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November 10, 2008 | Feature Article

Henry Akubuiro: The Rancour Of A Racist-Editor

Writers the world over are adored by the society but dreaded by the governments and the politicians. This could be because writers are regarded as a conscientious people. Writers don't judge or argue in their works supporting any race or creed or writing for money but for intelligibility. And any writer who does support evil or follow general opinion even when the opinion may be flatly degrading, that writer is not conscientious, as believed by the society who holds writers in high-esteem. A writer shouldn't know any border. And this could be why the late Nigerian renowned poet, late Christopher Okigbo was irked in Darker when he won a poetry contest and was called a “black poet”, the phrase he saw as innuendo of “nigger” which was a child of racism. He preferred “world poet” to the former. And following that, a lot of organizations have today hosted many writing contests of which many are tagged “writers across the border” or “writers without border”. British Council once hosted writers thus.

But a Henry Akubuiro who edits the literary pages of National LIFE newspaper seems not to be a believer in the above mentioned. He sounds like a writer who is still writing within the confinement of the ugly institution of the ancient writers where sentiment was fad. Buttressing this, I didn't know how dangerous and racist-built Henry was till I stumbled on his write-up in the National LIFE of 19 October. In that article entitled “Nobel Prize: Le Clezio's Controversy”, Henry goofed by arguing that who was Le Clezio to win the Nobel Prize since he was not famous in the literary circle, or perhaps since he was white or perhaps Henry wanted somebody from the Black race to have won. And when I rejoined his write-up which was titled “Nobel Prize: Henry Akubuiro's Controversy”, contradicting his article, he went berserk with another jaded article entitled “Odimegwu Onwumere: The Howlings of a Hasty Reader”. In that article, he moved in and out that he was only writing based on the arguments generated over the prize all over the world, a case he was trying to extricate himself from maybe understanding the direful meaning of what he had written.

From my understanding, Henry doesn't want anybody who is not yet famous in the literary circle to challenge him since, according to him, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka reads him. Hear him, “Soyinka, who I have met and who reads me and speaks kindly of me in literary circles”.

Henry is showcasing his ignorance forgetting that no man is an island; we need each other to grow (and nobody is monopoly of knowledge), irrespective of status. His antagonistic character on me, has made me realize that politicians writers even wash their dirty linen in the public glare are even kinder, a point that was Henry a politician, he would have called for my head.

Insult and abuse run in Henry's blood, I have observed that. He has been biting his fingers that who am I to rejoined his piece since he says, “he (meaning Odimegwu) doesn't know that I was the winner of the 2005 ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors) Literary Journalist of the Year, winner of the 1994 National Essay Competition organized by the Federal Government of Nigeria, among others”. What a self-praise!

The wounded and boastful Henry, in an email to me dated 23/10/2008 at the outbreak of my rejoinder wrote: “Hi Odimegwu, I have just been alerted by some media colleagues that u have circulated the rubbish hogwash (nonsense and hogwash?) u wrote about me. I am just waiting to read IT ANYWHERE BEFORE I give u some tutorial ABOUT POLEMICS AND literary POETICS. YOUR PIECE SHOWS YOU HAVE TAKEN SOME UNCOUT (uncouth?) LIBERTIES AND CHICANERIES GOES (go?) AGAINST THE GRAIN. DO'NT TAKE ME FOR A RIDE IN THE NAME OF untutored REJOINDER”. When I read that, I replied him, “You are entitled to your opinion, vis-à-vis.” He didn't reply again perhaps having understood that he was supposed to coil his glaring foolery to its cave understanding that it is only a fool that raises to anger so quick.

I am not even talking about the first mail he wrote me in which he amplified in a hurry that he had double major in English and Literature dated 21/10/200. Please hear “Professor” Henry: “Hi Odimegwu, I just read your rejoinder. The one thing about literature is that different shades of opinions are welcome. It isn't bad you disagree with me, but, if I publish the ton of mail I have got from that piece on Achebe, you will be amazed your view is out of sync with what many people feel about the prize. I am not envious of Le Clezio as you noted (I don't even know Achebe). And I cited facts to back up my arguments; it is not a controversy provoked by me. All over the world, the Nobel is being ridiculed for snubbing those who deserve them. Well, I have a double major in English and Literature (but that is beside the fact); I was not just blowing hot air in that piece. As for prizes, I have won four international and national prizes, including ANA Literary Journalist of the Year (2005), but I don't make a parade of them. My friend, it is good to know that you are a fan (that's good). It isn't out of place, sometimes, for us to differ. That is the name of the game. Cheers, man. Henry”.

While I accepted “the one thing about literature is that different shades of opinions are welcome” by replying Henry's mail thus, “Anyone who doesn't face criticism is not doing well”, Henry went and rented sympathizers to bail him out of the down-to-earth mess he had thrown himself into, having circulated his aggrieved piece one me all over the Internet entitled, “Odimegwu Onwumere: The Howlings of a Hasty Reader”.

I am not in any way angry about the opinions from the crying-more-than-the-bereaved commentators because I already knew that Henry was suffering from literary biasness, and needs diagnosis from conscientious writers who would not tell him what he wanted hearing.

First comment was from one Macpherson Okpara, Ebonyi State University, Abakiliki, Ebonyi State, he wrote: “What a stupid view Odimegwu expressed about your (meaning Henry's article) position on Le Clezio and Nobel Prize for Literature. Odimegwu sounds incoherently ignorant of the meaning of Nobel Prize for Literature, even as he shows he doesn't know what qualifies a writer for the award. I bet Odimegwu has not read beyond his poems that we don't know about, reading to pass exams and amass degrees apart. I remain disappointed that our “Uncle” (meaning Chinua Achebe) was not the winner, whatever Odimegwu thinks”. If reading beyond was to read that Henry's article of October 19, then it is better I recline to nursery school text books.

Another accomplice of Henry in their myopic stance of the Nobel Prize, was one Ibrahim Tahir, Bayero University. He wrote, “Going by the way Odimegwu sounded hollow in his rejoinder to your piece, the psychiatric hospitals in Port Harcourt had better look out for him, because he needs help, or he was just trying to get popularity by being notorious. Your article on Le Clezio was a masterpiece. Who is Odimegwu in Nigerian Literature?” The above comments were published on Nov. 2, in the National Life pages Henry edits.

I will not go boasting like Henry who indirectly says that he was the only person who uses semantics usefully when he condemned me: “I am uncomfortable with writers who use words any how without taking cognizance of their semantic implications”. But the semantics Henry was talking about were the same that even his newspaper published in my rejoinder to his regrettable article. Like he said, quoting my statement, "It reverberated with disgust in my mind, nerves quaked, and the blood in my blood stream ran with such accelerando..."

Henry buttressing his ghastly point on the above statement said, “Except for someone who has a history of psychotic imbalance, I don't think anybody would have reacted that way reading a piece that wasn't lacking in polemics. Proper expressions like: "I was chagrined", "I was flummoxed," I was dismayed…” etc., would have said it all, instead of spinning words that betrays his latitude at the time of putting pen to paper”. But the same condemned statements by Henry were the same that literary editors published in Nigeria and beyond, even his National Life. Either Henry is jealous or he is calling all the editors who have used my article buffoons. He better hide his head in shame.

For the sympathizer who was asking who I am in the Nigerian literature, one does not sing own praise, like Henry has done. I think I am comfortable with the responses I get from my readers, home and abroad. The commentator is just a favour-seeker, but was on the wrong track of supporting Henry's racist-article called controversy because, our Chinua Achebe was not awarded the Nobel Prize? However, I would have allowed Henry's howls of an exhausted editor built with racist features against me Rest In Peace, but for posterity.

Henry should stop posing as the best of the hordes of literary journalists Nigeria has ever had, from his posture on the article, “Odimegwu Onwumere: The Howlings of a Hasty Reader” because, I didn't follow the myopic controversies he says were generated by those I am questioning their wisdom? Henry should accept the fact that generalization mind is not an analytical mind. I have my respect for Papa Chinua Achebe who may have even declined the award, was it awarded to him. I will not entertain any reaction on this piece anymore. And this will not make me stop being Henry's fan, because every human being is a fan to each and learns from each other, except for Henry who will rather be with his limited knowledge than learn from any other person because, according to him, he doubled English and Literature.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse, (PACA), Oyigbo, Rivers State. +2348032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere

The author has authored 582 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author's column: OdimegwuOnwumere

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Odimegwu Onwumere and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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