I am writing to you as a concerned Nigerian nineteen year old. After having visited your website, I find it disconcerting that there is scant mention of Nigerian literature there as with is the case with many Nigerian entertainment sites in general. Your entertainment-based website does not cater to an essential form of entertainment which is literature. It is also clear that the majority of popular Nigerian entertainment sites from pulse.ng, ynaija to 360nobs.com mainly consist of pictures and updates about celebrity events, popular music and fashion. I understand this is an important form of entertainment; however, what I don’t understand is the neglect of literature in our entertainment media. It is disheartening that the majority of our lifestyle and entertainment websites do not consider writing as important enough to be represented or suitable as topics for discussion, similarly negligent are student-focused sites such as campusheathq.com, which is entirely devoid of literary content. Meanwhile, many Nigerian blogs make no effort to reference a literary culture across Africa; the majority of them would rather focus on gossip, fashion, music and more superficial showbusiness elements that are pleasing to the senses, while there is scarcity of information to provoke thoughts and develop innovative thinking patterns among the youth.
If young minds are introduced to the world to question the status quo and prepare for new social beginnings, surely young people should be exposed to a variety of interests; this is however not the situation in Nigeria where edifying and stimulating content such as literature is harder to access. It makes one wonder what options are being presented to the Nigerian youths, to support their growth into well rounded adults. We ought to question how many young Nigerians are being adequately exposed to literature on social media. We need not ask about the void of literature in our society; it is obvious in our everyday lives, when we walk on the streets and when we shop at the markets the absence is reflected back at us. Do you ever wonder why book clubs are hard to come by even in universities? Does it occur to you that many young people have little or no knowledge about Nigerian contemporary literary stars well known abroad? When you mention authors like Teju Cole, Chika Unigwe, Nnedi Okorafor, Sefi Atta, Chinelo Okparanta and so on, people look at you with a blank incomprehension. Outside of tiny cliques in Lagos and Abuja, where are our well-read youths and future leaders busting with ideas to share news about the latest book they are reading?
As Nigerians we have failed to understand the importance of literature in facilitating knowledge of history and stimulating a collective imagination adequate to the problems we face. We constantly strive to emulate countries like the United States and the UK, but we don’t emulate properly, after all true knowledge demands we filter what we observe and practice what we have learnt. What have we learnt about literature? Have we realised that the US owes the fundamentals of its democracy to the French enlightenment philosophers who wrote books on rights and freedom? We neglect our own “enlightenment philosophers” at our peril.
It is for the above reasons I am writing to you, to ask that more attention be paid to our writer’s ability to nourish and stir our emotions. We should pause and ask ourselves what types of leaders we are raising; are they to become philistines with no bookshelf or digital library at hand to guide their thinking? Are you happy with the reality that our young only care for fashion, music and Nollywood gossip? Literature offers a myriad of choices to us, clarifying our thoughts while at the same time transporting us to familiar and unfamiliar destinations; literature can help us albeit temporarily to escape from the ills of the society at the same time providing vital lessons, expanding the reach of our words and our minds. In a society where we have online videos of governors testing primary school teachers on their reading skills (and ending with a #epicfail), it should be important to us that we are not the next targets for embarrassment.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you for taking the time out to read this letter. I hope you are persuaded on the importance of literature in our society and that I was able to stimulate you to create a literature section on your entertainment blog. It will cost you nothing, and only serve to enhance and expand your existing offering. It will also give you the added advantage of catering to a wider and more varied audience. How better to show your commitment to entertainment than by promoting all aspects of human creativity?
I eagerly await your response, and hope dearly that we can look forward to the time when literature is as valued as other forms of creative expression already well represented in our society.
Damola Fakunle, Age 19.