On April 14, 2020, Hadiza El-Rufai, wife of the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, and author of the novel An Abundance of Scorpions (Ouida), wrote on Twitter that “All is fair in love and war”, a statement that caused an outrage. This was in defense of an obscene tweet by her son, Bello El-Rufai. Bello El-Rufai first wrote, “I heard that your mother’s ability to take dick is mind blowing”, in response to a person who had referred to him as “daddy’s boy”. Shortly afterwards, he, Bello El-Rufai followed it with the words (sent as a direct message on Twitter): “Oh and tell your mother I am passing her over to my friends tonight. No Igbo sounds please. Tueh,”. The literati in the twitter community have been outraged by these comments. While many believe this to be a gang-rape threat, others interpret this as the kind of lewd comments you hear in lads’ banter. Some writers also find the later part of the statement to be more worrisome especially because they believe that it borders on ethnic hate.
Below is a comment from award winning poet, Romeo Oriogun.
Considering that Mrs. Hadiza El-Rufai is a novelist, that she has been featured on Brittle Paper, an interview by Deaduramilade Tawak, and also the fact that Brittle Paper was described by its Founding Editor, Ainehi Edoro, as a place for the intersection of “lifestyle and literature” – all these made the former Deputy Editor, Otosirieze Obi-Young, write a post on the lascivious twitter comments and the defense put forth by the novelist. The post by Obi-Young was titled: “Novelist, Feminist, and Kaduna First Lady Hadiza El-Rufai Says All is Fair in Love and War After Son’s Gang-Rape Threat, Draws Backlash.”
The Founding Editor, Ainehi Edoro, wrote this in her official statement:
After her phone call with the then-Deputy Editor, he removed the last paragraph, but didn’t edit the title. The offending title led to Ainehi’s decision to take down the post. In her statement, she wrote that it “seemed gratuitous” that Obi-Young had used “Gang-Rape”; she suggested that it would have been better if he had used “something like lewd comments”.
Below are a few reactions from Twitter.
The literati on Twitter have wondered why she hadn’t simply inserted “lewd comments”, in place of “Gang-Rape Threat”,. In their opinion, editing the title would have been more acceptable than taking the post down?
It is important to note that the Brittle Paper Founder had explained that, at the time all of this was happening, she was preparing “sensitive lectures for my students”.
Six hours after the publication of the post, there was a statement by Brittle Paper on Twitter and on Facebook, which was written and shared.
According to the Deputy Editor, he informed Ainehi about his decision to publish a personal statement to which she replied: “Feel free to do whatever you want.” After her response, the Obi-Young allegedly emailed her his statement two hours before making it public, to which she didn’t respond. This, apparently, all happened on April 14, 2020.
On the 15 of April, 2020, the then-Deputy Editor, Obi-Young, was logged out of “Brittle Paper, its social media accounts, and its WhatsApp group, the Brittle Paper primary work communication space.
In her statement, the Founding Editor, Ainehi Edoro, wrote: “When I realized our working relationship had broken down irretrievably, I removed Otosirieze’s access to Brittle Paper and its accounts on other digital platforms.”
On the 15 of April, 2020, Obi-Young left Brittle Paper. According to him, “I am leaving Brittle Paper because this censorship goes against everything that the platform has demonstrated in the past and that I believe it should continue to stand for: a space of freedom, one that should be able to handle internal criticism.”
Otosirieze Obi-Young’s leaving and his withdrawal of all his creative works from Brittle Paper led to a lot of outrage on Twitter, with a lot of writers writing to Brittle Paper to take down their works and a bunch of others taking down their projects on the site. Some of the projects include such anthologies as: “The 20.35 Anthology: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry”, founded by Ebenezer Agu, and “Go The Way Your Heart Beats”, An Anthology that Centers Queer Lives in Fiction, edited by Anathi Jongalinga, with an introduction by Diriye Osman.
Also, the Young African Poets Anthology presently been curated by Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí, guest-edited by I.S. Jones and Nome Emeka Patrick, which was supposed to be published by Brittle Paper this month, will no longer be published by them.
A lot of writers have also pulled out Brittle Paper from their bios, and poet and former Brittle Paper Anniversary Award Winner, Chibuihe Obi, who wrote the viral piece “We’re Queer, We’re Here”, wrote on Facebook that he would return the Brittle Paper prize money and the award. The award was “ideated and administered by me (Otosirieze Obi-Young),” and was “the first by a literary publication in Africa.”
The Founding Editor, Ainehi Edoro, wrote, in her statement, also posted on April 15, 2020: “Nonetheless, I deeply appreciate all the work that Otosirieze committed to Brittle Paper over the last four years. I am sorry that we have had to part with this bad blood between us and wish him the very best in what is certain to be a stellar writing career.”
There are still countless conversations going on Twitter as regards the Brittle Paper issue; conversations on Censorship and how political lords fund literary spaces (with tweets on tweets by such writers as Elnathan John, author of the novel Born on A Tuesday and the satire, Be(com)ing Nigerian); conversations on the need for literary platforms clearly to clearly define their editorial standards; those on how young people should create more literary spaces and platforms; those on seeking other shores; and those on boycotting the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival.
Many writers are also concerned about the future of Brittle Paper as a platform. Will Brittle Paper continue to give voice and representation to African Literature and African writers? Only time will tell.