June 21, 2024
Colloquium

The burden of responsibility we must share

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  • December 2, 2023
  • 5 min read
The burden of responsibility we must share

By Adenrele Niyi

MY female cousin told me a story several years ago, and as an impressionable teenage girl, the story stayed with me. It got me asking silent, unanswered questions.

One moonless evening, my cousin was behind her then boyfriend as he walked her back to her university hostel after a visit to him. A very small distance separated them. Suddenly, he let out a soft gasp but didn’t break stride. My cousin heard his gasp but before she could interrogate further, she walked smack into a muddy puddle of rainwater. I’m guessing this inspired the muddy puddle of water in the first story in my book. But I digress.

She, shockedthat her boyfriend didn’t alert her of the puddle, asked him why not. His response, ‘why should I? I walked into it and so should you’. To paraphrase it colloquially, no be only me go see shege, you too go see that shege. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t work out. I’m not privy to what led to its demise or if it was triggered by that strange incident.

This and other experiences sum up my motivation to write There’s a Heaven for Bad Girls.

In contemporary ‘woke’ culture, that boyfriend’s attitude would be seen as a relationship redflag. Rightly so. However, much more than that it’s a humanity redflag, A callous dereliction of the responsibility to be your brother’s or sister’s keeper. The danger such an attitude poses to life cannot be overstated. It starts with the supposedly small and ‘inconsequential’ things but left unaddressed will grow into monstrous, headline grabbing outcomes like failing to fix a malfunctioning elevator that eventually kills a young doctor.

That tells me that the effect and impact of our negligence – physical, spiritual, emotional and mental – are profound, recurring and perpetual.

Author of latest short story collection There’s a Heaven for Bad Girls, Adenrele Niyi

Through my book, though an entertaining fiction, I’m using the medium of storytelling to highlight contemporary issues confronting young people in Africa, especially girls aged 16 to 29, as they go through life.

The young generation in Nigeria is far from sitting still; they are actively shaping their own future. From the Generation Z to the young Millennial generation, these young digital natives hold a special advantage. With 63% of the country being 24 years old or younger and nearly half of the 221.3 million people being female, Nigeria is in a unique position. However, for Nigeria to reach its full potential on the world stage, it’s crucial to pay attention to its women, children, and young people through human capital assets like education, skills, health, and intelligence.

Through the voices of my protagonists, I emphasise why it is essential to connect with young people directly and understand their experiences. This means immersing ourselves in their world, empathising with their stories, and involving them in creating solutions. This approach ensures that the solutions we develop are effective and can be used on a larger scale.

My advocacy as a storyteller is to lead us into alternate realities that are sometimes inspired by my overactive imagination, and other times, by very real life people. By writing about the struggles of young women and girls, I’m hoping it shifts our perspectives enough to respect and value the experiences of young women and girls in Nigeria. I hope we create safe spaces where they can share their stories and build trust. By collaborating and building a supportive community, we can provide resources and environments that help young women and girls grow personally, boost their self-esteem, build healthy relationships, and overcome challenges. Ultimately, our aim is to empower them to become active and engaged members of society in all aspects of life.

A quick word of encouragement to parents, teachers, mentors – you are doing a fantastic job and I’m not here to give knocks. Your intentions are sincere but the methods may be outdated and perhaps ineffective for the child, ward, student or mentee you’re tutelaging.

On a final note, I want to celebrate my relationship circle represented here today by all of you. I’ll take the quality of this gathering and the insightful panel conversations over the quantity of a crowded room full of strangers.

I also celebrate my father who inspired the storyteller in me by his vividly recounted accounts of his international travels. My dad has one of the most colourful imaginations and power of recall I’ve ever encountered. Until his death exactly two years ago today, his memory remained sharp.

My book launch today coincides with his day of death. It is clear to me that the legacy he passed on in books he willed to me and this gift of storytelling guarantee that both his and my life will continue to make impact even after death.

Thank you all for coming out today and thank you for listening.

* Speech by the author of There’s A Heaven For Bad Girls, Adenrele Niyi at the public presentation of the short story collection on October 27, 2023 at Four Point By Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos

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