On Monday 29th January, the Nigerian Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in France, attending a literary festival held at Ritz Paris where she held an interview during which Caroline Broue, a French journalist asked her, ‘Are there bookstores in Nigeria?’ Chimamanda answered yes, that even her books are studied in Nigeria and Africa.
She was composed throughout the interview even though such a question was not only demeaning but somewhat irritating to the citizens of African countries as well as to the Africans in the diaspora. Such a question cannot miss being classified as a racially motivated insult given the recent shit-hole remark about African countries by Donald Trump.
First, let me make it clear that there are very many bookstores, public libraries, museums and collective memories of cultural heritage all over Nigeria and Africa. But this is not known to the people born and brought up in Europe and America because of failure by the Western Press to cover and report Africa in a true and an honest manner.
Secondly, most of un-traveled Europeans and Americans are in darkness about Africa because of the over-nationalist type of education that the European and American children go through. This observation is not only based on the question of Caroline Broue to Chimamanda, but it is out of reflections about very many other incidences of similar gravitas in the past which help to attest to the fact that European and American chauvinist-like nationalism has very much interfered with the quality of social education in the Western World.
European Nationalism is not only focused on discrediting and deriding non-European cultures and countries, there is also similar derogatory inter-cultural relations among the European cultures not even to mention countries; George Orwell wrote a very long essay condemning Leo Tolstoy for having lambasted William Shakespeare for the theme of spiritual immorality in King Lear. This essay is anthologized in the Broadway Anthology of Interactive Essays under the title Lear, Tolstoy, and the Clown.
In the same tandem, H. G. Well in his book Outline of World History discredited Germany philosophers like Hegel, Schopenhauer, Fredriech Nietziesich, Sigmund Freud and Wolfgang Goethe as mere speculators, only to praise a Lord Byron, fellow countryman, an English Writer and poet as the only meaningful philosopher of the time. This was also the outlook of the 1800 English scholars towards the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte.
In Europe of earlier times, Cervantes in Don Quixote presented non-Spanish characters as arch-picaroons and savages, though he was fondly in his characterization of the Spanish characters. William Shakespeare always presented clowns and the emotionally weak the Moor, Romeo, Coriolanus and so forth, always as the non-English, but the wisest in the likes of the merry wives of Windsor as the English.
Thus, it is not wrong to conclude that the hunger for imperial power comes along with the thirsty for the dirty water rinsed from the dirty garment of others washed in public. Unfortunately, this imperial instinct among the Western societies is too strong when it comes to giving an African dog a bad, and in most cases a wrong name probably in cultural efforts to justify the subjection.
For example; Niall Campbell Ferguson, a very respected British Political historian and a senior research fellow at Jesus College at Oxford University, wrote in his book Wars of the World that Nandi people are from Uganda. When the true fact is that Nandi’s are a Kenyan community, there is no any Nandi community in Uganda.
Ben Carson, a politician, a top American neuro-surgeon at John Hopkins University and a bestselling author of Think Big and The Gifted Hands remarked in one of his public speeches that his origin is in Africa from the Turkana community of Tanzania. When the act of the matter is that the Turkana as a community is strictly found in Kenya, Uganda and Southern Sudan, not in Tanzania.
Hillary Clinton, in her book the Living History paraphrased a Swahili proverb about child-care into English which says that the way you bring up a child, is the way the child will be. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton argued that this is a Maasai proverb, instead of doing some research to establish the communal and ethnic source of the proverb which is actually Swahili.
In a similar stretch, one of the top Soviet-Russian geographer in the mid of the last century classified River Nile as one of the longest rivers of Europe. This was also the time around which a respected writer remarked that Africa is a country, and also the time when Saul Bellow an American literature Nobel laureate asked if an African Zulu can write like Leo Tolstoy, when in the the real sense Bellow was aware of the African conditions from which emanated Wole Soyinka, Masizi Kunene, Okot P’ Bitek, Nurrudin Farah, Sembene Ouasmene, Derrick Walcott, Marriama Ba, Frantz Fanon, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Kwameh Nkrumah, Buchi Emechita, Alex Haley, Richard Wright and Ngugi wa Thiong’o among others. All this mistaken knowledge among the respected Western scholars is not intentional but is an outcome of wrong Journalism and wrong education about Africa in the Western world.
Back to the question of Caroline Broue; this was not a question about Nigeria, but by logic of extension, it was a question about Africa, Caribbean Countries, South America, Papua New Guinea and all other countries in the post-colonized world. But because, Caroline was focused on Nigeria, my answers to her question will revolve around Nigeria; First, Nigeria has a higher population than France, it has a population of more than a hundred and fifty million people, Nigeria produces more technical professionals and scholars to the world in a year than France, Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye who operated a white American woman to remove a tumor from the spinal cord of a six months foetus and then safely returned it back to the womb to mature is one of such professionals.
World class University cities like Lagos, Ife, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Abeokuta, Onitsha, Nzuka and many others are Nigerian Cities. In 1943-1945 Nigeria was a British protectorate and this is the time Nigerian citizens heroically fought Adolf Hitler just the same way France was a colony of Germany seeking support from Britain to fight for French freedom from Nazi Occupation.
Nigeria is not a land-locked Country, it is a Chief exporter of Oil and very powerful member of the OPAC, it has a coast-line along Atlantic Ocean, its land mass blessed with endowment of minerals, its fauna is a potpourri of commercial plants, it has a good mellifluous climate without threat of winter-like extreme temperatures, and the farming population in Nigeria is very much assured of reliable rainfalls. Thus, I hope and believe that such conditions in any given country are enough to afford that country some bookstores.
It is true most of the bookstores selling books written in English are now threatened with closure by online-book-stores like Amazon.com, project Gutenberg.Org and Project Muse.org. Nigerian book stores are thus threatened with such emerging digital issues in book distribution. On a little scale Broue can eke her question on a pretext that Nigeria uses English as official language, and hence this can be a barrier to the flow of information about Nigeria to non-English speaking civilizations like France, but this does not prevent a journalist of global stature like Caroline Broue from making some attempt to find out basic facts beyond his or her mother tongue. There is no intellectual truth in Broue’s argument in her question that the only news she has ever heard about Nigeria is wars and Boko-Haram, thus she could not imagine of a bookstore in Nigeria. This is as if one is arguing that the recent Charlie Hebdo and City truck terrorist attack in Paris have disabled France from establishing any Bookstore.
Caroline Broue as Journalist and of course a potential writer can benchmark herself on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in many ways; She can read Chimamanda’s Half of the Yellow Sun , Americanah and also the Purple Hibiscus for the sake of learning that every time you want to write a story involving more than one country get the facts right. She can also Read Chimamanda’s Things Around Her Neck, Dear Ijeawele and Jumping The Monkey Hill (found on Granata website) to see the sense in why we are bound to respect each and every one.