Nothing like this has ever happened in the Nigerian literary circle. None that I can remember hearing or seeing. But it has happened, and I wonder if there are lessons to be gleaned from it.
The well-respected writer in question has apologized.
And I hope he’ll be forgiven for his “excesses” as he put it. But I wonder this might affect his career in some way, seeing as he has three new collections in the press. He’s indisputably a prolific writer, but reactions have shown that we will never forget his disgraceful conduct. We still remember Bill Cosby. For his art and the scandals.
For those who wonder what Chijioke Amu-Nnadi is apologizing for, here’s an overview.
A few days ago, three young female writers took to social media to vent their anger and frustration over the trauma an older poet had put them through. On 9naijafeminista.com, Mary Ajayi wrote a poignant essay, Of Kisses, of Sexual Predators, Of Chijioke Amu-Nnadi. The piece chronicles her experience with Chijioke Amu-Nnadi during the 2014 Writivisim Festival in Uganda. I phoned a friend who was at the festival and confirmed the story.
Linda Ikeji also published a sincere account by Miracle Adebayo. I felt her pain. Miracle wrote, “in November 2014 at Ake Festival, I met Chijioke Amu-Nnadi for the first time… However at some point during the festival, I was in his car with two other people. He specifically asked that I sit in the front seat while we drove to get food. I didn’t object because I saw no big deal there. Along the road, we stopped for the other occupants to get something from a shop. In those few minutes; Amu-Nnadi, a man I thought I could trust, forcefully kissed me. I was stunned and repulsed. I couldn’t speak.” You can read the rest of her post HERE.
And then there were Facebook posts by Jennifer Emelife, where she nursed her wounds for years. Writing is cathartic, I tell you.
It has been very heartbreaking to read about these young women’s tears. And to think that anyone would blame them for speaking up? But that’s talk for another day. For now, at least the accused has accepted responsibility and posted a public apology on his Facebook wall. Justice is served. Or not really. There’s talk about suing the hell out of him.
But most of all, I know that this story has a moral, and that writers might want to remember to behave themselves at festivals and residencies and literary gatherings. Else you’ll never know when you’ll hurt someone, and be upbraided for going Bill Cosby on another writer (or reader).
Chijioke Amu-Nnadi won the ANA Poetry Prize 2013. He was a finalist for the 2013 NLNG poetry prize with Through the Window of a Sandcastle. He also won the maiden edition of the ANA/ NNDC Gabriel Okara prize for poetry. The veteran has published three volumes of poetry, Pilgrim’s Passage, The Fire Within and Through the Window of a Sandcastle. He has three books set to be published this year.
Let’s hope the scandals won’t ruin his career.