Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Matar marigayi Injiniya Mohammed Bashir Karaye ta na ba ni kyauta ta farko a wurin bikin ba da kyaututtuka na gwarzayen marubutan Hausa

Helon Habila tours 5 states in November

The following is a statement from Jerry Adeswo, publicist for Cassava Republic Press, Abuja, on the visit to Nigeria by our own Helon Habila, author of Waiting for an Angel and Measuring Time.

19th October 2007

Press release

Helon Habila tours 5 states in November

Caine Prize winner Helon Habila is due in Nigeria for a six-city reading tour from the 17th to 26th of November 2007. The tour is expected to take Habila to Lagos, Abuja, Nassarawa, Jos and Gombe. It will feature readings from Nigerian editions of his latest book, Measuring Time, and the award-winning Waiting for an Angel.

Helon Habila was the first Nigerian writer to gain international recognition after the Abacha regime and is the leading figure in the new crop of Nigerian writers that have been feted and celebrated all over the world. Since the launch of his latest book Measuring Time to critical acclaim in February this year, Habila has embarked on a world tour, reading to packed audiences at all the major literary festivals. Helon has chosen to end his tour in Nigeria in order to celebrate his 40th birthday in the land that gave birth to his creativity and is the subject of all his writing to date.

The Nigerian tour, organised by Habila’s Nigerian publishers Cassava Republic Press will include public book signings, private reading, writing workshops and seminars with secondary school students in FCT and Gombe. The reading tour will be supported by poets and singers.

The itinerary for the tour is as follows:

Lagos: 17th November 2007 NuMetro Silverbird Gallaria, Victoria Island, 5.30pm

Abuja: 21st November 2007 NuMetro, Ceddi Plaza 6pm

Nassawara: 21st November 2007 Nassawara State University

Jos: 22nd November 2007, University of Jos, 10.30am

Gombe: 23rd November 2007 Gombe State University 11.00am

Please, find attached other relevant materials about the Michael Caine Prize for African Writing, Cassava Republic Press and Helon Habila and his writings.

Call Jerry Adeswo 08034530786, 08052771123 Cassava Republic Press Publicist

* Helon Habila was born in Kaltungo, Gombe State. He studied literature at Uni. Jos and graduated in 1995. He taught at the Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, before moving to Lagos to work as a journalist. In Lagos he wrote his first novel, Waiting for an Angel, which won the Caine Prize in 2001. In 2002 he moved to England to become the African Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. After his fellowship he enrolled for a PhD in Creative Writing.

His writing has won many prizes including the Commonwealth Writers Prize, 2003, MUSON Poetry Prize 2000. In 2005-2006 he was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College in New York, he was also the William B. Quarton fellow in 2004 at the University of Iowa International Writing Programme and the John Farrar Fellow in Fiction at the 2003 Bread Loaf Writers. He is a contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review, in 2006 he co-edited the British Council's anthology, New Writing 14 and the Anthology Miracles, Dreams and Jazz. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia in the USA where he lives with his family.


ANA Convention begins in Owerri today. Here's a statement sent to me by my friend Denja, who is the secretary-general of ANA:

The panel of judges for the Association of Nigerian Authors' (ANA) Annual Literary Prizes met in Abuja from the 12th – 13th October, 2007 to bring out a shortlist for the 2007 edition after critically sifting through over 200 entries for the various categories of the prizes. The following creative works and writers in alphabetical order emerged as front liners in each category. The eventual winners will be announced at the awards dinner of the 26th International Convention taking place in Owerri from 1st – 4th November, 2007.

1. Nadia and other Stories – Hadiza Suleman
2. Tales by the Fluorescent – Lizi Ashimole

1. Olekanma and the Famine – Lizi Ashimole
2. Between Rats and Men – Ngozi Ifeyinwa Razak-Soyebi
3. A Grain of Mustard – Spencer Okoroafor

1. Three Women – Bunmi Oyinsan
2. Waiting for Maria – Ifeoma Chinwuba
3. Yellow–Yellow – Kaine Agary
4. Echoes of a Heartbeat – Lilian Amah

1. Nine Lives – El–Nukoya
2. Dreamers – Femi Ojo–Ade
3. Vision Impossible – Isidore Emeka Uzoatu

1. Adventures of Bingo and Bomboy – Henry Akubuiro
2. The Chief of the Drums – Osarobu Igudia
3. Chike and the Pigeon and Other Stories - Uche Peter Umez

1. Yellow–Yellow – Kaine Agary
2. My Grandfather – Richard Ovuorho
3. The Activist – Tanure Ojaide

1. Tata Morgana – Chika Unigwe
2. The Keeper of Secrets – Ifeanyi Ajaegbo
3. Unbridled – Jude Dibia

1. Letter from the Earth – Albert Otto
2. Love Apart – Hyginus Ekwuazi
3. The Horsemen and other Poems – Obi Nwakanma

1. Idemili – Ahmed Yerima
2. Closed Doors – Julie Okoh
3. Futonje: Our Love – Ziky O. Kofoworola

1. Love Apart – Hyginus Ekwuazi
2. Tender Moments (Love Poems) – Niyi Osundare
3. The Horsemen and other Poems – Obi Nwakanma

Prof. Chidi T. Maduka - University of Portharcourt
Dr Muazu Maiwada - ABU, Zaria
Dr. Sunday E. Ododo - University of Ilorin
Prof. (Mrs.) Abiola Odejide - University of Ibadan
Dr. (Mrs.) Vicky Sylvester - University of Abuja


1. The Mind of a Child - Stella Obi
2. A Rope with Three Chords is Difficult to Break - Towunmi Coker
3. Grandpa’s Tales – (No Cover Page, No Name)

Omowunmi Segun – Ibadan
E.E. Sule – Nassarawa State University
Dr. Martins Akpan – Uyo

1. Odogwu Be Anyi - Perpetua Nnenna Ihebori
2. Onukwughaa - Wingate Emmanuel Onyechi

Mrs Carolyn Mbata – Alvan Ikoku COE, Owerri

Twelve (12) entries were received and are currently receiving attention with the judges. A shortlist would be out before the convention.

General Secretary, ANA
13th October, 2007

Would You Want To Give Yar’Adua A Third Term?

Published on the back page of LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, 28th October 2007

Would You Want To Give Yar’Adua A Third Term?

By Ibrahim Sheme

The original title of this piece was, “Hero of the Revolution,” but I was persuaded at the last minute to change it to what you see now. And you will know why as we approach the end of this column. To begin with, the question as to whether President Umaru Yar’Adua would want to have or should be given a third term in office will sound unthinkable, mischievous and, indeed, unpatriotic to all lovers of democracy. And I regard myself as one of them. No Nigerian leader should be allowed to rule beyond the tenure stipulated for him or her by the constitution, and no one should be allowed to tinker with the two-term limit in existence today unless of course if it is to reduce the number of years from four years to three in the first term or a maximum of seven years instead of eight for two terms. But in a country such as ours, where values are spelt correctly but read backwards, where compromises are made as easily as joining and quitting political parties at whim (and I am not referring to Abubakar Rimi’s sudden switch back to his original party), one shouldn’t expect any surprises. Political jobbers are always looking for cracks in the wall in order to sneak in their diabolical agenda because doing so would help guarantee their survival and growth on the arena.

Hang me if you catch me campaigning for anyone’s third term – because it is unconstitutional and, in any case immoral. I decided to re-headline this column out of a personal study of the debate on the Etteh affair. There is a clear link, even if at first imperceptible to the ordinary eye, between the scandal in the House of Representatives and the political future of this country vis-à-vis the role of the president in resolving this and similar crises. For at the height of the crisis, before Hon. Patricia Etteh shifted ground and agreed to give her opponents a chance to appoint a so-called speaker pro-tempore, not a few commentators did ask Yar’Adua to step into the crisis. Some of those commentators are some of the leading lights in our national consciousness. This makes it all the more disappointing because the task of leading this country out of the deep woods, where it has been stuck for ages, rests squarely on their proud shoulders.

They know quite well, probably more than you and I, that it is not the job of the president to delve into this matter no matter how bad it has become. They need not be reminded about the constitutional provisions that make separation of powers between the three arms of government – the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – an unshakeable pillar cornerstone of our brand of multi-party democracy. Yet they asked President Yar’Adua to ignore this all-important proviso and call Mrs Etteh to order and make her resign or “step aside” (whatever that means). I can’t remember reading any commentator pointing out any section of the constitution where the president is required by law to intervene in such constitutional crises. But yes there is no such section in the books. Therefore, since the constitution has made it abundantly clear that Yar’Adua has no business forcing anything on the legislators, why did our commentators, including my professional colleagues in the media, ask him to do so?

There may be other reasons, but the main ones are the Nigerian’s incurable incapacity to quickly remember events of the recent past as well as his cunning desire to cut corners in order to achieve short term, nay selfish, benefits. I shall elucidate. It is almost generally agreed that our democracy during the Obasanjo years (1999-2007) was an aberration, something akin to a sheep with a donkey’s (or a hyena’s) head. The body was that of a sheep while the head was that of Obasanjo. It was not what Nigerians voted for. They had voted for a system that would entrench respect for the rule of law while working in the interest of the nation, not self. But what they saw on their plate was untenable – a Godzilla which fed on lawlessness, fear and loathing, an unspeakable contraption that looked like a sheep but was in reality a hungry hyena feeding on the carcass of our collective fears and passivity. The simple reason was because the president believed sincerely that democracy bore the same spelling as his own name and that he it was who should set the rules of the game in Nigeria, not the legislatures. He turned the Senate and the Reps into his personal napkin which must take any of his dirt.

The hyena of that era had chopped many heads, including those of Evans Enwerem (now late), Audu Ogbeh and, a few rungs down the ladder, Ghali Umar Na’abba. The blood of those political martyrs was splashed all over the skin of that absurd system. Ogbeh was reported to have had a gun pointed at his temple when he became recalcitrant and told to sign a prepared resignation letter as chairman of the ruling party. An earlier chairman of the party, Anyim Pius Anyim, who fought gallantly, still had to leave his seat when the president continued to turn the screws on him; today as Baba continues to play big in Abuja, Anyim is battling harder than normal to realise his ambition of becoming the chairman of the ruling PDP as a result of his past tackles. Many other politicians are nursing the painful wounds of their opposition to Obasanjo in one way or the other.

It was the power that Obasanjo seized from the constitution, like a coup-maker, which gave him the chance to ride roughshod on our nascent democracy. The whole idea about securing a third term in office, which would have grown into a bigger monstrosity – the fabled life presidency – was inspired by lawlessness. And lawlessness was earned through subterfuge. Again, you know that subterfuge is got through various little devilish acts, one of which is intervening in legislative duties by a civilian president. Unlike Yar’Adua, Chief Obasanjo did start to delve in house matters early enough. That was because he saw the system in place as a result of events surrounding him, such as giving him the presidency on a platter off gold by some self-serving army generals. Having “been there” as a head of state two decades earlier had also made him paternalistic, regarding every elected person as either his son or his daughter. As such, any sign of independence by any legislator (ask Na’abba) would be regarded as a sign of child-like impetuousness and rascality. In most times, the child was flogged heavily.

To be fair to those urging President Yar’Adua to intervene in the house scandal, however, one would say that some are doing so strictly out of patriotic concern. They have watched how members of the house were acting like campus politicians with all the rambunctious razzmatazz, name-calling and overzealous schemes. They feared that things were getting out of hand and, if something urgent was not done, someone could get seriously hurt. One of those tiny political parties even warned that a military coup could take place. As it turned out, one of their worst fears had come to pass; a member of the House of Representatives and confidante of the president, Dr Aminu Shu’aibu Safana, a cardiac patient, slumped and died when he got worked up during a session of the house.

Nevertheless, I daresay most of those appealing for executive intervention in the Etteh affair are unwittingly or mischievously trying to create an Obasanjo in Yar’Adua. By urging him to scold Etteh privately or otherwise, they are telling him to break the law. Now that was exactly what his godfather, the former president, did and attracted opprobrium at home and abroad. As indicated above, Obasanjo’s carrot and stick treatment of the last National Assembly was responsible for making that tier of government subservient to him and its failure to impeach him on many attempts. During his presidency, legislators were at his beck and call. Many dirty things were committed, some of which are still being covered up by those involved. For a lot of Nigerians, the Nigeria of that era was a dangerous one in which to live as many found out when it was too late.

The problem with such intervention is that you do not know just when it will stop. We shouldn’t expect Alhaji Yar’Adua to get actively involved in this crisis and not expect him to participate in another. Nigeria being one of the most problematic countries in the world, soon enough he would find himself enmeshed in so many constitutional crises that he would find it near impossible to devote his mind to the serious business of administering the nation.

The constitution has created different ways of solving crises without the president’s personal involvement. If Nigerians are not satisfied with those provisions, they should canvass constitutional amendment as soon as possible. I tend to think that even where Etteh is concerned, his friends could have spoken to persons on both sides of the disagreement without being appointed his official emissaries. That is the African way working in a Western-type democracy. The PDP had begun to broker a truce in the matter which became messy because it was done the Obasanjo style. Presumably that intervention was not the president’s but the initiative of tireless old man Ahmadu Ali. If Yar’Adua had texted Ali and said, “Oga, pls talk 2 reps on etteh prblm.,” that should be fine with any democrat. In simple terms, that would be indirect lobbying and we would read about it only if Ali publishes his memoirs when he retires – if he will ever retire. But for Yar’Adua to extend his long arm into the problem, that would be unconstitutional. The same crowd which is barking at him to intervene would turn around and ask for his head.

Happily, the crisis is from the look of things ending. Madam speaker is leaving her seat on Tuesday to allow the house appoint a “temporary” speaker or chairman. The general thinking is that she would then be gone for good because no one has ever stepped aside and came back to their former position. Apparently Yar’Adua did not intervene the Nigerian way. The speaker must have been weighed down by the moral burden of the problem and decided to accede to the demands of her colleagues and other Nigerians. The drums of revolution in the house have finally reached a crescendo with this final decision by Mrs Etteh. But the president’s decision to sit on the fence while the crisis lasted has compelled this writer to regard him as the real winner in the tug-o’-war. Add this to his stance on the judicial process going on in the various election tribunals in the states, where his son-in-law and friends have lost their gubernatorial positions. The courage he has shown in the midst of intense pressure has tested the nation’s experiment with democracy. He is the hero of the quiet revolution going on in our polity, a revolution against the Obasanjo era’s self-centredness. He is gradually changing Nigeria for good. Yar’Adua should be encouraged to continue this way, for there are bound to be such cases in the future. That is, assuming that the Etteh affair will end from her stepping aside this week.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Sheme, Balaraba and Maje emerge winners

Here's a news feature in today's issue of Leadership:

Sheme, Maje and Balaraba at the award ceremony at the International Conference Centre, Abuja

Engineer Mohamed Bashir Karaye Prize in Hausa Literature

Sheme, Balaraba and Maje emerge winners


Three writers emerged yesterday as winners of the maiden edition of Engineer Mohamed Bashir Karaye Prize in Hausa Literature. The investiture of the prize took place at an impressive ceremony organised by the Abuja chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). Editor of LEADERSHIP, Ibrahim Sheme, took the first prize with his novel, 'Yartsana, while Hajiya Balaraba Ramat Yakubu and Maje El-Hajeej Hotoro came second and third with their novels, Matar Uba Jaraba and Kankana respectively.
The prize was endowed by the widow of the late Mohammed Bashir Karaye, a former commissioner in Kano State and an ardent lover of the arts. The widow, Mrs Bilkisu A. Bashir, who is the Executive Secretary of National Judicial Service Commission, Abuja, was inspired by a desire to immortalise her husband's memory.

The Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi; a former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais and a former minister and ambassador, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher were some of the dignitaries that graced the occasion that took place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

A university don, Prof. Anthony Chukwuemeka Oha, delivered the keynote address in which he traced the history of written literature in Africa and showed how literary competitions helped develop creative writing in Hausa. He lauded the Karaye family for supporting the cause of literature in the country.

Similarly, chairman of the panel that judged the books, Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu, highlighted milestones in the history of Hausa creative writing competitions from 1933 to date, showing how such milestones affected the direction and quality of the books produced. Commenting particularly on the current contest, he told the audience that the judges' panel had used a simple method in assessing the 19 entries for the awards, with a focus on cultural impact of the entries, themes, plot, style, etc. He was confident that the three winning entries were adjudged the best out of the lot.
The winners were given certificates and cash prizes of N150,000, N100,000, and N50,000 respectively - an innovation in Hausa literary competitions. They were invited to tell the audience who they were and what motivated them to go into writing. They said they were motivated by the desire to enlighten the public and influence the society for positive change.

Also speaking at the ceremony, Professor Hagher noted that the Hausa language had attained a position of acceptability that could easily make it the lingua franca of Africa. He also pointed out that the language had increasingly transformed itself to go with the times.

Justice Kutigi stated that the Hausa language contained ingredients of African cultural activities and had grown tremendously within the last three decades. He praised the organisers of the competition for a job well done.

Engineer Karaye was remembered by one of his bosom friends, Gen. Lawal Ja'afaru Isa, a former governor of Kaduna State, who recalled their days together with the deceased in secondary school and after. He said Karaye was a very humble and hard working friend of his, saying they had related with one another up till the time of his death. Isa was represented at the occasion by his wife Hajiya Zainab.
Karaye died on October 25 last year, and yesterday was the first anniversary of his death.

The sponsor of the prizes, Hajiya Bilkisu, had told reporters in her office weeks back that she was willing to fund the writing competition every year. And the chairman of the Abuja chapter of ANA, Dr. Emman Usman Shehu, revealed that the competition would be interchanged between the genres of prose, poetry and drama every year, hinting that next year's contest would be waged among Hausa poets.
The audience was entertained by a troupe from the Abuja Arts Council, who performed a Fulani dance.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

'Yartsana on the winning train!

I have just chanced upon the following notice in krazitivity, the Nigerian writers' chatgroup. Am I happy? Verrrrrrrrrry!

Hausa Literature Prize Shortlist

The Panel of Judges for the maiden edition of the Engineer Mohammed Bashir Karaye Prize for Hausa Literature has shortlisted the following novelists in alphabetical order from the field of nineteen entries. The launching of the Prize Fund and the Award of Prizes come up on Thursday, 25th October, 2007 at the Executive Hall, International Conference Centre, Abuja by 4:00 p.m.

1. Kankana - Maje El-Hajeej Hotoro
2. ‘Yar Tsana - Ibrahim Sheme
3. Matar Uba Jaraba - Balaraba Ramat Yakubu

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu - Bayero University, Kano
Mallam Bello Sule - Nigerian Television Authority, Abuja

Emman Usman Shehu

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Funmi Iyanda & WS

Hey, hey some good news. Labari mai kyau. I have just bumped into Funmi Iyanda's blog; yea, the "new dawn" girl (?) is blogging at Got the link from Talatu's blog and simply dashed there. I wasn't disappointed. I told myself to be looking in once in a while to see what she's saying (and doing). Reminded me about a photo of Funmi and WS I have been keeping in a folder on my system called "Literary Stuff"; I don't know how I got it; it's just there. I hope I'm not breaching anyone's right (if yes, someone please help warn me so that I could yank it out before...! There she is with the famous (need I say so?) Nobel Prize-winning playwright.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Kaduna Sharia court bans book

An Upper Sharia Court in Tudun Wada, Kaduna, has today banned the sale, staging or any form of distribution of The Phantom Crescent, a play published by controversial civil right activist and poet Shehu Sani.

The suit, with number C/No/USC/TW/ KD356/2007, came as Shehu distributed invitations to stage the play which allegedly lampoons the implementation of Islamic legal practice in Northern Nigeria.

The plaintiff and leader of Members of Concerned Sharia Forum (MCSF), Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammed, in a motion exparte, urged the Upper Sharia Court to issue an order restraining Malam Sani, “himself, servants, agents or privies from selling or in any way circulating the book titled, The Phantom Crescent.”

Alhaji Abdullahi also asked the court to issue “other orders as this honourable court may deem fit in the circumstances to prevent the defendant from circulating the book or staging a play on the practice of Sharia in the Northern states.”

The work of fiction is based on the circumstances surrounding implementation of Shari'ah in an unnamed state by the lead character known as Governor Yerima and social imbalance that followed it. Governor Yerima is portrayed in some scenes selectively approving amputation and stoning to death for Buba Jangebe and Safiya, respectively, while sparing Bala Dan'inna, deputy chairman of the governor's party.

In the end, there is a revolt led by Aminu, leader of the Redemption Front, who tells his excited followers: "They said it is against Sharia to take alcohol, while most of them take it. They said it is against Sharia to patronize prostitutes while most of them do it. They said it is illegal to engage in gambling while most of them do it. They said we cannnot listen to music or dance, while most of them do. Today is the end of their hypocrisy."

Shehu Sani is the controversial author of a 292-page book, The Killing Fields: Religious Violence in Northern Nigeria, published last year by Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan.
MY IMMEDIATE COMMENT (More later): I can smell trouble. Allah Shi kiyaye!