On Kukogho Samson’s “What Can Words Do?”, Parresia and Origami Books

What Can Words Do by Kukogho Samson. Image from www.brainypoet.blogspot.com

What Can Words Do by Kukogho Samson. Image from http://www.brainypoet.blogspot.com

A publisher’s reputation is as good as its business. Each time a publisher chooses to release a book, it’s name matters, or at least should matter. Publishers realise that to keep that reputation or improve it, they must put their best into giving the author a great outing. I believe it’s not different with Parresia, including Origami Books, its self-publishing imprint. It could not have intended that things get so bad when it took up Kukogho Samson’s “What Can Words Do?” under its Origami imprint.

Of course, every author also has a name to project, or enhance. An author usually has great expectations whenever his or her book is published. And it is a legitimate expectation. I also had that expectation when Odili Ujubuonu’s Coast2Coast published “Colourless Rainbow” my first poetry collection, in 2011. Till today, I’m still indebted to the publisher in every sense of the word “indebted”. But I digress.

I believe no author signs a contract knowing he might end up in court as a claimant or defendant. Authors want to be guest writers in readings. Authors want to gain some recognition in the literary community, and beyond. Samson must have had such expectations too. And he put his money where his heart was, and still is. He took the risk to bankroll his dreams.

Close to a year later, Samson didn’t get what he had expected- especially coming from “Parresia” (Origami’s mother-firm), a fast-growing publishing house that has gained some reputation in the business. Samson must have been disappointed when he finally let his frustration with Origami end up in social media on August 31. “Kobo Profit” he called it, from Parresia’s “magic tricks”. I saw it the second it was posted. I felt that no matter what it was not the right way to go about it. I quickly contacted him. It was too late- Samson had obviously had enough. I showed some understanding; I treated his opinion with respect. But I still believed there could have been another way.

So you can imagine how relieved I felt when I discovered Parresia’s Chief Operating Officer Richard Ali, had become aware of Samson’s post. Richard has been to me a reliable friend and colleague, especially in the past few months. Knowing Richard’s calm approach to issues, I was optimistic the matter would be more appropriately settled. Perhaps I was wrong.

Richard asked Samson to “write a proper public post”. I reasoned this was to enable Richard respond robustly. I found myself wondering if that was the best option open to Richard. Yes, Samson’s earlier “Kobo Profit” was full of innuendos, but I didn’t consider Richard’s express permission Parresia’s best option. I still don’t; especially so when one objectively considers Richard’s eventual response on Parresia’s (Origami’s) behalf. I think it threw business ethics to the wind, focusing more on Parresia’s reputation than the author’s frustration. It may be legally right but it doesn’t seem moral to me. Wonder why most members of the younger generation of poets who commented on the matter went with KIS on this? Wonder why I had to say something about the matter? No, it’s not just because Samson is a friend and fellow poet. It’s not also because of Samson’s popularity with this huge community of young poets and writers. It’s about the way a fellow poet has been seen to be treated like “trash” (as Samson puts it). And that’s exactly what I believe Richard’s Origami may have failed to appreciate for what it’s worth. Sniffing blackmail is Samson’s post is one thing, but one should not dismiss the main grouse here.

An author is frustrated. Legitimate expectations, understandably high, were not met. The publisher failed to communicate effectively and efficiently. There was a huge gap in communication. That gap created the vacuum for this dirty fight on social media- the author goes crazy on Facebook. And suddenly, the publisher has all the answers. There is something not right about that.

I agree that Samson should never have brought the matter to Facebook. Never. But having ended up in social media, damage control becomes paramount. Origami may never have intended any damage to Samson’s sale plans and projections, but that is clearly the result. I believe Samson’s disappointment and frustration are largely informed by Origami’s failure to meet its obligations adequately. Even Richard concedes to that inadequacy on their part, citing Azafi’s health condition at the time, cost projections, etcetera.

Samson wanted to know the book stores his books were available, it took months. He wanted to see the reviews- they were not forthcoming. There were reasons, but they hardly change the end result. In Richard’s own words: “In the final analysis, and relying on the 50% discount on the distribution and marketing fee, it was not possible for Origami Books to foot the bill for getting reviews into the papers.” If the discount given was going to negatively affect the distribution and marketing of the book, why offer any discount at all? IF the author was “begging”, it should have nothing to do with performance since Origami accepted. I think to expect Samson to bear the eventual result may be too much for him considering his understandable expectations.

And Readings? Well, Azafi’s letter shows there were plans for that but Samson was not prepared at the time. When (according to Samson’s response) he was eventually ready for readings, communication between Origami and the author was not at its best, to say the least. I believe Richard Ali’s team could have done better than that. If half of the reasons Richard has given in his response had been communicated to Samson earlier, I doubt if the matter would have gotten this far.

Let’s see this matter for what it really is. It’s not about money- that’s why the figures don’t bother me. It’s not about fraud nor is it about blackmail. The Samson-Origami matter has been the avoidable result of a gap in communication between a publisher and its author. And it should not be taken too personally by any of the parties. Samson went too far by posting the matter on Facebook, especially considering the allegation of fraud contained in the post. I don’t think fraud was intended.

Richard Ali, as the Chief Operating Officer, should not also have allowed the matter degenerate to this level. Samson is a client. His rights and privileges are also important. Origami must at all times respect its client’s reputation just the same way it cares for its own reputation. One side’s reputation is not exclusive of the other. And that’s why I find Richard Ali’s comparison of its other authors’ poetry with that of Samson most uncalled for. No matter the good intention behind such comparisons, it does not show that the publisher respects the author’s works. It’s most unacceptable to me as a fellow poet, and I believe to the generation of young Nigerian poets and writers. Even Richard Ali belongs to that generation.

I plead with Parresia’s team and Samson to try resolving the matter privately.

I respect Parresia’s wonderful contributions to the growth and development of Nigerian literature. I believe Origami imprint is one of the innovative ways Parresia is creating greater opportunities for writers. This episode should not cast any doubt on its commitment to this noble mission.

The Samson-Parresia-Origami episode should be a challenge to us all. It should challenge us as publishers, booksellers, critics, reviewers, literary journalists, and authors to raise the bar. It should challenge us all to learn from our experiences and become even better at what we do. It should challenge us all to appreciate our imperfections and learn to see things from the other’s angle. In this way, rather than drawing blood from swords of rage, we will be writing on the pages of history with the pen of our lives what makes us thick.

Senator Ihenyen


Saturday Sun: A Review of Senator Ihenyen’s ‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life’ by Osamede Osunde

Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

Title: Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS
Author: Senator Ihenyen
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 978-1-304-64806-8
Number of Pages: 93
Publication date: November, 2013

“Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a collection of poems about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which tend to differ from the general norm essentially in terms of concept. In arranging the themes, the motive is to estrange the anthology away from the customary settings of periods and styles, to that of experiences and phases in the reality of the matter. Although the former is natural and valid, the latter guides the reader to a sense of awareness for those affected by HIV/AIDS and a feeling of compassion for those infected with the virus. The book offers a unique perspective to the campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness, control, and or eradication.

Poetry like every other form of art is a formidable and veritable tool for social mobilisation, emancipation and awareness. Over the years, from the era of great poets like Alexander Pope, Clare, Shakespeare, to more contemporary poets like Wole Soyinka, Denis Brutus, Chinua Achebe and a host of others, poetry has being used as an instrument of moral justice and societal upliftment. In this epic lineage of gifted literary scholars the world over, comes the erudite young Nigerian writer/poet, lawyer per excellence. Senator Ihenyen, as named at birth holds the view that with regards to the HIV/AIDS scourge, the cure that the world seek is hidden in the heart of mankind and that cure is love. “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a clarion call to the human race for compassion and empathy in dealing with the epidemic facing humanity.

Up until the early 1980s, little or nothing was known globally about HIV/AIDS. Silent, yet ravaging infection- was the dominant feature in the earliest advent of the virus, owing to the fact that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was alien to the global community and its transmission was not followed by visibly noticeable signs and symptoms. However, prior to the 1970s, in rare cases, reports of AIDS alongside sero-archaeological studies have documented instances of the infection in humans. Available records tend to suggest that the HIV/AIDS pandemic had began in the mid to late 1970s. The early 1980s saw the rapid spread of HIV to about five continents which included: North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia. The spread continued due to lack of awareness and preventive measures, approximately 100,000-300,000 persons were infected at the time.
In the past three decades since the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported, the figures have increased astronomically and global impact of the scourge has being alarming most especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Global statistics showed that in 2011, worldwide figure of people living with HIV was estimated at 34 million, two-third of this figure was domiciled in the sub-Saharan African region. Significant discoveries have being made in medical research in the area of HIV/AIDS treatment and control. A cure has not being found yet. The introduction of antiretroviral therapy has greatly helped in reducing the number of AIDS-related deaths, especially in the last five years. However, the occurrence of new infections is still an enormous challenge the world over. Sub-Saharan Africa has seventy two percent of the world’s total population of people living with HIV, although the region has a little more than twelve percent of the world’s population. The epidemic has caused a colossal amount of suffering in the African continent. The most palpable effect of this global scourge has been illness and death, but the impingement of the pandemic has stretched across all spheres of life including economy, social capital and population structure and so on.

The extent of spread of human immunodeficiency virus has surpassed all expectations in the last two decades. Presently, an estimated 36 million people are currently infected with HIV, around the region of 20 million people have so far died from AIDS related illnesses, worst hit is indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Responding to HIV/AIDS at a level proportionate to the stupendous impact of the scourge is an urgent global imperative, sustained global mobilization is a sine qua non to combat one of the most severe crises facing human development. “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a commitment to this global effort.

Stigmatisation, discrimination, alienation and antipathy are some of the societal ills that have made life extremely difficult for people living with HIV. The animosity in the chore of mankind against people living with HIV is stronger and even more infectious than the virus itself. Quoting from Senator Ihenyen’s poem titled “In a Free Fall”:

Why have you suddenly become
The virus
Ravaging the blood of my love for you
In my breaking heart

The expression above tends to suggest that the rejection faced by HIV positive people may be even more challenging than the infection itself. Misconception, ignorance and pre-conceived notions has been the bane of this pandemic, in typical human characteristics, what defiles understanding is ascribed religious and spiritual pigmentation. Quoting from the poem titled “I am HIV-AIDS” by the African poet Simon M. Matlou:

Saint Luke predicted me long time ago,
While the Book of Revelation warned you about me
I am raging like a wild fire,
I am growling like a lion,
I have spotted you and I will pounce on you!

Views like this and even more extremist views have complicated even further the HIV/AIDS challenge, labeling the infection a plague from a supernatural power will unjustly indict and victimize those who are infected. HIV/AIDS is clearly a global health challenge and any religious coloration, segregation, sectionalization and regionalization will lead the world to a Pandora’s Box. Without attempting to sound mythical, the panacea or catholicon to this nemesis is universal love. The hate virus has eaten deep into the fabric of mankind, perhaps, someday, the world shall witness a paradoxical twist when this HIV challenge that we all face becomes a catalyst for engendering global peace and universal love.

Like earlier mentioned, stigmatisation resulting from ignorance and prejudice has being one of the most challenging issues faced by people living with HIV, the fear of stigmatisation is one of the major reasons why a lot of people refuse to perform HIV test, a number of people living with HIV, for reasons of victimization and stigmatisation fail to come out in the open to seek help. “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a conscious effort to inspire confidence and courage in people living with HIV to come out boldly in the sun set to face the challenges confronting their existence.

“Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” cuts across its readers as a delicate voice, with sober and poignant views often cryptical in nature. In x-raying this verse from the poem titled “Once upon a Simple Question” by Senator Ihenyen:

If there was no blood running in my veins
How would you be taking my life away from me now?

The expression above bears more depth beyond the immediate perception, perhaps something for the scientist and researchers to ponder upon, whereas, on the face-value, the expression suggests the lamentation of a dying victim.
An obviously conspicuous attribute of the poet like most African writers is his occidental indulgence as well as his Mallarme influence strongly represented in the poet’s persistent use of symbolism, a concept that is tentatively labelled in the African literary parlance as ‘animism”. However, as Prof. Soyinka would say, “A distinct quality in all great poets does exercise a ghostly influence in other writers”, reading the works of Senator Ihenyen does calls to mind the works of great African love poets like Denis Brutus who wrote such raw and passionate lines of love as well as of indictment, conveying the concepts of fundamental justice, indicting the society of outer defiance, preaching hope and resolve all in one breath.

History, the contemporary reality and the vision of an HIV free generation is the overriding interest of this collection, in introducing “Stranger in the Mirror of my Life” to readers across the globe, I would like to say that it is indeed a compendium and a companion for all people living with HIV and the rest of the world.
Osamede Osunde
Chief Editor-
Pen Aesthetics lit. Agency

First published on the Saturday Sun, January 11, 2013.

‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS’ is now selling in Nigeria at http://
http://www.ysghubs.com/w/book/show/61-Stranger for 474 naira (5% slash from 500 naira) this December. It is also internationally available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Strangerinthemirrorofmylife for $3.75 only!

“Poet of the Week” on WRR Poetry!


I was featured as the Poet of the Week by WRR Poetry (Words Rhythm and Rhyme) on Friday, July 5, 2013.

A poem of mine, “This is not a Poem” along with my bio was published on WRR’s webblog and social networking site on Facebook. The poem was selected from my published collection of poems, “Colourless Rainbow”.

To view the poem on WRR’s wordpress blog, please click here.

You can also visit WRR’s Facebook page to view it. Simply click here.

And I must warn you that the photograph of me which the Editor of WRR, KIS, chose to use in my author profile is an old one! If you have any doubt in your mind, you can always visit my author profile page to be sure! Believe me, you should…before marrying your little princess to a very old man!

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the featured piece. And please, drop your comments and be generous enough to share. Thanks!

Senator Ihenyen
Author, Colourless Rainbow

ANA is Behaving like a Political Party, says Osundare, Nigerian Poet

> ANA is behaving like a political party, says
> Osundare
> By Anote Ajeluorou
> The Guardian, March 8, 2010
> http://odili.
> net/news/ source/2010/ mar/8/4.html
> After taking a critical look at the current state of
> affairs of the once vibrant Association of Nigerian Authors
> (ANA), its former secretary Prof. Niyi Osundare has come up
> with a damning verdict for the association’ s seeming
> lack of direction and ideas. Prof. Osundare told The
> Guardian recently that ANA was behaving like a political
> party for its seeming lack of focus and unusual reticence in
> national issues.
> He noted that the association had failed totally in
> pursuing the ideals of writers and as conscience of the
> society. ANA, usually noted for its concern for the state of
> the nation, has hardly uttered a word in the recent past to
> make a position statement on issues plaguing the nation.
> Such silence, Osundare said, was not fitting for an
> association usually known for its robustness of ideas.
> Also of concern to the acclaimed poet is the
> association’ s closeness to the powers that-be and the
> monies the association receives from such sources in the
> name of organising convention jamborees. “I don’t
> know when last ANA issued a position paper or a communiquŽ
> on the national situation,” he charged. “And, if
> there’s anytime this kind of stand is necessary, it is
> now! This is extremely important. The political situation in
> our country is dire.
> As I keep on saying, without the political kingdom, there
> will be no place for us to stand and stare. “Our people
> should also know that the reason we are not writing enough,
> the reason we’re not reading enough, then reason we
> don’t have enough books to read is because our politics
> has been badly organised, and our economy is in the
> doldrums.
> “How much of this money is accounted for after each
> annual convention? We used to do this. We had an auditor,
> who would audit and submit reports. ANA is behaving like a
> political party and this is not the original idea of ANA.
> ANA should be a kind of workhouse or factory and repository
> and fountain of ideas. I don’t see many ideas coming out
> apart from the jamboree at the end of every year in Kaduna,
> Owerri, Ibadan, Minna and getting the governors to give the
> keynote address.
> “Whatever is convenient for the governor is convenient
> for us. Even when we lay down a programme and it doesn’t
> suit the governor, we alter it to fit his political agenda.
> This is shameful; this is really not how a writers’
> association should be run.”
> Prof. Osundare repeated the parable, which legendary writer
> Prof. Chinua Achebe gave at the inception of the association
> in the 1980s regarding the role the political class should
> play in the fortunes of the association.
> “I was there since ANA’s inception in the 1980S as
> national secretary, and as Oyo State chapter president.
> I’m not just a writer but I’m a passionate believer
> in ANA just as I’m passionate about ASUU. These are the
> two professional groups in Nigeria that I’m passionate
> about; therefore I should be able to voice my own opinion
> about it.
> “ANA has deviated from many of the ideals that saw it
> into existence in the 1980s. Among its problems is political
> corruption. I’m disturbed at the way governors have
> taken over ANA annual conventions. I remember we discussed
> this kind of thing at length in 1981 and 1983 – what should
> be the relationship of Nigerian writers, through ANA, and
> those in power. Achebe gave the parable of the poet and the
> emperor.
> “He said that the poet should be close enough to the
> emperor to hear his whispers; but he should be far away from
> the emperor so as to escape the claws of power. When ANA
> held its convention at the then University of Ife, we argued
> back and forth whether the governor should be invited. And
> the governor of Oyo State then was Chief Bola Ige, himself
> an excellent writer. But we argued back and forth. In the
> end, we reached a compromise that first as a writer, let him
> come, and he gave the lecture.
> “We used to argue before inviting politicians. We did
> not want politicians to takeover our association. At the end
> of each convention, there were communiquŽs about the state
> of the union, about the state of the country. I used to take
> part in the communiquŽs; in fact there were two
> organisations I was always involved in writing the
> communiquŽs – ASUU and ANA.
> “We would do an analysis of the political and economic
> situation of the country and how it all pertained to
> culture, and criticise and offer suggestions. I don’t
> see such things happening these days. When Chief Olusegun
> Obasanjo was corrupting the political system of this country
> into working for his third term, it took the prodding of
> people from different areas for ANA to offer some kind of
> statement.
> “I did not hear say anything about the rigged
> elections of 2007. I didn’t heard ANA say anything about
> how the election tribunals have been going on. I haven’t
> heard ANA say anything about the situation in Anambra; no!
> (the above is an excerpt)