Okey Ndibe presents “Arrows of Rain” in Lagos in conversation with Toni Kan
US-based Nigerian writer, academic and journalist Prof Okey Ndibe was in Lagos to present his critically-acclaimed novel, Arrows of Rain at Rovingheights Bookstore in Victoria Island, Lagos on Saturday 14 May 2022.
The political novel, first published by Heinemann African Writers Series 22 years ago, has been republished in Nigeria by BookCraft.
The event tagged: Okey Ndibe in Conversation with Toni Kan, lived up to its billings.
It was an evening of humour, laughter and memories. Ndibe, who displayed a sense of humour, fielded questions not only from Toni Kan but also from the audience. The author read excerpts from his book and in a novel manner asked the audience to take turns to read from it as well. And they did it wonderfully well.
Ndibe spoke about the important roles Professors Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, two writers he is indebted to – had played and continues to play in his life. He narrated an encounter he had had with Achebe while doing his national service as a reporter with The Guardian. After the three hour long interview with Achebe, he discovered to his chagrin that not a single word was recorded by his recorder.
“That story is an amazing story because he and I stayed in his office for almost three hours. I asked him questions and I came back to Enugu. Two of my friends came and they said they wanted to hear Achebe’s voice … I brought out the tape recorder, pressed play, nothing. I put in another cassette, pressed play, nothing. I interviewed Achebe for close to three hours and my tape recorder did not catch one word that he said. And I was so in awe of him,“ Ndibe said and the audience roared with laughter.
With great trepidation, Ndibe called Achebe and asked for another interview, which he granted. “Three days later I returned with three tape recorders. So Achebe saved my career,” he said
Ndibe described Soyinka as a man of extraordinary kindness. “Soyinka has done so much for me. So much.” He spoke about the first time he met Soyinka when he and Ohi Alegbe interviewed him after he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. He also talked about the glowing recommendation Soyinka had given him for his first teaching job in America and his crisscrossing about, adding that he always met him in so many airports across the world.
“Sometimes I would be at the airport and I would say ‘let me look around, Soyinka might be there.’ And he would be there. He would keep walking. I would chase after him. He would say, ‘ah Okay, let’s go and obtain,’” Ndibe reminisced. “So I have been very, very fortunate. Soyinka has been so kind to me,” he said.
In his speech, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, former Managing Director Daily Times, whom Ndibe had described as one of the stars who made The Guardian what it was, went down memory lane, when he said young journalists like Ndibe inspired them at The Guardian, referring to his brilliance. “Stanley Macebuh used to say to me, ‘these young men, they will kill us here.’ So looking back now, they inspired us, not the other way round,” Ogunbiyi maintained.
Responding, Ndibe said with a sense of humour: “This is so moving to hear somebody who was an inspiration in leadership at The Guardian say that we inspired them, I will send you my bank details for the alert. Thank you very much,” and the hall erupted with laughter.
The acclaimed writer averred that he kept telling people that Nigeria is an open wound. Rather than heal, those who run this country as it were, open the wound more and more.
“It is time that we began to look inwards and say to ourselves what isn’t that we are willing to accept, what impunity. Where do we draw the line and say here and no further.
“So I say to all of us we must decide -individually and hopefully through groups of like minded kindred spirits – where we draw the line. If a politician cannot say that this act is unacceptable and that the perpetrators of it must be held to account we must decide whether we want to give this man a second of consideration as a potential president.”
Ndibe was referring to former Vice President and presidential aspirant Atiku Abubakar, whom he says lost an opportunity to make a human statement when he retracted his earlier condemnation of the murder of Deborah Samuel, a 200 level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto.
Deborah was lynched and burnt by Muslim fanatics who had accused her of blasphemy on Thursday 12 May 2022.