Tell your story… no one else will tell it for you.

If you think this post is about Toke’s new book, you’d be half wrong. I’m writing this post because of a certain incident that happened two years ago and because of the backlash Toke’s facing for her book- so you’re half right…

 

There’s a certain blog my friend Hero introduced me to in 2014- waitbutwhy It’s a pretty popular intellectual in a quirky way blog and it’s run by two men with one of them doing most of the writing. Anyway the writer, Tim; was going on a four country tour and Nigeria was one of those countries. He’d announced his itinerary on the blog and he asked people in those countries to reach out to him so he could meet up with them. So I sent him an email, I was so excited about meeting him- dude is funny and smart. He did not reply my email until two months later, when he’d concluded his visit and even put up his Nigeria visit post on his blog.

 

He ended up staying with a poor family in a rural setting *somewhere in the southwest* and his post about that visit was another big contribution to the Africans wallowing in poverty narrative. I have never forgotten that incident, there’s nothing you can tell me that would convince me that he didn’t see my email. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t want to respond to my email and see me because he’d have had to include me in that post and we’d have met in Lagos or Benin (that was around the time I went to collect my call up letter from Uniben) and his readers might just see that Nigeria isn’t all poverty and lack of access to education and high mortality rates. Nigeria could also be like that woman at the bar with four inch stilettos and a sheer black gown ordering a martini in James Bond fashion- shaken not stirred, who transformed herself from the snooty nosed orphan of wars all by herself.

 

I have written about telling our stories before, twice actually. As a people we cannot afford to allow others craft the narratives that shape our lives, that tell of who we are. You see those narratives can never be wholly true, everyone has an agenda- no matter how altruistic they seem to be or think they are. One of my favourite quotes is by Nnam Chinua Achebe- “Until the lions get their own historian, the story of the hunt will continue to glorify the hunter”.

 

This brings me to Toke and her book, a pdf copy of her book feel into my laps on Wednesday and I read it before I went to bed. I was pleasantly surprised by the “ease of reading” I had with the book, it was well written too- I admit that I wasn’t expecting much anyway. Her story is familiar to most Nigerians who follow gossip blogs, I’m not doing a recap here. She basically maintained a stolid silence through all the travails she went through before getting married, during the marriage and the painful disintegration of her marriage- I wouldn’t have been that disciplined. She held it together even as she navigated the Lagos social scene (a party wasn’t complete without her presence), resisting the temptation to throw out words until she could cash in on it.

 

I have my issues with the story, the holes in it can let rat through but I am totally in support of her writing the book, of telling her story no matter how stupid it might seem. We need more narratives, more stories to show that we are a multifaceted people who live and love and make mistakes again and again.

 

Everyday I’m grateful for the internet and for the many Nigerians who run blogs and tell our stories with vigour and sprinklings of magic. Yes I’m grateful for you and for you…

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8 Comments

  1. There are a lot of ‘Tims’ over here, my dear! Their backyard stinks but they would be the first to run off to ‘Africa’ to go and ‘help’! There’s a Ghanaian proverb; can’t quite remember how it goes but something to the effect that ‘If the white man spreading his clothes in Africa because he has no space in his back yard’.

    We NEED to take back this Africa narrative and tell our stories, ourselves!

    Reply

  2. I agree with this hundred percent. I read that book with an open mind, and this is literally what I typed to my friend on whatsapp about this : All I am saying is toke is an imperfect human being, and if only to read and see how another person’s life and choices are shaped by events that happened earlier and by other factors, that book is a good book for that. And she is a nice person for real even with all her glass and terrible advice sometimes

    Reply

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