By Bamidele Salako, Jan 23, 2018
I think Chimamanda Adichie is being overly gracious for attempting at all to excuse the French journalist for that unsavoury and reprehensible choice of question – if there are bookshops in Nigeria. What?!!!
CNN’s Stephanie Busari called her response during the interview “an epic clapback to a ridiculous question” https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2018/01/26/africa/chimamanda-adichie-clapback-nigeria/index.html
I mean, to start with, you’re a journalist. What trained, well-read journalist worth their salt asks if there are bookshops in Africa’s largest economy by GDP with millions of its citizens doing their heritage proud in various fields of endeavour all across the developed world, even in France? Many of these exceptional immigrants had their early education in Nigeria – perhaps more had their tertiary education in Nigeria and have gone on to record enviable feats in workplaces in first world economies. More have distinguished themselves in global business and industry and of course, on the literary scene. In this global room that technology has boxed us in, there’s ignorance of a certain strand that is completely inexcusable.
International media organisations regularly cover Africa and do features on the myriad positive aspects of the continent’s emerging economies. CNN International for example, taps into the economic and sponsorship potentials on the continent through programs like Inside Africa, Marketplace Africa, African Startup – assured pipelines of sponsorship dollars from African cum Nigerian enterprises like Dangote, First Bank of Nigeria, Zenith Bank and others. The continent’s young, dynamic and enterprising startups as well as the crown jewels of big business are regularly featured. Agreed that the programs are mostly tailored for African audiences but helloooo google? The internet? And these countries do not have bookshops?
If your French audience isn’t acquainted with developments in Africa or Nigeria in particular, their bad! If Nigerians know Emmanuel Macron and French folk don’t know Muhammadu Buhari – who then do we crown the poster boys for barnstorming ignorance? This was the same France that Nigerians empathised with in social media during the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks ooo.
Let’s even agree with the journalist’s admission of the gross lack of exposure of French people so much so they aren’t aware Nigeria has bookshops, a supposedly trained journalist then proceeds to ask a condescending question that portrayed, pampered and reinforced that ignorance. You’re interviewing a globally acclaimed writer and novelist from Nigeria who at some point received a Nigerian education and you ask her if there are bookshops in her country in this 21st Century?!
If it was a rookie journalist that asked this question, we might pardon him/her but this obviously experienced hand simply revealed herself as an archetype of the eurocentricity and the social exclusivity that makes certain Europeans and Americans wilfully turn a blind eye to Africa’s publicised awesome aspects while stubbornly insisting on upholding a narrow narrative of a people who need to be rescued from themselves, with whites the divinely appointed saviours. Talk about white saviour industrial complex.
So much for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion – words that feature prominently in European and American lexicon but that in practice, we keep realising hold no real value for many.
I recall an African-American, of all people o – an Akata, asking me at a diner in downtown Washington DC if there are houses in Africa after I told him I was from Nigeria. I told him there are Nigerians who live in houses more expensive than he could ever afford even if he did nothing but work every hour of every day for the rest of his life. No I didn’t tell him that but something close.
Meanwhile, are there even phones in Nigeria? I am even typing this on the stone tablet my caveman pal cut out of Olumo rock yesterday. Nonsense and French fries🙄😏