Unbridled Delight: A Pre-Review Of ‘The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ by Chimamanda Adichie

When was the last time you stumbled on a piece of writing that made you laugh, then made you cry? Then made you laugh through your tears?

When was the last time you read a piece that said all you have always wanted to say yet couldn’t quite find the words or the time or the skill to say it? And did so in a few hundred words?

When was the last time you read something that touched you, gripped you, wouldn’t let you go?

For me the answer is simple: tonight.

It had been a long day, a tiring week and I was just scrolling through the ‘Please Read’ links littered on my phone without missing a beat. Experience had taught me that most weren’t going to be my idea of a pleasurable read. Even the writer’s ‘big name’ wasn’t enough to get me reading:

‘The Miraculous Deliverance of Oga Jona’

It is probably just another drawn out opinion piece harping on the things we know already. I thought. What else was there to say? That hadn’t been said already?

But I was wrong. Ah, I was so wrong.

The story begins with an awakening. Oga Jona, the main character, wakes up miraculously delivered. Upon rising, he discovers all he had been doing and saying wrong and has logical, tangible ideas on how to get things done right.

And wonder of wonders, he starts to do them.

I won’t give anything away here, but let me say the responses of his erstwhile praise singing minions alone are worth your eye time. Plus, there are enough generous spoonfuls of allusion, sub-text,irony and sharp jabs stirred in throughout the tale to make you wish for more.

Midway through the piece I found myself laughing, but as it drew to a close, tears were dripping down my cheeks. They were tears of hope and hopelessness, a rivulet of unspoken dreams and wishes for my dear country Nigeria.

Ms Adichie has done something special here. She has expertly woven the searing pain of the patriotic Nigerian, the possibilities of our desperate situation and the potency of literary magic into an adorable piece that will certainly outlive our time.

One can’t help but wish that this story and @zebbook’s stirring piece “The Gospel According To Farouk”, the best of @elnathan’s “How To Be A Nigerian…” series and a some other great works of contemporary Nigerian satire were made into a book/e-book.

Moreso, one can’t help wishing some Nollywood director would be bold enough to buy the rights to this and make it into a film. I would buy one.

Why, I would buy a hundred.

Because, the message here needs to be shared, needs to be talked about, needs to shown in every Nigerian salon, bustop, market,home and phone.

Today, we still marvel at Fela Kuti’s music and it’s timeless classic message. Fela used his gift to speak about the ills in the society of his day. I can’t sing Afro juju. And well neither can most of us but we can read and we can write. We can ping, and we can tweet. So let’s read and write and act and share.

Let’s get the ‘Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ All the attention it deserves and some.

Let’s share it on BBM, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Whatsapp and Beyond.

Please let’s read ‘The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ here and comeback back here for some healthy discourse.

And possibly a proper review.

Stay tuned.


Anti-WalterGate: 7 Steps To Smart Cheating.

The deaf have read and the blind heard that young ladies are confessing their adultery to blogshpere. Aside from being a sin, and a shame, cheating is also a crime. You don’t want to be caught. You don’t want your name to join the Register Of The InFamous: Clinton, Sanusi, Woods, Lewinsky, Stewart,Lafave….

So, here is what you should do.

1. Don’t.

Don’t cheat. You are bigger than that. Come on. Think about it: why should less than a kilo of meat get you make you risk so much? The excitement? You can do better. You have a wide range of options: self-service, licenced and celibate. Choose one and make it work. Tape your eyes shut. Have a cold bath. Go for a walk. Count sheep. Watch a movie. Write comments on my blog.

2. Don’t.

Hey? Still here? I meant everything I said. It always ‘comes to light’ at the end of the day. Imagine how your partner will feel. And your parents. And your kids. And your colleagues. And that neighbour that never liked you. It isn’t worth the sweat. Don’t burn yourself for a waffle. Don’t trade your birthright for beans.

3. Don’t Reveal Your Identity.

It is true isn’t it? From the days of the woman caught red-handed in the act of adultery. (I wonder where her partner was? Did she cheat alone? Questions that make feminists riot.)

And as a pig that must wallow, a dog that must lap it back up– your mind is made up.

Conceal your identity.

Yes. If you must. Do it with a stranger. Of course you have to know them enough for them to get that close to you. And to make sure they don’t end up murdering you. (RIP Cynthia).

That’s what aliases are for.

If your name is Solomon Fat Oyinbo for instance, you could call yourself Solo. Or Toyin. Or Oyinbo. Or Fat even.
That is shorter than No-MoreProblems and sexier than Blue Ivy. Less Problematic than giving away your real name.

What ever. Just choose something you won’t forget. The more common the better. Keep your bio-data out of it. Stick to the aims of the game. Remember the proverb that says if you must eat a toad, make it a fat one. And keep it anonymous.

4. Don’t Leave A Trail.

Remember you are on a covert mission. Don’t get sloppy. Sometimes the pheromones surge and you find yourself wanting to buy things, take pictures and sleep over. Don’t.

If you must, give, have someone else buy it. Keep no paper trails. Never shop for your partner. Never shop WITH your partner. Ever heard of CCTV? Close circuit Television monitoring?

If you must take pictures, you do the photography. No “pictures for later”. No nudes. Nada.

Never fall asleep. No naps. No post coital snooze. No sleep overs. You will wake up to your photos on Facebook. On Twitter and BBM, they’ll be stale.

5. Don’t Advertise .

Sexual attraction is a stupid thing. It crashes people’s IQs and sucks out their brains. So don’t be surprised when you start feeling a need to flaunt your new catch. Kill it. The need of course. (Hope you didn’t think of killing the catch.) There must be no public displays of affection: no holding hands, no pecks on the forehead, no nuzzling and no sustained eye contact.

You are doing something dangerous and stupid. Try to play the dice.

6. Don’t Be Dumb, Use Condoms.

I shouldn’t even mention this. With the global rates of HIV, Herpes 1, Herpes 2, Hepatitis, Chlamydia, Incurable Gonorreah, Syphillis, Warts, Chancroid, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease etc. You should already know this.

You don’t, so let’s say this slowly.

Don’t add stupidity to iniquity.

Use a condom.

1. Buy it at a store. (Not from an itinerant quack)
2. Make sure it’s not expired.
3. Don’t use oil based lubricants.
4. Pinch the tip before you roll.
5. One per act.
6. Remove immediately.
7. Pray it doesn’t burst.

Do all that all the time.

7. Don’t Do It With Someone That Has Little To Lose.

It’s a tango. Don’t choose a partner that ll land you on the floor. An ideal partner is as motivated to keep it secret as you are. They won’t push for more. They won’t publish your last rendezvous. They are as scared as you are.
Yeah, you must have noticed that the tips are all flawed. Stop. Before you get caught. Or get sick. Or worse.

Questions & Answers.

Is anything hidden under the sun?

How long can you conceal your identity?

Don’t they see you on TV talking about CBN policy?

Isn’t your face on all the billboards?

They did. It is.

How low can you keep it when it takes two to tango?
Not low enough.

What about when the condom bursts? Ouch.

How can you stay clean?
Won’t you call?
Won’t you chat?
Won’t DM?

You will and they will munch your chat. You will forget to “erase chat” one day. You will fall asleep with the computer on. Your partner will have a guilt crisis and feel the need to squeal.

And Anti-WalteGate Updated will be posted.

How To Write A Caine Prize Story (Whatever That Is) Part 2

As promised, you are about to receive the second part of your instructions on this treatise. Heed them well and very soon, your name shall join those being celebrated in print,on air and online. It has been noted that some of you have already begun applying these nuggets in earnest . This is most commendable, the shortlist seeker must be a person with their wits about them. Time is of the essence. Now to business.

7. Avoid Technology .

When crafting such an important story, you might be tempted to mention some of the latest communication gadgets: mobile phones, laptops, Ipads,Tablets and the like . This temptation you must resist. However the mistake you must never make is to mention the internet! You are also not permitted any hint of the Social Media world, space may not permit to list them all but surely you understand. Yes, Facebook and Twitter are not allowed. This is an absolute. So when you feel the need to have characters sending email,pinging on blackberries, and skyping remember–you have been warned. Telephones are allowed though, provided their connections crackle with static. Also no guns, you can use sticks, stones and occasionally a machete for your violent scenes. Don’t mention any of the anti-aircraft guns possessed by insurgents. Be silent on the sophisticated assault riffles used for election violence. Don’t even let a character wish for them. Care less about how this might hinder the plausibility of your story, or render your narrative unauthentic. Ignore this at your peril.

8. Never Write A Heterosexual Romance

The quick learner you are , you must have read through the shortlists of as many years as are on the internet. You must have found that any kind of love is well received except the old fashioned type that exists between a man and a woman. (i mentioned this in a in 5 above but it bears repeating)
So let ladies touch jambullas or get caught by their mothers or men face trials for love. Just make sure it is not a man-woman thing. You will be on prize story ground.
If you must include any heterosexual romantic liaisons it must be in the context of a Fable or an affair. Forbidden love like forbidden fruit always sells.
You would better off without it though. This is to assist, if you insist.

9. Use Your Story To Highlight Political Issues

Here corruption is an instant winner. Crude oil spillage, bad governance, inefficient civil servants will come handy, arm yourself with a lot of them.. You must be quite expansive here, ensure no one is innocent. Everyone must have a trace of corrupt even the expatriate embassy staff. It is a guaranteed winner. Political issues create a resonance in your readers. It reminds them vividly of the Africa they see on television. Don’t you dare enlighten them. Take a clue from the stories shortlisted in the past. Never mind the “new” African focus. The new is silent.

10. Get Your Story Published Overseas

Of course there is a 20% chance of making it on the shortlist by getting published by a home based outfit. This you can in no way guarantee. The easier matter is to be in the 80%. That should be quite self explanatory. Besides it would be quite the task to convince a local publisher that children’s bodies are black with crude oil in Port Harcourt or that you need 3000 words to describe a fictitious healing. Western publishers however would be delighted. Besides where exactly would you find a publisher to accept just a short story from you ? Not in Nigeria definitely and not in Serria Leone. Simple statistics, get the story published overseas.

11. Be Blind To Other Races.

You might have observed first-hand some fascinating yarn that involves Indians, Chinese and Lebanese living on the continent. You might even have gotten a fast moving authentic story written and under the word count too. Unfortunately this you would have to discard. A shortlist story must not feature any of these, ever. There is a picture of Africa in your reader’s mind, your duty is just to highlight it. Zoom on it if you will. Any attempts at radical,rebellious,experimental, what-if thinking will meet the fate of the 92. And like them your story will languish in the endless literary cosmos, unread and un-appreciated, soon to be forgotten…. A most unbearable thought.

12. Limit Infrastructure.

This point you know already so it will be brief. Write only of the kind of infrastructure all the other writers have written of. Again this is reminiscent of
7 above but a slightly different matter. Transport for instance. Your story must never feature aeroplanes. Private jets are anathema as are any air conditioned vehicle. Bicycles,canoes, leg breaking motorcycles and rickety buses with smelling women are allowed though, so make good use of them. Note that the roads must always be bumpy, “sandy and brown ” and bumpy.
Also any mention of the following in your stories will be deeply frowned upon : fast food outlets, universities, cinema theatres,shopping malls, picnics, carnivals and parties. Forget your ambitious entertainment industry and their like. You must stay within the boundaries set from old. As in E.C.Osondu’s Waiting, Monica Arac De Nyeko’s Jambulla Tree, Noviolet Bulawayo’s Hitting Budapest, you must paint a bleak picture and do that deftly.

At this point you are ready to produce a shortlist story. Of course you would not attempt to set your story in a futuristic context. What? This is not genre fiction! There are other concerns like the liberal use of mosquitoes, nauseating smells and the ubiquitous eye disorders and the absence of banks. These you will discover in time and be all the more shortlist worthy when you do. There are other matters of course, punctuation, continuation, omissions ( now known as typos). These are minor matters that the help of a first rate editor can easily solve, another reason to examine with care where you send your story. It feels bad to let you go now, but all good things must end. Go, put your name on the Caine Prize shortlist roll call, 2014 is just months away. Best wishes. Adieu.

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How To Write A Caine Prize Story ( Whatever That Is) Part 1

Nta Bassey

First you must know, that this is not a guide on how to win the Caine Prize. Rotimi Babatunde, Noviolet Bulawayo or Olufemi Terry and co would do well to write that. This is merely concerned with getting you on the shortlist , and for that you must be grateful. For if Sir Michael Caine never did have a prize, your name would still be deeply ensconced in Africa’s jungles known only by your town crier. Now, back to business.

1. Choose Your Title Carefully, Two Words Max.

You might love a long title like Romie Scott’s ” A Robot Walks Into A Bar And Says” or Laurie Kubuitsile’s “In The Spirit Of McPhineas Lata” ( She made the shortlist in 2011 but that’s old school now). Those might get you gung-ho fans and instant interest; but remember it is global recognition you crave. Make your title simple and to the point- Bayan Layi, Miracle, America, Whispering Trees, Foriegn Aid.
You see? Two words max. Forget all those editors that insist that a short fiction title must not be a summary but a revelation. Forget anything that would arrest a reader’s attention. Think economy, think simple-minded, think bland.

2.Renounce Your Faith

As a African it is very likely that you believe in God, gods or goddesses. Well,that has to stop now. As a Caine prize hopeful, you are only allowed to believe in ghosts. If your writings show any respect for things that can not be explained and experimented, woe betide you. Islam is only to be mentioned to justify man’s inhumanity to man or to declare one’s independence from it. Christianity can feature but only to show how deceptive and manipulative its clerics are. You may also mention it while alluding to homophobic parents,nothing else. Don’t venture into Traditional religion. Ghosts though are welcome, witches and wizards too. Yeah, they love Harry Potter that much. An utterance should suffice for the shortlist seeker.

3.Bring Out All Africa’s Dirty Linen.

Pa Ikhide and Binavanga Wainaina have spoken extensively about this. ( C’mon, don’t be lazy,google it!) Don’t dare to present Africa in anything but her shabbiest. And if though shabbily dressed she attempts to stun with her wit ,courage or resilience then slap her, better still hack her with a sharp machete or shove on the forehead –DOWN! Dig out the most depraved and contrived of her vices. Turn your hungry cousins to urchins, your broke friends to beggars, your street kids to mafia men. Whatever you do, keep the propaganda pumping–Africa, is a country,one of poverty,stupidity,ignorance, corruption, bigotry and disease.

4. Break EVERY Short Fiction Rule You Ever Heard Or Read.

This is one is simple. Dawdle your words, triple your adverbs, let adjectives litter your prose like confetti. If you can tell a scene with four words use forty. Tell everything as if you are writing for prehistoric preschool children that can’t google broom or slum or snow. Pour in Simile and Metaphor by the handfuls, make sure everything is like something.  Leave all your fillers in as well. Take this qoute from this year’s shortlist for instance “an orange tree grew,and a guava tree, and a mango tree…” see? You are three words closer to three thousand ,for free! If that fails then just vacillate, give people titles like Saint, use that to get a ten word bonus. If you are stuck , just imagine camera crew on a Nollywood film site and describe the same scene through each of their lenses. Yeah, that should do it, works best for church scenes though. Good, now you know.

5.Find The Western Angle, Flog It Till Your Readers Faint.

Again this works best when you are reffering to religion. The judges can not have enough about a character’s crimes being passed on as the will of Allah. They go wild when you tell them how you faked a miracle you didn’t get. Allude to it, at least in the parents of your gay partner, or better still let your main character do it Jonah style–one man against his Maker. If that isn’t your style you could go for second best which is homosexuality. Glamourise it, romanticize it, fantacisize it , demonise it, just do it. Every major global  literary prize has had healthy doses of queerness in it from the 2012 common wealth pacific region winner–Two Girls In A Boat , to the 2012 Caine Prize shortlist tale– S. Kenani’s Love On Trial . The odds are in your favour, write with them.
If you are still squirming about those, at least, this should be doable– Glorify the immigration experience. You can do it obliquely, directly, subtley, or glaringly( remember peppering your work with adverbs as stated in 4 above), but make it count. Turn America into a bank where a hundred dollar bill is mistaken for two twenties. Make her a Snow Wonderland where even “fruits glisten”. Paint her as a  generous haven of broke African Charlatans. The choice is yours. If you can’t do any of these, then perhaps you are on the wrong web page. Log out now, time is money.

6. Write In The First Person.

Forget what your writing workshop teacher said or what you read, the Caine prize short list is serious business and you must do drastic things to get on it. So throw away all those works in the third person limited or the All Seeing Eye Of God (eww! how religious!). Discover your voice. Afterall isn’t this all about you and your winning story? Exactly! So even if you’ve never attempted walking around with a blindfold you can become quite the authority on counting footsteps from your house to the nearest bus stop. Moreso, you can tell us about road trips form Port Harcourt to Lagos that last just eight hours done on your visa interview day. You can also speak of miracles forced on the unbelieving, afterall, its not like the judges read their bibles. In the first person you can also let your author’s voice roam free. Instead of a street child thinking of survival, he can calmly philosophise on Allah and his strange ways. Even a final year medical student’s mind can be reset to avoid nightmares on differential diagnosis, prognosis, probable opthalmology surgery or anything like that. You are the boss remember? Now go and act like it! Don’t forget to mention me in your BBC interview though. That would really hurt.

At time of posting I was visited by my muses, they whispered various other secrets to writting a Caine Prize story, so keep a date with us on this blog. We promise new content everyday, who knows tomorrow part two may be out. This enough for your first draft though , so go!

Naijawriter warns that heeding any of the above advice can prove harmful to your writing career. The statements made are the sole preserve of the author. 😉