History

Achebe's The Trouble With Nigeria

By Tobi

10 quotes from Chinua Achebe's The Trouble With Nigeria.

Image: AP / Craig Ruttle via  The Atlantic .

Image: AP / Craig Ruttle via The Atlantic.

Achebe, Achebe, Achebe. I have gushed countlessly (okay, maybe twice) about his writing and why it never fails to resonate. One, for his ability to mirror the truth, and unapologetically so. Second, for his storytelling; his hilarious yet sharp-cutting narratives. More than anything, what distinguishes his work is its relevance – from his anti-colonial African Trilogy to A Man Of The People – which permeates several decades. This latter reason, notably, is major thanks to the fixity of Nigeria’s - its leaders and populace - unwillingness to implement radical change to upturn its history.

In his infamous booklet written in 1983, The Trouble With Nigeria, Nigeria’s years of political instability feature yet again as a canvas. The author brazenly discusses 10 fundamental areas that “cripple” and “inhibit” Nigeria as a state, people and nation. Achebe pools his varied experience and excerpts from daily newspapers to prove, indeed, that “the only thing [Nigeria] has learnt from experience is that we learn nothing from experience.” Of the numerous quotes favourited, I share 10 that that will leave you snapping your fingers while reading The Trouble With Africa Nigeria.

 

1. Where The Problem Lies

2. Tribalism

Whenever two Nigerians meet, their conversation will sooner of later slide into a litany of our national deficiencies...consigning a life-and-death issue to the daily routine of small talk.
Nothing in Nigeria’s political history captures her problem of integration more graphically than the chequered fortune of the word tribe in her vocabulary.

3. False Image Of Ourselves

4. Leadership, Nigerian-Style

I know enough history to realize that civilization does not fall down from the sky; it has always been the result of people’s toil and sweat, the fruit of their long search for order and justice under brave and enlightened leaders.
A basic element of [Nigeria’s leadership] misfortune is the absence of political thought of our founding fathers — a tendency to pious materialistic woolliness and self-centred pedestrianism.

5. Patriotism

6. Social Injustice and the Cult of Mediocrity

A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people.

...the real explosive potential of social injustice in Nigeria does not reside in the narrow jostling among the elite but in the gargantuan disparity of privilege they have created between their tiny class and the vast multitudes of ordinary Nigerians.

7. Indiscipline

8. Corruption

There is indeed no better place to observe the thrusting indiscipline in Nigeria than on the roads: frenetic energy, rudeness, noisiness...
Nigerians are corrupt today because the system under which they live today makes corruption easy and profitable...

9. The Igbo Problem

10. The Example Of Aminu Kano

The lack of real leaders in Igboland goes back, of course, to the beginnings of colonial administration...the average Igbo leader’s mentality has not been entirely free of the collaborating Warrant Chief syndrome.
...you have told us that you want our votes so that you can serve us. If we get killed while you are getting the vote, who then will you serve?

Have you read Achebe's The Trouble With Nigeria? What are your favourite quotes?


 

Where To Read In Abuja

This article is the second in a series on where to read in Nigeria, and is written in partnership with Twang Africa - an online retailer, distributor and collector based in Abuja. We'll call this one cafés and libraries.

BY TWANG AFRICA

All around the world, cafés are the go-to inspiration hub for writers and readers. Be it to get some work done, meet new people or just for some pictures to earn some cool points on Instagram, here are two cafés in Abuja that we highly recommend.

 

CLASSIC ROCK COFFEE

Image: Classic Rock Coffee.

Image: Classic Rock Coffee.

Located at Ajesa Close, just off the ever busy Aminu Kano Crescent, Classic Rock Coffee is a café full of chic splendour. Once you step into the building, you immediately feel at home as the aroma of fresh coffee wafting effortless in the air welcomes you. The ambience is sophisticated, with a setting that crosses between contemporary and rock and roll.

On the walls are pictures of rock artists and covers of some of the greatest rock albums. You can’t help but get lost in the pictures and grand décor as even their coffee tables are actual drums! You’ll need a constant nudge to remind you that you’re visiting for something else – to read! You could either take a seat at the lounge upstairs or by the bar downstairs.

Either one you choose, you are sure to be welcomed by their very friendly staff. Classic Rock Coffee offers a variety of cocktails, mocktails, smoothies and - as you’ll guess from its name - great coffee! If you get hungry, you could always get something off their incredible menu. It may, however, not be the perfect spot for quiet readers as there’s always music playing through the speakers. Not to worry though, it’s good music!

Tip: they have Karaoke nights on Wednesday evenings, and a live band on Fridays.

Go For: great coffee, chic ambience and inspiration.

Avoid If: quiet reader and on a budget.

 

SALAMADER CAFE

Salamander Café is a favourite among writers, readers, expatriates and the general art community in Abuja. It is located in Wuse II. Here, you will find a small but dazzling space with a chilled vibe. The food - ranging from Pasta to great salads to traditional meals - and drinks are always a delight, and so are the staff. Must, however, warn that it is a little pricey!

A peculiar thing about Salamander is that it doubles as a mini bookstore. Towards the extreme end of the room, there is a beautiful space dedicated to the best of Nigerian authors like Leye Adenle, Toni Kan and Edify Yakusak. For book connoisseurs like us at Twang Africa, Salamander always leaves us inspired.

All in all, Salamander Café have you wanting to come back.

Tip: events and book launches are often held here. It may be worth getting in touch before visiting to read or work.

Go For: (non-)accidentally bump into an Nigerian author.

Avoid If: can’t resist the temptation of new books. Home is always safe - well, not entirely so, with Twang Africa just a click away!

 

LIBRARIES

Libraries are typically discarded as places to read leisurely, and are often a last resort for many in Abuja and nationwide; owing to the fact that most are poorly maintained, and in most cases, people don’t know that 316 libraries exist! Nonetheless, libraries are a great place to read, research and work.

 

YAR’ADUA LIBRARY

Image: Architectonics and Style.

Image: Architectonics and Style.

The Yar’Adua Library is located in the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, and was built in honour of former President Shehu Yar’Adua. The centre has a gorgeous atrium (meaning plenty of natural light!), a museum and its extensive library. For a monthly fee of 10,000 Naira, you can make use of the library which has an exciting range of books that cuts across several subjects and genres. It also has free Wi-Fi (always a plus!) and good space.

Tip: events are often held at the centre, making it noisy at times. Call in before visiting to double check schedule for the day.

Avoid If: secluded places are preferred.

Go For: conventional reading spaces and exploring new subject area

 

BMT AFRICA GARDEN LIBRARY

Image: Twang Africa.

Image: Twang Africa.

Just by the Swiss Embassy is a narrow road which leads to the entrance of the BMT Africa Garden Library. You walk into a gem of a garden with lovely fountains, a mini zoo, lots of green areas, lounges and chill spots. At BMT, you’ll also find a mini exhibition of photographs and artefacts.

The library itself is relatively new and doesn’t have a huge selection of books but the quiet and serene environment makes up for it. What makes BMT stand out is its multifunctional space. You’re not restricted to the four corners of its library. Should you need some stretch, you could settle in the garden chairs to read.

Though access to the garden is free, the use of the library is not. You can subscribe to be a member for 5,000, 10,000 or 20,000 Naira per month, quarter or year, respectively. We’d, however, say to buy something - as little as a cold drink - if you use the garden space.

Tip: be careful when entering through its really narrow path which leads downhill to the garden.

Go For: quiet and serene reading/working space.

Avoid If: Not animal friendly. Peacocks, ostriches and other animals could be found lounging. Don’t fear  — the dangerous ones are locked!

 

Other great Cafés and Libraries worth checking out in Abuja are the Bunna Café (the coffee there is to kill for!), Metro Café and the National Library in Area 2.


Got any good reading or working spot in Abuja we should know about? Kindly share below or via our social media pages, and let us what type of reader/worker it caters to. 

Where To Read In Lagos: Part I

This article is the first in a series on where to read in Nigeria. The Lagos edition is split into two parts - one covering Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki, and the second covering Lagos Island and the mainland. 

BY TOBI

Sometimes, reading at home just does not cut it. Your attention is often either being pulled in ten thousand directions, or your inspiration tank could easily find itself on reserve. For me, quirky and creative spaces with good bites and great coffee make the perfect work spot! On moving to Lagos, one of the first questions I asked anyone I met was "where would be a good spot to work or read?" My flexible work hours and a recommendation by writer and photographer, Eloghosa Osunde, have had me scouring through Lagos for the cosiest and most inspiring spots - few of which I share below.

 

CAFE NEO

Image: Cafe Neo; pictured is the Agoro Odiyan outlet.

Image: Cafe Neo; pictured is the Agoro Odiyan outlet.

The moment your loyalty points are racked up enough to buy you a cup of coffee or two in just six weeks, you know that the coffee is either really good, or you have an addiction to tend to. Pleading guilty to both charges, though more of the former, this is my Cafe Neo story

Cafe Neo is where the freelancers, entrepreneurs and writers in Lagos convene - I tend to call it Lagos' Starbucks! Each outlet has a peculiar and vibrant feel, with clean and earthy decor; the workspace, with the exception of their 'pop up' outlets, would usually have a combination of sofas, stools and chairs, so you can stand, bend or stretch as much as it pleases you.

Their coffee is the best (or second best - Four Point's cinnamon latté is surprisingly good!) I have had in Lagos. Non-coffee lovers are also in for a treat as they also offer fresh juices, hot chocolate and wine. Nibbles wise, they serve the yummiest carrot cake and offer a few pastries and snacks. My advice would be to grab a meal before committing your day there, unless calories are your thing.

For a fairly quiet or an outdoor Neo experience, go to the Adeyemi Lawson outlet. If you go on a Sunday, consider watching an open-air movie afterwards. Of the five of eleven outlets on the Island I have visited, my favourite, however, remains Cre8 - the Agoro Odiyan branch in VI. If you visit, tell Precious that I sent you! You will walk away with the warmest smile, and the best-made drink!

Tip: you can have your hot drinks made with caramel, vanilla or chocolate syrup! If you are lactose intolerant, ask for Soya milk. You also want to have your croissant hot!

Go For: Coffee, meeting (new) people, free wifi, music and good vibes.

Avoid If: Quiet reader, on a diet, and do not want to see someone you know.

 

ART CAFE

Art Café is indeed a hub for inspiration. It has a bohemian, hippy and chique feel to it - something like a convergence of Central European Countries, France and the Middle-East. If you are looking for somewhere "alté"or retro, Art Café in VI, is certainly the place for you.

If it is not hanging from the ceiling, you can find art hanging on the wall next to you, or in the gallery downstairs. It is the perfect spot for a creative to get lost in! They serve hot drinks, chapman, wine and beer (on tap, too!) and in true cafe style, a few bites - although I must confess that I was not impressed with the turkey toastie I had, especially not for the price.

That being said, it is a little pricey. If you are balling on budget, this is certainly not the place to stunt. While the ambience is fantastic, it loses a few points for comfort as the tables are so far away from the sofa. If you are solely there to sink into a book, the sofa is perfect. If like me, however, you have back pains, ditch the sofa, and come with a pillow for the regular chairs. 

If you prefer to work silently, Art Café may not be the place for you, as you will seldom find indoors nor the cute terrace quiet. Even on less busy afternoons, you are guaranteed to assimilate two stories - the one you are reading, and the one spilling from the next table. Consider visiting the gallery, and then walking down to Browns' on the same road - Eloghosa swears by their pancakes!

Tip: go on a Friday afternoon, and unwind with a shandy, addictive nuts and live music playing from 7pm on Friday nights. You can also get your hot drink made with Soya milk!

Go For: Art Gallery, Bohemian inspiration, free wifi, and draft beers.

Avoid If: Hungry, minimalist, and not a fan of people watching.

 

BOGOBIRI house

Bogobiri has a special place in my heart for thousands of reasons. You feel its eclectic, pan-African and antique vibe as soon as you walk through the gates. Turn to the left for its restaurant, walk straight down to a mini library and space of open mic nights, or turn right for its souvenir shop.

The real gem is, however, the Nimbus Art Hub, which can up found up the spiral stairs by the graffiti encased wall. The space is heaven for all art-lovers, history- and culture- enthusiasts, music lovers and bookworms. You are welcomed by an extensive library with a wide range. If you are looking for an old book, or looking to uncover your roots through literature, look no further!

From the quirky chairs to the hand-placed shells on the walls, Bogobiri is all sorts of feels. The first time I visited, I walked into a room with old vinyl records of the greatest African classics, and danced and sang along to Ipitombi as the Art-gallery manager, Chike, educated me on pre-colonial Africa and the importance of history, books and heritage. Need I say how at home I felt?!

The space is great for reading, and meeting other like-minded people. A plus is the delightful food - it is affordable and good value for money! It does take a couple of minutes, so be prepared to get through a chapter with a cup of tea. If you are looking for a stay-cation in Lagos, their hotel would make the perfect spot. You might just be lucky to get fresh Moringa leaves like I did, too!

Tip: sign up to become a member, and have access to their extensive library! They have live music playing on Monday/Wednesday nights; Spoken word on Thursday night and Reggae on Saturdays!

Avoid If: On a diet, uninterested in (African) history, and detest nature. 

Go For: Art Gallery, great food, a discovery of self and history and fast wifi.

 

JAZZHOLE

Jazzhole is your one-stop-shop for everything (Afro-) Jazz and Juju music: from old school Sino Bakare to new school Asa. What draws you in is, however, their array of books on display! Again, with a wide range - that is, from classic books to your latest authors - Jazzhole has it all.

Just a few minutes in, you are bound to get lost in its vintage feel, and forget you are in Lagos! The space is such a stark contrast to the madness you walk in from on Awolowo road in Ikoyi - it is warm, friendly and exhilarating! Further down is a cute work space with a homely cafe and a live music set-up right opposite it. Here, you can also grab cakes, coffee, tea and freshly made juices.

With Jazzhole, I would caution that discipline is needed in abundance. You can easily spend your time drooling over their books, or feeling so inspired, you finish your read in no time! To be honest, either way is a win-win. The former was the case when I visited with Niki, who could not stop gushing about authors I knew nothing about, and literature on the Soviet Union. 

The 'downside' about Jazzhole, however, is the price of the books - they can leave you clutching your chest tightly, and your purse tighter. Thus, budget ballers, beware! For me, it makes such a cute and artsy spot to read as it drowns out the noise of Lagos. The tables and chairs are quite small, so do avoid bringing your whole library. Ask for Mr(s) Tejousho if in need of a story or two! 

Tip: they often have jazz nights, listening sessions and (international) artistes play.

Go For: Jazz or live music, fresh juices and smoothies, and classic literary finds.

Avoid If: On a budget and like spacious reading/working area.

 

A few other spots I would recommend would be Blowfish, Maison Fahrenheit and Radisson Blu - all in VI; Wheatbaker in Ikoyi; Four Points in Lekki. These are all hotels with beautiful and calming poolside spaces. The latter's rooftop and restaurant downstairs are perfect reading spots!


Got any favourite reading or working spots in Lagos we should know about? Kindly share below or via our social media pages, and let us know why it's a must-go!