Chris Abani: Distorting Africa’s History

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

The world is now privy to the myriad lies and exaggerations of the acclaimed writer, Professor Christopher Abani regarding his imaginary ordeal in Nigeria’s prisons (mostly Kirikiri). The lies are compelling and give Africa a black eye: The death sentence imposed on him because of his involvement in military coups as a teenager and his alleged witness to the execution of at least one 14-year old through death by nailing of his penis to a chair until he bled to death. The shocking revelations of Abani’s “419” activities are detailed here on my blog.

There are many compelling reasons why Abani’s lies and exaggerations should not be ignored as mere fibs by someone intent on furthering his dream as a writer and intellectual. White folks need to understand the caste system in Nigeria. As the offspring of privilege, of a white mother and an upper middle class black father, Abani most likely luxuriated in the lap of adulation and luxury in Nigeria. Abani is biting the hands that fed him by lying about what did not happen to him in Nigeria. Shame on him.  You must understand the impact of these lies on innocent Nigerians who are viewed at home and abroad from the tortured lens of what passes for African literature today. Abani’s lies are not mere lies; these are muscular distortions of the history of Nigeria, and by extension, Africa.

Let me repeat: Chris Abani was never detained in Nigeria’s Kirikiri prisons. Abani was never at Kirikiri as a prisoner awaiting death. That is just not true. And he was never implicated in a military coup, never. And the most galling of the lies; Abani never witnessed a 14-year old prisoner on death row die by his penis being nailed to a chair so he would bleed to death. That these lies have gone unchallenged for over a decade is a damning indictment of those in his literary circle who knew about this and chose to keep quiet for whatever reason. It is also an eloquent testimony to the racism in the literary circle of the West populated by patronizing condescending Western liberals who work themselves daily into unctuous avuncular foam, willing to think the worst of Africa and Africans and consign us to a beggarly subhuman condition with their cloying, devastating faux kindness. They should keep their money, their grants, and their fake wines. We may be poor but we are definitely not idiots.

In the name of fiction, a tiny cabal of “African writers” seems willing to wheedle, lie and steal their way into stardom on the tortured back of Africa. As a result, Africa and Africans are being doubly victimized. In the decaying classrooms of Nigeria, children born into a war schemed by thieving politicians and lying intellectuals are being taught that dead white men discovered places like River Niger. And abroad their sons and daughters are assuring their white counterparts that in Nigeria 14-year olds are routinely executed by means so brutal and primitive, they reinforce the truth that Africa is a land of darkness. That is what Chris Abani and his roaming band of Diaspora literature pimps are telling young impressionable Westerners every day in classrooms. We should be outraged. If you do not believe me, here is the official website of  Professor Chris Abani who now teaches this kind of false odium every day at the University of California, Riverside.

“As a teenager in Nigeria, Chris Abani earned a little too much attention for the publication Masters of the Board, a thriller whose plotline about a military coup triggered paranoia in his country’s political dictatorship. Abani’s creativity combined with his college activism resulted in prison sentences from his government, sometimes in solitary confinement.”

“A collection of poems that grew out of that experience, Kalakuta Republic (2000), was described as “the most naked, harrowing expression of prison life and political torture imaginable,” by playwright Harold Pinter.”Reading them is like being singed with a red hot iron.””

This is outrageous. The distortion of our own history by our very own is beyond reprehensible, it is criminal and I intend to stop only when Abani stops. I am privy to private testimonials of Abani’s malfeasance, how it is near-impossible for honest hard working African authors to tell their story without some concerned Westerner in the audience asking about Abani’s ordeal and the penis nailing to death.

The University of California, Riverside must demonstrate to the world that it is not a racist organization by bringing down Abani’s website. What Abani is doing to Nigeria in the classrooms of America makes him an enemy of Africa and we must let the University of California know it in no uncertain terms. It is very simple: Abani is the accuser here. He has accused Nigeria of arresting him several times, putting him on death row, executing at least one teenager, seeking his extradition from Britain, lie, lie, lie. In the West where he peddles his lies, there is the presumption of innocence until you are proven guilty. The University of California at Riverside should at the very minimum ask Abani to take down the offensive lies about Nigeria on his website, failing which I would urge Nigeria to sue the university for defamation.

What should we do? Great question. If you are outraged enough email the responsible parties in the university and urge them to prevail upon Abani to remove the lies from the university’s website.  Chris Abani may be reached at Chris.abani@ucr.edu.  Andrew Winer, is Chair of Abani’s department; he may be reached at: andrew.winer@ucr.edu

Abani is trusted by the Western media; he gets rave reviews and attention wherever he goes to peddle his tales of African disease war and gloom. Sometimes children are the beneficiaries or shall we say victims of his lies as in this moving article in the Star Tribune about how he only charged $5,000 to attend an event thanks to the persistence of a little boy who wanted very much for Abani “the poet and activist” to come deliver a speech in his school. We are told Abani normally charges $50,000 to $100,000 per engagement. I can assure you that he did not earn those fees from simply being a professor; pretty much every dollar he has earned is from his tales as a teenage pain-in-the-butt-on-death-row-in-Africa. Why should we allow an adult to scheme children out of the money they made from bake sales? Here is how Abani is described in the article:

“Abani grew up under a military dictatorship and was imprisoned by the Nigerian government as a teenager for his writings. He speaks gently of his late mother, a 5-foot-2 woman with five children, “who stood up to soldiers who wanted to kill us.” He is the recipient of the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award and the Hemingway/PEN Prize for his bestselling novel, “Graceland.””

There are enough lies in there to sink the Titanic again.

If you feel outraged enough about the pimping of Africa for profit by the likes of Chris Abani, please send a nice polite email to the following at the Star Tribune and express your concerns about the misrepresentations in the article:

Gail Rosenblum, the columnist who wrote the piece: gail.rosenblum@startribune.com

Michael J. Klingensmith, Publisher and CEO: michael.klingensmith@startribune.com

Nancy Barnes: Editor and Senior Vice President, nancyb@startribune.com

Scott Gillespie: Editor, sgillespie@startribune.com

There is more. Abani’s lies have infected the hallowed halls of academia and institutions whose hallmark is excellence. Chris Abani is the 2001 recipient of the Netherlands’ Prince Claus Award for Literature & Culture. Write to the Prince Claus Foundation  at info@princeclausfund.nl and ask them to explain how and when Chris Abani was “a political prisoner of war” as they state on their website.

Chris Abani is the 2001 recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award. The award was given to Abani based on lies and misrepresentations about his alleged life as a prodemocracy activist in Nigeria. Write to the leaders of PEN USA at pen@penusa.org, ftw@penusa.org, libby@penusa.org asking them to explain the lies on their websites about Abani’s exploits.

Chris Abani is the 2003 recipient of the Hellman/Hammet Grant from Human Rights Watch, USA. Make your feelings known at http://www.hrw.org/contact-us.

Chris Abani says Africa is a land of savages that nail their children’s phalluses to chairs so they can bleed to death. Do you agree? If not, do something about it. Now. We are not savages.

Do something. Anything. Chris Abani knows he is lying through all his teeth; he has been in hiding since the revelations went viral on the internet. I shall not relent until the heat forces him to say something, anything. Please share the TED speech with friends in Amnesty and other institutions who can do something to tell the truth about what really happened. Ask them to investigate the penis nailing of a 14-year old, the death sentence on Abani, the stay in Kirikiri, etc, etc, etc. And more importantly show them the tales in his professional website, apparently the morbid basis for the lies he tells to American children everyday about the Africa of his nightmares. He also peddles his tales to school children for monstrous amounts of money, for example, here. This man’s actions are even more reprehensible than the stories fed to Nigerian children daily about Conrad’s heart of darkness and the discoveries of savage parts of Africa (the River Niger, etc) by dead white men. We must stop this man. Do this in the name of our children.