The Innate Ability of Nigerians to Flourish in the World of Literature

Governments of nations, all over the world, spend heavily on STEM, which means: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The four disciplines are focused on being the future of the world. With much focus on STEM education, the world thrives in everything, bringing civilization, modernization, innovation, great invention and dexterity, at large. The Nigerian government, in no small measure, has been struggling to make STEM education a priority for the students. It is expected that at least 60:40 percent enrollment of science/engineering versus arts/humanity should be achieved annually. To add a verisimilitude, the government renamed the Ministry of Science and Technology to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

But if there is a discipline that Nigerians excel much, it is literature. Literature projects Nigeria, Nigerians and our cultures to the world. It makes Nigerians stand toe to toe with their contemporaries throughout the nooks and crannies of the globe. It is not an overstatement that it is only in literature that Nigerians have much prestige as a country which possesses great minds. 

Literature is a field that gives Nigerians little or no stress to prosper. It is natural. The flourishing of Nigerians in the world of literature is not a coincidence or luck; it is anchored on the innate ability of the people who wallow in understanding of its concept  and their quintessence. Nigerians are good storytellers, adroit playwrights and fantastic poets. 

In 1986, Professor Wole Soyinka held the world agog when he clinched the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first in Africa. His top notch and iconic writings in  the genres of drama and poetry were second to none in his time. He rode to victory with his plays: The Trials of Brother Jero, The Lion and The Jewel, Ake amidst others. 

Chinua Achebe is another top gun in literature. He, wheeled by a certain profession, got admitted to study Medicine  in University of Ibadan. He let go of Medicine for the passion he had for English. Having changed to English in the then, University College, now University of Ibadan, he discovered his innate ability in storytelling, that is, prose writing. His popular book, Things Fall Apart, without any form of argument, is widely known as the best popular written by an African, and has been translated to not less than 50 languages in the world with no fewer than 10 million copies sold. Achebe’s works include: Things Fall Apart, A man of The People, Arrow of God, No longer at Ease, There Was a Country, Anthills of the Savanna etc.

Just like Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a proficient author, gained admission to study Medicine at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. But, She had no delight in the course. Ipso facto, she studied it for a time and later left for the USA where she studied Communication and Political Science. She is now the talk of town, a writer of the 21st century and the most prominent contemporary writer of Nigeria. She won numerous world class awards, such as; Pen Open Book Award, 2007, Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2007, Anisfield – Wolf Book Award for Fiction, 2007, Shorty Award for Literature, 2018.

Time will fail me if I fail to mention Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan, Buchi Emecheta, Christopher Okigbo, Niyi Osundare, Cypian Ekwensi, Gbemisola Adeoti and others. These are the people whose intellectual acuity has made our country and cultures stand tall globally. They have painstakingly, laboriously and tremendously labeled the country as a giant in the world of literature. And they have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that literature is a field to reckon with in the country. All thanks to their efforts. 

With STEM or not, over the years, in Nigeria, Literature has been our flag, flying around the world. It will be of great help if the government can support the study of literature more for its students, as it is done for their fellows who study  science – related courses.

Written by Emeritus

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