Friday, 29 March 2013

FREE BOOK GIVE AWAY! For Days And A Night By Seun Odukoya

FORMAT: E-book

For Days And A Night is a collection of short stories by Award winning author Seun Odukoya. Short, punchy and entertaining, the stories comment on issues that we deal with each day-Romance,
relationships, career , family-while employing a generous amount of humour and wit; one that will leave you in a roller coaster of emotions.

Its alternates between happy, sad and melancholy narratives that seductively capture snippets of contemporary life in the metropolitan city of Lagos. There are trips to the cinemas, shopping in the mall, drama in the elevator and so on. The occasional use of pidgin will make it easily appealing to a young audience.

The book starts off in a manner that one recognizes as peculiar to Seun, after reading a few of the stories. The “I” in the prologue IDLE CHATTER is a nameless character who has a story to complete. This Character who narrates in the first person could easily be the author, albeit, this is only an assumption.

It's 2 am in the morning and the narrator is at his desk in his study. He is in the company of two men who are identified as "Short and daft" and "Tall and dark".  "Short and daft" is annoying and chatty in contrast to "Tall and dark" who comes across as the broody reserved type. The trio chat about the “hood”- this being the narrators residential area - there are not enough girls in the hood. They argue over the narrators love for coffee and his claim that sipping coffee while at his desk by 2 am in the morning makes him feel like a writer. At some point, "Short and daft" gets noisy and "Tall and dark" plays the good chap by asking the narrator to ignore him and focus on completing the story on the laptop in front of him. At this point the narrator’s wife comes down to the study, clad in a "Dark sheer mid-thigh length black nightie" to inquire who her husband is talking to at that time of the day. Here we discover that Seun has played a trick on us. There are no people in the room. "Tall and dark" and "Short and daft" are hallucinatory creations of the narrators troubled mind. It is apparent that this is an ongoing condition; that writing is a therapeutic gate-way through which the narrator seeks to escape. As his wife puts it, the voices in his head are getting louder. She offers to help make them go away, and begins by planting a kiss on his lips. Here, the story ends abruptly leaving ones imagination to finish the rest.

In HOPE, we are introduced to the harsh realities most young Nigerians have to contend with after NYSC. The narrator, a young man who has just completed his NYSC is musing in a cubicle-sized debris-littered room. His only companion is the gnawing hunger in his stomach. We learn that he acquired the room with the last half of his NYSC allowance and that the other half went to food that "ran out two days ago". A resolution is made to do something about the situation after an internal debate as to whether to stay at home and conserve the available energy for survival or to expend it in search of uncertain recourse from hunger. The title of this story could as well be "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" as it emerges in the story bearing the character of a premise, upon which the narrator bases his resolution to go out in search of food. The only problem with this search is that it has no destination or direction whatsoever. The author simply concludes the story with the following lines...

"I am looking... Looking for a girl named hope...."

Again, we are tricked.
Is hope really a girl or an allusion to the feminine qualities of hope? Perhaps its fragility, evasiveness and beauty? Seun says its both.

Reading the book feels very much like watching a movie. The stories flow into one another and the colourful layout and vivid illustrations bring the stories to life, making the book fun and easy to read. This is certainly an innovative stride in eBook design, one that could really render “The book” obsolete!

“It was an experiment. I was just trying out stuff - I wanted to see what interaction there could be between words and colours beyond the typical. I wasn’t sure it would work.”
Seun says.

Most of the character’s names are not mentioned in the stories. All the stories are narrated in the first person and we get to learn about the characters by following their thoughts as the story unfolds. The book reads like a solitary-narrative in which the author is seeking to understand and make sense of his experiences and environment. This he seems to do as he alternates between the different characters of the stories in the first person. There is the police man in WHICH KAIN WORK who lives with the irony of his son's pride in him and his own dissatisfaction with his job.  There is the Divorcee in PILLOW TALK whom we meet in an intense sexual moment. He wakes up to the unpleasant discovery that he is dreaming and that the woman he is kissing is a third of his pillow in his mouth. He is not spared the generous amount of saliva that drools from his mouth onto the pillow.

A consistent thread runs through Seun's writing; a habit so to speak, of introducing a scenario, which is then expanded in thought, dialogue and action, building up to an abrupt anti-climax  that could be waking from a dream, realizing one is hallucinating, or making an allusion to a vague idea, like we have in the story HOPE.  The effect of this is profound in that it creates a certain curiosity within the reader, a certain allusion to some idea, through which he forms his own conclusion to the story.

Seun is full of surprises. There is a creative interplay of prosaic genius and inventiveness, one that is thrust upon the reader suddenly at the end of PILLOW TALK.

It reads,

"Dear reader..."

and what follows is a conversation between the reader and a persona who has emerged from no where; who seems to hate and love the author at the same time. This persona makes an appeal to the reader, an urgent one- having very limited time to speak- to plead with the author to finish its story. Here the persona then makes a startling revelation:

"you see as far as he(The author) and you(The reader)are concerned I am just a character in a story. But I am real. And I need this.... this guy to finish my story."

Her name we learn is Nneka, a character in one of Seun's stories "A MATTER OF HEIGHT".

“I was looking for an excuse not to finish the story – and yet be at peace with myself. So I did that to see if I would get any response. I didn’t.”   He explains.

In WAKEN, the narrator is a writer who wakes up at midnight to write a story for submission to the common wealth prize. He receives a call which he hesitates to pick having no inkling as to who it is that would want to call him at such an ungodly hour. He finally picks the call to hear Sola's voice on the other end. Sola is an old girl friend. Sola has been dead for 15 years!

In PAUSE, two people are in love, but are not bold enough to admit it. Their story ends with leaving both unhappy, reminding us of the fatality of hiding our true feelings.

I hate the ‘what if’ question – you know? All I’m saying is ‘try. Just try’. We’re too careful too many times. The whole of life and living is a risk, you know? Just try."

On how he started writing, seun says “I think I kind of just stumbled into it. It was a way of communicating with a world that wasn’t interested enough to listen.”

Stephen King. Loius Lamour. James Hardley Chase. Men. And women. Are his major influences. Seun is always working on a new book and asides writing, he Sleeps. Eats. Drinks. Walks. Laughs. Bathes and Dresses!
Okay guys here is some good news! Suen has paid for twenty copies of For Days And A Night and he has asked us to give them out to our beautiful readers for free! To get a copy is simple:

Retweet this post and copy @theemergereview and @seunodukoya on twitter then leave a comment on this post with your email address and twitter handle. Get going before others beat you to it, we’ve got only 20 copies and it’s going out to the first 20 people!

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Friday, 22 March 2013

African Literary Icon Chinua Achebe Passes On

Albert Chínụ̀álụmọ̀gụ̀ Àchèbé, 16 November 1930 – 22 March 2013

 Mr. Achebe, 82, died in the United States where
he was said to have suffered from an undisclosed
ailment. According to a report by PREMIUM TIMES

he died last night in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts,
United States. A source close to the family said the
professor had been ill for a while and was hospitalized
 in an undisclosed hospital in Boston. The source
declined to provide further details, saying the family
would issue a statement on the development later today.

Until his death, the renowned author of Things
Fall Apart was the David and Marianna Fisher
University Professor and Professor of Africana
Studies at Brown.

The University described him as “known the world
over for having played a seminal role in the
founding and development of African literature.”
“Achebe’s global significance lies not only in his
talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a
critical thinker and essayist who has written
extensively on questions of the role of culture in
Africa and the social and political significance of
aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in
Africa,” Brown University writes of the literary

Mr. Achebe was the author of Things Fall Apart,
published in 1958, and considered the most
widely read book in modern African Literature.
The book sold over 12 million copies and has been
translated to over 50 languages worldwide.
Many of his other novels, including Arrow of God,
No Longer at Ease, Anthills of the Savannah, and
A man of the People, were equally influential as

Prof Achebe was born in Ogidi, Anambra State, on
November 16, 1930 and attended St Philips’
Central School at the age of six. He moved away
from his family to Nekede, four kilometres from
Owerri, the capital of Imo State, at the age of 12
and registered at the Central School there.
He attended Government College Umuahia for his
secondary school education. He was a pioneer
student of the University College, now University
of Ibadan in 1948. He was first admitted to study
medicine but changed to English, history and
theology after his first year.

While studying at Ibadan, Mr. Achebe began to
become critical of European literature about
Africa. He eventually wrote his final papers in the
University in 1953 and emerged with a second-
class degree.

Prof Achebe taught for a while after graduation
before joining the Nigeria Broadcasting Service in
1954 in Lagos.

While in Lagos with the Broadcast ing Service, Mr.
Achebe met Christie Okoli, who later became his
wife; they got married in 1961. The couple had
four children.

He also played a major role during the Nigeria Civil
War where he joined the Biafran Government as
an ambassador.

His latest book, There Was a Country, was an
autobiography on his experiences and views of
the civil war. The book was probably the most
criticised of his writings especially by Nigerians,
with many arguing that the professor did not
write a balanced account and wrote more as a
Biafran than as a Nigerian.

Mr. Achebe was a consistent critic of various
military dictators that ruled Nigeria and was a
loud voice in denouncing the failure of
governance in the country.

Twice, he rejected offers by the Nigerian
government to grant him a national honour,
citing the deplorable political situations in the
country, particularly in his home state of
Anambra, as reason.

Works by Achebe

Things Fall Apart (1958)
No Longer at Ease (1960)
Arrow of God (1964)
A Man of the People (1966)
Anthills of the Savannah (1987)

Short stories
"Civil Peace" (1971)
"Vengeful Creditor" (1972)
Short story collections
The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories (1962)
Girls at War and Other Stories (1973)
African Short Stories (1985)
Heinemann Book of Contemporary African
Short Stories (1992)

Children's stories
Chike and the River (1966)
How the Leopard Got His Claws (1972)
The Flute (1975)
The Drum (1978)
Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays
(1988), including "An Image of Africa" (1975)
"The Trouble with Nigeria" (1983)

Beware, Soul-Brother, and Other Poems (1971)
(published in the US as Christmas at Biafra, and
Other Poems, 1973)
Don't let him die: An anthology of memorial
poems for Christopher Okigbo (editor, with
Dubem Okafor) (1978)
Another Africa (1998)
Collected Poems Carcanet Press (2005)
Refugee Mother And Child
Essays, Criticism, Non-Fiction and Political

The Novelist as Teacher (1965) - also in Hopes
and Impediments
An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of
(1975) - also in Hopes and Impediments
Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975)
The Trouble With Nigeria (1984)
Hopes and Impediments (1988)
Home and Exile (2000)
Education of a British protected Child (6 October
There Was A Country: A Personal History of
Biafra, (11 October 2012 )

Awards and Honors

Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize, 1959, for Things
Fall Apart
Rockefeller travel fellowship to East and Central
Africa, 1960
Nigerian National Trophy, 1961, for No Longer at
UNESCO fellowship for creative artists for travel to
the United States and Brazil, 1963
Jock Campbell/ New Statesman Award, 1965, for
Arrow of God
Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1972, for Beware,
Soul Brother
Neil Gunn International Fellow, Scottish Arts
Council, 1975
Lotus Award for Afro-Asian Writers, 1975
Nigerian National Merit Award, 1979
Commonwealth Foundation senior visiting
practitioner award, 1984
Booker Prize nomination, 1987, for Anthills of the

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tribute To A Dead Scientist

I have stood outside at night, under starless and starry skies, in solemn reminiscence of the promise you held, of the person you could have become. I have sought for you in the fleeting meteor, hoping you'd announce your epiphany with blinding sparks of light as you reach our earth, but it disappears into the oblivion of sky and is seen no more. I have watched the waves emerge, like furious chariots bathed in watery translucence, wondering if you ride one of them, but they plunge back into the sea and you are not there.

So all I have is a memory; a remembrance. A photograph of you rests on the shelf - the one you used to climb- you were six then, a bundle of boundless energy, still pulsating... in this static matter. You were an adventurous spirit waiting to explore the world. O the dreams you dreamed; lofty dreams for a six year old. You dreamt because in your world everything was possible and the world was a canvas on which you were going to paint your colorful dreams.

Your joy soared to indescribable heights when you discovered that room, a room full of books; books that opened up the world to you. You traveled to the land of the Lilliputians and yahoos with Gulliver in his travels, joined Captain Flint in his quest for gold in Treasure Island, governed the empire of Rome with Caesar and loved with Romeo in Lamb Tales from Shakespeare. You shipwrecked on an uninhabited Island with Robinson Crusoe, opened and closed the Sesame with Alibaba and his forty thieves in Arabian Nights, joined Robin Hood on his escapades and empathized with skinny Oliver Twist because like him, you knew what it meant to be skinny. In Chinua Achebe's A Man Of The People, you toured the political museums of Nigeria, but you did not stop there; you learned the art of mischief in One Week One Trouble, grieved with Nnuego in Buchi Emechata's Joys Of Motherhood, and journeyed to pre-colonial Africa in Mabels Segun's A Second Olympus.

At the end of the term, when the list of books was given to every pupil, you’d take yours home, salivating at the titles and savoring the prospect of reading them. Mummy took you along with her to the book store. You liked the book store, and while mummy and the book seller bargained, you'd look for a slim title and gulp it up.

You loved collecting things, old radio parts, wires, batteries, tins... All these were stored in a junk box which you carefully tucked away behind the bed. They remained there until your restless mind fell upon some bright idea, you'd immediately be caught in a creative frenzy, rummaging through the box in search of an item previously stacked away, one that would be an integral element of the idea crystallizing in your mind. Your mind was a complex imaginative machine through which you sought to recreate the world. If you had no light to read at night, you ransacked your junk box until you found an old torchlight. With surgical precision, you dismantled the useless device, extracting from it the part you needed and discarding the rest. The valuable part of the torchlight was the cap which held the bulb. This you took and inserted at the base of a glucose tin so that the socket extruded from the inner side with the silvery interior serving as a reflector to diverge the light rays. The stand was the easiest to build and I still envy your carpentry skills. A flat board of about 30cm by 15cm, an old table leg cut to size and a few nails constituted the stand. The old table leg which you nailed to the board served as the spine on which you hung the glucose tin now converted to a lantern. Batteries were your most numerous possessions. To power the lantern you constructed a rack for them on the board using slim pieces of plank. For a conductor you used a neatly cut slice of tin from old Milo containers. The bulb you easily obtained from the local store. Wires were easy to get and intuition supplied you with the know-how.

It was under the light of this crude lantern that you studied at night, conversing with sagacious minds that lived long before you were born and sourjourning into worlds that held in them the allure of surreal adventure.

On these nights, the sound of Daddy and mummy snoring in their room was an amusing disturbance and being the mischievous little imp that you were, you'd make scratching sounds on the linoleum to wake them. They’d complain about how rude the rats had become while you stifled the laughter storming in your belly.

I wish I could recant everything you created in your little life - the transmitter, the TV antenna, the helicopter... I remember the helicopter. You were so fascinated with the helicopter that you spent hours after school in the library studying the encyclopedia. You learnt about the forces behind the mystery of flight; the pull, the push, the thrust. You learnt that to produce these forces, the blades had to tilt to a certain angle. At night you preoccupied your mind with creating your own model, one that would achieve the same result of tilting the blades. In your mind, you arranged and re- arranged parts, until you found a way. The helicopter was built, and even though it did not fly, you were satisfied to see it scurry along the floor, its blades powered by a motor you retrieved form an old toy car.

Spurgeon. Do you remember him? The weirdest kid in JSS 3. He had no friends until you came along. Other kids thought him to be some weird dude, but you didn't care, you understood weird. Weird was your thing. Spurgeon was a kindred mind. The both of you huddled together for hours, flipping through books that you weren't allowed to read and exploring the planets and earth's continents. I still remember your excitement when you came upon Antarctica, that world of ice and Polar bears and Igloos. Antarctica held a sublime appeal and there and then, oblivious of the constraints of time and space, you and Spurgeon embarked on a journey to Antarctica. A journey that rode on a bi-narrative, driven by two silly boys in the library, long after school. You'd both build a helicopter, steal a stack of food from your homes and escape to Antarctica where you'd build an Igloo and ride on sleighs driven by the finest and furriest dogs ever. You'd hunt down Polar bears and roast them in the evening fire and have a great peppered feast of bear-meat.

Your mind was an ocean of possibilities and never for once did you doubt your ability to transmute these vivid enthralling mental images into tangible experiences.

Now as I sit here and write this, the last rays of sunshine receding gently, I think about what you could have become had you lived; perhaps like Einstein or Faraday. In writing this, I seek to reconcile two worlds, a past and a future, a memory and a dream. I do recognize my role in your demise, but then, I would not use that word anymore, for now I better understand the complexities of our both lives. I prefer to use the term transition. At some point in your life you met me, and through music and poetry, I absorbed you and imprisoned you. I took your mental powers and channeled them to the arts with the promise of perpetual bliss. Your voice grew thinner by the day, until it became a distant plea, drowned in the tempest of my artistic cacophony.

I write this because at some point, you overwhelmed me and took control again, only this time, you were determined to ruin me. You broke me into several fragments like china-ware flung recklessly at the wall, and imbued me with a fearsome seeming omniscience that distorted my sense of identity. I became all and in all I became nothing. My confusion is the author of my search.

I have returned to you in obedience to Gandhi's proclamation- "Return to the earth now if you are troubled and your heart is uncertain, for it is by returning to the beginning that we can clearly see the path." I have returned to you for I realize now that all that I am must begin with you, that I am you expressed in artistic form.

I seek now to begin a new life, one in which you are not dead, but simply transited. One in which I am in cognizance of our oneness. Does this mean that I have found you? With all honesty, I admit that I have not found you, for it was I who was lost and not you. You are an endless universe within me which cannot be grasped absolutely. You are an Everest unto which I must ascend with innocence and hope. You are the memory which I create with every pulse of breath, the dream that I reach for, in every modicum of thought. I do not know if my time on earth will be enough to reach the summit but this one thing I know, every stroke of my pen is a conquest of gravity, a step upwards, an inquest into self. Every word, every sentence, is an epiphany, a revelation of your essence....

 Story by Tchidi Jacobs

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We'd love to read your comments. Inquiries and stories for publication should be directed to the editor at or simply call +234 7033 436 212.
Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


 Award-winning writer, activist and literary scholar
Unoma Azuah  is currently on the third day of her visit to
SUNY Oneonta. through the Center for Multicultural
Experiences (CME) Faculty-in-Residence Program.

The visit took off on Monday, March 11 with Azuah
presenting a keynote lecture titled “Culture, Sexuality and
Taboo in Nigeria.” The lecture, which began at 7
p.m. at the Craven Lounge in the Morris
Conference Center was made open to the public.

Azuah is an award-winning writer whose research
focuses on LGBTI writing in Nigerian literature as
a site of resistance in the struggle against social,
cultural and political oppression. Her first novel,
“Sky High Flames,” won the Urban Spectrum
Award and the ANA/Flora Nwapa Award. “Edible
Bones,” her second novel, garnered the 2011
Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize. She is also the author of
“The Length of Light,” a short story collection,
and “Night Songs,” a collection of poems. She is a
professor of English at Lane College in Jackson,

In the course of the event, Azuah will interact with
students, faculty and staff during class visits and
special events, all of which are open to the

Azuah  led a Beloved Dialogue session titled
“Finding Families in Other Worlds”at noon
Today, in Littell Hall. This evening, she will
lead another discussion,“Nollywood and its
Video ‘Closet,’” at 7:30 at LeCafé in the Morris
Conference Center.

On Wednesday, March 13, Azuah will give a
reading from her novel “Edible Bones” at 5 p.m.
in Room 318 of the Milne Library.

Founded in 2003, the CME’s annual Faculty-in-
Residence program was designed to address the
relative absence of faculty from historically
underrepresented groups. Each year, the college
invites a distinguished educator, artist or scholar
whose work has rich interdisciplinary range to
spend a week on campus.

More information on these events is available from
Mary Bonderoff at (607) 436-2663.


We'd love to read your comments. Inquiries and stories for publication should be directed to the editor at or simply call +234 7033 436 212.
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Does God Support Child Labour?

I always knew when my neighbour ended her morning devotion. After ‘amen’ often came the word ‘Rita!’: “Are you still washing the dishes, Rita? You’re too lazy, stupid girl. Oya, come and baff Junior. And be fast!” I often waited for the Rita part to be sure the devotion was over, so I could savour the peace for morning sleep. She usually began with a chorus weaned into rhythm with timed clapping, she and her kids. It seemed her husband always joined later – his bass would cut in halfway into the singing. Soon the singing would end, and she would introduce the prayer points. Prayer would begin, first, in murmured tones, soon to soar into pitches of collective spiritual rapping. Our apartments were close enough to ensure that the noise disappeared through the hollows of my head. I could not complain about the anti-social impact of it all, else she’d tag me a ‘witch’.

Rita never joined in the morning prayers: she was a work toy. At twelve, she had stunted growth due to the pressure of child labour. My neighbour’s eldest daughter, who was about Rita’s age, was exempted from domestic chores. From dish-washing, home-scrubbing, laundry, to car-washing, Rita held forth as a work machine powered by my neighbour’s orders. There was just too much work to be done in the house and in her shop, so the little girl was not enrolled in school. Far from being a happy girl, there was this silent, permanent agonizing on her face. I had seen on that face irregular patterns of dry tears, signatures of the private mourning of a slavery that lacked the hope to end. I understood she was plucked from far away, ferried into this thankless life of work by a middleman to whom her salary was remitted. My neighbour must be grateful to God for having to pay a minimum wage for maximum labour. And the middleman owned the lion’s share of the corruption, relaying only a tiny fraction to Rita’s mother in the village – he too must be grateful to God.

My neighbour was never happy that I spurned her many invitations to attend church with her. The last time we talked about it one Sunday morning while she got set to leave for church, she told her husband that she had given up on me. As she spoke that day, my eyes were focussed on Rita. Her dress, hairstyle and every other thing were costumed to establish her identity as a house-girl, a heart-breaking contrast to the family’s glamour.

Much as I was worried about Rita, I did not know how to help her. Sometimes I had wanted to call her out and ask her a few questions, but I feared being misunderstood if seen with her. It was an emotional torture to watch her suffer and deprived of basic education. When I later approached my neighbour one day over her education, I saw how she struggled to maintain a fake courtesy. As a humanist, I found my silence as complicity. When would she come out of all this?


She soon did. There often comes a time when the individual, no matter how lowly, is courageous enough to gather enough spittle and shoot it on the oppressor’s face. That day, my neighbour’s husband had shot his hoarse voice in the air and I heard those nauseous words: “Don’t you know you’re a slave in this house?” Yes he actually said that and I was going to confront him but then I heard Rita's counter. I did not hear her clearly, but I knew she spoke out in defence of whatever was left of her own human dignity. She did not have to be educated to be human. The sense of dignity is a natural consciousness in humans. It was a moment when toleration came to a halt, when anger rescued words from being trapped in the mind by fear. I wore a stupid grin. Then he beat her up thoroughly until she escaped. She never came back.

That was about a year ago. This morning, I saw Rita somewhere in Isolo here in Lagos, standing at a bus stop. She looked too pale. I pulled over and walked up to her. “Broodaa!” she screamed happily, throwing herself at me. I swayed back a little to avoid a forceful contact with her protruding belly. Her smile withered as she saw the woodenness of my face. She bowed her head, shy, drawing patterns on the ground with her right toes. Even with her pregnancy there was no evidence of womanhood.  I pulled her slowly away to a corner and asked her what happened. She started crying.

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It happened that the day she ran away from the house, a young man had offered to help. Perhaps they knew each other all along. A long story for another day. They now live together. Poverty is their only torment for now, otherwise they live in peace. The husband lost his job as an okada rider recently. Yet again, she lacks hope, the future is bleak.

This evening I told my neighbour about my encounter with Rita. “Stupid girl, she never suffer yet! May God forgive her before it’s too late.” I was short of words. This moment, I recognise that man is the maker of the devil that haunts him. We complain of how badly our governments treat the poor, yet we teach them daily how better to do it. Rita’s child, who may lack basic support, may grow to become useful to society – or grow to become the next terrorist, armed robber or kidnapper, the one to scuttle the dreams my neighbour may have prepared her kids for. She prays against such evils, yet she has created one. She fails to realise that Godliness is, first of all, human relations – how you treat the next man in such a way that God will be happy with you. We are the earth’s biggest affliction, humanity.

Child labour or abuse is not only when a child is made to hawk ware in the corridors of metropolitan traffic.  It is unGodly and evil to contract child helps without an arrangement for the child's basic education, without the primary humanity to accord that child the privileges you can give your own children. The concept of 'child help' is even unlawful. But given the socio-cultural situation in Africa, warranting children to play relative commercial roles in the family, one can concede the idea, but only to the extent that it does not result in abuse. But why can't we contract professional helps? Is it not because we find children more amenable to exploitation? Does God find it acceptable that we commercialise the poverty of another family for our own convenience - perhaps He created such people just for our service in the first place - otherwise how would we have coped?

Emmanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu is a young Nigerian intellectual who is very keen about the written word. His articles have appeared in several national dailies and blogs. His first literary work is due for publication soon. Emma lives in Lagos.

We'd love to read your comments. Inquiries and stories for publication should be directed to the editor at or simply call +234 7033 436 212.
Thanks for stopping by

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Saturday, 2 March 2013


At 24 years, Deborah Ahenkorah is living proof of the heights a person can reach just by trying.

A native of the Eastern Region, Deborah grew up with her parents in Ghana’s capital Accra. She attended North Ridge Lyceum, and later enrolled at Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast. Consequently, she proceeded on scholarship to Bryn Mawr College in the USA, for her university degree.

“I had no reason to want to come back to Ghana. I’m going to America, why would I want to come back to Ghana? But in the four years that I was in school various experiences, you know, switched my mind 180 degrees,” Deborah recounted.

According to the self-proclaimed adventuress who once hawked children’s clothing at the
Makola Market in Accra out of sheer curiosity, her epiphany lay in acknowledging both the privilege and responsibility that came with her Ivy League Bryn Mawr education.

“I was trying to be a lawyer, make some good money, you know? But then it became really more than that,” she said. “It became: Look, like it or not your education gives you some privilege. What are you going to do with it?”

What Deborah did was to start an on campus book drive in 2007 in order to get more literature to children and youth across Africa. However she soon realized that the real issue was not a lack of books, but rather access to literature that Africans could actually relate to.

Deborah explained:

 “How was it an okay solution that: African children can’t read. Well, let’s get them American books to read because American people are writing their books? I felt that African people had to write their own books too.”

Thus begins the story of the Golden Baobab Prize.

Idea rooted in mind, Deborah sought out funding opportunities, including the 100 Projects for Peace. While she didn’t secure that particular grant, she did have a pretty good draft proposal which she improved upon and submitted for minor grants at her college. This time around, she got the money she needed.

Money in hand, the next step was to identify someone, a field supervisor, who would not only share her vision, but also offer guidance in implementing her idea.

Deborah found both in Rama Shagaya, a Bryn Mawr and Harvard Business School alumnus who, at the time, was was on the lookout for Africa-related projects to get involved in. Between them, the Golden Baobab Prize officially took off in July 2008.

“So I got some money, came home one summer, plugged myself in an internet cafe, and the goal was to start the first - okay well, at that time it wasn’t even that ambitious - the goal was just to organize this writing competition.”

Things didn’t turn out so simple.

Golden Baobab needed a website, judges, and a good amount of publicity and promotion to reach the furthest corners of Africa. To top it all off, Debbie was still a full-time college student.

“I had no experience at web design. I had to build a website that summer,” Debbie remembered. “But it worked.”

With only 12 entries submitted that summer, and on the verge of writing off the literary award as a failure, Deborah received some invaluable advice from a mentor.

“One of the older mentors that I have was like, actually no. Since you run it you can decide whether it has failed or not,” Deborah remembered. “You can say this has not failed because I’m going to extend the deadline and put in more work to get more people to write.”

And so she continued.

A couple of months later, the number of entries submitted totalled 76 stories from 9 countries, something Deborah describes as “a great success for something we marketed with zero dollars.”

She added: “What was interesting about the first year was that we were going to give 3 different prizes, $800 each. I didn’t have any of this money.”

To raise the funds, both co-founders dipped into their pockets. The book drive club which Deborah started at Bryn Mawr also helped raise $800 for one prize. The remainder was covered after Deborah“literally went around to people begging.”

                                 Reading with kids at Accra's Mamprobi Gale Community Library

According to Deborah, the key aim of Golden Baobab is to discover, nurture and celebrate promising writers of African children’s stories.

The fact that the prize is overseen primarily by a team of volunteers demonstrates just how passionate the organization is about its cause. Unfortunately, not having a full-time team has also been a major challenge.

“My friends were just so supportive. People believed in it and they’d help out a semester, one year, whatever,” Deborah said. “But it just wasn’t consistent; because whenever someone new comes, you have to retrain that person.”

Nevertheless, Deborah believes Golden Baobab's impact is enough reason to keep striving on.

Her favourite “success story” involves a lady who happened to be a librarian at one of the Canadian libraries Deborah frequented as a child in Ngoye, Krobo.

After having someone type up her story for her, the librarian, who didn’t know how to use a computer, broke down in tears when she heard she was a shortlisted candidate for the Prize during the first year.

Deborah said: “She sat down and she just cried. Here’s a woman whose read countless of books to children and never thought that her story could potentially be worthy of anything.”

“That’s when it hit me that oh goodness, this is not just me behind my computer at the internet cafe. This is actually writers and actually people with dreams and people with stories who want to tell these stories and who want people to read these stories,” the young entrepreneur said.

Aside helping make the dreams of others come true, the Golden Baobab Prize has had a profound impact on the co-founder herself.

“Personally I think one of the most difficult things has been developing confidence in my ability to make this work, because this is not what I set out to do,” Deborah admitted.

With her mind set on being a lawyer, Golden Baobab first started off as a short-term project for Deborah. That she could handle. What shook her to the core however was when things evolved and started“getting out of control.”

“How can I, just barely graduated school, run a pan-African literary prize, you know, that is saying that it’s going to change the African literary landscape? What skills, qualifications do I have to make this work?” Deborah asked herself.

Apparently, enough. Three years down the line, Golden Baobab's Executive Director is coming into her own and acknowledges her role in making the Golden Baobab Prize what it is today.

“I guess my resilience and passion for it thus far is evidence that I can continue to take it places. And, I guess just with doing it for three years I’ve realized that actually I can do it a little bit,” she said.

Debbie with staff members of Playing for Change during the Echoing Green Final Interviews

Winning the Echoing Green Fellowship

It’s been three years since the Golden Baobab Prize took off. Since then Deborah and her team have taken many bold steps in overseeing the annual literary award which has received over 200 entries since inception. They have also gotten literary giants like

 Ama Ata Aidoo to actively participate in their mission.

In June 2011, Deborah was named one of “today’s boldest social change visionaries” by
Echoing Green; an acclaimed lending network with over two decades of experience in supporting ideas aimed at addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.

She applied for the Echoing Green fellowship after the application was forwarded to her – three days to the deadline - by Maya Ajmera, founder of the Global Fund for Children, which helps fund Golden Baobab through grants. Prior to that, a friend had forwarded the fellowship application to her via email. Her response? “Haha. Delete.”

“The funny thing is I was on the Echoing Green mailing list and had seen them sending the mail that people should apply for the fellowship. But it never even crossed my mind to apply for it. I was like, there’s no way I’m going to get this. This is for high rollers,” Deborah explained.

It would seem, however, that destiny would not take no for an answer. With the deadline three days away, Deborah spent an entire day contemplating whether or not to put in the needed effort. By day two, she was working feverishly on an application which many take months to complete.

While the Echoing Green application process was by no means painless, Deborah regards it as a very “powerful” experience which drastically shifted her thinking to the impact of the Golden Baobab. Through what she calls the “friendliest competition” she’d ever been in, she also got to network with likeminded individuals who “were just all so excited about each other’s projects”.

“It was a very empowering process for me in many ways and I didn’t think that I would even make it to the semi-finalist round, but that was okay because it had been a positive application experience,” she recounted.

But make it to the semi-finalist round she did, and as her mother rightly predicted, she sailed through to the finals as well. Ultimately Deborah was one of the final 15 fellows selected from 2,800 applications and initiatives.

“It was a very positive experience and, again, the competition was clearly top-notch, so nobody could be comfortable or confident,” Deborah said. “I certainly was not comfortable or confident and it was a huge shock to me when I realized that I’d been selected.”

With the generous support from Echoing Green, Deborah and Golden Baobab can kiss their shoestring days goodbye as they push on in their quest to rival the Heinemann African Writers series and change Africa’s literary landscape.

“I’m very excited because it’s going to open a lot of doors for Golden Baobab, and it comes at a time when I think Golden Baobab really needs that push,” she gushed. “It locks me in for two years so there’s no running away. It’s just going to mean a lot of really good things for Golden Baobab.”

The Golden Baobab Prize

So what exactly does it take to submit an entry to the Golden Baobab Prize? Well, first off, you have to be a citizen of an African state to apply and you can apply all-year round.

“It doesn’t matter what race you are, doesn’t matter where in the world you are, so far as you’re a citizen,” Deborah emphasized.

Stories accepted tend to be between 1000 to 5000 words and are reviewed in two separate judging sessions by a diverse panel of some of the best people in the children’s literature or African literature fields.

Entries which make it past the initial reading session and into the top 10 tend to “speak to any kind of person, not just literati.” In addition, they need to be solid stories.

“One thing that definitely we look for, I think, is just imagination, solid writing and a story that reflects something African. You know it could be uniquely African, faintly African, but a story that is an African story without doubt,” Deborah said.

There are two main categories for consideration: ‘Stories for readers aged 8-11years,’ and ‘Stories for readers aged 12-15 years’. In addition, there's a special prize for the most promising writer below age 18.

“This is a very exciting category. It’s one of those that I’m really excited about because this is identifying a writer at the beginning of their career,” Deborah explained.

She continued: “[It’s] saying that we see a lot of promise in you, you’re going to go places, and we’re going to try our best to help you go places and to help you not to lose your dream for writing.”

Ahmed Farah, a 16-year old Kenyan boy who submitted five stories to the prize in 2010, won last year’s “promising writer”title with

Letters from the Flames. Set in his home country during the 2007-08 post-election crisis, Ahmed’s story is about an 11-year old Kenyan girl who writes letters to her dead father.

It was written so convincingly in the voice of an 11-year old Kenyan girl,” Deborah exclaimed. “This is a 16-year old Kenyan boy. That spoke so much to us that who is this boy who dares to write as an 11-year old Kenyan girl?...It was exciting to discover him and his work.”

In addition to winning the monetary prizes, winning authors and stories are connected with leading publishing companies in order to produce African books for children and young adults to enjoy.


Moving Forward – How Can You Get Involved?

Aside the obvious – writing and submitting entries to the Prize – Golden Baobab is on the lookout for support to “fully establish” itself. That said, if you’re – or know someone who is - a corporate sponsor, grantmaker, publisher, illustrator, writer or passionate individual who identifies with Golden Baobab’s mission and vision, you might want to keep tabs on Deborah and her organization via the organization's website, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

“Our goal in ten years is good quality, beautiful written and illustrated African books in bookstores all over the world,” Deborah shared.

As someone who's already proven that she can transform an idea into reality, here's what Deborah has for African youth:

“My advice or word of inspiration would be that - so cliché - but just do it. I feel like a lot of people have really great ideas and stall on those ideas because they think they can’t do it. That was me. I thought I couldn’t do it, but I had to do it and then I realized that oh I can. And I don’t think that’s a unique story. I think we have the capacity to do what we want to do. If we would just do it, we’ll realize that we could.”

Interview by Jemila Abdulai and originally published on , culled from

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