KO is a man with eagle eye. For months he has been watching and reading my Monday column in the Nigerian Compass newspaper with avid interest. Osadolor is an experienced hack, superb wordsmith, raconteur, gifted editor, editorial board decider, journalism critic, lawyer and a highly respected media manager. He does not suffer fools gladly. His restless and sharp mind has no room for mediocrity. His journalism and writings are unadulterated intelligence which flows with wit, cerebralised argument and tightly-knit prose.
We were destined to meet. It had been a long and enjoyable 20 years of family, literary and journalism relationship. Books are magical and they are like magnet for the inquisitive mind. The need to know, to search and to inquire led Osadolor into my ‘book lair’ and like a prey was caught in my literary trap. The meeting was not premeditated but mediated by sheer act of providence. KO had come to Lawanson, a bustling, multi-tribal, seedy neighbour of the more salubrious Surulere in Lagos. Then his eye caught a glimpse of an irresistible treasure. He saw an unbelievable altar. Rather than find holy and sanctified effigy of Christ on the altar, he discovered timeless and bounded wisdom.
Kingsley is a bookworm. The rows of books on my shelf astounded and overawed his inquisitiveness. Then his eyes brightened and his usual boom-boom voice came alive. Then in a very audacious move, he badgered into my one-roomed apartment wanting to know who amassed such unspeakable treasure in Lawanson. Lawanson? “My name is Taju Tijani,” I muttered. “Oh are you the guy who writes for the Guardian from Sokoto,” Kingsley asked. I nodded, unable to comprehend such awesome memory for a writer’s name. The rest is now history. A passage through Lawanson has led to each other’s discovery.
Kingsley the avid reader and journalism critic is in judgment. He sits in court Nigeria and the guilty victims of his charge sheet are the collection of Diaspora-based writers, columnists and journalists who are still mesmerised by the theme of Nigeriana in their literary efforts. Kingsley could be acerbic, unforgiving and dismissive when writers are ignorant, careless, lazy and not enterprising. When he wears his old editorial jacket, he could behave like a man who has lost his temper.
His observation of overbeaten genre of Nigeriana in most Diaspora-based writers and columnists was spot on. It is interesting how many of us are guilty of this awesome naivety. We are caught between old certainties and old vocabularies. Burden bearers and who are also newspaper columnists include, Okey Ndibe, Femi Ajayi and Sonala Olumhense. Among our rank lurk sins of shameless overindulgence and a somewhat feeding frenzy on Yar’Adua, Governors, politicians, and events in Nigeria. I am informed that journalism of the mundane looks for easy targets and what soft targets could you find than Nigerian politicians?
Among public commentators both at home and abroad there is unrelieved and bothersome travesty of journalism that writes only of politicians and corruption without dredging other frontiers of new knowledge and discovery. According to Osadolorite orthodoxy, Diaspora-based writers should focus on the limitless and racy events in the Western world as they unfold. For instance, we should explain the complex implication of the global credit crunch on black families, businesses and future prospects. Rather than hang on to the weakened straw of Nigeriana, we should hold the mirror and reflect black extraordinary achievements against all odds. We should calibrate the fear and tears of the cabman, the potter, the care worker, the illegal immigrant, the babalawo in Hackney and Peckham, the Edo prostitutes along the Genoa waterways in Italy and the olodu; I mean the criminal and shady dealings of Nigerian fraudsters.
We may even raise the political tempo and enlighten our readers about the inner workings of England’s Parliamentary democracy, the Scottish devolution, the interplay of the complex relationship between the Queen and her Prime Minister, the efficient British tax regime, its educational excellence, the NHS, its motorable roads, the technology, the advancement in medical sciences, its love of warm beer, sexual high jinks, drugs and erosion of Western family life. We should be doing polemics on why bi-racial people are breaking the glass ceiling in businesses, politics (Obama), motor racing (Lewis Hamilton) Army (Colin Powell) than average out and out black men. We should probably be beaming our search light on the psychological analysis of why there is so much attraction for white women among black sportsmen in the Diaspora. Or we may dare the British and accuse them of being jelly toward the enemy within- radicalised British Muslims.
In the lachrymatory of Atlanticist journalism, these issues are timeless, relevant, people-oriented, popular and by all accounts would generate a stupendous harvest of satisfied readers who are already burdened with stories of Nigeria’s corruption and politicians’ shenanigans. The reality also is unnerving. Nigerians are still captivated by Western mystique of progress, prosperity and promise. Many of them are still prospective barbarians who, sooner than later, will knock on the gate of the rich West as economic migrants. And because knowledge is power, they expect Diaspora-based writers who are hardened custodians of Western ways of life and its eccentric mores and customs to disseminate these nuggets of wisdom with combatant energy rather than the usual stale tale of Governor Obi’s threesome in the Government House. Or Ministerial appointments.
However, we should not crucify Diaspora-based writers as one-realm thinkers who only listen to the frequency of the tribe back home. The assumption of natural antagonism by Diaspora-based writers against chattels of the commonwealth of Nigeria affords a sense of common destiny and this in effect, makes Nigeriana from abroad intensely compulsive and poetic.
Many of us are locked in emotionally, ferocious political struggles to reclaim Nigeria which has floundered so mercilessly from the siege of enlarging ranks of meta-materialist politicians. Probably Diaspora-based columnists would find comfort in the words of Louis Kronenberger which says that: it is the columnist business to write about what is none of his business.