A lot of bad blokes out there write many bad things about Nigeria.
I don’t like that at all.
Nigeria is very cool by me.
The politicians may go wrong. The business goons can cut corners. The youths have given the internet a double-barrelled moniker: Yahoo-Yahoo.
But then, where it matters most, that is, writing, alias literature, Nigeria rules the world.
There is no major prize in literature that has not been won by Nigerian writers.
Wole Soyinka capped it all up in 1986 by winning the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African to so do.
Chinua Achebe, the acclaimed Father of the African Novel, was awarded the Man Booker Prize for his lifetime achievement in fiction writing, beating a redoubtable shortlist that included Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Ian McEwan, etc.
Ben Okri had earlier won the Booker Prize in 1991.
Before Nigeria’s arrival at Independence in 1960, diverse literatures had thrived in the local languages.
Pita Nwana, the author of Omenuko blazed the trail in the publishing of fiction in Igbo.
In the Western part of Nigeria D.O. Fagunwa, author of Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole, was the trailblazer in the writing and publishing of Yoruba literature.
Abubakar Imam, author of Magana Jari Ce, was the pathfinder in the North.
The many Nigerian languages were well represented in literature before the almost overwhelming adoption of English by the emergent writers.
Amos Tutuola astounded the literary world with the publication of his novel The Palmwine Drinkard in 1954, some six years before Nigeria’s winning of self-rule.
The book written in “quaint” English won the praise of the Irish poet Dylan Thomas and set Tutuola on the path of a redoubtable literary career.
In publishing Things Fall Apart in 1958 Chinua Achebe initiated a trend into looking into the history and the past to “understand where the rain started beating us”.
The success of Things Fall Apart led to the launch of the African Writers Series (AWS) that saw many African writers getting into print.
Achebe’s first hero, Okonkwo, was a strong man who failed because he thought the white man could be confronted with force.
In the sequel, No Longer at Ease, corruption became the undoing of the anti-hero Obi Okonkwo.
The intellectual Ezeulu in Arrow of God equally fails in battling the white man with reason as opposed to Okonkwo’s brute strength.
Achebe prefigures the collapse of partisan politics in his 1966 novel A Man of the People that uncannily ends with a coup and the hint of a counter-coup.
The advent of the military in politics recharges Achebe’s 1987 novel Anthills of the Savannah in which the telling of the story is given supreme command in the affairs of the world.
The many feats of Nigerian writing, of course, received the crowning glory in 1986 when Wole Soyinka won the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature.
Soyinka in accepting the prize graciously said it was due honour for all the labour of his fellow writers across the African continent.
Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in literature happens to be an all-rounder who is at once a playwright, poet, novelist, essayist, translator, etc.
His vast body of works includes the plays A Dance of the Forests, The Swamp Dwellers, The Road, Kongi’s Harvest, Madmen and Specialists, The Jero Plays, Death and the King’s Horseman; the novels The Interpreters and Season of Anomie; the poetry collections Idanre and other Poems, A Shuttle in the Crypt, Ogun Abibiman, Mandela’s Earth, Samarkand; the autobiographical titles Ake, the Years of Childhood, Ibadan: The Penkelemesi Years, You Must Set Forth at Dawn, etc.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is without question the doyenne of world literature. She is the quintessential anchor of the new writing coming out of Nigeria.
Her debut novel Purple Hibiscus won the Commonwealth Prize while her second novel based on the Biafra war, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the esteemed Orange Prize for female writing.
Chimamanda is receiving worldwide raves on account of her latest novel Americanah, which has been endorsed by American superstar Beyonce.
The co-winner of the Booker Prize this year with her novel Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo, is advertised to the world as a British author but her father happens to be a Nigerian.
Let me let out her full bona-fides to shut up any doubting Thomas: Bernardine Anne Mobolaji Evaristo.
Incidentally, a runner-up in the Booker Prize awards is yet another Nigerian, Chigozie Obioma, author of An Orchestra of Minorities who had even been nominated for the selfsame coveted prize via his 2015 debut novel The Fishermen.
There is no other conclusion than the truth that Nigeria owns world literature.