Saturday, January 28, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Tolu Ogunlesi on my mind.---Pa Ikhide [ Reflections on a Writer Moving from the Trenches to the Circle of Political Power]

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Joe Attueyi [NaijaObserver] <>
Date: 28 January 2017 at 17:55
Subject: ||NaijaObserver|| Tolu Ogunlesi on my mind.---Pa Ikhide


Pa Ikhide 
Tolu Ogunlesi on my mind. We were colleagues once. Molara Wood was the arts editor of NEXT newspaper, that brainy but short-lived brainchild of Dele Olojede. In the very very early 2000's we had become friends online as members of the literary mailing list Krazitivity. If you were not on Krazitivity you were really not taken seriously as a writer, it seemed. The founding members included folks like Chimamanda Adichie, Chris Abani, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe, Molara, Amatoritsero Ede, Obiwu Iwuanyanwu, Nnọrọm Azụonye, etc (too many people to mention jor). I had never heard of these people; Victor Ehikhamenor it was that introduced me to the group. It transformed my (reading and writing) life in ways I never imagined. I wasn't really a writer, and what little I wrote I did under the pseudonym "Nnamdi." 

I digress; I met Tolu Ogunlesi there, he struck me as uber brainy,  funny, a gifted writer and quite enterprising. He and Chude Jideonwo were probably the youngest of the tribe of writers, and I suspect I was one of the oldest. We struck a friendship and became colleagues at NEXT. 

In the three years I worked at NEXT , I must have written 150 essays, one a week, plus several literary reviews. What did I write about? Not sure. Molara let me be, I wrote whatever came into my head, she edited them heavily and published them. Looking back, my pieces were largely apolitical. From the lush comforts of the mediocrity of Babylon, I wrote about literature, exile, my kids, whatever came to my head, but I didn't do politics. That dirty and dangerous job was done by young and fearless Turks like Tolu Ogunlesi. And man, were they good. They were relentless. When President Yar'Adua "allegedly" fell sick/was dying/was dead, it fell to Tolu et al to use, it turned out, highly reliable sources to ferret out the truth and report it to the people. They felt appropriately that the people had a right to know these things. 

Those were heady and dangerous days. I had grown very fond of my colleagues, these things happen, I was deathly worried for their safety and I have these texts where I was frantically begging Tolu to be careful and be safe. He was clearly enjoying himself because he laughed off any notion of danger and continued. The rest is history. Tolu et al were a big part of the successful effort to save democracy.

Today, Tolu is on the other side, an army of intellectuals seemingly scheming to keep the truth of Buhari's condition away from the people. I wonder what he thinks in the privacy of his hut: Is this right? How will I defend my legacy after all this is over? How is it possible that Nigerians now have no right to demand to know the health stays of their leader? 

To be fair, I don't know what to think anymore, I am just sad. What would I do in his shoes? Would I favor political expediency just to put food on the table? Talk is cheap, right? To be fair, Tolu is just proxy for many on the ground. We are appealing to their morality, rather than on laws, structures and processes, for relief. This is why we talk and talk and talk and nothing gets done, and we all get compromised, because in the end, that's all we have, our mere voices. Who will bell this cat? 

Would you like me to write about Krazitivity? It was a fun place, I met beautiful people, quietly influential people who shape the narrative everyday. I am not good at these things; I will leave the writing of the history to griots like Ike Anya. He is an awesome essayist. Maybe he can partner with Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, another awesome essayist. Yeah, let's talk about these things, Na who Buhari epp?

Sent from my iPhone


Posted by: Joe Attueyi <>
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