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On Critics, Cynics And Good Writers: A Response to EC Ejiogu

December 2, 2011

Criticism, often defined as the art or methods of studying texts or documents in order to reconstruct and evaluate their authenticity, as well as analyze their content or style, is an important field of inquiry in literature.

Criticism, often defined as the art or methods of studying texts or documents in order to reconstruct and evaluate their authenticity, as well as analyze their content or style, is an important field of inquiry in literature.

All writers, at one time or another, face criticism and often, the most important emanate from those for whom they write; readers. Whether from a critique group, enraged readers or friends, criticisms will always arise and have the potential to destroy self-esteem. While helpful criticism is not always nice or tactful, tolerance to criticism has been a distinguishing quality of great writers. 

Earlier, this writer had no intention of responding to the recent comments of E. C. Ejiogu in his   The Shameless Cynics In Our Midst. However, Mr. Ejiogu´s handling of what was merely a criticism of his style of writing regarding the alleged intellectual fraud of a certain Mr. Chris Abani, which was earlier presented in his (Mr. Ejiogu´s) Mr. Chris (topher/tian) Abani And The Nigerian Project, calls for some response. The latter piece was supposed to be a follow-up to what most of us, readers of Sahara Reporters, agree to be a brilliant piece earlier written by Ikhide R. Ikheloa entitled The Trials of Chris Abani and the Power of Empty Words. If anything, Mr. Ejiogu´s follow-up served as a distraction of some sort to many readers; an exact opposite of the articulated piece of Mr. Ikheloa.

This writer´s criticism of Mr. Ejiogo did not stems, not only from the poor nature of the unnecessary piece (a view apparently shared by many readers of Sahara Reporters), but by his apparent personal prejudice against the physique of Mr. Abani which caused some to question Mr. Ejiogo´s motive and credentials. It is all well to condemn the   mischievous trade of intellectual fraud engaged by some of our countrymen, the world over, but when public commentators and intellectuals base such condemnations, not on facts and logical arguments, but on anatomical features that don’t seem to have any direct bearing on the point in question, ordinary readers like yours truly are bound to react, and sometimes in a rather harsh manner. Admittedly, questioning Mr. Ejiogu´s credential seems harsh and this writer has since apologized, but then, if all writers respond to every harsh comment they receive from readers with such diatribe as exhibited by Mr. Ejiogo, we may as well close shops in the struggle to build a prosperous nation. So long as our collective interest is building a sound Nigerian society (what Mr. Ejiogu prefers to call Nigerian project,-failed or functional), writers, intellectuals and leaders must tolerate criticism including those that appear to insult them. Criticism is an essential ingredient in checking excesses and ensures the building of societies based on truth, justice and fairness inspired by critical analysis of issues and genuine efforts to find solutions to our problems.

Mr. Ejiogo´s reproduction of what transpired between the two of us by e-mail hardly proves that those who commented negatively to his write-up are cynics. It merely presents us as critics of his style of writing (not fools and not illiterates) - and apparently there are many of us.  Surely most of us disagree with his submission that, style of writing is irrelevant. Indeed it is a measure this relevance that one of the requirements for getting a degree (including PhD) is writing a thesis scrutinized by advisers and supervisors. Perhaps the time has come for Sahara Reporters to give the job of editing the seriousness it deserves.

That said, acts of forgery, cheating, deception, as reportedly perpetrated by Mr. Abani (or anyone for that matter), stand condemned. However, the ability to write does not give anyone the right to condemn people on the basis of their physical appearance. The human genome, although sequenced, is far too complex to allow for attributing an attitude to a visible phenotypic characteristic, which we often see through the prism of our personal prejudice and bias, and on that basis condemn.

In conclusion, anyone can write anything, but writing on public issues that seek to address societal ills, is not a popularity contest or about anybody´s ego. It is about creating awareness, sharing ideas, unbiased and critical analysis of issues and being prepared to accept opposing views.  Perhaps these are some of the attributes that made Chinua Achebe such a highly respected writer and courageous enough to reject a dubious national honor. We, the readers, encourage Mr. Ejiogo to continue to write, but assure him that he will be criticized and what will eventually determine his greatness or otherwise, as a writer, is his style of writing and the manner by which he responds to criticism.

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