Memories from #AkeFest16: Without Education, democracy is meaningless

Memories from #AkeFest16: Without  Education, democracy is meaningless

Last month, some of the best minds in Africa and outside the continent gathered in Abeokuta for the 2016 Ake Arts and Books Festival, tagged “Beneath the Skin.” The one-week long festival had panel discussions, book chats, film screening, documentary, plays, a music concert and lots more.

During one of the book chats with Teju Cole and Helon Habila on their new books, Cole said, without Education, democracy is useless.
Both authors- Teju Cole and Helon Habila had new books out which had issues relating to religion and society. Teju Cole’s Known and Strange things is a collection of essays on different topics, while Helon described his Chibok girls as long-form journalism. The book chat was moderated by one of Nigeria’s finest journalists, kadaria Ahmed.


The discussion opened with Kadaria asking both authors why they chose to write on the already over-flogged issue of the kidnapped girls from Chibok in Nigeria. He wrote an anti-essay about the kidnap of the girls because overnight, everyone became an expert on Nigeria issues, everyone had opinions and it was just another example of the white saviour complex.
The issue of the kidnapped girls and Boko Haram terrorism was more personal for Helon Habila. He had grown up in the environment, with Muslim and Christian family/friends. He said he wrote on the kidnap of the girls now because he didn’t want to write in later as a memoir. It was urgent and it called out to him.

Both authors agreed that religion and society need to engage in better ways to ensure peace. Helon said “there is a limit to what religion can do, adding that Nigeria will never be the same again. There is a Nigeria before Boko Haram and after, the country has changed.”

For Cole, however, wars, massacres mass-murder are politically stimulated; the perpetrators use religion as a pretext to do evil. “I would like religion to stop engaging with us, we are the victims,” Cole said. He gave an example with the subtle war the Nigerian government is fighting against the Shiites in Nigeria and how it is a breeding ground for terrorism. “As far as I can tell, we have a President who hasn’t submitted his totalitarian instinct, what he is doing to the Shiites now, is sowing the seeds for evil.” Cole went on to explain what he termed reptilian brain, saying “there is something about the humans that is reactive, if you put humans in a situation, they will act a certain way except for a handful,” a full explanation was in his essay published in the New York Times, A time for Refusal. “If a Mallam says blow yourself up, or a fascist racist says he will make your country great again you vote for him? Without education, democracy is meaningless,” he added

The Book Chat closed after the authors read excerpts from their books and took questions/suggestions from the audience.

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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