Bayero University, Kano Professor of Literary Theory, Ibrahim Bello Kano, aka IBK is knocking Intervention for framing of Camouflage: Best Of Contemporary Writing From Nigeria as a coup in Nigerian literature. In an early morning reaction to the story posted late yesterday, the theoretically charged acada calls the headline “a worse possible choice of a title”.
His argument is about “How’s new writing a coup against the old? And how are the new texts “postmodern” (in their thematic and grammatogical structure)? It’s the Critical Institution (comprising avant garde reviewers, cutting age publishers, the professional literary fora, “what gets taught” on the literature course by the literary- critical professors, and the presence of a large corpus of critical works on a text or an author across the world) that bestows “literary value” on a literary text or an author”
The second leg of his disagreement with the headline goes as follows: Of course some texts may be promoted by sectional interests, for example, many a woman author or the “third world” politics of “inclusion” on the Canon (in the name of “the postcolonial”). Despite that, only the very best, the most interesting and the most “experimental” of texts, the ones that present the most innovative “story-worlds”, could break into the Canon of great works”.
From the point of view of a literary theorist, IBK might have read the framing as a discursive move reading too much to a particular text. That would be perfectly in order. But, as Intervention argues, none of the writers by which we know literature in Nigeria – the Achebes, Soyinkas and co – subscribes to the postmodern orientation. Secondly, for a long time, literature has been silent on the scale of what has just come out. Three, if all the 70 contributors are truly of the postmodern, then it is a postmodern coup against the alternative tendencies. Lastly, a headline is successful when it strikes an IBK to protest. The headline, we are told in news writing classes, should be like a woman’s skirt, …”.
Where IBK appears to have a point is why the entirety of the writers in the text were labeled postmodern. What sense might the postmodern appellation be serving there? Is it the case that all 70 are postmodern as in postmodernism or literarily? As at the last count, Muazu Maiwada of the Dept of English at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to cite an example, was still a Marxist critic, broadly speaking. There are others on the list of the writers that have no theoretical cum ideological awareness in writing, a claim we may not need to illustrate here. It will be a great thing if such a huge chunk of Nigerian writers are all of the postmodernist epistemological conviction. Positivism and Realism have misled the world to the many tragedies and mass misery today. But is it the case that all 70 writers listed are postmodernists, dedicated antagonists of science, reason, facts, certitude and progress?