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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dennis Brutus as Objet a

By Obiwu

“They remind us that of all the identitarian markers of the subject – the poet and his pen/is – circumcision is the most circumspect, if circumstantial.”
- Obiwu

For some inexplicable reason, the passing of the South African poet Dennis Vincent Brutus (November 28, 1924 – December 26, 2009) finds me wondering about the nature of the objet petit a – or in the stylish Lacanese, “Object small a.” Brutus would understand my reference since he was the first notable African writer to study psychology in the university. “I had many drinks with Christopher,” Brutus had said while raising his glass of beer to mine during the 2007 International Conference on Christopher Okigbo at Harvard University. The small letter “a” is for desire; desire is for love; love is for death and resurrection. As the first letter of the Alphabet, “a” is the beginning of the Word which is reputedly made flesh in the body and blood of the Christ. In this context, “a” is the signifying Alpha Subject which is the Author of life and its end. In a nutshell, “a” is a sign of death unto life and the power of life over mortality.

In the poetry of Brutus sharp images dance extemporaneously in melancholic wonder. Only three other poets equally astound with the leap of their imaginative particular, the triumph of the clunk and clank of the violent projectile: the Greek Archilochus, the white South African Roy Campbell, and the Nigerian Christopher Okigbo. Before the four harsh images that jar the “drink lobes” in the hands of many a distinguished poet, startle with the triumphant glory of a Mendelssohnian symphony. No other poet has more successfully deployed a massive volume of scary hologram – bullet, canon, gun, iron, javelin, knife, scabbard, Sharpeville, spear – in a greater production than Archilochus, Campbell, Okigbo, and Brutus.

The four poets were all soldiers, militant activists, and artists and exiles of justice. The first was a legend and mercenary of multiple Hellenic wars. The second was a campaigner of First World War, Second World War, and the Spanish War. The third was an arms runner and soldier whose Biafran legend came on the heels of his sensational demise on the battlefield. The fourth was a founding member of the National Action Committee Council (NACC) which was formed after the banning of the ANC in 1960, and in which he "had worked closely" with Walter Sisulu (1912-2003). His numerous skirmishes against the South African apartheid regime earned him a prison term (1964-1965) with Neville Alexander (leader of the Yu Chi Chan club), Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, and Sisulu (leaders of the ANC), with all of whom he “broke stones” in the same maximum security section of the infamous Robben Island, before his one-way ticket out of his ancestral land.

The four were famed for their love of women and wine. Archilochus reportedly unleashed a caustic satire on his prospective father in-law at the feast of Demeter, which caused the greedy Lycambes and all his daughters to hang themselves. The thunderous clash of his denunciation of Neobule’s vile and his praise of her purity elicit nothing but tickles of amusement. Campbell’s fight for the love of his wife against a lesbian affair with Vita Sackville-West (lover of Virginia Woolf) was a celebrated scandal of the Bloomsbury Group at Oxford and the subject of many books including his own epic, The Georgiad (1931). Okigbo’s famous dalliances have been sacralized in Chinua Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah (1987), just as Brutus’s greatest love is the subject of his own collection Letters to Martha and Other Poems from a South African Prison (1968). They teach us that the boorish and translucent lights of the ticklish subject are not mutually exclusive.

The poetry of Archilochus, Campbell, Okigbo, and Brutus is revered for its clinical precision, like the centipedal forge of a Chinese military parade. In all cases, the parts are equal to the whole; the bits are individuated knots in the concatenated centrifuges of a chain gang; each unit is a mark; the cicatrices or kinks grow like the rows of tombs or the plumed headstones of a vast cemetery.

Dennis Brutus was the last in the tradition of Agwu acolytes who made tragedy a song and dying beautiful. They remind us that of all the identitarian markers of the subject – the poet and his pen/is – circumcision is the most circumspect, if circumstantial. Circumcision is always already about incision and excision and exile. It is about the cut or cleavage or hole or missing link. The lost object is the point de capiton of all our being – the subject of a massive global (man)hunt. What is lost in the silence of the unconscious is recovered in the monstrosity of the real. In effect, “a” is the rejected stone, the broken piece of foreskin or prepuce (qua objet petit a), which has become the head of the house. “a” is the magical signifier which Brutus repeatedly circles in his poems as the “simple lust,” a yearning for earth’s succoring femininity, which is all the woe of the desiring machine.

Today, without want or need or lust, having looked for the last and final time “on all things lovely,” poet Brutus eternally rests in the land where he was born, from which he was excised and exited like some vile pus against his sturdy will, a hero. A wandering letter always already arrives at its destination.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On the Award of the "Donatus Nwoga Prize for Literary Criticism in Poetry"

I wish to congratulate the Abuja Writers Forum for its very successful outing at the 2nd Abuja Literary Festival, December 15-19, 2009. I commend the AWF executive members and their sponsors especially for giving critical scholarship an equal pride of place as other literary arts for the first time in the history of Nigerian literary prize awards. In my opinion literature is one, from verse composition to the critical/analytical tradition.

I thank the AWF, indeed, for the award of the first Donatus Nwoga poetry criticism prize to my essay, "The Ecopoetics of Ezra Pound and Christopher Okigbo." I have no doubt that both Nwoga and Okigbo would have had a hearty laugh at the very idea of the prize and its pioneer winning essay, after which they would have definitely cornered some palm wine and bush meat at the Cambridge House in Ibadan or somewhere around the anthills of Nsukka. Pound himself would have found it completely appropriate to be discussed and feted even at the remote end of the tropical world since his view of literature was consistently of a globalized structure where, for instance, the Japanese haiku informs the flash-point experience of an American troubadour trapped in the vortex of the London Metro.

Nothing defines a community as its literature. I am, therefore, gratified that the Abuja Writers Forum and its visionary leadership are pointing the path to the essence, the very heart of our unified traditions.


AWF 2009 Literary Contest Winners

At the exciting and well-attended grand finale of the 2nd Abuja Literary Festival, which held on December 19, at the International Conference Centre, winners of the 2009 AWF National Literary Contest were announced by the chairman of the panel of judges, Professor Barth Oshionebo.

The contest which debuted last year with entries restricted to the Federal Capital Territory featured an expanded edition this time, opening up the contest to Nigerian writers within and outside the country, and with an international category for short story writers all over the world. A landmark addition is the innovative introduction of a category for literary criticism.

According to the organisers entries were received from as far as Canada despite the limited submission time frame, and a total of over two hundred entries were received. While the judges were enthralled by some interesting things being done across the genres, they were also disappointed by a variety of glaring insufficiencies that led to the disqualification of several entries or the non-emergence of winners in some categories. Indeed one of the judges noted the wide disparity between what emerged as the sole winner and the other entries in one of the categories in the following words; “if it were a hundred metres dash (the winner) would have breasted the tape a clean hour before (the others).”

There were several poignant moments during the ceremony including when the Ibrahim Tahir Prize for Fiction was announced. Dr Tahir, a leading northern academic, politician and novelist, had only recently passed away.

The following were adjudged winners:

Exclusively for writers resident in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – that is Abuja and the Council Areas of Abaji, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali.

(a) Short Story
1. “On the Hot Seat” – Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
2. “Heart of Steel” –Abundance Jona-Effiong
3. “Rites of Passage” - Mike Ekunno
Honourable mention: "Chapters From Dante" - Abdulnasir Imam; “Someone Should Know” – Azih Ifeoma

(b) Poetry
1. “Cosmic Romance” – Paul Allen Oche
2. “To My Left Hand” – Owojecho Omoha
3. “Us” – Ozioma Izuora
Honurable mention: “Fashion Statements” – Aniete James Okuku; “The Hymeneal Night” – Tyessi Kuni; “Who Is To Blame?” – Omene Omena

(C) Drama
1. “The Family Meeting” – Ozioma Izuora
2. “Green Bus” – Oluchi Agbanyim,
3. “Choices” – Edeimu Daniel Omoghene
Honurable mention: “Pride of the Potter’s Vessel” – Obilor Jonathan Chinedu

This section is in two-parts and is open to Nigerian creative writers and scholars regardless of where they are domiciled.

Part 1: Creative Writing

(A) Cyprian Ekwensi Prize for Short Stories endowed by Emzor Pharmaceuticals.(Manuscripts and published works)
1. “Houdini and Other Marvels” – Rotimi Babatunde
2. “Fires” – Bolaji Odofin
3. “A Fistful of Tales” – Ayodele Arigbabu
Honourable mention: “The Length of Light” – Unoma Azuah

(B) T. M. Aluko Prize for a first book of Fiction (Published works only)
1. “The Abyssinian Boy” – Onyeka Nwelue
2. “Personal Angle” – Fatima Alkali

(C) Ibrahim Tahir Prize for Fiction (Manuscripts and published works)
1. “Personal Angle” - Fatima Alkali
2. “The Abyssinian Boy“ - Onyeka Nwelue
3. “Houdini and Other Marvels“ - Rotimi Babatunde
Honourable mention: “Edible Bones” - Unoma Azuah; “A Fistful of Tales“ - Ayodele Arigbabu“; “A Question of Marriage” - Auwalu Hamza

(D) Mamman Vatsa Prize for Poetry in Pidgin English sponsored by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) (Manuscripts and published works)
Honourable mention: “Elefant Don Fall and Other Poems” – Raymond I. Anyanwu

(E) Carlos Idzia Ahmad Prize for a first book of Poetry (Published works only)
“I Am Memory” - Jumoke Verissimo

(F) Anthony Agbo Prize for Poetry endowed by Senator Anthony Agbo (Manuscripts and published works)
1. “What the Sea Told Me” - E. E. Sule
2. “I Am Memory” – Jumoke Verissimo
3. “Home Is Where It Hurts – Unoma Azuah
Honourable mention: “It Grows in Winter and Other Poems” – Chinyere Grace Okafor; “Piccolo” – Chuma Isidienu

(G) Zulu Sofola Prize for Drama (Manuscripts and published works)
1. “Pandemonium” – Ayo Adewumi
2. “Requiem” – Isaac Ogezi
3. “Blood For Palmwine” – Ozioma Izuora
Honourable mention: “Devil is a Young Lady” – Elvis Ogenyi; “Eagle-Eye” - Oluchi Agbanyim; “Sleep Na Wahala” – Africa-Zahemen Osondu Ukoh

Part 2 – Critical Writing

(A) Ime Ikiddeh Prize for Literary Criticism in Fiction, endowed by the Akwa Ibom State Government
1. “Infraction and Change in the Nigerian Feminist Novel: Zaynab Alkali and Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo” – Sule E. Egya
2. “Do You Think I am Mad? Between Consciousness, Madness and Creativity in African Literature” – Owojecho Omoha

(B) Donatus Nwoga Prize for Literary Criticism in Poetry
1. “The Ecopoetics of Ezra Pound and Christopher Okigbo” - Obiwu Iwuanyanwu
2. "Dimensions of Productivity in the Poetry of Chinua Achebe" - Ikeogu Oke
3. “In this Land We Love with Pain: A Reading of Toyin Adewale’s Poetry” – Sule E. Egya

(C) Oyin Ogunba Prize for Literary Criticsm in Drama sponsored by Alhaji Ibrahim Nasir Arab, Clerk to the National Assembly
No entry deemed worth the prize.

(D) Sunday Anozie Prize for Literary Theory (including literary history, criticism of non-fiction, and criticism of criticism/theory)
No entry deemed worth the prize.

The panel of judges comprised Professor Barth Oshonebo, Dr Dan Omatsola, Professor Kanchana Ugbabe, Dr Dul Johnson, Toyin Adewale-Gabriel, Aracelli Aipoh, Crispin Odobuobok-Mfon Abasi, Chris Otaigbe, Elnathan John, Emaka Agbayi, Dr Cecilia Kato, Dr Kolawole and the U. S. based Professor Maureen Ngozi Eke.

Meanwhile the deadline for the International Category of the Contest (Section 111), is December 31,2009. Winners will be announced on the AWF website by the last week of March 2010.


:::: Copyright © 2009. Abuja Writers' Forum ::::

Friday, December 18, 2009

Three Masters of Nigerian Soccer: Okwaraji, Okocha, and Kanu

By Obiwu

[Note: In this twentieth year of Samuel Okwaraji’s demise (1989), first full year of Austin “Jay-Jay” Okocha’s retirement from professional soccer (2008), and eighteenth year of Nwankwo “Papillo” Kanu’s career (1991-), this essay pays tribute to the reign of Nigeria’s finest and most popular soccer legends. It evaluates their careers, compares their contributions to the development of Nigerian football, and marks their place in the national history of the game. It makes the case that as professionals they are rare and as citizens they are widely beloved patriots who always heeded to the call-to-service of their country. As humanists, their global acclaim and recognitions made them humble and their enormous influences and riches made them generous. Okwaraji, Okocha, and Kanu are by all accounts the foremost celebrity athletes in the history of Nigerian sports.]

I saw “Chairman” Christian Chukwu, “Mathematical” Segun Odegbami, Emmanuel Okala, and Samuel Okwaraji play soccer on television. I consider the four men among the first legends of Nigerian football. Okala was, to me, the greatest Nigerian goalkeeper of all time. There was none bigger – or taller – either before or after him. One of the two most horrifying sights that I have ever seen on live television was watching as Okwaraji collapsed in midfield never to regain consciousness during the 1989 World Cup qualifier in Lagos between Nigeria and Angola. (The other was seeing the second hijacked plane fly into the second of the New York Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.)

It is, however, the dimension of roundedness that is often ignored in the discourse of Nigerian art generally, from football to literature. Okwaraji's most significant contribution to the art of football is that he pointed the way to the future of Nigerian soccer: internationalism, high education, big business, and most of all sensationalist fanfare. No Nigerian footballer celebrated the player's hair before Okwaraji introduced braids into the soccer pitch. No Nigerian player was considered fully Nigerian and at the same time international before him. The Fashanu brothers Justinius and John were always British throughout their active playing days. Nigerian football was never mentioned in the same breath as academic scholarship before Okwaraji, and no notable Nigerian footballer has ever matched his academic accomplishment as a doctoral student (in law). Okwaraji was the first home-grown player to open Nigerians' eyes to the money that flowed in the sea of international football. Millions mourned his untimely passing and many of his relations and acquaintances bewailed the loss of his patronage.

What Christopher Okigbo and Wole Soyinka did for Nigerian literature, Okwaraji did for its football by introducing the dimension of enigma. Everyone mined Okwaraji’s three-dimensional narrative. Those who knew little about his story easily made it up. As the critic Ben Obumselu said of Okigbo, both those who knew him and those who didn't padded his narrative with untruths that were not necessarily lies. The mythmakers genuinely believed the truism of their stories, which was founded on the purity of unparalleled admiration for their subject. In the enchanting beauty and brevity of their art, Okigbo and Okwaraji were the most beloved and most tragic of all Nigerian artists. At Okwaraji’s sudden and sensational transcendence speculations, citing family sources, mounted that he was – like Okigbo – indeed an ogbanje, one of those shooting stars of the misty firmament who uncomfortably bestride the realms of men and gods.

Our narrative so far includes two grievous omissions: Nwankwo Christian Nwosu Kanu and Augustine Azuka Okocha! “Papillo” or “The King,” as Kanu is fondly called began his football career in the placid city of Owerri, southeastern Nigeria, as a gangly “Jay-Jay.” An American kid at a Bronx neighborhood playground once said on the ESPN Television that the difference between “MJ” (Michael Jordan) and all the other “great” American basketball stars before and after him was that everyone talked about “His Airness,” but no one would imitate him. If a basketball player tries to dangle or hang out his tongue like a famished dog in a game, he is so roundly jeered that he would run to a corner with his tail between his hind legs. Like Jordan, the “Greatest” boxer ever Mohammed Ali and the “King” of pop music Michael Jackson (an earlier “MJ,” 1958-2009) are beyond imitation.

In Nigerian soccer only one person has ever imitated “Jay-Jay” Okocha with equal accolade and near equal success: Kanu. No other two Nigerian players have had a greater friendship, professional collaboration, or respect for each other than Okocha and Kanu. No two Nigerian players have won more local and international laurels than the two. No two Nigerian players have won more championships together as members of Nigerian national teams than the two. No two Nigerian players have played in bigger international teams in more countries than the two. No two Nigerian players are more recognized on the international football stage than the two. No two Nigerian players have experienced greater longevity in global football than the two. No two Nigerian players have altogether signed more international team money than the two.

No other Nigerian player has won more international championships and rings than Okocha, but Kanu whom one source describes as “the most highly-decorated African footballer” in history. The great Pele had actually picked Okocha as Africa’s greatest football promise before Nigeria’s Gold Medal triumph at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. In 2004 he was listed on Pele’s “FIFA 100” as one of the greatest living players. Prime measurements of an artist's genius include his or her influence and reverence. No Nigerian footballer has had more generational influence on the game than Okocha, and no other Nigerian player almost equals Okocha’s reverence on the global stage as Kanu. Not even a near-tragic heart condition (requiring intervention at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation here in Ohio) could stop Kanu, who like the greatest maestros of the most popular sport on earth turned his sorrow into glory by establishing Africa’s foremost Kanu Heart Foundation philanthropy in service of the continent’s children.

Looking back at their mind-boggling careers, one could only surmise that what Kanu owes to Okocha is what both Okocha and Kanu owe to Okwaraji. Okwaraji was born on May 19, 1964, exactly forty-five years ago. More significantly, the month of Okwaraji’s death (August 12, 1989) was also the month of the birth of both Okocha (August 14, 1973) and Kanu (August 1, 1976). Like Okwaraji, Kanu suffered from an enlarged heart; but the organic ailment that occasioned the tragic bent of Okwaraji’s unprecedented career also channeled the deus ex machina that weaned Kanu’s illustrious longevity. Okocha and Kanu adopted Okwaraji’s scientific mastery of the game in raising Nigerian football beyond the brute force and flat passivity of the unkempt grass and rough patch in which it languished before their time.

A big heart is a weak heart, a doting and passionate spirit which is the wellspring of the charity and generosity that overdetermined the social intercourse between Okwaraji, Okocha, Kanu, and millions of their worldwide fan club. Okocha’s big heart is manifest in the glowing halo of his archetypal playfulness and personal brand “stepovers,” midfield dances and tricks, and the permanent smiles, laughters, and hulas which erupt and run through the cacophony of his adoring spectators. Now in retirement Okocha devotes himself still to the pleasure of both old and young in championing the higher enjoyment and superior advancement of the game in Nigeria through more accessible media exposition, clinics, and institutions. No other Nigerian player, not even the ego-shyster Etim Esin, ever commanded the elegance, aura, class, and power that Okwaraji, Okocha, and Kanu brought to bear on and off the field of football.

Okwaraji is, like Okigbo, an old star that departs and makes way for the new. It is hardly the case that two stars persist in any one generation of a country as we find in the football careers of Okocha and Kanu, except as is signified in the writerly legends of Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. They are like the prophetic twins of an old tradition, created of the same chi and begotten of different mothers. As we learn from New Testament scriptures, the foremost of cosmic stars foretell the birth of a legend. So it is with the three musketeers of Nigeria’s greatest sport of soccer: Okwaraji, Okocha, and Kanu.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009



The following have made the shortlist for the various categories of the 2009 Abuja Writers Forum (AWF)Literary Contest. Winners will be announced on December 19, 2009 at the 2nd Abuja Literary Festival.

Exclusively for writers resident in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – that is Abuja and the Council Areas of Abaji, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali

A. Short Story
“Chapters From Dante” - Abdulnasir Imam, “Someone Should Know” – Azih Ifeoma, “Heart of Steel” –Abundance Jona-Effiong , “Rites of Passage” - Mike Ekunno, “On the Hot Seat” – Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

B. Poetry
“To My Left Hand” – Owojecho Omoha , “Us” – Ozioma Izuora , “Cosmic Romance” – Paul Allen Oche , “Fashion Statements” – Aniete James Okuku, “The Hymeneal Night” – Tyessi Kuni, “Who Is To Blame?” – Omene Omena

C. Drama
“Green Bus” – Oluchi Agbanyim, “Pride of the Potter’s Vessel” – Obilor Jonathan Chinedu, “The Family Meeting” – Ozioma Izuora, “Choices” – Edeimu Daniel Omoghene

This section is in two-parts and is open to Nigerian creative writers and scholars regardless of where they are domiciled.

Part 1– Creative Writing

A. Cyprian Ekwensi Prize for Short Stories endowed by Emzor Pharmaceuticals.(Manuscripts and published works.)
“Fires” – Bolaji Odofin, “The Length of Light” – Unoma Azah, “Houdini and other Marvels” –Rotimi Babatunde, “A Fistful of Tales” – Ayodele Arigbabu

B. T. M. Aluko Prize for a first book of Fiction.(Published works only.)
“Personal Angle” – Fatima Alkali, “The Abyssinian Boy” – Onyeka Nwelue
Only two entries considered worth the prize.

C. Ibrahim Tahir Prize for Fiction. (Manuscripts and published works.)
“Houdini and Other Marvels “- Rotimi Bamidele, “A Fistful of Bones “ - Ayodele Arigbabu, “Edible Bones” - Unoma Azuah, “Personal Angle” - Fatima Alkali, “A Question of Marriage” -Auwalu Hamza, “The Abyssinian Boy “- Onyeka Nwelue

D. Mamman Vatsa Prize for Poetry in Pidgin English sponsored by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). (Manuscripts and published works.)
Only one entry worthy of honourable mention

E. Carlos Idzia Ahmad Prize for a first book of Poetry. (Published works only.)
Only one entry adjudged to be worth considering for the prize.

F. Anthony Agbo Prize for Poetry endowed by Senator Anthony Agbo.(Manuscripts and published works.)
Shortlist for this category will soon be made available.

G. Zulu Sofola Prize for Drama. (Manuscripts and published works.)
“Sleep Na Wahala” – Africa-Zahemen Osondu Ukoh, “Eagle-Eye” - Oluchi Agbanyim, “Pandemonium” – Ayo Adewumi, “Devil is a Young Lady” – Elvis Ogenyi, “Blood For Palmwine” – Ozioma Izuora, “Requiem” – Isaac Ogezi

Part 2 – Critical Writing

A. Ime Ikiddeh Prize for Literary Criticism in Fiction, endowed by the Akwa Ibom State Government
“Do You think I am Mad? Between Consciousness, Madness and Creativity in African Literature” – Owojecho Omoha, “Infraction and Change in the Nigerian Feminist Novel: Zaynab Alkali and Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo” – Sule E. Egya
Only two entries adjudged to be well written.

B. Donatus Nwoga Prize for Literary Criticism in Poetry.
“Dimensions of Productivity in the Poetry of Chinua Achebe” -Ikeogu Oke , “In this Land We Love with Pain: A Reading of Toyin Adewale’s Poetry” – Sule E. Egya, “The Ecopoetics of Ezra Pound and Christopher Okigbo” - Obiwu

C. Oyin Ogunba Prize for Literary Criticsm in Drama sponsored by Alhaji Ibrahim Nasir Arab, Clerk to the National Assembly.
No entry deemed worth the prize.

D. Sunday Anozie Prize for Literary Theory (including literary history , criticism of non-fiction, and criticism of criticism/theory).
No entry deemed worth the prize.

Professor Barth Oshonebo, Dr Dan Omatsola, Professor Kanchana Ugbabe, Dr Dul Johnson, Toyin Adewale-Gabriel, Aracelli Aipoh, Crispin Odobuobok-Mfon Abasi, Chris Otaigbe, Dr Cecilia Kato, Dr Gboyega Kolawole and Professor Maureen Ngozi Eke

Meanwhile the deadline for the International Category of the Contest (Section 111), is December 31,2009. Winners will be announced on the AWF website by the last week of March 2010. Contact:

:::: Copyright © 2009. Abuja Writers' Forum ::::

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Goodbye, Billie Jean: The Meaning of Michael Jackson, Edited by Lorette C. Luzajic

Good Folks, my poetry tribute to Michael Jackson ("He Was the Cobra") has just been published in Goodbye, Billie Jean: The Meaning of Michael Jackson, edited by Lorette C. Luzajic. This is a collection of fifty writers from across the world celebrating the fifty magical years of Michael Jackson on mother earth! See link below and get your copy or recommend it to your friends and libraries:

Goodbye, Billie Jean: The Meaning of Michael Jackson, Edited by Lorette C. Luzajic

Thursday, October 8, 2009


By Obiwu

Flagrant spirit
That helps us find a song.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coetzive Mythopoeia and Obiechina’s Transfiguration

By Obiwu

"Whereas in the kind of game that I am talking about, you can change the rules if you are good enough. You can change the rules for everybody if you are good enough.
You can change the game."
- John Coetzee

Coetzee reportedly makes the preceding epigraphic claim during a writers’ workshop on March 6, 1984, at Lexington, Kentucky, United States.1 This essay argues that J. M. Coetzee’s writing demonstrates abiding faith in the praxis of fiction as a manipulative language game. From one novel to another Coetzee consistently proves that his artistic originality is especially founded on the reinvention of the western master’s wheel. As a Europhilic postcolonial subject, he repeatedly invokes the coercive (qua “Coetzive”) objectification of the other that unabashedly structures the four-century old literary gamesmanship of his canonical models, beginning with John Lok in 1561, through Ihon White, Thomas Hariot, John Barrow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad, Andre Gide, Karen Blixen (“Isak Dinesen”), Joyce Cary, to Hannah Arendt. Given his derivative antecedents there would probably not be much in common between Coetzee’s literary praxis and Professor Emmanuel Obiechina’s. With Coetzee, however, it always already suits the mischievous Agwu, Ate, or Hecate to invent the impossible.

Coetzee’s “Elizabeth Costello” (2003), both as character and fiction, says everything the South African (and Australian) writer has been trying to say in so many words since the publication of his first novel Dusklands in 1974: “I am fed up with Africa, their Africa!” He does not couch his primary literary purpose exactly in those words or that particular inflection, but he could not have said it any better। Coetzee is mythopoeic. The lead black African character of his second novel, In the Heart of the Country (1977), is a man who “growls” like a “distempered dog” or “ape.” The African protagonist of his fourth novel, Life & Times of Michael K (1983), is a “hare-lipped” “wild man” who burrows into the earth like a “worm” with his pumpkins. His fifth novel Foe (1986) is the story of a post-Shakespearean Caliban and postcolonial bastard named Friday, who is tongueless and stupidly cuddles a flute though he lacks the judgment, aestheticism, or taste to distinguish between music and an interminable monotony of humdrum. In his ninth novel, Disgrace (1999), a white female doctor works all day round to euthanize a constant flow of sick animals – again, mostly distempered dogs – in a South African veterinary clinic, while a white male professor assists her in disposing of the carcasses at a nearby incinerator.2

Coetzee’s aforementioned tenth “novel” Elizabeth Costello is unique by its insistence in the unmasking of its heroine and her author। His infantile and speechless artist of the earlier novel Foe has, in Elizabeth Costello, been replaced with an equally undeveloped African artist, an “old man with the stained teeth.” The arthritic black Joseph is a lonesome copycat who lives out his “uncreative” life in an unlighted and cobwebbed “corner” where he mass-produces miniature crucifixes “over and over again in different sizes and different woods.” At a rare moment of illumination, Joseph disdainfully defies his interrogator’s inquiry about carving animals: “Animals is just for tourists … No, no tourist art.” But Elizabeth Costello has already drawn a final judgment on her dying subject: “It is Saturday, her last full day in Africa … We will not see each other again … not in this life.” With that inglorious swan song creature and creator – Costello and Coetzee, subject and signifier – turn their stiff backs on their Africa.

Evidently, Coetzee still loves his animals as usual in the novel, but they are no longer metonymic animals। They are no longer animals in black African flesh and voice, or African caricatures pretending to be humans. They are natural animals, endangered, piteous, and in dire need of the urgent interventionism of the protagonist white female professor and animal rights activist Elizabeth Costello, who does little to veil her presence as an alter-ego, if super-ego, of her conscientious creator Coetzee. Her strident voice and barricade-storming swagger are a defiant re-invention of the “lost” vision behind the composition of Dusklands three decades earlier when the writer was a placard-carrying anti-war protester against the Vietnam War in New York. Elizabeth Costello’s unequivocal militancy is hardly evident in defense of Coetzee’s animal-African characters in the in-between novels of 1977 to 1999, and the writer himself is not known to have ever marshaled his prior anti-Vietnam rhetoric or disposition in any of his discourses on apartheid. He has instead frenetically defended his intellectualized passivity towards the late reprehensible system, and on several occasions disturbingly accosted the antiapartheid activism of such fellow white South African writers as Breyten Breytenbach and Nadine Gordimer. Elizabeth Costello the novel is therefore signifying since it marks Coetzee’s first notable open assault on black African literary praxis and scholars outside South Africa, which curiously comes on the heels of his emigration to Australia in 2002 and his award of the Nobel Prize in literature in 2003, the same year as the publication of his faction.

Who else but a foundational scholar in the development of the African literary academy could ensure an optimal impact in Coetzee’s calculated challenge to African literature? He finds his mark in the thinly disguised persona of the eminent Professor Obiechina. Emmanuel Nwanonye Obiechina was born on September 20, 1933, in Southeastern Nigeria. He received the B.A. Honors, English (London) from the University College, Ibadan, Nigeria (1961), and the Ph.D. English from Clare College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England (1967). He taught in universities in Africa and America, including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas; and University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Among many distinguished positions, Obiechina also served appointments as Director of the Nigerian Universities Office and Education Attaché, Embassy of Nigeria, Washington, D.C., and fellowship to the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, D.C. His honors include a festschrift entitled Meditations on African Literature (2001),3 an award for “Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society” from the Ford Foundation, and a W. E. B. DuBois Fellowship at Harvard University. Obiechina is an elected Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (FNAL).

Obiechina wrote his undergraduate special topic on “Nineteenth Century English Novel, with Special Emphasis on the Novels of Charles Dickens,” and his dissertation on “Cultural Change and the Novel in English in West Africa।” Obiechina’s name is, indeed, synonymous with African literary scholarship. Proud at the incredible advance of African literature as an academic discipline under the guidance of the first generation native African critics, younger scholars of my generation like to boast that Professor Obiechina was the first black man to get a doctorate degree in African literature from Cambridge at a time when the university could only recognize such a tropical beast as a subspecies of social anthropology.4 Obiechina now has a threefold impact on African literary scholarship: founder and purveyor of the Onitsha Market literary school; chief interpreter of Chinua Achebe’s fiction; and a leading master of the African critical tradition.

What would be the current status of African critical scholarship without Obiechina’s foundational texts on the discipline, including Onitsha Market Literature (1972) and Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel (1975)? With these two books, Obiechina founded one of the earliest canons of Nigerian literature। At the height of the global crosscurrents between what Raymond Williams describes as the imperial metropolitan and the periphery, in Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (1958) and The Country and the City (1973), Obiechina similarly embarked on identifying and mapping the structures of the cultural phenomenon that became known as the Onitsha Market literature. The genre, according to Obiechina, was impacted by “Western-oriented education, modern information media, and the changing cultural habits and attitudes which have given rise to many points of conflict between old and new values and have confronted young people with the problem of adjustment.”5

Two correspondences I received from a professor at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, on May 27, 2008, and September 19, 2009, are a testimony to the transatlantic spread of Obiechina’s intellectual discovery। The correspondent, Onookome Okome, was involved in a project on “global popular print culture.” The organizers had made Onitsha Market literature part of the project and they needed Obiechina’s participation to give it a boost. Okome concludes the first correspondence by stating that, “Two of my PhD candidates are also working in this area and I think the presence of Professor Obiechina will be a great impetus for their work. It is for mine anyway.” The second correspondence reinforces the first: “Researching on the subject of the Onitsha market arts as I do, I have come to note the singular and resourceful critiques of these art forms that Prof. Obiechina and Prof MJC Echeruo did when many Nigerian scholars were keen only in rehashing The Iliad and the arcane world of other European text. I am indebted to them in many ways – that is their pioneering spirit.”6

Professor Obiechina is one of a quartet, including Professors Michael J. C. Echeruo, Abiola Irele, and Ben Obumselu, whose names are often mentioned in the same sentence as among the foremost masters of Nigerian and African criticism.7 Much has been made about the critical influence of F. R. Leavis and Matthew Arnold, the latter of whose work the first home-grown generation of Nigerian critics discovered as undergraduates at the University College, Ibadan.8 Available evidence, however, gives equal credit to the young Leavisites Raymond Williams and L. C. Knight both of whom Obiechina met as a graduate student at Cambridge. On the one hand, Williams’s thesis on the “culture of feeling” had far-reaching impact on literary exegesis in the 1950s and 60s. On the other, Obiechina attended the very popular open lecture series on “Literature and Society” which Williams and Knight gave at Cambridge. “My dissertation,” said Obiechina, “was possible because of the ferment of the period.”

Though it has largely flown under the radar, the publication of Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello expands Obiechina’s scholarly legend to mythical dimensions।9 The second chapter of the novel takes its title, “The Novel in Africa,” from the lecture title of a certain “Emmanuel Egudu, a writer from Nigeria.” The fictional “Emmanuel Egudu” is said to be a professor and a fine figure of a man who has become “an habitual exile.” He has taken to making a living on the international lecture circuit, including cruise ships. Among issues in the presentations of both “Emmanuel Egudu” and the novel’s protagonist Elizabeth Costello, are Amos Tutuola and his novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Ben Okri, négritude, Chiekh Hamidou Kane, the language of African literature, oral tradition, books, publishing, writing, and reading in Africa. Coetzee understandably conflates the facts of his novelistic invention.

Significations merge in the characterization of the mythopoeic “Emmanuel Egudu।” The most notable “Emmanuel” in Nigeria literary scholarship is Professor Emmanuel Obiechina, but Romanus Egudu is the name of another distinguished Nigerian scholar-critic and colleague of Obiechina’s. The cruise ship for the lecture circuit is named the SS Northern Lights, though both Obiechina and Egudu are from Southern Nigeria. The mythical “Emmanuel Egudu” is a “dissident intellectual” who is unwelcome in Nigeria. He is the author of novels, poems, plays, and winner of a Commonwealth Literary Award. In point of fact, Obiechina has written, edited, and published poetry and fiction volumes, including Locusts (1976), African Creations (1982), and Masksong for Our Times (2003), but his creative work has received neither equal attention nor wide recognition as his critical studies.10 Contrastively, Obiechina’s compatriots and colleagues Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, are both renowned as award-winning, multi-genre creative writers, acclaimed essayists, dissident intellectuals, and famous exiles.

Coetzee’s narrative in Elizabeth Costello raises eyebrows when the Australian Elizabeth Costello dismissively remarks that her black male co-lecturer and ex-lover “Emmanuel Egudu” is not a writer but an “entertainer।” She irrationally pushes Australia as a model that African writers should “learn from” in developing “a home-grown literature,” instead of accepting the “role of interpreter” and performing their “Africanness” in their writing.11 “Why are there so many African novelists around and yet no African novel worth speaking of?” When Elizabeth Costello gripes about Emmanuel Egudu “acquiring American papers,” we are mildly reminded that J. M. Coetzee himself had to leave the United States and his assistant professorship position at the State University of New York in Buffalo to return to his native South Africa following the failure of his American residency application. He left South Africa as “an habitual exile” again in 2002 to settle in Australia where he was granted citizenship in 2006. In the face of such discomforting overlap of fact and fiction one wonders if the chapter on “The Novel in Africa” is not Coetzee’s own repressed aggressivity emanating as pseudo-flyting – like the hip-hop artist’s “dissing” or the jazz player’s “dozens” – on African literature, with a veiled “talking down” of its signifying figures. One critic rightly notes that Elizabeth Costello is novel, but is it a novel?

Among some of Obiechina’s essays which could have been the subject of Coetzee’s mimicry are “The Growth of Written Literature in English-Speaking West Africa,” “Amos Tutuola and the Oral Tradition,” “Language and the African Novel,” and “Politics in the Early African Novel,” all published in his book Language and Theme: Essays in African Literature (1990)। The same case could be made for such Achebe’s essays as “The Novelist as Teacher,” “Thoughts on the African Novel,” “The Writer and the English Language,” and “Publishing in Africa: A Writer’s View” (published in Morning Yet on Creation Day, 1975), and “Work and Play in Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard” (published in Hopes and Impediments, 1988).12 One of the sources that Coetzee acknowledges at the end of his “novel” is Towards African Literary Independence (1980), by the Nigerian critic Phanuel Egejuru, who is a protégé of Obiechina, Echeruo, and Achebe.13 Another possible source material which Coetzee does not acknowledge, if he was aware of it, could have been the exchange between the distinguished African historian Basil Davidson (Can Africa Survive?, 1974) and Obiechina (Africa Shall Survive, 1980), in which both scholars attempt to articulate “Africa’s protean predicament.”14

J. M. Coetzee’s fiction haws and hums with the predictable monotone of his stock-artists, Friday and Joseph. His source pool of “growling” animals and “speechless” black men must have run low and dry as his Karoo desert. Or, how else does one explain the writer’s late war declaration on African literature and her scholars? In this season of worldwide celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart (1958) as a postcolonial masterpiece, Obiechina’s scholarship is at the fore again since he is the lead dissertator on the spirit and place of Chinua Achebe’s fiction.15 Professor Emmanuel Obiechina was there at the beginning of the Nigerian critical scholarship in the mid-twentieth century age of African decolonization and wars of independence. He is there today as a guiding light to African literary praxis in the twenty-first century age of confession and psychic recovery.16

1. See Dick Penner, “Epigraph.” Countries of the Mind: The Fiction of J. M. Coetzee (New York: Greenwood P, 1989)
2. See J. M. Coetzee, Dusklands. New York: Penguin, 1974; In the Heart of the Country. Middlesex: Penguin, 1977; Life & Times of Michael K. New York: Penguin, 1983; Foe. New York: Viking, 1986; Disgrace. New York: Viking, 1999; Elizabeth Costello. New York: Viking, 2003.
3. Dubem Okafor, ed., Meditations on African Literature (Festschrift in Honor of Professor Emmanuel N. Obiechina). Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press, 2001.
4. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., uses the hostile experiences of Obiechina, Soyinka, and himself at Cambridge University to illustrate the suspicion toward black literature which was once pervasive in the western academy; see “Tell Me, Sir, … What Is ‘Black Literature.’” Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. New York: Oxford UP, 1992. 87-105. Nowhere is the western skepticism more banal than in the ferocious assault of Hannah Arendt in her anti-Fanonian book, On Violence: “African literature, and other nonexistent subjects will be interpreted as another trap of the white man to prevent Negroes from acquiring an adequate education” (New York: A Harvest Book – Harcourt Brace, 1970. 96)
5. Emmanuel N. Obiechina, “Introduction.” Onitsha Market Literature. Ed. Emmanuel N. Obiechina. London: Heinemann, 1972. 1-30. See also Obiechina, Commentary, Notes, and Exercises to James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. London: Longman, 1966; Literature for the Masses: An Analytical Study of Popular Pamphleteering in Nigeria. Foreword. Chinua Achebe. Enugu, Nigeria: Nwankwo-Ifejika, 1971; (eds, with Echeruo) Igbo Traditional Life, Culture, and Literature. Enugu: New Paltz, NY: Conch Magazine, 1971; An African Popular Literature: A Study of Onitsha Market Pamphlets. London: Cambridge UP, 1973; Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel. New York, NY: Cambridge UP, 1975; Christopher Okigbo: Poet of Destiny. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Pub, 1980; Africa Shall Survive: Essays, Tales, and Lay Sermons about Africa and the African. Enugu: Fourth Dimension, 1980; (ed.) University of Nigeria, 1960-1985. Oxford, UK: African Books Collective, 1986; Language and Theme: Essays on African Literature. Washington, DC: Howard UP, 1990; Nchetaka: The Story, Memory, and the Continuity of Igbo Culture (Ahiajoku Lecture). Owerri, Nigeria: Imo State Government P, 1994.
6. Onookome Okome, “Re: Professor Obiechina.” Email (Tuesday, May 27, 2008); Okome, “Re: Request for Permission.” Email (Saturday, September 19, 2009). For his continuing indebtedness to Obiechina’s work in Onitsha Market literature see Okome’s forthcoming essay, “Reading the Popular: Onitsha Market Romance and the Practice of Everyday Life.” MLA (Chicago, December 2009): 386-402. I sincerely thank Professor Onookome Okome for his invaluable assistance in a portion of this essay and for granting me the permission to reproduce parts of his correspondences with me.
7. See Abiola Irele, “Literary Criticism in the Nigerian Context.” Perspectives on Nigerian Literature, 1700 to the Present, 1: A Critical Selection from the Guardian Literary Series. Ed. Yemi Ogunbiyi. Foreword. Stanley Macebuh. Lagos: Guardian Books, 1988. 93-105; Biodun Jeyifo, “Abiola Irele: The Scholar as Critic.” Perspectives on Nigerian Literature, 1700 to the Present, 1. 130-4; Obiwu, “Ben Obumselu: The Responsible Critic.” The Guardian (June 19, 1993): 19; Okpewho, Isidore. “Michael J. C. Echeruo: The Dignity of Intellectual Labor.” Perspectives on Nigerian Literature: 1700 to the Present, 1. 142-51.
8. In his essay, “Literary Criticism in the Nigerian Context,” Irele attributes Obiechina’s critical achievement in Culture, Tradition and Society to the influence of Arnold and Leavis (98-9). See Perspectives on Nigerian Literature, 1700 to the Present, 1. In a telephone conversation of November 30, 2008, Professor Obiechina clarifies that Raymond Williams and L. C. Knight had much greater influence on his critical development than anyone else.
9. Neither Professor Obiechina nor Professor Egejuru, both of whom I spoke with on telephone on November 30, 2008, was aware of Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello five years after its publication. I (in the company of Professor Echeruo) attended Coetzee’s reading of Stranger Shores: Literary Essays (2001) at Hamilton College, Ithaca, New York, November 3, 2001, where the writer autographed my copy of the book. I sincerely thank Professors Obiechina and Egejuru for granting me the telephone interviews. I thank Professor Echeruo most especially for the incomparable opportunities he provided me toward the greater discovery of South African literature.
10. See Obiechina, Locusts. Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review, 1976; (ed.) African Creations: A Decade of Okike Stories. Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Pub, 1982; Masksong for Our Times. Trenton, NJ: Africa World P, 2003.
11. See Wole Soyinka’s first novel The Interpreters. London: Fontana, 1980; Soyinka is well known to have been critical of Senghor’s Negritude movement, particularly for its performance of what Coetzee describes as their “Africanness.” See Soyinka’s essays, “And After the Narcissist?” African Forum 1.4 (Spring 1966): 53-64; “From a Common Back Cloth: A Reassessment of the African Literary Image.” In Art, Dialogue and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture. Ibadan: New Horn Press, 1988. 7-14. Soyinka has since revised his critique of Senghor in “L. S. Senghor and Negritude: J’accuse, mais, je pardonne.” The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 93-144.
12. See Chinua Achebe, Morning yet on Creation Day: Essays. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press-Doubleday, 1975; Achebe, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. New York: Anchor – Doubleday, 1989.
13. Phanuel Akabueze Egejuru, Towards African Literary Independence. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1980.
14. See Niyi Osundare, “Squaring Up to Africa’s Future: A Writer’s Reflections on the Predicaments of a Continent,” page 25. Thread in the Loom: Essays on African Literature & Culture. Trenton, NJ: Africa World P, 2002. 21-31. See Basil Davidson, Can African Survive? Arguments against Growth without Development. New York, NY: Little Brown & Co, 1974.
15. Chinua Achebe, Thing Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1959.
16. This is the value of two of Obiechina’s landmark essays: “Cultural Nationalism in Modern African Creative Literature.” African Literature Today 1 (1968): 25-35; and “Poetry as Therapy: Reflections on Achebe’s Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems. Callaloo 25.2 (Spring 2002): 527-558.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Professor Emmanuel Obiechina received B.A. Honors degree of the University of London in English in 1961 at the University College Ibadan, Nigeria, and his Ph.D. degree in English from the University of Cambridge in 1967.

Obiechina began his academic career in the Department of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria in 1967 where, in addition to teaching, researching, and supervising undergraduate and graduate students, he held administrative posts as chair of the department of English, dean of graduate school, deputy vice chancellor (academic), and interim vice chancellor. Thereafter, Obiechina was appointed director, Nigerian Universities Office and education attaché at the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, D.C., from 1987 to 1990, overseeing higher educational matters and relations between Nigerian universities and their counterparts in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean islands.

From 1990 to 2003, Obiechina held a number of senior visiting appointments in the United States, including that of visiting scholar at Harvard University’s departments of African and African American Studies and English and American Literature and Language, Langston Hughes Professor of English, African and African American Studies at University of Kansas, Lawrence, Forrest S. and Jean B. Williams/NEH endowed professorship in the humanities at Ferrum College, Virginia, Gerry Carruthers Chair of General Honors, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and Distinguished Professor of Humanities, University of Pittsburgh, Bradford Campus.

Obiechina’s honors include a festschrift entitled Meditations on African Literature and an award for “Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society” from the Ford Foundation and W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship at Harvard University. He is also an elected Fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Letters (FNAL).

Obiechina is the author of many books, including; Masksong for Our Times (Africa World Press, 2003); Language and Theme: Essays on African Literature (Howard University Press, 1990); Culture, Tradition, and Society in the West African Novel (Cambridge University Press, 1975/1980); An African Popular Literature : A Study of Onitsha Market Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1973); and Onitsha Market Literature (Heinemann, 1972). He has also published scores of journal articles and essays on literature, culture, and contemporary politics.


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Silver Spring, Maryland, 20906.


TELEPHONE: 301-603-8426

EDUCATION Clare College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.
Ph.D. English, 1967. Dissertation: “Cultural Change and the Novel in English in West Africa.”

University College, Ibadan, Nigeria, an affiliate of London University. B.A. Honors, English (London), 1961. Special Topic: “Nineteenth Century English Novel, with special emphasis on the novels of Charles Dickens.”


2002-2003 Visiting Scholar, Departments of Afro-American Studies and English and American Literature and Language, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2001-2002 Fellow, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University, Cambridge. Research Topic: “Slavery and the Fall of Africa: Textualizing a Historic Tragedy.”

2000 Langston Hughes Professor of English, African and African-American Studies, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. Delivered the “Langston Hughes Lecture.”

1997-1999 Forrest S. & Jean B. Williams/NEH Inaugural Professor of Humanities, Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia.

1996 Gerry Carruthers Chair of General Honors, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

1992-1995 Visiting Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh, Bradford.

1990-1992 Visiting Professor of English and Third World Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York.

1987-1990 Director, Nigerian Universities Office and Education Attache, Embassy of Nigeria, Washington, D.C.

1987 (Spring) Visiting NEH Professor, Department of English, Colgate University.

1986 Interim Vice Chancellor

1985-1986 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.

1981-1985 Dean, Graduate School, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.

1979-1980 Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, D.C.

1975-1978 & Chair, Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.

1974 Professor of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.

1973(Summer) Visiting Associate Prof., Dept of Comp. Lit., University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

1972-1973 Senior Commonwealth Fellow, University of Cambridge, England.

1967-1974 Lecturer, Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

1967 Head, Department of English, Institute of Administration, Enugu, Nigeria. .

1962-1966 Research student, University of Cambridge, England.

1961-1962 Foreign Service Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, Lagos, Nigeria.

2004 Elected Fellow of Nigeria Academy of Letters.

2003 Non-Resident Fellow, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University.

2001 Honored with a festschrift titled “Meditations on African Literature”, Ed। Dubem Okafor। Westport, Connecticut/London: Greenwood Press,2001

Initiated into Gamma Omicron Chapter of ALPHA MU GAMMA at Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia, 1999.

1998 NEH Summer Fellowship, “Post-Colonial Literature and Theory,” School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

1994 Inducted into ALPHA LAMDA DELTA, at University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, Pennsylvania.

1994 Ahiajoku Annual Lecture, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria.

1994 NEH Summer Fellowship, “Homer Institute,” University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

1991 NEH Summer Fellowship, “Literature and Oral Tradition,” University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri.

1981-1985 Ford Foundation “Award for Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society.”

1979-1980 Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Center for International Scholars, Washington, D.C.

1979-1980 Fulbright Senior African Program (Travel) Fellowship: to visit universities in Atlanta, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

1974-1975 Associate Fellow, African Studies Center, University of Cambridge, England.

1972-1973 Commonwealth Senior Academic Fellowship, University of Cambridge, England.

1962-1966 Ibadan University/Ford Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship.

1961 B.A. Honors English Best Graduating Student Award.

1956-1961 State Scholar, University College, Ibadan and Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology, Zaria, Nigeria.


2004 Director, Chinua Achebe Foundation

2002 Consultant, World Bank Workshop on “Culture and Development”

1992 Evaluator, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars

1992 Evaluator, National Endowment for the Humanities, United States.

1991 Panelist, NEH Fellowship Awards Committee, University and College Teachers, Languages and Literatures Division.

1982-1987 First chairman, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Literary Award Panel

1975-1987 External assessor to several Nigerian universities for professorial appointments and promotions (Ibadan, Benin, Lagos, Ondo, Ahmadu Bello, Alvan Ikoku, and Calabar).

1970-1987 External examiner to several Nigerian universities for the degrees of B.A., M.A./M. Phil., and Ph.D. (Ibadan, Benin, Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo, Sokoto, and Ahmadu Bello).

1970-Present Manuscript assessor to Cambridge University Press, Macmillan, Fourth Dimension, University of Nigeria Press, Yale University Press, and Indiana University Press.


1988-Present Editorial Consultant, “Nsukka Journal of Humanities,” Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

1978-1987 Founding Editor, “Nsukka Studies in African Literature” (NSAL, Bilingual Journal of English and Modern Language Departments, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

1976 Founding Editor, “Okike Educational Supplement” Okike Arts Center, Nsukka.

1978 Contributory Editor, “Uwa Ndi Igbo: Journal of Igbo Life and Culture.” Published by Chinua Achebe, Okike Arts Center, Nsukka.

1976 Guest Editor, “Journal of Nigerian English Studies Association” (JNESA).

1974 Editorial Consultant, “The Conch Magazine,” New Paltz, New York.

Founding Editor, “Nigercol”, Organ of the Students Union,
1956 Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, Nigeria.


African Authors, A Companion
Bulletin d’ Information et de Liaison CARDIN)
Contemporary Authors
Who’s Who in Idemili
Who’s Who in Nigeria
Africa: Who’s Who
Who’s Who in America
Who’s Who in the World
International Authors & Writers Who’s Who
Who’s Who in African Literature
Dictionary of International Who’s Who
Biographia Nigeriana
International Biography of Intellectuals
Life Fellow, International Biographical Association (FIBA)


1970-1971 1stYear – Use of English (Freshman English)
1st Year – Novel Criticism
4th Year – The Age of Reason
4th Year – 19th Century English Novel

1971-1972 1stYear – Use of English
1st Year – Novel Criticism
3rd Year – Modern African Novel
4th Year – 19th Century English Literature

1973-1974 1stYear – Use of English
3rd Year – African Novel
4th Year – 19th Century English Literature

1974-1975 3rdYear – African Novel
4th Year – 19th Century English Novel

1975-1976 1stYear – Literary Appreciation
3rd Year – African Fiction
4th Year – 19th Century English Literature

1976-1977 3rdYear – African Fiction
4th Year – Studies in Fiction

1977-1978 4th Year – Studies in Fiction

1977-1979 1stYear – Literary Appreciation
4th Year – Studies in Fiction
M.A. – Modern African Literature

1980-1981 1stYear – Novel Criticism
4th Year – Studies in Fiction
M.A. – Modern African Literature

1981-1986 M.A. – Modern African Fiction
M.A. – Comparative Studies in Fiction


1. Juliet Ijoma Okonkwo: “Visions of Stability: The Novel in the African Revolution”. Ph.D. (English), 1980. Received the Postgraduate Leadership Award for supervising the first successful Ph.D. in the Humanities.

2. Olawale Awosika: “Idea and Technique in the Novels of Ayi Kwei Armah, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka,s and Ngugi wa Thiong’o”. Ph.D. (English), 1982.

3. P. Chika Akporji: “Wole Soyinka, Wiliam Butler Yeats, and the Theatre of National Consciousness”. Ph.D. (English), 1986. Jointly with Dr. O.H. Maduakor, Department of English.

4. Chinyere Okafor: “Drama and Society in a Traditional African Setting: A Study of the Ikeji Festival Theater of Arochukwu and its Diaspora”. Ph.D. (English). Jointly with Professor J.N. Amankulor, Sub-Department of Dramatic Arts.

5. Michael Ezugu: “A Mythic Approach to the West African Novel”. Ph.D. (English), 1990.

6. Scores of Masters and B.A. Honours theses.


1990-1992 3rdYear – Introduction to African Literature
3rd Year – the African Novel
2nd Year – A Selection of Afro-American Prose
2nd Year – Victorian Poetry
Staff Seminar – Approaches to “Things Fall Apart”
Student Seminar – Close Reading of “Things Fall Apart”
Public Lecture – Profiles in Creative Freedom: African Fiction
from “Things Fall Apart” to “Anthills of the Savannah”


1992-1993 Senior Seminar – the Afro-American Novel
Senior Seminar – Major British Author (Dickens)
2nd Year – America in the Sixties (co-taught with Prof. V.
2nd Year – American Journeys (co-taught with Prof. V. Kohler)
Guest Lectures – “Africa’s Traditional Religion”, “Baldwin’s
Going to Meet the Man” and “Dickens’s Bleak House”.

1993-1994 2nd Year – British Literature Survey 1
2nd Year – British Literature Survey 2
Senior Seminar – Introduction to African Literature
Senior Seminar – the Oral Tradition and Literature in Africa
Guest Lectures – “African Traditional Religion”, “The Television
in Africa”, “Contemporary Politics in Africa”
Public Lecture – “Thirty Years of African Fiction, 1958-1988.”

1994-1995 2nd Year – British Literature Survey 1
2nd Year – British Literature Survey 2
Senior Seminar – Visions of Africa (with Dr. Dworken Cooley)
Introduction to African Literature
Guest Lecture: “Pidgin and Creole in West Africa”
Introduced the film “Angano: Tales of Madagascar”
(Spectrum Series)


1996 Senior Seminar (General Honours): Change and Continuity in
African Cultures
Guest Lecturer – The Epic in Africa
Public Lecture – The Journey Metaphor in African-American


1997-1998 2ndYear – World Literature II (Global Voices: Contemporary
Literature from the Non-Western World)
2nd Year – Selected Topics: African American Literature in
Senior Seminar – Masterpieces of World Literature
Faculty Workshop – the Supernatural in African Culture and

1998-1999 2ndYear – World Masterpieces in Literature
Senior Seminar – Culture and Literature in Africa
Senior Seminar – Oral Tradition and Literature in Africa
2nd Year – Selected African-American Masterpieces in Prose
Faculty Workshop – Introduction to African Literature and
Public Lecture – “Growing up in the Shadow of the British

2000 (Spring) 2nd Year – Selected African-American Prose
Senior Seminar – The Epic in Africa
Langston Hughes 2000 Lecture – “Common Themes in African
Diaspora Literature: Something Shored up From History’s
Monumental Wreckage.”


2001-2002 W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship Programme – “Slavery and the Fall
of Africa”
Fellowship Symposium: “From the Voice of the Victims”

2002-2003 Senior Seminar – Literature and Oral Tradition in Africa
Senior Seminar – Visions of Africa
Senior Seminar – Introduction to African Literature
Senior Seminar – Selected African Prose

Books and Monographs

(In Press) (Co-edited with C. Azuonye) “A Critical Source Book of Igbo Literature”, University Press, Ibadan, Nigeria.

2003 Masksong for Our Times” (Poetry Collection). Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press/Red Sea Press, 2003.

1994 The Story, Memory and Continuity of Igbo Culture. Annual Ahiajoku Lecture. Owerri, Nigeria: Imo State Government Publications.

1990 Language and Theme: Essays on African Literature, Howard University Press, Washington, D.C.

1986 Co-edited with V.C. Ike and J.A. Umeh: University of Nigeria 1960-1985: An Experiment in Higher Education, University of Nigeria Press, Nsukka, Nigeria.

1985 Mammon-Worship in Twentieth Century Nigeria (Essay), Afa Press, Enugu, Nigeria.

1982 Selected and edited: African Creations (A Decade of Okike Short Stories), Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu, Nigeria.

1980 Africa Shall Survive (Essays), Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu, Nigeria.

1980 Christopher Okigbo: Poet of Destiny, Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu, Nigeria.

1976 Locusts (Poetry collection), Greenfield Review Press, Greenfield Centre, New York.

1975 Reprint (1980) Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

1973 An African Popular Literature: A Study of Onitsha Market Pamphlets, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

1972 Reprint (1980) Onitsha Market Literature, Heinemann Educational Books, London.

1971 Reprint (1972) (co-edited with M.J.C. Echeruo) Igbo Traditional Life, Culture and Literature, Conch Magazine Company, New York.

1966 (Paper edition, 1970) Commentary, Notes and Exercises to James
Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain, Heritage of Literature Series, Section B, No. 90 (Modern Classics), Longman Group, London.

1999 “What Really Happened to Africa” in Africa and the Diaspora:
The Black Scholar and Society. Ed. Rose Ure Mezu. Randalls-
Town, Maryland: Black Academy Press, Inc., 1999: 89-97.

1997 “Feminine Perspectives in Selected African Novels” in Nwanyibu:
Womanbeing and African Literature. Eds Phanuel A. Egejuru and Ketu H. Katrak. Trenton, N.J.: African World Press, Inc., 1997: 33-46

1996 “In Praise of the Teacher” in Eagle on Iroko: Papers from the Chinua Achebe Intern. Symposium, edit. Edith Ihekweazu. Ibadan: Heinemann Educ. Books, 22-41.

1994 Isidore Okpewho. In Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twentieth Century Caribbean and Black African Writers (Vol. 3), eds. Bernth Lindfors and Reinhard Sander. Detroit and London: Gale Research, Inc.,1994: 262-276.

1992 “Elechi Amadi, Novelist” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 117: Twentieth Century Caribbean and Black African Writers (First Series), eds. Bernth Lindfors and Reinhard Sander. Detroit and London: Gale Research, Inc., 1992: 49-53

1991 “Following the Author” in Things Fall Apart,” MLA’s Approaches to Teaching Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Ed. Bernth Lindfors. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1991: 31-37.

1986 “Ekwensi as Novelist” in The Best of Ekwensi, ed. E.N. Emenyonu. Ibadan (Nigeria): Heinemann.

1978 “Doubts and Directions in Cultural Revival” in Readings in African Humanities. Ed. Ogbu Kalu, Fourth Dim. Publ., Enugu, Nigeria.1978:268-280.

1978 “Literature – Traditional and Modern – in the Nsukka Environment” in Nsukka Environment, ed. G.E.K. Ofomata, Fourth Dim. Publ.Co., Enugu, Nigeria.

1978 “Perceptions of Colonialism” in Yambo Ouologuem’s Le Devoir de Violence in “Literature and Modern West African Culture,” ed. D.I. Nwoga, Ethiope Publ. Co., Benin, Nigeria. 1978: 51-60.

1977 “The Human Dimension of History” in Critical Perspectives on Chinua Achebe, eds. C.L. Innes and Bernth Lindfors, Three Continents Press, Washington, D.C.1977: 151-165.

1977 “Politics in Selected Nigerian Novels” in Festac Anthology of Nigerian New Writing, ed. C.O.D. Ekwensi, Fed. Min. of Information, Lagos, Nigeria. 1977: 151-165.

1976 “Post-Independence disillusionment in Three African Novels” in Neo-African Literature and Culture: Essays in Memory of Janheinz Jahn, ed. J. Heyman, Mainz, West Germany.

1975 “Amos Tutuola and the Oral Tradition” in Critical Perspectives on Amos Tutuola, ed. Bernth Lindfors, Three Continents Press, Washington, D.C. 1975: 123-144.

1971 “Introduction” in Igbo Traditional Life, Culture and Literature, eds. M.J.C. Echeruo and E.N. Obiechina, Conch Magazine Co., New York1971: 1-15.


2003 Introduction to Anthonia Kalu’s Broken Lives and Other Stories. Athens Ohio University Press, African Series No. 79, ix-xx.

2002 “Poetry As Therapy: Reflections on Achebe’s Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems,” Callaloo 25.2 (2002) 527-558.

2000 “Common Themes in African Diaspora Literature: Something Shored Up From History’s Monumental Wreckage,” ALA Bulletin 26, 1 (Spring 2000) 21-33.

1992 “Narrative Proverbs in the African Novel,” Oral Tradition, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 197-230.

1992 “Multiple Perspectives: The Dilemma of the African Intellectual in the Modern World,” Liberal Education, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 16-21.

1992 Parables of Power and Powerlessness: Exploration in Anglophone African Fiction Today,” Issue: A Journal of Opinion (African Studies Association). Vol. XX/2, pp. 17-25.

1988 “The Writer and His Commitment in Contemporary Nigerian Society,” Okike, An African Journal of New Writing, Nos. 27-28, pp. 1-9.

1986 “Africa in the Soul of Dispersed Children: Narratives from the Era of the Slave Trade,” Nsukka Studies in African Literature, No. 4. Pp. 101-160.

1982 “Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (A Commentary),” Okike Educational Supplement. No. 3. Pp. 11-29.

1981 “Africa’s Lost Generations,” Wilson Quarterly, pp. 178-187.

1980 “Peter Abrahams’ Mine Boy” Okike Educ. Supplement, No. 2, pp.79-100.

1979 “Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease,” Okike Educ. Supplement, No. 1, pp. 124-144.

1975 “Structure and Significance in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart” English in Africa, No. 2, pp. 39-44.

1974 “Problem of Language in African Writing: The Example of the Novel,” The Conch, No. 4. Vol. 1, pp. 45-70.

1974 “Perceptions of Colonialism in African Literature,” Ufahamu, No. 3, Vol. 1, pp. 45-70.

1973 “Art and Caricature: A Case of Aborted Vision in Aluko’s One Man, One Wife,” The Educator, No. 9, Vol. 2, pp. 37-39.

1973 “Art and Artifice in Okara’s The Voice,” Okike, No. 3, Vol. 1, pp. 23-33.

1973 Review of Adrian Roscoe’s Mother is Gold (A Study in West African Literature), Research in African Literatures, No. 4, Vol. 1, pp. 98-108.

1973 Review of Yambo Ouologuem’s Le Devoir de Violence, Okike, No. 3, Vol.1, pp. 53-59.

1972 “Varieties Differentiation in English Usage,” Journal of Nigerian English Association, No. 6, vol. 1, pp. 77-94.

1972 “The Novel as a Comedy: A Study of Nkem Nwankwo’s Danda,” The Muse, No. 4, Vol. 1, pp. 18-22.

1971 Review of Ayi Kwei Armah’s the Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Okike, No. 1, Vol. 1, pp. 49-53.

1970 “Through the Jungle Dimly: European Novelists on West Africa,”
Literary Studies (A Quarterly Review of Literature and Criticism from the Panjab), No. 4, Vol. 1, pp. 24-35.

1968 “Cultural Nationalism in Modern African Creative Literature,” African Literature Today, No. 1, Vol. 1, pp. 24-35.

1968 “Growth of Written Literature in English-Speaking West Africa,” Presence Africaine, pp. 58-78.

1968 “Transition from Oral to Literary Tradition,” Presence Africaine, No. 63, pp.140-161.

1966 “Three Novels by Negro-Americans” (William Demby’s The
Catacombs, Melville Kelley’s A Drop of Patience and Henry Van Dyke’s Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eves), African Forum, No. 1, Vol. 3, pp. 107-111.

1965 “Darkness and Light: A Review of Danda and The Voice, Nigerian Magazine, pp. 61-63.


Review of Rose Ure Mezu’s Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works in ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

Nigeriaworld Feature Article – “Democracy is failing again in Nigeria”

Are we “Igbos” or “Ibos”?

Text of Langston Hughes 2000 Lecture

Conversations with Anthony Kwame Appiah, April 15, 2002. Audiotape at W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Interviewed by Rose Ure Mezu in the series “African and Diaspora Scholars and Writers. Published in Black Academy Review, Vol.7, Nos. 3-4, 1996:49-69.

Interviewed by Biodun Jeyifo on the state of culture, literature and creative arts in Nigeria.. The interview is published in Contemporary Nigerian Literature: a Retrospective and prospective Exploration. Lagos, Nigeria: Nigeria Magazine Publications, 1985.

Interviewed by John Agetua in Interviews with Six Nigerian Writers. Benin City, Nigeria: Bendel Newspapers Corporation, 1977.


Use of English, Summer, 1970., BBC, French African Service Londre-Midi, 3 October,
1972., Idees, 11 March, 1972.
Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1., West Africa, 13 August, 1973;
Commonwealth, October, 1973; Nigerian Magazine, December, 1973; Choice, December, 1973; British Book News, November, 1973.
World Literature Written in English, Vol. 13, No. 1, April, 1974; Books and Bookmen,
January, 1974; Books Abroad, January, 1974; African Journal, June, 1974; B.B.C. External Service, April, 1974.
Research in African Literatures, 1974; L’Afrique et L’Asie Modernes, No. 4, 1975; New Society, October, 1975; Canadian Journal of African Studies, September, 1975; Times Literary Supplement, October, 1975; World Literature Written in English, April, 1975; Mondo e Missione, October, 1975; Library Journal, September 15, 1975; Africana Journal, 1975; Afrique Contemporaire No. 70, September, 1975; British Book News, December, 1975; American Anthropologist, Vol. 77, No.4
December, 1975, English Studies, Vol. 56, No. 5, 1975; Journal of Religion in Africa,
Vol. 22, No. 4 (Winter 1991), pp. 181-186.


Citations of Obiechina and his work: Categories—Education, Academia and Research, Humanities and Social Sciences, Literary Studies, Theorists and Critics, Arts, Literature, Editors:>739 citations;>639 citations


i. Slavery and the Fall of Africa
ii. Poetry and National Crisis: Visions of Okigbo, Achebe, and Azikiwe
iii. Igbo Minstrelsy: Modernizing the Traditional/Traditionalizing the Modern
iv. Profiles in Creative Freedom: African Fiction, 1958-1988
v. A Time to Heal: Women in African Reconstruction


2005 “NKE ANYI BU NKE ANYI: Consolidating the Intellectual Harvests in the Field of Igbo Studies.” Luncheon Lecture at the 3rd International Conference on Igbo Studies, Howard University Law School Campus, Washington, D.C., April 1, 2005.

“In Praise of Tradition: An Evening of African Story Telling.” Spring Diversity Days at Ferrum College, Sigmon Recital Hall, Ferrum College, April 14, 2005.

2004 McMillan-Stewart Annual Lecture Series, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of African and African American Research, May 4, 5, & 6, at Thompson Room, Barker Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Topic: “Africa in the Soul: What We Can Learn From 18th and 19th Century African Slave Narratives.”

2003 (October) “Orality, Performance, and Writing: Politics of Representation in Africa” at State University of New York, Albany. Paper presented: “Elucidating Literary History Through Ethnographic and Linguistic Evidence: The Case of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative”

2002 (March) “Igbo Minstrelsy: Source of Linguistic and Cultural Archival Retrieval.” Paper presented as Consultant at World Bank Workshop on “Culture and Development,” Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria.

2002 (February) “Slavery and the Fall of Africa: Listening to the Voice of the Victims.” W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellowship Colloquium, Harvard University.

2000 (November) “Profiles in Creative Freedom: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” Keynote Speech at the First Annual World Conference of the Black Expressive Culture Studies Association, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

2000 (November) “Achebe and Aesthetics: The Emergence of Modern African Literature.” Bard College Conference in Celebration of Chinua Achebe’s 70th Birthday.

2000 (April) “Common Themes in African Diasporic Literature,” focused upon the narratives of the first generation Africans in the New World. African Literature Association (ALA) Annual Conference, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

1999 (May) “African Literature, Its Context and the Globalization Question,” Keynote speech at the Conference on African Readerships at Robinson College, Cambridge, England.

1996 (May) Conducted Workshop on “Teaching African Literature with faculty of the University of Arkansas, Fayettesville, in their NEH Faculty Development Seminar.

1995 (November) Discussant, panel on “Reading Achebe in the 1990s: Comparative Studies of Gender, Culture, and Aesthetics,” African Studies Association, Orlando, Florida.

1995 (March) African Literature Association Annual Conference, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio. Chaired the Plenary Session on the topic: “The Post-Colonial Condition.”

1995 (April) Delivered a lecture titled “African Perspectives on Higher Education: Historical and Sociological Determinants” before the postgraduate seminar of Virginia Commonwealth University.

1994 (April) “Democracy, Nationalism and Pan-Africanism: The Multiple Legacies of Nnamdi Azikiwe” at Lincoln University. Lunchtime speaker. Topic: “The Literary Azikiwe: Fifty Years of Poetry.”

1993 (June) Asheville Institute on General Education: Workshop on interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches to teaching and learning, University of North Carolina, Asheville.

1992 (November) Arts of Africa Conference at Ohio Northern University. Paper presented: “The Oral Tradition in Modern African Literature as Exemplified in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.”

1992 (November) The Annual Symposium in the Humanities, Ohio State University Center for African Studies. Theme: “The Black Diaspora: The African Experience in the Americas.” Paper presented : “The Journey Metaphor in the African and African-American Narrative Literature.”

1992 (September) Pitt-Bradford Sixth Annual Fall Convocation: Presented Convocation Address: “Introducing the Freshmen to the Academic World.”

1992 (January) 78th Annual Meeting, Association of American Colleges, Ramada Renaissance Techworld Hotel, Washington, D.C. Paper presented: “Multiple Perspectives: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Modern World.”

1991 (May) Symposium on “Technology, Culture and Development,” Center for African Studies, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Chair of Education and Technology Panel. Presented a paper titled “Academic Exchange and Technology Transfer in Africa: Perspectives and Prospects.”

1991 (March) African Literature Association (ALA) Annual Conference, Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Chair of Panel and Convener. Paper presented: “Feminine Perspectives on African Literature.”

1990 (May) Symposium on “Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: Social, Cultural, Political and Economic Considerables,” Center for African Studies, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Chairman and Discussant, session on “Education and African Agriculture.”

1990 (February) International Symposium in Honour of Chinua Achebe’s Sixtieth Birthday, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. Delivered Keynote Lecture titled “In Praise of the Teacher: A Tribute to Chinua Achebe on His Sixtieth Birthday.”

1989 (October) “Looking Back with Pleasure: A Bicentennial Commemoration of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (Department of English). Paper presented: “Equiano’s Narrative and Modern African Literature.”

1989 (April) Gave seminar on “The Writer’s Burden: Literature and the Restoration of Human Dignity,” before the Philosophical Association, Wellesley College, Boston, Mass.

1989 (March) Workshop on “Apartheid and Literature,” East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina. Paper presented: “Literature and Protest in Apartheid South Africa.”
1989 (February) Lecture at the International Education Center, Washington, D.C., titled “Popular Literature in Nigeria and Kenya.”

1988 (July) Graduate School Colloquium, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. Papers presented: “Cultural Change in Education in Nigeria” and “Implementing the 6-3-3-4 System of Education in Nigeria.”

1988 (May) Workshop: Induction Program for American faculty visiting Nigeria, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Lecture: “The Image of Society, Past and Present, in Modern Nigerian Fiction.”

1988 (May) Symposium on “Epistemology and Pedagogical Issues: African Studies in the 1990’s and Beyond.” African Studies Centre, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Chairman and Discussant on “Problems and Prospects of African Literature in Nineteen Nineties.”

1988 (April) Humanities Lecture Series, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. Topic: “Eighteenth-Century Slave Narratives and Restoration of Identity.”

1984 (November) Keynote Speaker, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Annual
Conference, University of Benin, Benin City. Topic: “Victimization as a Dominant Theme of African Literature.”

1982 (April) Delivered the keynote address to the Conference on Igbo Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Topic: “Uses of Literature in Igbo Culture.”

1980 (July) Delivered a Colloquium at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, D.C., titled “West African Literature from the Era of the Slave Trade.”

1978 (July) Third Ibadan Annual African Literature Conference. Discussant, the Novel of Africa.

1977 (January) Workshop on the Draft Constitution for Nigeria, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Paper delivered: “Thoughts on the Nigerian Draft Constitution.”

1976 (February) African World Alternatives Conference, Dakar, Senegal. Presented
A paper titled “Functional Ideology for African States.”

1976 National Youth Service Corps Workshop, Awgu Eastern Nigeria. Delivered a lecture titled “Decolonizing Our Values.”

1975 (October) Conference of the Nigerian Library Association, Easter Division,
Enugu, Nigeria. Delivered a paper titled “The Uses of Oral
Tradition in Academic Research in Africa.”

1975 (May) May Day address to the Workers Union, University of Nigeria,
Nsukka, titled “On Unity and Solidarity in the Trade Union

1975 (March) Inaugural Conference of African Literature Association, University
of Texas, Austin, Texas. Read a paper titled “Structure and
Significance in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.”

1972 (October) Cambridge University Postgraduate Seminar. Series on “De--
colonization in Africa,” Michaelmas Term, Center for African
Studies. Read a paper called “Perceptions of Colonialism in
African Literature.”

1972 (October) Paper re-delivered at Postgraduate seminar, Center of West
African Studies, University of Birmingham.

1972 (September) Conference on “Literature and Modern West African Culture.”
Continuing Education Center (CEC), University of
Nigeria, Nsukka. Read a paper titled “The Theme of Colonialism
in Yambo Ouloguem’s Le Devoir de Violence.

1972 (August) Chairman, penultimate session of the seminar on “Igbo Language
and Literature,” CEC, UNN.

1972 (June) Nigerian English Studies Association Conference, CEC,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Read a paper called “Varieties
Differentiation in English Usage in Nigeria.”

1972 (February) Chairman, final session of the Institute of African Studies seminar
on “Nsukka Environment.”

1972 (February) Chairman, Symposium on “Effects of Mental Health on
Learning.” Education Association of Nigeria, University of
Nigeria, Nsukka, Branch, at Arts Theatre, University of Nigeria,

1971 (April) Annual Convention of the Nigerian Railway Workers Union,
Eastern Chapter. Address titled “The Role of the Worker in
National Progress.”

1971 (April) Official Delegate to “Colloque sur la Negritude,” Dakar, Senegal.
Spoke on “Negritude and Culture.” Topic: “Negritude,
Mass Mobilization, and African Unity.”

1970 (April) Colloquium of the English Association, Nsukka. Delivered a
Lecture titled “Moral-Aesthetic Approach to Literature.”

1967 (April) Nigerian English Studies Association Conference, University
of Nigeria, Nsukka. Paper presented: “Language and the Official:
a Highly Subjective View of ‘I am directed to….’ “

1965 (December) Clare College Modern Languages Association, Cambridge. Gave
a talk titled “Amos Tutuola and Dilemma Tales.”


Secretary, Catholic Union of Teachers (CUT), Northern Nigeria, 1953 – 1956.

Post-Civil War Rehabilitation Program at the University of Nigeria: Member, Academic Infrastructure Restoration Committee, 1970.

Member of the Interim Academic Planning and Development Committee, Federal
University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, 1981.

Director, Nwamife Publishers Ltd; Enugu, 1978.

Chairman, Anambra Chapter of the National Anti-Apartheid Movement of Nigeria, 1977.

Patron, Pan-African Students Union, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria, 1973.

Secretary, National Guidance Committee of the Former Republic of Biafra, 1968-1970.

President, Nigerian Students Union, University of Cambridge, England, 1965.

Secretary, Nigerian Official Delegation to Tanganyika Independence Celebration, and tour of Kenya, Uganda, and Congo-Kinshasa, December 1961.

Member of the governing councils of the following institutions: University of Nigeria
(1976-77; 1985-86); Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA)
(1978-86); Benue State Institute for Higher Education (1972-79)

Joint Chairman National Anthem Committee of Nigeria, 1978.


2000 International Association of University Professors of English
1990 American Association of University Professors
1991 Modern Languages Association of USA
1978 Life Member, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs
1975 Charter Member of Union of Writers of African Peoples
1975 Charter Member of African Literature Association
1975 African Studies Association
1975 International Comparative Literature Association
1974 Modern Languages Association of Nigeria
1972 Executive Member, Association of Nigerian Authors
1972 Literary Society of Nigeria
1967 Nigerian Association of University Teachers (Now called the Academic
Staff Union of the Universities-ASUU)
1967 Nigerian English Studies Association
1967 Clare College Association, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England

Igbo, English and Hausa – fluently
French – fairly

Ghana, Cameroun, Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zaire, United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, U.S.A. and Canada,

Gardening, Writing, Music and Tennis

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Response to Amanze Akpuda’s “A Dream beyond the Pyramids”

By Maik Nwosu
In a recent essay, “A Dream beyond the Pyramids,” Amanze Akpuda references my scrutiny of the award of the All-Africa Christopher Okigbo Prize in 1992 (to Olu Oguibe’s poetry collection A Gathering Fear). Akpuda was referring to my essay, “Rethinking Our Canons,” published in the Daily Times of May 1, 1993. I have notified Akpuda that my view has significantly changed in the past sixteen years. Even in 1993, my view had more to do with my perception of the Okigbo Prize then. My essential argument in that essay – that considered literary criteria should be used for literary canonization – is one that I still advocate. But in an essay, “Children of the Anthill: Nsukka and the Shaping of Nigeria’s 1960s Literary Generation,” published in English in Africa in May 2005, I credit Oguibe with capturing the dominant mood of my generation at the time in his poem “A Gathering Fear.” I consider A Gathering Fear especially remarkable for the way it grows on the reader.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Debating African Literature (Book in Honor of Professor Michael J. C. Echeruo) - Call for Papers

The debate on African literature – its history and nature – is as old as the term “African literature” (or “African literatures”) itself. Some of the issues that have been raised in this debate (or series of debates) include the validity of the term, language use, theoretical frameworks and generic distinctions, connections (and disconnections) between the oral and the written, gender relations and representations, relationship with other literatures and cultures (including the African Diaspora), national and international contexts of writing and interpretation, the influence of regional geopolitical configurations and inter/regional markets, race and class, the politics and influence of prizes and publishing, technology and audience. The true scope of this debate extends beyond the compartmentalizatio n of African literature and encompasses both sub-Saharan African literature and North African literature, both black and white African writers.
This debate has occasioned some of the most provocative and considered works of literary criticism in the history of modern literature.

Debating African Literature seeks to gather or reference some of those canonical debates. Even more important, it aims at provoking new, enriching ones. It has three main objectives:

– to encourage the examination or re-examination of major issues related to African literature and its Diaspora;

– to critically examine and further contextualize (or bridge) some of the divides in African literature ;

– to nourish a continuing debate on some of the core issues that define or sustain literature.

Debating African Literature is in honor of Michael J. C. Echeruo, William Safire Professor in Modern Letters, Department of English and Textual Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. The project is a parting salute to one of the most visionary minds ever to debate and illuminate African literature as he prepares to retire from the academy after nearly 50 years as a distinguished professor of literary theory, African, English, and African Diaspora literatures.

Scholars are invited to submit engaging articles on any aspect of African and African Diaspora literatures, especially those mentioned above. The deadline for the receipt of articles (including abstracts) is February 28, 2010. Please send an electronic copy of your article in MLA format as an email attachment (Microsoft Word or PDF) to Maik Nwosu at and Obiwu at obiwu1@gmail. com. Debating African Literature will be published by a major academic publisher.

About the editors Maik Nwosu is an assistant professor of African and world literature at the University of Denver, Colorado. Obiwu is the director of the Writing Center at Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio.