NIGERIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY - 60 YEARS
A Proud Yoruba Girl
By Abiola Bello, co-director of Hashtag BLAK an author of Emily Knight I am...Becoming
I'm a Yoruba girl and as a Nigerian writer and publisher, it's so important to me to uplift other Nigerians in my field. There is something so special about books that really celebrate my culture and it's so beautiful to see a rise of Nigerian culture - not just in books but in music (Dave), sports (Anthony Joshua) and movies (John Boyega).
The protagonist in my fourth book is Nigerian and there was something so satisfying in writing the way my parents speak and including the food we eat. I'm so excited for Nuzo Onoh's book A Dance For The Dead (Hashtag BLAK, May 2021), which celebrates the Igbo tribe in a stunning fantasy setting.
Books I would recommend by Nigerian authors or illustrators include:
Cyborg Cat and the Night Spider by Ade Adepitan, illustrated by Carl Pearce (Piccadilly Press)
Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola (Puffin)
Emily Knight I am...Becoming by A. Bello (Hashtag Press)
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Macmillan Children's Books)
Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo (Onwe Press)
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi (Razorbill)
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo (Faber&Faber)
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)
Black-on-Black Slavery. Why I won’t be celebrating Nigeria’s Independence Day
As October 1st, 2020 rolls by, Nigeria prepares to celebrate 60 years of independence from British colonial rule. Across the 36 states that make up the federation, there will be well-publicised government activities to mark the event. Nigeria’s embassies, high commissions, and her citizens in diaspora, will also celebrate this important event in typical Nigerian style, with varying degrees of ostentatiousness.
As a primary school pupil in Nigeria, I remember how all the schools in my town, Enugu, would assemble at the vast stadium to salute the green-white-green Nigerian flag, our little chests puffed out in nationalistic pride as we shrieked out the then national anthem, “Nigeria, we hail thee, our own dear native land; though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”.
Aahh! The sweet days of innocence and gullibility! Today, I look back to those wonderful childhood days of hope, faith and pride and wonder how everything could have gone so horribly wrong for Nigeria to the point that once again, voices are clamouring for secession, Boko Haram terrorist group are kidnapping school kids and wreaking mayhem with impunity, and the national currency has been so devalued that the exchange rate, which used to stand at one Naira (₦1) to one Pound (£1) in the early 1980s, now exchanges at almost 500 Naira to a Pound!
As an African horror and fantasy writer, I write supernatural fiction aimed at horrifying, terrifying and shocking my readers. My stories are also a vehicle for me to showcase our African culture, both the good and the ugly within a fictitious, horror context. One question I get asked all the time by my readers is, “Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?” My answer is, “Nigeria.”
Nigeria is a beautiful country, blessed with natural resources and a vibrant social life. Its people are one of the most successful diaspora groups worldwide, with a “can-do” attitude that has helped them adapt to every situation, location, and condition. But sadly, this is a country mired in mind-boggling corruption. As a result, a vast proportion of the citizens remain in shackles, deprived of the most basic freedoms the highfalutin constitution supposedly guarantees them, promising – “to provide for a Constitution for the … welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice…”
Today, in the current climate of Black Lives Matter, ask the individuals, groups and villagers classified as Osu or slaves in their own country if they feel free, these victims of black-on-black slavery, enslaved by people of their own skin-colour and race and deprived of basic human rights simply as a result of outdated cultural practices. Their answer will be a resounding, No!
So, as I reflect on all these, I’ve reached the conclusion that I will no longer celebrate a lie. Nigeria may have gained her independence from Britain, but she is still a prisoner of her own making, shackled under the ruinous chains of corruption. Nonetheless, I will send her a goodwill message on this anniversary of her independence. It’s the least I can do, in the hope that she’ll do better for herself, as she has the potential to be truly great. So here goes; Long Live Nigeria!
Nuzo Onoh is a Nigerian-British horror and fantasy writer. Her next book, A Dance for The Dead is published in 2021 by Hashtag Blak.