There are some people who will tell you oil is the greatest thing that ever happened to Nigeria. And there are other people who will tell you it’s the worst thing that ever happened.
It takes time for people to understand how to hold leaders accountable.
I think the fact that we don’t really… that the world really doesn’t acknowledge how bad and how detrimental colonialism was; that people don’t really try to explore it, you know, in popular media and news articles; that… that it’s just kind of glossed over as this thing.
It’s a beautiful thing, the desire to help a fellow human who is maybe in a rough spot.
Right after undergrad, I started doing low-level work on health issues in sub-Saharan Africa, and what struck me was the disconnect between how people in New York would speak about some of the issues people were facing. At the time, 2006-ish, there were a number of big media campaigns to raise awareness about HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
I’m not a propaganda machine. I tell things how I see them. When I say, for example, that corruption is not the only thing the West should think about when they think about Nigeria, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist but that people have the complete wrong focus. There’s music, there’s art, there’s culture.
My parents have raised me and my three siblings to be aware of the privilege we have been afforded and the responsibility it brings.
I’ve been writing since I was really young.
As Americans, I think we’re a very entitled bunch.
I love playing with language and the rhythm of language – for some reason, this seems so much easier for me to do when I get to make things up than when writing nonfiction.
In general, Barack Hussein Obama brings us face to face with the discomfort our society feels with this idea of difference.
I think the more complex your idea of who someone is or who a particular group is, the less able you are to separate ‘we’ and ‘outside’ or ‘us and them.’ I think that that’s something that we really, really need to pay attention to.
I find the sort of unwitting European American outsider who wants to come to Africa to help is a very problematic construction. It’s problematic because you don’t want to tell people don’t aid, don’t help, when people feel a need to.
I feel like it’s not Africans who are afraid of China’s rise in Africa. It’s the West that’s afraid of China’s rise in Africa.
People don’t talk about the amount of destruction in terms of human lives that happen, whether it’s through slavery, or through, for example, what Belgium was doing in the Congo – the fragmentation of society that happened after that destruction of human life.
I don’t know if I want to be a writer.
Everybody has an equal right to be on this earth and to be happy on this earth and to achieve on this earth. That’s kind of the way that I would like to try and go about living.
Around the world, our cities are not the idealised open, accessible, and cosmopolitan spaces of our dreams. More often than not, they are sectioned and controlled purviews of the radically wealthy, surrounded by clusters of have-nots.
I hear a good song and I start thinking, ‘Oh shoot. You know there’s a story that can be told to this,’ and whatnot.
As an adult, I discovered Claritin, and my whole world changed.
People just think Africa is this one thing. So if you’re from Nigeria, then you’re the same as somebody from Kenya; not realizing that within Nigeria, right, we have 250 different ethnic groups, right? Two hundred and fifty different languages.
Like all things, cities must change – even a city as enamoured of the past and memory as D.C.
There are multiple levels of ‘we’ and multiple groups that can constitute this idea of who we are. We need to be aware of who we are including and excluding.
I’ve got to keep on writing. That’s non-negotiable. At the same time, one has to look at the world and recognise that writing is not the only thing to be done – I want to have an effect on the world.
I’m a black man in the United States, and there’s no two ways about that. I have a shared common experience with other black men, and through that, there’s an automatic understanding.
I think ‘Beasts of No Nation’ is a novel that hopefully will affect each person who reads it in a different way.
The kidnapped person is so tantalizingly close, kept alive by a devastating hope. Kidnapping or hostage-taking is perhaps the most disturbing form of terror because it turns this hope into a liability that can paralyze.
In terms of medicine, I’ve generally been pretty interested in public health issues as they relate to sub-Saharan Africa on a broad scale – HIV/AIDS, malaria etc.
I don’t think that one should beat himself or herself over the head if immediately you’re not like Jesus Christ or, you know, Gandhi or whoever. But I think the idea is to… to look at those examples and try to… try to operate in a way that every day you live or every interaction you have pushes you further along to operating with that mindset.
I fundamentally believe that no one can teach you how to write – finding out how to write a story is part of the process of creating a story – but you can really learn through exposure to different writing, to different art forms, to different modes of storytelling, and with mentors who are able to get you to step outside your comfort zone.
The denial with which many African leaders and communities greeted the appearance of HIV and AIDS across the continent in the 1990s is now considered a tragic mistake rather than a purposeful pushback against lingering colonial prejudice.
When the HIV/AIDS epidemic first appeared, a lot of the reaction was that it’s not happening here. It doesn’t exist. It’s not on the continent of Africa. Then we moved into this other phase, in which it was kind of like, it’s everywhere.
America is decidedly not ‘post-racial.’
Memoir is a difficult literary form to pull off when dealing with discrete and poignant moments in a life, even harder when seeking to narrate over 80 years of existence.
Our racial past and future is something that we Americans must address.
Whether as living humans or as mythological figures, ancestors have always played an important role in the African popular and literary imagination. Sometimes, as in Amos Tutuola’s famous short novels, they directly influence events. More often, as in the works of Chinua Achebe, both living and dead ancestors are sages offering valuable advice.
In my senior year of high school, I read an article in ‘Newsweek’ about child soldiers in Sierra Leone. I felt a sense of shock – this was happening in the region where I’m from, and people don’t know about it. I wanted to understand.
Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.
Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head – because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West’s fantasy of itself.
Nigeria shed the last of a succession of brutal military dictatorships in 1997 and adopted a democratic form of government only in 1999. Our elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011 were complicated and fraught with tension, but each one has shown remarkable progress.
‘Beasts of No Nation’ began when I read an article about child soldiers in Sierra Leone during my final year of high school.
Lagos is a fascinatingly infuriating place that its residents love – and love to hate. Licence plates on cars here proudly display the state motto, ‘Centre of Excellence,’ in what often seems a sarcastic swipe at the place we live in.
I’ve had great writing teachers and mentors and great success with my first book.
I’ll confess that, from an early age, I was a huge fan of President Reagan because my parents bought me an enormous stuffed monkey that they named President Reagan – yes, I get it now.
Anybody who tells you they’re not scared when starting a new book project is a very good liar.
Reading ‘Search Sweet Country’ is like reading a dream, and indeed, at times, it feels like the magical landscapes of writers like the Nigerian Ben Okri or the Mozambican Mia Couto.
There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one’s cultural superiority.
It takes time for people to understand how, as an individual, I can have an impact on the way that society works.
Lagos is sometimes emblematic of disorder. In traffic, drivers make their own rules. There is a constant war between our street hawkers and our various forms of law enforcement deployed to eradicate the ‘indiscipline’ of poverty.
‘Talking Peace’ is one of the few books from childhood that I still keep prominently displayed on my bookshelf.