NVS: Getting H-o-o-k-e-d

by SOC Okenwa

In life, it’s only when you have passion for something that you will stand out. If you cannot commit yourself and be focused, you will become one of the rest instead of the best. When I was in Holy Mary College in Benin City the no-nonsense proprietor of the college Mr Dory S. Ikpasaja (who was the MC in every state trade fair jamboree) once told us in an assembly one early Monday morning as our terminal exams drew nearer that “the better best is the best!”. An astute disciplinarian whose daughter, London trained, taught us English language from SS1, Ikpasaja was a man I admired then for his deep intelligence and intolerance of academic laziness. He sacked teachers who compromised their calling and for little offences like late coming. He had arrested one teacher who defrauded the school and had him handcuffed and paraded before all of us.

Writing is not an easy task; it tasks and challenges one. And writing well is a gift from above not necessarily out of what one learnt in higher institution. But since education will forever govern ignorance it is always a privilege for one to be able to express his thoughts forthrightly and belonging to the class of the scholarly emancipated. In the college I was writing news analysis and foreign commentaries on contract for BBS Radio. And I got encouragement from the former Editor of the “Sunday Observer” in Benin City Mrs Adekunbi Ero who made it possible for me to be paid for my articles and features.

I visited ‘The Observer’ headquarters on Airport Road with my brand-new bicycle my late sister bought for me (as a gift for maintaining first position at each class and becoming our class prefect from SS1) for research and reading in the library. Mrs Ero it was who made it possible through her personal intervention that I got paid for the articles and features I wrote for the Observer group of newspapers. In the BBS another woman producer (I’ve forgotten her name) equally ensured that one’s work got remunerated.

I learnt while interacting with ‘the Observer’ editors and features writers that to be a good writer, a social critic whose lines command respect, respected columnist or opinion writer, one has to apply three guidelines: be analytical, informative and witty. And above all be factual and non-speculative. These are what it takes for one to excel!

When I was writing in “Nigeriaworld.com” late last year I was forced by circumstances beyond my tolerance to quit writing for that e-publishing outfit. After I authored “The Problem With The Igbos”, an article that still stands today as the most controversial work that I have ever penned, the huge controversy that trailed that piece would have sent me into ‘hiding’ or at least broken my resolve but I refused to be intimidated apologising to no one and standing firmly by my considered opinion.

Rebuttals, rejoinders and even telephone calls came from every continent of the world: from Nigeria to Ethiopia, London to Sweden, Germany to France, New York to Atlanta, Tokyo to Seoul. While majority of those who called or wrote back appreciated my audacity the vociferous minority led by a ‘doctor’ in Port Harcourt took on me head-on calling me names and indulging in character assassination. They took their opposition to the very extreme! Even Comrade Lawrence Nwobu was against my stand and sent me a sarcastic rejoinder. But as a fellow NVS author we’ve since made up through private correspondence understanding each other better. I did follow-ups to that treatise “Matters Arising 1&2” and the third one the Nigeriaworld publishers refused to publish for undisclosed reasons.

A friend in Germany following keenly the ‘war’ with my fellow Igbos advised me to quit Nigeriaworld and stop responding to my critics reasoning that we did not operate from the same (higher) consciousness and wave-length. He proposed NVS to me instead and I bought the idea. Today the Nigeria Village Square has given me more ‘education’ and opportunity to be heard. Writing in the same strictly-stimulating intellectual platform with great minds and writers like Rueben Abati, Phil Tam-Al Alalibo, Okey Ndibe, Eric Terfa Ula-Lisa (esq), Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Jumoke Giwa, Solana Olumhense, Uche Nworah, Max Siollun, Gary K. Busch, Rudolf Okonkwo, Sabella Abidde, Ogaga Ifowodo and many others is of course a privilege worth the time and energy. Madam Akuluouno, Amy and Mr ‘Auspicious’ remain the critical voices of moderation and reason in the square.

In the Square I have been able to appreciate the intellectual quality or otherwise of my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and back home in Nigeria. And non-Nigerians alike. In NVS I now know that there are people who love Nigeria more that she loves herself: Saul (sorry Paul) Adujie of “I Love Nigeria” fame is one of those. And those who love former President Obasanjo more than his Owu people do: Frisky Larrimore for example. I have come to know about some professional critics like ‘Mikky Jaga’, ‘PHD’ Adetunji, ‘Katampe’, ‘Tonsoyo’ and many others famous more for their monikas. And Taslim Anibaba for rising always in defense of his Yoruba roots almost to the point of a tribalist.

In the Square nothing gets more kudos and appreciation like robust reason(ing) and idea; as a market-place of ideas ideas get traded no hold barred. Since I believe in the cross-fertilisation of ideas the NVS is a perfect setting where one’s God-given talent and gift of writing robustly gets rewarded by non-censorship. I feel good belonging to the NVS family where there exists all shades of characters and opinions. Opinions from the sublime to the ridiculous!

Now that I’m celebrating my hundredth contribution, hundredth article on the square, it’s been a great feeling belonging to the NVS family. My greatest article thus far in the NVS which generated much more controversy than any other remains the piece entitled “Ooni Sijuwade’s Many Royal Blunders”. The article struck the right and wrong chords in many people: Yorubas, Igbos and other minority ethnic groups in Nigeria. The responses were more positive than negative and those on my side vindicated my position that the Ooni of Ife was a bundle of royal fraud!

Following that closely was the piece entitled: “Andy Uba: Rise and Fall of a Crook as Governor!”; and the one on Biafra captioned “Between Biafra and MASSOB”, “Orji Uzor Kalu: The Making of an Oriental Gladiator”. And “Of Prostitutes and Prostitution”. And “Andy Uba: The Face of a Fraud”. And when I wrote “The Ivorian Political Tragedy 1&2” a compatriot writing from Lagos who claimed he was introduced to the Square by the inimitable investigative journalist at-large Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters fame commended me for making his day telling me that he had printed out the articles which he read daily! When I wrote “In Defence of 419” a white man ostensibly an imperialist American wrote me back questioning my roots. He claimed that a black man could not have written that, could not be tha

t good a writer; of course I ignored him.

As an established writer with large and diverse audience (taking on issues many consider “taboo”) I recognise that I’m not infallible. Infallibility is wholly divine but one only aspires to be better and perfect in the art of writing! People’s sensibilities and sentiments must have been bruised and typographical and grammatical errors committed in the course of expressing myself. To those that felt ‘offended’ therefore by the views I fearlessly and forthrightly expressed here I say: bear with me, forgive my youthful exuberance and innate radicalism which sometimes manifest in my writings.

And to those who criticised and attacked my works and those who maligned and cast aspersions on my person I say: thank you, you brought (and still bring) out the very best in me! I admit committing some ‘gaffes’ and ‘goofs’ on few occasions. But in all humility I believe these do not make one not be proud, they are not enough to remove one’s usefulness to the intellectual community.

Like hard drug one is getting hooked to the Nigerian Village Square but the difference between drug and NVS is that while the former is dangerous to the health the latter is stimulating and healthy. Getting hooked to the NVS is therefore more honourable than getting hooked to drugs. I guess one has much more to gain and contribute towards making the square an intellectually-inspiring internet publishing outfit.

To those administering the site like the Big K and Shoko Loko Bangoshe I say kudos. Having written and still write for some internet e-publishing media I have found out the uniqueness and ‘flagshipness’ of the Nigerian Village Square — the market place of ideas.

Another Nigerian internet website with heavy dose of intellectualism, I hasten to add, is Nigeriansinamerica.com. The administrator/webmaster, Sola Osofisan, is an intellectual firebrand whose literary depth is legendary. The site offers blooming intellectual flavour and flowers.

Like the panadol advert at a time went: ‘If it’s not panadol then it can never be panadol’ and in this case if it’s not NVS then it can never be the NVS. If it’s not found on the Square then it could not have been found in other points of congregation of the intellectual internet faithfuls; NVS leads others follow!

As the French would say: “L’aventure continue dans toutes le convivialite” (The adventure continues in all conviviality.) Cheers everyone!

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