Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Describes the President Nigeria Needs and Reacts to Censorship of Half of a Yellow Sun Film
In moving pieces for the The New Yorker and The Scoop, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addresses the Boko Haram kidnapping crisis in Nigeria, the country’s loss of faith in its leadership, and the censorship of the film of her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.
“I want President Jonathan to be consumed, utterly consumed, by the state of insecurity in Nigeria. I want him to make security a priority, and make it seem like a priority. I want a president consumed by the urgency of now, who rejects the false idea of keeping up appearances while the country is mired in terror and uncertainty,” she writes in an article for The Scoop.
Adichie describes her fellow Nigerians’ loss of hope and lack of confidence in their leadership and lists the qualities they need in a president. “We are experiencing what is, apart from the Biafran war, the most violent period in our nation’s existence. Like many Nigerians, I am distressed,” Adichie writes. She describes the leader Nigeria needs now: one who does not seek longevity in office but focuses “on being the kind of leader Nigeria has never had”.
The latest issue the country is facing is the kidnapping of more than 230 school girls over two weeks ago by militant group Boko Haram, a crime to which the government’s response – or perceived lack thereof – has sparked international outcry.
I want President Jonathan to communicate with the Nigerian people, to realize that leadership has a strong psychological component: in the face of silence or incoherence, people lose faith. I want him to humanize the lost and the missing, to insist that their individual stories be told, to show that every Nigerian life is precious in the eyes of the Nigerian state.
I want the president to seek new ideas, to act, make decisions, publish the security budget spending, offer incentives, sack people. I want the president to be angrily heartbroken about the murder of so many, to lie sleepless in bed thinking of yet what else can be done, to support and equip the armed forces and the police, but also to insist on humaneness in the midst of terror.
In an article for The New Yorker, Adichie writes about the censorship of her film in the wider context of a political culture “already averse to openness”, but insists that the country should not reject its past: “Many of Nigeria’s present problems are, arguably, consequences of an ahistorical culture.”
On the margins of my happy childhood, there was a shadow: the Biafran war. I was born seven years after it ended, and did not experience any material deprivations—I had a bicycle, dolls, books—but my family was scarred by it. In 1967, after massacres in northern Nigeria that targeted southeastern Igbo people, the southeast seceded and formed an independent nation called Biafra. Nigeria went to war to prevent the secession. By the time that Biafra was defeated, in 1970, at least a million people were dead, including my grandfathers—proud, titled Igbo men who were buried in the unmarked graves of refugee camps.
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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Image courtesy BBC