writer. His memoir piece, “Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men,” which looks at an underground gay club in Nigeria, appeared in Granta Magazine last summer.

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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.

5 Responses to “How to Write About Northern Nigeria | Pwaangulongii Dauod” Subscribe

  1. Sam 2017/01/04 at 08:05 #

    Insightful piece. I have worried about some of these in a number of Caine shortlisted stories and elsewhere. In particular, the proliferation of child narrators which often seems like a justification for simplistic prose and simplistic perspectives. Hilarious homage to Binyavanga’s piece too. Although it sometimes copies BW’s syntax to unwieldy effect

  2. Nma Nazzy Agada 2017/01/05 at 10:04 #

    I love how vivid this piece is and how it serves justice by bringing alive conscience to reprimand us for the war we’ve waged against each other through narratives that have given us a false sense of superiority to their detriment.

  3. Nma Agada 2017/01/05 at 10:05 #

    I love how vivid this piece is and how it serves justice by bringing alive conscience to reprimand us for the war we’ve waged against each other through narratives that have given us a false sense of superiority to their detriment.

  4. Ajakaye B. 2017/01/06 at 23:06 #

    For a yoruba boy who had part of his formative years in North, Maiduguri to be specific, I find it difficult to remember if had ever lived there. It is a wrong use of the power of literacy, when misinformation for fame just becomes normal.

  5. Tega Oghenechovwen 2017/01/11 at 15:51 #

    Northern Nigeria is otherwise a beautiful place without religious intolerance and ethnocentricity which other parts of Nigeria are guilty of. However, I would not say that this beautiful piece is a slavish imitation of Binyavanga’s creative process (comparing the style and rhetoric with BW’s How TO WRITE ABOUT AFRICA), because the writer succeeds in making it new except for the vulgarity which I think is uncultured and lame. Indeed, he is truly an Alumnus of Farafina Writing Workshop where one is plastered with the DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY.

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