By **Angela Chen**
Photo by “Dan Eckstein”:http://daneckstein.com
Okey Ndibe (center) at Guernica‘s Ken Saro-Wiwa tribute at PEN World Voices in May 2009, with Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr. and Richard North Patterson.
Quick quiz: When (and why) is it a good idea to silence a journalist crying foul by using the same illegitimate methods he slams in his columns?
a) Never, it would just prove his point about corruption being widespread (also, it’s wrong)
b) When you really, really don’t want him to ruin the outcome of your important April election
As a bleeding heart liberal, it’s no surprise that I choose A. But on Sunday, the Nigerian State Security Service that detained well-known Nigerian author and columnist Okey Ndibe upon his return to Lagos—chose B.
A weekly columnist for The Sun, Ndibe is also a professor at Trinity College in Connecticut and frequent Guernica contributor (he’s written for us about his writing inspirations, won a Best of the Web award for his story “My Biafran Eyes”, published on Guernica, and regulated our Ken Saro-Wiwa event in 2009).
Ndibe was returning to his native Nigeria for the first time in over two years when he was detained at the airport in Lagos. He was released, but SSS kept his two passports (American and Nigerian) and ordered him to return Monday.
Of course, the Nigerian police—who deny knowing this happened—didn’t confiscate Ndibe’s passports and redirect him to the Lagos agency because of his work for us. Although no official explanation of the action has been released, Ndibe has said that they interrogated him about his columns, and he “believes the passport seizures came from the government’s displeasure over his articles.”
These include a 2007 article criticizing the less-than-savory methods (voter fraud, for one) that brought then-President Umaru Yar-Adua to power, and pieces calling for democracy in a country where a political reporter was killed by gunmen in September 2009. Considering that the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, is up for what’s slated to a be a violent election (if all goes according to plan) later this year, you can start to see why Ndibe was harassed.
Sort of. I still choose A, as do groups such as the Nigerian People’s Parliament (for which Ndibe is speaker) and newspaper Nigerian Village Square. Both join groups such as the Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum in condemning Ndibe’s treatment. There’s no excuse for this kind of action, though hopefully it’ll bring Ndibe and his opinions to more prominence, just in time to inspire a little more vigilance and soul-searching for April.
Copyright 2011 Angela Chen
Angela Chen is an editorial assistant at Guernica.