Alert! In what we hope will be the final installment of the Africa’s Best Stories saga, StoryAfrica’s Mfonobong Nsehe has written to BOOK SA directly, confirming that he’s shut down both the fraudulent short story publishing project and the Molara Wood hate blog that have animated our readers so much of late.
In the spirit of right-of-reply, we present Mfonobong’s correspondence in full. On Africa’s Best Stories:
In light of the circumstances, I feel it is only right that I write you personally. I am Mfonobong- the man in the storm. I would like to clear a few things up. Some of the things I’m going to tell you, I’ve already told Molara. I have been in contact with her and I believe she is beginning to understand everything that happened.
Before anything else, let me confirm to you that the book has been stopped. It is not possible for anyone to buy the book again. We have asked Createspace to call back all the books that have been sold. The book is still being listed on Amazon.com, but it is not for sale. We have asked Amazon.com to remove the book from their website and we are still awaiting a response from them.
Also, I assure you that I NEVER asked Evans Macharia or any of my friends to create that hateful and malicious blog against Molara. It is way beneath me. All I did was write to my friend, Evans Macharia , telling him about all that had transpired. He’s a good friend of mine, and he thought that the best way to put up a defense for me was by mobilizing school mates to create a hateful blog against Ms. Wood. I sincerely apologize for his (their) immaturity. I have asked them to take the blog down. I am not in Kenya and so the best I can do now is to write them emails, persuading them to remove the blog. I am still asking them to remove the blog. I have no hand in that blog whatsoever, and I did not even know it existed until Molara told me about it.
Meanwhile, Ben, I would like to clear up some things about StoryAfrica. When we started this project at school, we mobilized people and asked students to submit their favorite short stories, poetry and art. We made a final selection of 18 works (all of which were included in the book). When it came to the issue of permissions and copyrights, a lady in the school called [name withheld], convinced myself and the rest of my team that she had contacts with most of the writers in the collection. It was easy to believe her because we all knew she had interned in one of Kenya’s leading publishing houses in the past. We paid her some money, about Ksh 100,000 to collect permissions and sign coyright contracts. We did that sometime in December 2009. By March this year, she returned with copies of signed copyright permission contracts. She explained to us that she emailed, faxed and phoned these writers to get these permissions. Looking back, we now now she was a scammer. The documents she gave us looked so genuine and real and had signatures and all of the supposed writers. We did not know they were fakes until you first wrote this story three weeks ago, and we received complaints from authors. Also, when E.C Osonu wrote to me through my facebook page confronting me for using his story, I began to suspect something was amiss.
Now we know she scammed us. But of course, no one wants to hear that part of the story and blames it all on me.
As for the Oprah issue, it was a gimmick (which regretfully, I endorsed). One of my friends came and suggested that we used the power of Oprah to boost sales. At that point, it seemed like a smart idea and so I gave the go-ahead. He drew up a Press release and sent it out to news sites and all. I didn’t think it would be much of an issue, but it raised an ethical storm. I’m sorry, and I take responsibility for that.
But please know that I did not lead the publishing of that book with the knowledge that we did not have original permissions. If I had known, I wouldn’t have published the book in the first place.
I am not the intellectual thief or evil person you have portrayed me to be.
I hope you see through all this. I’ve been trying to move away from this, but it keeps coming back.
On the Molara Wood hate blog, meanwhile, Nsehe writes, “I spoke with Evans this morning. The hate blog has been deleted.” Indeed, a visit to http://molarawoodisdumb.blogspot.com/ returns a “not found” notice.
Interestingly, tacked to the bottom of Nsehe’s correspondence are a few emails from the writer Oscar Mubila, who’s based in Zambia, and who took action against Africa’s Best Stories recently by submitting a copyright complaint to the book’s producer, CreateSpace/Amazon, on June 7th. The reply from CreateSpace/Amazon includes the following: “Please be advised that we do not involve ourselves in third party disputes. As you retired this title on June 3, 2010 we have placed a hold on the title to ensure it cannot be made available again until this matter is resolved.”
Nsehe truly has shut the thing down, then – an outcome that will doubtless satisfy many who’ve followed the story.
- Africa’s Best Stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wole Soyinka, EC Osondu, Chika Unigwe
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Image courtesy Zimeye.org