Bookstore in Nigeria: Why it reflects poorly on French People that Broué asked that question
By Kelechi Okoronkwo, Abuja. If you want to understand the behaviour of any society, you just need to study the behaviour of the media of that society. Watch their television stations. Read their newspapers. Look at the contents of their outdoors channels. Then, you could begin to have an informed opinion about that society. Expounding this, communications theorists, like Marshal McLuhan, say that ‘the media is the reflection of the society’.
This strong, almost inseparable relationship tells you if the society is free or gagged; corrupt or honest; racist or just. Through the media, you will know whether or not, the people of that society are intelligent, educated, civil, progressive and idealistic.
Then, McLuhan further says that ‘the medium is the message’. In this sense, the medium is at the level of individuals. To understand the media, you need to understand the human capital composition of the media. Are they intelligent or dull; racist or tolerant; idealistic or realistic? It is the characteristics of the individuals’ composition of the media organisation that make up the character of that media organisation.
On Thursday, acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie took part in an event for France’s annual Night of Ideas. In an interview during the event, a French journalist, Caroline Broué asked Adichie if there were any bookstores in her home country of Nigeria.
Adichie, the famous author of the novel, AMERICANAH, spontaneously responded, “I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question,”. Reactions from readers across the globe have considered Adichie’s response epic, apt and appropriate. Adichie added: “Because I think surely it’s 2018, you know, I mean c’mon. My books are read in Nigeria. They are studied in schools, actually not just Nigeria, across the continent of Africa.”
It is agreeable that Broué’s question reflects poorly on French people in two aspects: the level of professionalism in the media profession in France and the poor attitude of French people towards Africa.
There is a serious disdain for Africa and everything African, not only in France but also in Europe and America. Early in the month, the United States President, Donald Trump called Africa countries ‘shithole countries’. Neither Trump nor any US ambassador to any African country has publicly retracted that ‘shithole’ comment. Although former US envoys to African countries, seventy-eight of them reportedly pressed Trump to retract that statement, Trump chose to get more diplomatic with African leaders instead of saying that he was wrong to have called Africa ‘shithole’.
Broué’s question reflects poorly on French people because, as a journalist, she is supposed to understand a simple interview process. Broué might be correct that little about Nigeria is said in France. she said in that controversial interview: “We speak very little about Nigeria in France, certainly not enough, and when we do it’s about Boko Haram and the problems of violence and security,” the interviewer said. “I would like to take advantage of your presence for us to talk about other things and things that we don’t know about your country.” However, the first thing she should have done, preparatory for the interview was to do a little research about Nigeria or even about her interviewee, Chimamanda. It would not have taken her a fortune to type Nigeria on the Google. If she had done that, she could have read that Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka is from Nigeria and that Soyinka had a good part of his education in Nigeria. How could Soyinka have done that if there were no bookstores in Nigeria. Broué could have read that the acclaimed author of Things Fall Apart, Prof. Chinua Achebe hailed from Nigeria. She could have known that Chimamanda was not made in Europe or America. Chimamanda grew up in Nigeria and started writing her beautiful stories in Nigeria.
Again, Broué’s question and Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment tell more about the single story of a dark continent that Europe and America about Africa. While it is true that Africa is backwards, this occasioned by the political culture and political orientation of African leaders, it is also true that Africa is home to many beautiful things; much more beautiful things than the self-professed ‘first world countries’ could imagine.
Adichie later posted a response on her Facebook page defending journalist Caroline Broue as “Intelligent, thoughtful and well prepared,”
“I know now that she was trying to be ironic… it was a genuine, if flat, attempt at irony and I wish she would not be publicly pilloried…”To be asked to ‘tell French people that you have bookshops in Nigeria because they don’t know’ is to cater to a wilfully retrograde idea – that Africa is so apart, so pathologically ‘different,’ that a non-African cannot make reasonable assumptions about life there”, Adichie said.
Above all, Ngozi Adichie’s response to Broué’s bookstore question is commendable. And that shows the depth of Adichie’s wisdom, intelligence and patriotism.