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Writers against the Bullying of Otosirieze Obi-Young and the Obfuscation of Truth




A STATEMENT BY WRITERS IN SUPPORT OF OTOSIRIEZE OBI-YOUNG

In light of recent tweets and threads going around about the former Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper and the resistance to what many consider an unfortunate muzzling of truth, we, his colleagues and friends, would like to make a few things clear:

We have worked with Otosirieze Obi-Young for years, have disagreed with him on many occasions, and never have we felt disrespected or stifled by him.

We know and have often celebrated his firm commitment to diversifying the literary scene, giving young writers visibility, his efforts to make sure that prizes think of more writers than the already-known, especially those writers living on the continent; his push for the establishment of the Brittle Paper Awards is one example of concrete ways in which this commitment has been put to work. On Facebook, we have seen him talk passionately and with deep knowledge about the state of African writing and what needs to be done to enhance it, and this was one of the main reasons that he was invited to be part of the team at Brittle Paper, a decision that--and we all saw this over years--transformed that space  into a vibrant literary parlour.

And so we are shocked at things being said about his character,  conjectures made without specifics, news reports being released referring to him as “a writer”, as though he were merely a nonconsequential and disruptive employee, and it is clear that there is an intentional obfuscation of truth and an attempt at derailing a difficult but necessary conversation by way of not only smearing Otosirieze, but undermining his work and position. These are the tools of gate-keepers and establishments, steeped as they are in classism: to demean and to belittle.

We condemn, strongly, the muzzling of truth in a literary space that a lot of Africans, frustrated by often violent, often despotic systems, saw as a rare bastion of truth and free speech. We have read all ensuing statements and the reasons given as to why Otosirieze’s post was deleted are unsatisfactory and, considering the weight of what the post had reported on and the power that its subjects possess, unacceptable. It is not surprising, then, that Otosirieze received, after the post was taken down, harsh criticism from the reading public; it is welcome in fact, seeing as we want a cultural and political space where custodians of institutions are held accountable. In that vein, it is not surprising that he would want to clarify, and distance himself from the failing in judgment of his employer.

We wonder why the post remains deleted from the site at the time of drafting this, days later. There are things about which we can be silent but an ethnically-charged rape threat is not one and the choice to delete that post, and to keep it that way, shows clearly that Brittle Paper has picked a side and that side is the agressor’s. Intentions are irrelevant in this context; only action and effect are.

We condemn, strongly, this flexing of power whereby an employer disregards her employee, ousting him from a space to which he had contributed a lot, and this without as much as an email or terms. We see this as a further muzzling of dissent and cannot accept corporate cliches in a cultural space where we have oftentimes spoken out against the soullessness and oppression  of corporations. Otosirieze was treated disrespectfully, as someone easily dispensable--and nobody deserves to be treated that way. That move was abusive and was an unjust flexing of power.

We clarify that we are not calling for a boycott of Brittle Paper and call on every writer to not participate in any campaign to tear down the site/blog. We believe in BP as a literary space, had high hopes for it, and hope that it continues to thrive, but we firmly reject this notion that to push back against what is clearly a muzzling of truth and a suppressive use of power is tantamount to a reckless drive to tear down institutions. The peddlers of this theory are dishonest. We see through you, through this: another form of truth-suppression, the use of one’s elevated voice and position in the derailing of resistance. We are aware that this is a matter of class and position; a quick glance at the sheer outrage of younger writers and readers, dissatisfied by the failures of our political and cultural institutions, proves this. We see through, and condemn the shameless character-smearing that people in positions of power within the literary scene have gone on. We hope that everybody can look at the position they have taken today years down and be proud of themselves.

We believe that this issue is larger than Brittle Paper or its founder or former deputy editor, but about the freedom of journalists and writers to publish the truth and name and shame evil without fear of being silenced.


Signed:


  1. Arinze Ifeakandu 
  2. Ngozi John
  3. Ope Adedeji 
  4. Romeo Oriogun 
  5. Farida Adamu 
  6. Kelechi Njoku
  7. I.S. Jones
  8. J.K. Anowe 
  9. Ebenezer Agu 
  10. Gbenga Adesina 
  11. Akan Nelson 
  12. Osinachi
  13. Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu 
  14. Frances Ogamba 
  15. Chisom Okafor 
  16. Chidiebere Njoku 
  17. Socrates Mbamalu 
  18. Adachioma Ezeano
  19. Logan February
  20. Tolu Daniel
  21. Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye
  22. Stanley Princewill McDaniels
  23. Moyo Orimoloye
  24. Chibuihe Obi Achimba
  25. Samuel Ugbechie
  26. Amarachi Attama
  27. Ama Udofa
  28. Darlington Chibueze
  29. Caleb Okereke
  30. Ifesinachi Nwadike
  31. Sibongile Fisher
  32. Hassana Umoru Maina
  33. TJ Benson
  34. Echezonachukwu Nduka
  35. D.E. Benson
  36. Ama Udofa
  37. The Editorial Team of 14
  38. The Editorial Team of 20.35 Africa


The views on the article are simply those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Black Boy Review


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