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Well, I guess that is one of the things about being a writer, you get acceptances and rejections.

 I have come to live with such; I know that some people may find my views

a bit shocking and controversial sometimes, but that doesn’t really bother me much



Rudolph Lewis Interviews Uche Nworah

ChickenBones Journalist of 2006



Nigerian journalist Uche Nworah is probably one of the hardest working and possibly the most controversial of the writers we have published. Over the years we have noted the growth of his skills and daring as a writer. In honor of his work, talent and popularity, he was recently honoured as ChickenBones Journalist of 2006.  We salute him and thank him for the contributions he has made to the popularity of ChickenBones: A Journal in Nigeria and among Nigerians at home and abroad, in the USA and around the world. In this interview with Rudolph Lewis, he talks about his life and writing.


Rudolph Lewis: You were rather surprised when we informed you that you had been selected as ChickenBones Journalist of 2006. What specifically came to your mind?

Uche Nworah: It came to me as a surprise, at the time I wondered why me considering that you also publish other gifted writers. I feel proud still as it does show that people do appreciate the little efforts that writers make to enliven the social debate. I think though that the award should be for the readers who drive us, and for my fellow writers who practically put their heads on the chopping block anytime they write an essay.

Rudolph Lewis:  Do you recall how you first heard about our site, our work, and when?

Uche Nworah:  I came across ChickenBones in 2004 while researching for an article I was writing. I quickly devoured several of the articles I could find on the front page and was quite impressed with the diversity of thoughts, I liked the African-American consciousness and orientation of the site, I knew immediately that I would love to be associated with the journal as I felt it would be a platform for me to reach American and other international readers. I was also impressed by the fact that the journal is dedicated to the memory of Nathaniel Turner whose story I read when I visited Dallas in 2000. A little later I started contributing to the journal and was quite excited when my articles were accepted and started appearing on the site.

Rudolph Lewis:   We know others publish your work online. Why have you continued to send us your writings, even though at times we have either refused or ignored some of the pieces you have sent us?

Uche Nworah: Well, I guess that is one of the things about being a writer, you get acceptances and rejections. I have come to live with such; I know that some people may find my views a bit shocking and controversial sometimes, but that doesn’t really bother me much, I wouldn’t see how we all should be towing the same line all the time. There are some websites that have even banned my articles after the operators felt I was becoming a bit irrepressible but life goes on. One of my journalism lecturers back in the university made us understand that media products are accidents of space and time; I also remember his other favorite expression that news is what the editor says that it is. My article may not fly through sometimes but may in the future. There was no way that I was going to give up sending in my articles to ChickenBones because I always liken writers to artists, every artist requires a platform to exhibit his or her work.

Rudolph Lewis: We have published other journalists regularly such as Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye (Nigeria); John Maxwell (Jamaica); Junius R. Stanton (USA) but none has sent us material in such variety, with such varied interests, and with such daring. What’s the impulse that drives you?

Uche Nworah: I write about life and life itself is complex, meaning that there are many angles of life that could be explored. In the sense that Art is an imitation of life, writers as artistes are also imitating life and helping to mirror society. I don’t like being cast into a particular mode or genre, which would be doing the readers a disservice. Again I like traveling the road less traveled, I see myself as an enemy of the ordinary probably as a result of my advertising industry background. At the risk of sounding immodest, I sometimes think that certain readers need to be jolted awake from their comfort zones through the shock and therapeutic nature of some of my essays. Most writers are so predictable, and that I think is rather unfair because they should be stretching their talent, using it to explore life and society in general rather than stick to the same issues all the time, in our case in Africa it is always about corruption and our governments. .

Rudolph Lewis: The last I heard, you live in the UK and sometimes make frequent trips to your native Nigeria, and have sent us pieces from Nigeria.  Is that still the case? Do you plan to move back to your native country? Or will the UK always be your base of operation?

Uche Nworah: UK is my base for now; I live and work here but try to visit home every year. Probably when I complete my doctoral research, then it would be time to take the journey back home. I have been away from my country for close to ten years now, I think that I am gradually getting tired of living the life of a sojourner. I am not any different from your typical immigrant who is regularly consumed by the passion to return home, I have been suffering from this homecoming syndrome or mentality for quite some time now.

Rudolph Lewis:  Do you think living in the UK has had some impact on the topics you engage, the force and power by which you attack a subject?

Uche Nworah: In some ways yes, but I am more passionate about the social and political issues of my country, I grew up in Nigeria and went to school and university there, Nigeria nurtured me and made me what I am today. It is natural then that I would relate more to issues about Nigeria than with issues in the UK. In saying this, I know some Nigerians that hold different views choosing instead to engage themselves with issues of their host countries; I guess it is every man to his own devices really.

Rudolph Lewis:   When I was a young man, revolutionary thought filled the air. All of us read Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, and Cabral. We were hopeful that the end of African colonialism would usher in a new age.  But their era passed and there was a new generation of political leaders, except for Mandela, which African Americans could not identify with. You have been a severe critic of African leaders, especially the mismanagement of Nigerian leaders. Have you no fears?

Uche Nworah: Fear may not be the best description, you get a feeling of anxiety sometimes but then, I don’t think that I am their worst critic. There are more firebrand ‘in your face’ critics like Omoyele Sowore, Eziuche Ubani, Simon Kolawole and even Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye which you mentioned earlier. Perhaps I have been much influenced by my writing idol, Ndaeyo Uko whose subtle satires during the military junta days still attracted the attention of the government. In saying this, I would have to be a bit cautious because I have been doing some reflecting and thinking lately in terms of the impact of our collective criticisms on the ordinary Nigerians, perhaps not much I dare say. This got me thinking that maybe we are also part of the problem; I think some of us with access to the media are guilty of brainwashing the ordinary Nigerians who read us. Sometimes our criticisms are devoid of any constructive solutions, and because we have already cast our selves in this mode, this does not let us recognize the little efforts being made by our respective governments, this I think is rather unfair to our people.

Rudolph Lewis:  Nigerians, like other Africans, have a curious kind of nationalism. It seemed suffused with a tribal ethnocentrism. You are Igbo. What significance do you think that has for a new Nigeria?

Uche Nworah: Ethnicity is still a big part of the socio-political way of life in Nigeria, although the younger generation is now closing the divide but it is still deep rooted. If you remember, my people (Igbos) attempted to secede from Nigeria in 1967 because of the perceived inequalities in the Nigerian system; the army of the Biafra Republic fought the Nigerian army for 3 years, my father almost lost his life in that war and was saved on the last day of the war when they were set free. There are still carry overs from that era in our national life, now the situation has escalated with members of the other ethnic groups clamoring for some kind of independence and resource control, hence the unrest in the Niger delta region. Nigeria is one multi-ethnic snowball which if not handled right may just blow up in our faces someday. 

Rudolph Lewis: We have published several pieces in which you have written on male and female relationships, from which I assume was the perspective of an Igbo man. The most controversial was “Women We Hate.” There were some African American women who were eager to string you from the nearest tree. Were you merely being humorous, for humor seems to be an important element of your writing as well as your life?

Uche Nworah: That article generated a lot of heat even amongst Nigerians but in the most part, I think people misread the article. It was meant to be satirical and humorous at the same time. I could relate with the feelings of the African-American women over that article, some of whom sent me hate mails. However, they don’t really know me, if they did they would see that I’m actually their ally, I owe a lot to my mother and expressed as much in another article – feminism and the man. Some suggested that I was making life difficult by not explicitly expressing my position, I wouldn’t even think of doing that, which would be stifling creativity. I believe that writers should not make any conclusions for the readers; they are not stupid and should be allowed to make up their own minds.

Rudolph Lewis:  We also got some feedback on your article “Black Brothers and Their White Chics.” The focus was primarily athletes, soccer players. Are you really against interracial relationships of any kind?

Uche Nworah: Again that was another article that was misread, though I tried to mirror society in that article, however it was meant to be humorous. If you recall, I had teased Nigerian women to stake out for Nigerian football millionaires to ensure that the white chics don’t grab them, I wouldn’t see why people would take that seriously but unfortunately some of them did and stormed my email box with protests and insults. That article almost cost me a good friend and business associate who is married to a white chic, her wife stopped me from coming to their house, we have now resolved the issue though and are friends again.

Rudolph Lewis:   How does journalism fit into your career? You are a consultant, now?Where do you see yourself in five years?

Uche Nworah: I would always see myself as a ‘journalist’ though I would prefer the word writer because journalism doesn’t pay my bills. Journalism is something that I always wanted to do; I took a degree in journalism and mass communication at the University of Uyo- Nigeria and was the publisher of Campus Beats magazine at the university, when I graduated I freelanced for a couple of Nigerian newspapers and magazines but because the pay was appalling, I switched to advertising and marketing communications. I would always write, perhaps I may partner with others in the future to set up a media enterprise in print or internet format. I still do some SME marketing and training consulting in the UK in addition to my teaching. Where would I be in five years? Well. God would lead me but I hope to have settled back in Nigeria by then.   

Rudolph Lewis:   Have you been to the USA? Have you considered living here? Or do you think the UK better fits your temperament?

Uche Nworah: I have been to the states a few times; I have family out there, my elder brother lives in Dallas with his family, likewise my aunt and her family, I also have friends all over America. Back in the day, every kid in my neighbourhood at Aba used to dream of going to America, but as we became older and were now settled in our different careers and families, it was no longer an option. I am not sentimental about living in the UK, the only country I am sentimental about living in is my country, Nigeria.

Rudolph Lewis:  Your family (wife, parents, etc.), what do they think of your role as an activist journalist? Do they have any fears for your safety?

Uche Nworah: My wife does talk to me sometimes and she expresses her views on some of the things I write, however we have an unwritten understanding that she doesn’t interfere with my writing. My parents are retired and don’t even know what their son does in his free time.

posted 8 November 2006

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Ancient African Nations

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