For those of us who are unaware, something interesting happened this week and it has been making rounds on social media. The ever glorious Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is in France as the star guest of La Nuit Des Idees (A Night of Ideas). La Nuit Des Idees is a yearly event that celebrates the stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics and generations. An interviewer asked her if her books were read in Nigeria and she answered in the affirmative. At this point of reading the account of this section of the interview I was already thinking “well that is a most certainly dumb question to ask”. The journalist was apparently not satisfied and in continuing with the line of questioning went on to ask “Do they have book stores in Nigeria?”. I can imagine that this kind of question would have been insulting and if it were a less knowledgeable and less diplomatic person it would have been met with a reply filled with a far from subtle outrage. Adichie’s reply was smooth and intelligent without hiding how she felt about that question.

“I think it reflects poorly on France that you asked that question”, she replied.

Granted, apologies were made and explanations were given. The point of this post is not to crucify what that journalist said, it is a reminder of what this latest meme evoking event represents; the warped image of Africa held by most foreigners. I touched on this topic in a post last year,

At a point, the stereotypes are not funny anymore. The things that we hear on a constant basis about what Africa is and who African people are have stopped being humorous and have just become plain insulting. Nobody is saying that there is not a lot that is wrong but it is unfair that all that is right and is being made right is constantly ignored. That interviewer went on in defence to say that in France when they hear Nigeria all they think about is Boko Haram and. I am made to feel on a daily basis that changing the image of Africa outside of Africa will take more than rebuilding Africa and bringing it into the Western perception of ‘civilization’. I am coming to understand that no matter how much we do, we cannot force outsiders to believe that we are better than all the things they believe we are, that we are beyond capable of the things they think we are not capable of, that we are not less human or less intelligent or less remarkable. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that we must stop fighting to change the outside’s view of our countries and continent as a whole. Let it be said when Africa finds her place in prosperity and stability that we did it by ourselves and for ourselves. Let our transformation never be attributed to ‘peer pressure’, let the credit be ours.

I was going to be petty at the beginning of this all and list out a bunch of facts about the existence of libraries and even books in Nigeria. However, to answer the question that is the title of this post, yes, we have libraries in Nigeria. Most importantly, we read in Nigeria and it would surprise you the kind of minds that are being shaped and built, ready to do things that those who think our story is one of only insecurity cannot possibly imagine.


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