A Tale of Two Authors

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A virtual interaction with two Nigerian authors in diaspora, Paul Obiamiwe and Enuma Chigbo, provoked curiosity in their new literary offerings, writes Yinka Olatunbosun

The resurgence in black rights movement on a global scale is a subject of reason and a cause for concern. It is not surprising to see a few new creative works that delve into the issue. For starters, Paul Obiamiwe, the author of the book titled, “Africanism,’’ bears an African writer’s moral responsibility to explain Africa history and heritage to the world. Born in the UK, he returned to Nigeria at the age of eight to complete his secondary school at Edo College Benin City and studied medicine at the University of Benin. After obtaining his Bachelors of medicine and science (MBBS), he returned to the UK where he completed his postgraduate studies and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh.

No doubt, his cross-cultural trajectory in life has etched some deep impressions in his mind about humanity and how racism is still a problem some centuries after the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“My inspiration to write the book came from my lived and vicarious experiences of racism,’’ he began. “The book, ‘Africanism,’ revisits African history through African eyes. It tries to redress the inaccurate western version of African history and explores the severe psychological issues it creates amongst black people everywhere.’’

Many afro-centric authors often blamed the colonisers for under-developing Africa with oppressive and exploitative policies and legacies that have seeped into many constitutions used in governing the African people today. Obiamiwe shared this sentiment as he spoke on his position in this book.

“I do agree that the western world underdeveloped Africa. In the book, the reader will find that the west continues to apply significant amounts of negative pressure to African nations creating the ideal chaotic situations they need in order to continue the process of exploitation,’’ he argued.

He remarked that the book Africanism will contribute to fostering a better and more balanced view of Africans everywhere. Western nations have presented the world with a denigrated image of Africa and black people globally which in turn supports their racist ideology.

“The book helps to restore a more accurate version of African identity and deconstruct the false western narrative and racist ideology,’’ he said.

A few days after an email interview with the UK-based Obiamiwe, Enuma Chigbo who wrote the faith-based contemporary literature titled, “Letters from the Wilderness,’’ revealed how this book was given an interesting start. The book is the sixth in Chigbo’s collection. Indeed, it is a compelling memoir from an award-winning female author who has a varied work experience as a retail manager, journalist, special project co-ordinator and advertising administrator.

The story was born out of an unforgettable encounter with an Uber driver who invited her to his church.

“That Uber ride was not an ordinary one. It was a prelude to the birth of ‘Letters from the Wilderness’ and to me, this was a clear confirmation of His word, ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,’’ she once said in an interview.

In her exclusive chat with ART WEEKEND, she revealed how she received support from her spiritual family at This Present House.

“Sometime in September 2000, I started to attend church after a two year break or rebellion as it were. In this new place of exhilaration and reconciliation, I began to keep a diary within the four walls of my bedroom. Six months later, the diaries evolved into a mini book. Pastor Tony Rapu of This Present House, my pastor at that time was the first person who encouraged me to write. Prior to that time, you couldn’t get me to put a sentence together,’’ she recounted.

In the end, she found herself writing after that eerie encounter with the taxi driver. She wrote forty letters and explained the numerical significance.

“I would say it was more of a leading by the Holy Spirit. Before I attended his church, I was lead to write a letter, talking about the deep historical ties Nigeria has with his home country Jamaica. Biblically, the number 40 represents the end of the wilderness phase and the beginning of the entry into the Promised Land. I was led to inculcate this concept into the writing of my book,’’ she said.

Any reader would sense the cross-cultural currents in the book. Like Obiamiwe, Chigbo has been deeply influenced by her cultural experiences while traversing different countries.

“I like to exchange and compare stories between theirs and stories from Nigeria. However, the Nigeria- Jamaica angle has been somewhat of a quest for me for a long time. I recall sometime in 2004, during my years in Johannesburg South Africa, I was doing some research on a tourism project for someone. It was then I stumbled upon Calabar Boy’s High School in Jamaica. I wondered immediately if it was anyway connected to the city of Calabar in Cross River State, Nigeria. Nine years later, after my first trip to Jamaica in August 2013, I was delighted to know that there is one. Calabar Boy’s High School is about 107 years old and said to be one of the best schools in that vicinity. This school was birthed by the Calabar Theological College in Kingston, which was founded sometime in the 18th century. Some of the founders of the college were slaves that came from off the coast of Calabar Nigeria. They gave it the name “Calabar” because the scenic beauty of their new surroundings reminded them of the land from where they came. Linkaf