The inaugural edition of The Kaduna Book and Arts Festival was announced a week ago. Read here if you missed it. The news stirred up quite a bit of excitement in the Nigerian literary community. The general response has been positive, with the organizers being praised for putting together a rich program of events and making the festival free for university students.

Against the currents of approval, Nigerian book critic Ikhide Ikheloa has raised concerns about the festival. He argues that the festival is essentially political distraction staged by the government of Kaduna State.

The piece was originally published on Ikheloa’s Medium page.

What do you guys think?

El-Rufai invites writers to his Book Festival in July: Of oppressors and messiahs, the distinction without a difference

Dear Nigerian writers, would you like to attend a book festival? You are in luck. ‘Governor” Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai is generously sponsoring on in the name of Kaduna State. Yes. From July 5–8, 2017, the Kaduna State government will be sponsoring a book festival, euphemistically called “The Kaduna Book & Arts Festival.” It should really be the El-Rufai Deification Festival as in Opera Wonyosi. I urge those of you who can attend it at such short notice to please go and enjoy “Governor” Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai’s largesse. It is all for his benefit but it doesn’t matter, if you don’t take the money, someone else will.

The timing of the “book festival” is interesting, coming out of the blue, as it did. The last thing Nigeria should be talking about is a festival that sequesters her thinkers while the country burns thanks to El-Rufai’s purveyors of hate. Igbo citizens of Nigeria and presumably all Southerners who live in the North have been asked to quit before October 1, 2017, or I imagine something seriously harmful will happen to them. That fatwa was delivered in El-Rufai’s Kaduna State. The last I heard, writers of Southern extraction are welcome to this shindig. Responsible people would say it is inappropriate to be inviting a festival into a boiling cauldron. Not El-Rufai, he is narcissistic like that. This festival just showed up this month, for next month, just like that. In any case, serious festivals take years of planning and hard work, and communications outreach. This is how we are, I will not insinuate anything. But go if you have the time on your hands. But be careful if you are Igbo, meaning, be careful if you are from the South.

El-Rufai is something else. He seeks a diversion and he has again reached out to his friends in the intellectual and writing community to help him out. Their priority is a book festival even as Kaduna is burning, and bigoted edicts aimed at the Igbo and Southerners in the North are gleefully trotted out by hate groups inspired by the hateful bigoted rhetoric of El-Rufai and “President” Muhammadu Buhari. The Igbo have been ordered out of the North, and outside of a tepid denunciation of this evil edict, nothing else has been done. The thugs who have declared a fatwa on the Igbo and other Southerners are hiding in plain sight. They have not been arrested. El-Rufai is not in a hurry to curtail their thuggery, for they are doing his bidding judging by his antecedents. Maybe he will do something after the successful conclusion of his book festival.

Yes, let me be clear; I take extremely seriously the expressed threat against Southerners living in the North and we must hold El-Rufai and Buhari responsible for any blood that is shed on Northern soil. Their irresponsible statements in the past have led us to this sad point in our lives. El-Rufai of course gets away with murder literally because he has Nigerian writers and intellectuals of stature in his shady pockets. The writing and intellectual community was silent when he arrested and harassed Dr. John Danfulani and Mr. Audu Maikori, advocates whose only crime is that they have thoughts and opinions different from those of El-Rufai the dictator. With their silence, they have supervised his behavior as under his watch minorities and Shiites are being slaughtered by the hundreds. They have joined Buhari the Clueless One to look the other way as “herdsmen” rape and plunder our people and our land. Yes, under El-Rufai, hundreds of Shiites were murdered in cold blood and hurriedly buried in mass graves. Not a word from our writers or intellectuals. Not a word. They want a book festival instead.

For looking the other way, El-Rufai funds our writers’ excesses, He is not the only one that has paid writers and intellectuals to be oppressors. He is in awful company with Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, Olusegun Obasanjo, Rotimi Amaechi, etc. El-Rufai is an especially horrible man, no writer with any conscience should be aligned with him. By his own admission, he looted Nigeria blind in Abuja. His corrupt ways are well documented by simply googling him. Simply google “El Rufai Ochonu” and you will feast on the malfeasance of El Rufai the malignant nuisance. You will read stomach churning stuff like this:

And that is the benign stuff. Just google him and read how this man and an army of weasels and termites have eaten the very foundation of Nigeria to nothing. In a real country, El Rufai would be in jail. Not in Nigeria. Here, he is hailed as a statesman and president of Nigeria in waiting. By intellectuals and writers. His self-serving book, “The Accidental Public Servant” is hailed as ground breaking work by professors “in the abroad.” Why, in 2013, his book, The Accidental Public Servant was the subject of a May 2, lecture pompously titled “Post Colonial Writing and the Challenge of Public Service in Africa” in which eminent intellectuals like Professor Pius Adesanmi and Harry Garuba and Reverend Tunde Bakare tried to canonize his pretend-book. This lecture was held at a university in Canada, no less. Intellectuals were flown in to say nonsense about how that silly book is something important in “African literature.” If you are on Facebook, please read this posting of mine and the comments:

In July, his image will be blown up in huge posters at this “book festival.” His “book” will be the subject of much bullshit pontification by rented PhDs. Just as in Carleton Canada when Professor Pius Adesanmi and an army of professors of something (flown in to crown this awful book, the nadir of African literature) canonized him as a visionary worth looking up to by the world.

It is very interesting how conservative, no reactionary Nigerian writers (especially the ones who write books!) have become. They will not be seen dead lending their voices to the oppression that serves as democracy in Nigeria. You will see them online railing at Donald Trump and joining any and all chic movements that elevate their “brand.” They will however write volumes of books on our grime, poverty, corruption, wars, — for pay. Our writers have gentrified from high relevance to malignant irrelevance. They are either stuck in corridors of power begging for crumbs from the oppressors or they are fighting over Western literary prizes. As we speak many are in church praying for divine favor in the hands of the gods that give literary prizes. Yes, this is the season of literary prizes. The more Western the better. Africa Writes! In London! Mtscheeewwww.

You will not hear these writers’ voices when you need them to speak up. They were silent when Rotimi Amaechi spent a million dollars on a 2-hour dinner for Professor Wole Soyinka. They were silent when a bunch of older writers with a pretend “literary outfit, PAWA inserted a $1 million bill in the Nigerian budget for only heavens knows what. They have heckled anyone who dares question the juvenile narrative that is the Chibok saga. They have been silent about the continued detention (for NINE months) of the “released” girls by the government. They have of course been silent about the numerous massacres, detentions, kidnap kings and oppressions of people in democratic Nigeria. And of course, they helped usher in the worst government in the history of Nigeria. No one holds them accountable.

This is why between July 5th and July 8th, social media will be agog, throbbing with pictures of “writers” posting selfies of themselves with thugs like El-Rufai, Rotimi Amaechi, Olusegun Obasanjo, and all other slimy criminals and enemies of Nigeria. 2019 is almost here, and our criminal politicians need our self-serving intellectuals to clear the path for them — with the right narrative. We will be there. I hope they send me a ticket, I will go!


Facebook link image via praxis magazine.

About the Author:

15390684_10155596921349616_2721807400341357190_n (1)Ikhide R. Ikheloa or Pa Ikhide is a social and literary critic who writes non-stop on various online media. He was a columnist with Next Newspaper and the Daily Times, Nigeria, where he held forth and offered unsolicited opinions on any and everything to do with literature and the world. He has been published in books, journals and online magazines and he predicts: ‘The book and the library are dying. Ideas live.” Find him on twitter @ikhide