Travelogue ~ Coming back home: A journey to Nigeria (Final Part) ~ Michal Musialowski

Dedicated to, Sule, Paul, Abraham, and all the sailors of humanity.

The interest of the local media gave us also the opportunity to be guests at the TV program “Good Morning Niger State,” where we talked about the subversive power of poetry, and at a radio program at Radio Prestige, in an interview with the chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Banma Baba Suleiman. These and the following days were filled with a lot of meetings and celebration of poetry and friendship. As a way to describe more precisely the tone and the messages fostered in the event, I propose an excerpts from Dr. Emman Shehu’s keynote speech entitled “Literature as a Bridge between Humanity:” 

The big question though is can literature enable the unity of humanity? Our world remains crisis torn at many levels and as writers we reflect these situations in our story-world regardless of the genre. Yet as writers, literature enables us to engage and reflect through one of the most human attribute, language. Thus, according to Tabish Khair “by thinking imaginatively about issues and problems and differences, (literature) enables us to find options and solutions that might be closed to purely instrumental or logical thinking. Moreover, literature has always been highly porous. Look at the way stories have traveled across cultures and, later, nations. Right from the beginning, from the ancient epics, from Panchatantra and Aesop’s Fables, downwards to our age, stories and literature in general do not respect political or social borders. In that sense too, they signify the fact that despite all our differences we inhabit one world.” Until that day when we can find the magical formula to regain our lost paradise, literature is the bridge towards the unity of humanity. 

The days in Minna were very intense and full of experiences. Thus, we started to miss the calm and peace of the University campus in Lapai, as well as our late night visits to Madam Sunny’s parlor to grab a fresh drink and enjoy the melody of simplicity. Before the event in Minna, we had spent three days in the capital - unfortunately, almost exclusively in the hotel because of security reasons connected to the election period, and where I had the privilege to read out some of my poems at an event organized by Dr. Shehu and hosted by ANA. During these days Muhammedu Buhari was reelected president and we followed his victory with preoccupation and curiosity from the lousy TV screen at the hotel.

With these experiences behind us, we decided to come back to Lapai for a week and visit Abuja once again afterwards, after having regained the energies. Because the period after the elections was punctuated with episodes of violence and political instability, our stay in Lapai represented a threat for our security and, after receiving a security alert from Nigerian secret services, the authorities of the University decided to host us in a University guest house in Minna and provide constant surveillance. The context of the guest house and the risks connected with leaving it provided a great background for reflection and metabolization of the eventful and rich experiences of those days. Even though the heat was almost unbearable because of the peek of the dry season (and the global warming), we enjoyed the calm of those days and had the chance to write down some of the emotions and discuss about future plans and dreams. These are the conclusions I made during these days on my reception of Nigerian reality, published in an interview by the newspaper Blueprint, that summarize many of the constructive discussion Paul and I were having during this period: 

The reception by the amazing people who I had the chance to meet has been very warm and filled with outstanding generosity. Of course, certain friction stemming from the fact that my presence and my skin color bear some prejudices and a heavy history is an implicit part of an intercultural meeting. Among curiosity and mutual interest, friendship, and love, I have met two reactions at the extreme of the spectrum that needs and stimulate a deeper reflection: rejection and exaggerated reverence or unjustified over-respect for my presence. Both are significant and are to be understood – in my opinion – in the wounds and traces that the colonial horror left, and are an important starting point for the revolution of mindset – especially in the case of the unjustified reverence toward me – that is needed to understand each other. Being called ‘master,’ ‘your excellence,’ and similar, shocked me profoundly and worried me immensely. 

I truly believe that this attitude is highly harmful, needs to be eradicated, and represents the ways in which the European colonization in the past and neocolonization in the present wounds the psyche and perception of some Nigerian citizens who barter their dignity for the favor of a white man, an oyibo. I would love to see my Nigerian sisters and brothers believing in their dignity, humanity, and value, which is an essential part of every human being, regardless of place of birth, social status, or history. I believe that this would represent an important fundament for the human revolution and elevation that every citizen of the world deserves and that must be granted. I think that the consciousness of value must first of all come from the inner dimension of the individual and then be sustained by the politics. Thus, if we manage to overcome the myopic social categorizations that the media and those in power foster, we will see the horizons of new humanity rising; beyond history, beyond suffering, and beyond social injustice. (“Nigerian Writers See Literature as Tool of Resistance, Social Change –Musialowski.”)


The last three days of my stay in Nigeria were joyful and passed by in a glimpse of an eye. We had a very pleasant lunch with Teresa Oyibo Ameh (who wanted us to call her Auntie T.) and met different authors and friends in the capital. One of them, Ahmed Maiwada, invited us for an explorative trip with car around the capital, and - as many others- enjoyed my struggles with pepe during lunch. After lunch, Ahmed promised to bring us to a very special place and kept his promise. Guided by his joyful voice, we visited the construction site of a new and ambitious project by the ANA: a ‘Writer’s Village’ with more than fifty single houses to host writers from all around the world and an amphitheater for events and performances situated on a big natural terrace with a beautiful view on the capital and the surrounding nature. Ahmed was interested in a possible future collaboration with us and surprised us with his generosity and energy. Currently, Ahmed Maiwada is running for the president office of the ANA. 

Goodbyes are always difficult, especially when we have to leave the ones whom we perceive as family. This is how I felt, when the time to leave came. We spent our last days with Paul’s best friend, Peter, who soon became a dear friend to me, and leaving them both at the airport was one of the most intense moments of my journey. Since the experiences and events I described so far, are only a little part of all the adventures and emotions I was able to experience during those life-changing six weeks, I would like to conclude this report with a poem that I dedicate to Paul Liam and all the revolutionary poets and friends whom I met. Hopefully, it will be able to say more about the enormous inspiration and enrichment that this journey gave me. The poem - entitled “Prometheus”- reads: 

It was a day in March fragmented in dust and forcefully swiped under the layers of memory:
In one of those nights,
  the wind began: 
the fear was devouring
 the seeds of a new beginning (.)
I was born (in) a cacophony like everything else like love, like space
 like you 
Like March
 that spreads hunger
in a famine of elevation and promises love scarce
 in fragments 
But I love this entropy that keeps us afloat
 and never closes a door; 
that makes you stop
 in the middle of a walk to ask yourself:  Where do I really belong? 
And then flow away

into a jungle of casual collisions and take a breath
of the beauty of existence and drink
 (muddy water of remorse) and fall back again  under the layers of memory
And then:

What if everything was stable?
No air

echoes in empty corridors of dust castles made of cards
 If the fire was nervously burning to ignite forgiveness 
And awake

the greatest of sins:
Rebellion (!) Hubris Power.
In the memory of Prometheus, a forgotten sailor of humanity;
arrogantly reminding the rock
 the caucasian sky; 
open windows 
of a shadow-painted mountains
Dense stains of blood on Peter
s hands:

the foundation hidden behind smiles of gods
  and feces of those in power
Like Prometheus,

We all have a story, a sign, a chain, or a collar
It is time,

to prepare for the night to digest the darkness with burning intestines broken spines
 of those whose voice is a voiceless choir 

seconds are a like beats of a perpetual drum that will stop to vibe only when hope
 has rotten 
Not like your love
  like March 
like a smile
 on red lips like a timeless cover 
I will be hanging upon the rock waiting for the morning
  to start all over. 


Michal Musialowski is a Polish poet and scholar. He lives in Hannover, Germany