Sunday 5 January 2014

Decade Blogs - Saratu Abiola - On Nigeria and Why Writing Matters

Decade Blogs
If it has not yet occurred to readers of my blog, one of the reasons why I thought of this #YourBlogOnMyBlog Series commemorating my Decade of Blogging was to encourage writing. Writing our own stories, in our own way, with our own voice, the best way we can.
I am proud to say that I have a few first time writers and some relapsed writers who have since revived their dormant blogs, then I have the veterans who write either for a living or for pleasure and we are all enriched by the experience.
I have known Saratu Abiola as both a voracious reader and an incisive writer, more so a very good reviewer of books, novels, texts, award shortlists and opinions. I am always in a mad rush to see what she has put up on her blog.
Besides maintaining a blog titled Method to the Madness she tweets with the Twitter handle @saratu and is the Political Editor for Nigerians Talk that “provides a Nigerian perspective of issues, and we feature opinion and analysis with a distinctive Nigerian point of view.”
The first paragraph of her piece here is a litany of the typical Nigerian story at any point in time, but as she weaves her thoughts into a narrative, we are given a perspective of what is the Nigerian psyche, our survival instinct and what writing does to give us a clearer perspective of things. This is good reading.
On Nigeria and Why Writing Matters
Another day, another scandal. Someone stole U.S. $50 billion from the crude oil account mere months after someone bought two armoured vehicles that seem to be covered by an invisibility cloak since no one has ever seen them. Let’s not forget, of course, the many days in which schools have been closed, the number of days since the constitutional review process has been abandoned, the impending nationwide strike by doctors, the number of heists pulled that we do not yet even know about. [Reuters] [Vanguard Nigeria] [Vanguard Nigeria] [Premium Times Nigeria] [Premium Times Nigeria]
There is a lot that ails Nigeria and if one reads the news daily or even engages with one’s political environment at all it is sure to be overwhelming. So out of step are our collective reaction to our national malaise that it is tempting as someone who writes – be it fiction or on a blog – to dedicate one’s life to attempting to find the right words to shaking ourselves out of our collective national slumber. What, then, brings about the impetus to write?
There is a recurrent conversation in circles that I orbit about what exactly our responsibilities are to our country as politically-conscious, young Nigerians who want better for Nigeria in creating the country of our dreams. It is a good question, and one worth asking in a country where we are all complicit in the mess that we find ourselves in.
I’m quick to shrug off any moral and/or ethical responsibility ascribed to me, because I know I owe neither a group nor a narrative any room in shaping my life. But I do understand that when you’re in a situation as dire as Nigeria is, with a leadership void as wide and as open as the hungriest mouth, the desire to mould yourself into what is missing in your environment even if it means bending yourself well out of shape.
Writing has helped in seeking answers to this question, but it has also helped to re-centre priorities to more personal aspirations in important ways that I don’t always see. In the daily hustle and bustle of my life, as I jump from one project to another, it is easy to forget that in our pursuit for a better Nigeria, it is important to first seek a better us.
My writing allows me time and tools to process my thoughts; it is my way of keeping my brain-space tidy. I write infrequently, so the jumble of thoughts in my head is like a tornado just swept through it, so the pressure is on each piece of writing to count. Not always a good thing, as it adds undue pressure, but here I am.
Nigeria is very much like that tornado, because it is easy in the aftermath of yet another week of not having light [In Nigerianese, light and electricity supply are synonymous.] or a trip somewhere that makes you wonder why more people are not taking up arms and throwing rotten tomatoes at every government official they can find, to feel the pressure bunching up in your shoulders that must find a way to be released. For me – and I imagine it is so for many bloggers – writing is it, even if it what I’m writing about is not ostensibly about politics.
A friend said to me once: “Saratu, we are all surviving o. Even rich people! IBB [Ibrahim Babangida] and OBJ [Olusegun Obasanjo] and Otedola [Femi Otedola] and Dangote [Aliko Dangote], they are all merely surviving. Look at how we are all scrambling to get all the money we can possibly get, as if we need it to hibernate in winter! If they were sure that they would never be broke and that even if they were less rich it won’t be the worst thing in the world, they’d stop stealing. But that’s not the country we live in. Money rules all. Nothing else matters.”
In a country where we are all in survival mode, the most important relationships we have are transactional ones that help ensure our survival. But what if the urgency we feel about this need for survival was translatable into other less tangible, less capitalistic pursuits? What if we found that our hunger for relevance, for respect, for pride, could be sated in other less avaricious ways?
The urge to write always serves for me as a constant reminder of a more personally fulfilling goal that I could attain from a well within myself. Knowing that it is there and knowing what it does for me is invaluable.

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