by Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent
If you are young in Nigeria today you are a lucky chap. Nigeria is stupid. Its economy is f—ed.
Recently, I attended the first ever Anambra Book and Creativity Festival in Awka, Anambra State, organised by the Anambra Book and Creativity Network – an initiative of Prof. Krydz Ikwuemesi, a professor at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The festival had sessions for discussions and on one of those occasions, prominent scholars, especially responsible professors, as always, pointed accusing fingers at my generation.
I don’t have issues with anyone’s opinion, but when the opinion waters down someone else’s struggle, it becomes hate, maybe depression or insanity or grave obsession that should be in check. The most intense case or rant, as I may choose to write here, came from Dr. Reuben Abati, few years ago, when he spread the words on his Guardian Newspaper Column that my generation lacked identity, chiefly because Nigeria was nicknamed Naija. He lamented that we cannot write a single sentence without error. I bet he isn’t doing badly, writing propaganda and political thrash today. Dr. Abati had issues with all these and he became mad and of course a war followed.
The latest was at the aforementioned festival, on an occasion where there was a talk, and somehow, fingers were pointed by my friends and some of the people I take seriously. I was not the only youth there. I mean, I was not the only young man, but I summoned courage to speak about our generation and the misconception that we are hopeless. Things may not be right but the continual lamentation is doing no good.
What I am yet to understand is why my great grandfather did not accuse my grandfather of a failed, corrupt state of the society, while my father accuses me of same.
The argument boils down to literature and music, arts, basically. I am sure those in the sciences are in a safe haven. Terry G and Timaya, amongst others are commonly referred to as singing rubbish. While I would choose to speak for Timaya, who I listen to, I must state that because you don’t like the music of Terry G doesn’t make it rubbish. A professor at the festival said the literature of my generation lacks depth and compared same with Achebe’s. I won’t ask why Achebe’s writing is a yardstick for any literature produced by my generation, after all even those in Europe rejected the manuscript until some miracle happened.
But now, what is rubbish and what has depth? What is the professor doing to increase the depth of literature produced in my time? Who decides what rubbish is? What is the standard for great music? Is it some guides laid down by some Westerners and not the locally designed sweet music with African signature tunes that are chiefly Nigerian and African? What is great music? If I don’t like Classical music, as a highlifer, does it mean classical music is entirely rubbish? Why the attack on my generation? It is so pathetic and chiefly inferiority complex for locally developed tunes not to be studied in a Nigerian university while students are strained to study some Western rhythms that has no connection with the African root or maybe the African as a person. Contemporary Nigerian music has brought more attention to Nigeria than anything I can think of. The economy is being managed even when the government has not seen a reason to come in.
If you are young in Nigeria today you are a lucky chap. Nigeria is stupid. Its economy is f—ed. But you are probably not a thief, robbing anyone; you are working daily in the studio, in your creek-side shanty which would be demolished by a western educated governor: you are there, using candlelight, writing a piece of poetry which would be posted on your blog. You are not stupid. You are a blessed generation. You work some ten hours job, if you are lucky, attending a part time degree programme, where some f—ed up lecturers teach because they cannot find themselves as oil companies’ executives. Those frustrated people hand down pseud-knowledge in form of boring lectures and deliver them from the pages of text books. No one accuses them. They don’t make research, aside depending on term papers and projects works of students, nobody blames anyone. But why the constant hate for a generation that is slightly different from yours?
Every generation has its peculiarities. Mine does. Our literature may be somewhat less perfect than Achebe’s but it does not mean that we are not trying our best. There are dead industries, dead publishing houses. Young writers have built blogs, some self-publish, just to have access to leave Nigeria to get better education and do better. These young writers struggle to read error-ridden newspapers, text books, radio programmes, pointless political speeches, yet they are not insane but working gracefully and they are constantly accused.
In your time you read 10 books in a week. In mine I read one book in a week, I pay bills for 4 persons; I stay alive amidst political heats, without water, electricity, without sound teachers who cannot teach and you are accusing me of failing?
Anyone who accuses my generation is a failed man or woman. The Nigerian youths should be appreciated and encouraged and supported and corrected where necessary and not utterly written off.
Timaya brings joy to his family. He may smoke, but that is his business. If you think you are so religious, sing your own song and let Timaya be. People who enjoy him would do that continually. Life is full of divergent spheres; everyone has a room to contribute.
My dad once accused me of wearing tight trousers until I saw his photos, when he was younger. He had an afro-hairstyle with ridiculously tight trousers.
This generation is not failed. Those who are pursuing God’s work are doing so diligently. Those who are pursuing secular life are also doing so. But you won’t see any of our contribution once you are blinded with noting our faults. Let us be, biko!