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21.10.2008 Feature Article

Nobel Prize: Henry Akubuiro’s Controversy

It reverberated with disgust in my mind, nerves quaked, and the blood in my blood stream ran with such accelerando, like a man who was just hit by the news of the sudden death of a beloved one. I gnashed my teeth, my reading lantern on my bed-head, there was no electricity light, when I was yet to finish Henry Akubuiro's controversy in the form of an article titled, “NOBEL PRIZE: The Le Clezio Controversy”, in the National Life, Sunday, October 10, 2008.

Henry Akubuiro is a man with an extraordinary prowess, as a pen-pusher and a syntax inventor. I was afraid, initially, standing up from my bed, to my reading desk, with lantern, to rejoined Henry's article, because of such magnitude with which he uses words. So, I didn't want somebody to bomb me with words. Because, from the aggressive manner Henry expressed his views in the article, suggests that he is a literary militant. But I braved up to write, having my onus to do just so, as no one is a monopoly of knowledge. And I suspect Henry studied English language or literature. Though, I was not afraid of what he studied!

Henry, I must confess, is such a man, young man, that I have enjoyed his write-ups and have gained wealth of knowledge from his articles, since I discovered him in the Sunday Sun, years back. He was fantastic, and because, as a poet and author, I became a self-initiate to buying Sunday Sun every Sunday, before he disappeared, with people like the voracious-word-user Louis Odion, who was then the editor Sunday sun; Dare Odofowokan, (Basil Okafor had left before them, and a lot host of others that I am yet to know there whereabouts till today). I have located the erotica writer, Juliana Francis, in the Compass newspapers; Dare Odofowokan is now with the Spectator, likewise Chika Abanaobi – who was so investigative in the saga that rocked the now waiting for the hangman's noose – Rev. King. I had thought that Chika was going to win an award based on the research he conducted on the controversial Rev. King. But I am not surprise that he did not win any award, because, it is Nigeria, for you!

To be frank, I was preparing to sue Henry and Louis, to the court of the law, or to the court of the tradition, likewise other people then with The Sun, that left unsung or without a note, for initiating me to be an ardent reader of their works. But I have forgiven all of them today; at least, I have located “my” Henry and Louis, in the Sunday National Life. And a Sunday has not passed, since they started production, some weeks ago, without the National Life, being among my Sunday newspapers collectibles. So, I am waiting for my “Reader award”. Please, it is not a laughing matter!

The above, will explain, how devoted I have been to Henry's journalistic literary sermons. I had in many occasions wanted to write an open letter to him, because he could mean Yar'Adua, to many who are infested by literature, but I could not do just that, because of a lot of load man carries everyday. But, I think, since 19th October, I read that jaded article of his, I said, ok, this is the due time to write him. Now, I believe, time, is truly, the healer, of every problem.

In that article, to be frank, without being merciful to Henry, he represented a critic of a biased mind. He expelled his venom, on the Nobel Prize, given to the French author, for literature, like a man who had hoped his uncle would win the prize, but was disappointed, at last.

Hear Henry: “ On Thursday, October 9, the Swedish Academy chose the French Author, Gustavo Le Clezio, as the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature, a choice, which, expectedly, was heralded by hyperboles: an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization…. But, who has read Le Clezio?”

When I read that, I opened my eyes, assuming if Henry could be that jealous. Yet, oblivious that another offshoot, was in the offing. Very bold, Henry wrote? “Outside the Nobel precincts and pockets of readers outside France and Europe, Le Clezio doesn't enjoy a wide crowd like a Gabriel Marquez in the literary world. A pool of some Nigerian writers by National Life reveals that the Frenchman is anonymous. Worse still, his works hardly occupy anybody's bookshelf in this part of the world, and his name doesn't ring bell either”.

I was kept thoughtful, with the above-unedited words of Henry. Henry sounded like a biblical Jacob beclouded by envy. In the write-up, I heard the voice of Jacob, but did not see the flesh of Esau. Perhaps, Henry was writing to garner sympathy that why did the Swedish Academy didn't give his “Uncle” the exalted prize. (But what is in the Nobel Prize? Is it the money that follows the award or the recognition?).

Juxtaposing, I am yet to believe that the books of an author must be in the bookshelf of many people, as Henry is wont to make us believe, before the author could be nominated in the minds, to win literary prizes; I am yet to believe that an author must first become popular, as Henry is wont to make us believe, before an eye could wink that the author is now liable of winning literary prizes; I am yet to believe, as Henry is wont to make us believe, that prizes of such kind as the Swedish's, is meant for old pen-pushers, who are popular, and are supposed to be considered first in a literary award before the burgeoning authors. What a pity? That concept by Henry is not only myopic, but also baseless and lacked potentialities of a sound mind. Does Henry know that Professors make unprintable grammatical mistakes, but as they wear PROF, no one tend to say, hey, he has made a mistake?

I don't mean to digress. The 2007 Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA) Convention held at Owerri, Imo State Capital, I was there – albeit, not a big deal. There, I met people that matter to me. Though she doesn't matter to me, but I saw Kaine Agary, the 2008 NLNG sponsored Nigerian Prize for literature winner. I also saw Henry, and we exchanged happiness, for the first time.

I can say that one of the reasons that I left Port Harcourt for the Convention, was to buy the Yellow-Yellow, a book authored by Agary, which was gaining local and international review per a second. The review of the book that triggered me, was the one by Chike Ofili, who is the president of ANA Lagos. Ofili sparked wonders with the review of the book. But when, at the Convention I bought the book, and after reading many pages, I noticed that Yellow-Yellow only spoke volumes on the pages newspapers. I could not finish the Yellow-Yellow, because of its poor nature. It was like the work of an essayist, not the work of a novelist. Oh! Better call it an essay. Even my lawyer friend, who was gusto to read the book, also saw what I saw. And today, I am not interested if Yellow-Yellow is in my bookshelf or not. But, did it not win the $50, 000 prize on Saturday October 11, 2008? Perhaps, the same way and manner the panel of judges at the Swedish Academy decided to chose their own Nobel laureate for literature this year, was how the controversial NLNG sponsored Nigerian Prize panel of judges decided to chose their own laureate. It is only the judges that knew what they wanted in a book before declaring it winner, and not how many accolades the book may have garnered.

I once stumbled on a write-up in the Literature and Ideas page of NewAge newspapers years' back, which was edited by Mr. Nduka Otiono, who was the General Secretary ANA, before Mallam Denja Abdullahi succeeded him, and Otiono later left for the Canada. That write-up tells the story how the popular Prof Wole Soyinka's book that brought Nigeria pride as the winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, could not sell in London, reason best known to the Londoners.

Without trying to exhume the ghost of the past, in my humble opinion, what I expected Henry Akubuiro to lavish his energy on, instead of the trash called criticism he wrote, was to expatiate on the statement of the former Hare Krishna monk and the editor of Sentinel (online journal published by Nnorom Azuonye). Amaritsero Ede, reportedly, he wrote in Krazitivity thus: “ Let us create our own prizes. I wonder why we always allow outside cultural policies to dictate for us….” However, as Akubuiro means WEALTH CARRIES ENVY, I am yet to know how many literary prizes Henry Akubuiro has won, since he is a popular writer in Nigeria. Thanks.

Odimegwu Onwumere, is a poet and an author, and Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA) Rivers State. 2348032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2008

This author has authored 586 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: OdimegwuOnwumere

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