Saturday, 12 October 2013

the writer and protests of votes

     October 1st. What started as a minature event metamorphosed into a virtual inferno throughout the social media. The arsonist? The Etisalat Prize for Flash Fiction with £1000 at stake. The entry with the highest number of votes would be coronated winner. Like rats in the rat race, the scramble for the cheese was on. Soon writers who entered for the competition (those in the red corner), organized digital campaigns, pelting social media pages and our sensibilities with tattered manifestos, on why we should vote for their entry.
     Then another group of writers (those in the blue corner), who claim to be defending the wobbling integrity of the Nigerian literati stood up, casting votes of anger and protests of displeasure at how Etisalat is ruining the literary scene with their bolekaja prize, claiming that the organization is using money to insult their sensibilities like the capitalists they are.
      The ripple effect of the adherents of the blue corner, created a third group, the salt-coated ones. This crop of writers initially in the red corner withdrew their entries when their 'integrity' was caught in the cross-fire between the blue and red corners. They were afraid that their exposed underwears would be stained by the dust generated by the tussle. Some even put up public disclaimers, claiming that the competition was a sham and expressed their innermost regrets. They should get better PAs. Such posture is as hypocritical as the preacher who says money is the root of all evil but gallivants in his private jet. Would they have withdrawn their entries if the blue corner had turned a snobbish nose at the competition? Was it not the same monetary motivation, which is the latent reason for the protests from the blue corner that propelled these salt-coated writers to enter?
      Herein lies the crux of the matter. Who is to blame, Etisalat or the Writer? Suffice it to mention at this point that this is not the first competition to be decided by voting. Even competitions whose winners have been decided by a panel of judges have come under fire as being shambolic and not transparent. Ask NLNG, Obiwu and Oguibe. Using the public voting process as a parameter for evaluating the integrity of Etisalat's flash fiction prize is shambolic.
Etisalat did nothing out of the ordinary when it decided to chose winners through the voting module. The blame should go to the writers turned politicians and started campaigns for votes. Those who did not believe their stories enough to sell itself, and sought to convince us with manifestos.
It is unfair for writers to apportion blame to Etisalat without taking cognizance of the role they played in bringing literature into the pigsty. This bespeaks of the putrid stench of ego that is accustomed to the Nigerian writer, where he is an all-knowing expert that needs and heeds no correction. This is nothing short of the white-saviour complex where the wolf shouts wolf only after draping himself in sheep's wool.
    The Nigerian writer is a product of the Nigerian society. A society that accords prestige and respect to the individual that has the most money. A society where everything has been commodified for the highest bidder, including conscience. A society where monetary artefacts determine the course of thought patterns and social institutions. What writers have merely done is to carryover these polluted values into the literary scene, and like their counterparts in the wider society, they look for a scapegoat when 'shit hits the fan'. This time they found an unwilling volunteer in Etisalat.

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