My apologies to Ms Adichie, but this post is not about her.
If you read a lot, you are bound to come across pieces heaving with words that seem to say a lot, but which, after reading, you realise say very little, if anything at all. They are chock-full of fillers, pompous words, and tired clichés that create the overall effect of something stale, dead, and torturous to read. Whether we are discussing academic essays or opinion pieces, newspaper articles or blog posts, bloat is the curse of writing everywhere you look.
The other (perhaps more forgivable) writing crime is failing to establish a voice. How many times have you read a thing to its end only to realise that you have failed to make any connection with the story or the person writing? There is no soul, no Earth, Wind and Fire, no Cameroon pepper. The narrator is Siri.
So may I, at this juncture, introduce you to the most dazzling example of writing I have seen in quite some time? The writer is Engineer Akemokue Lukman, until 16 June 2020 a member of Ward 7 of the All Progressive Congress in Etsako East, Edo State. (Of course, given the fluidity of events on the ground, I cannot rule out the possibility that this intrepid engineer has since engineered a return to the party.)
Though this letter (whose authenticity I cannot verify) has been public for some time, it has taken me this long to write this piece because, well, words failed me. I did not know how to describe the artistic power of the letter. I am still not sure that I can.
The body is just two lines: premise and conclusion. A happened therefore B must follow.
There is not a single word out of place; not a stray comma; not a misspelling; not even a formatting error. It is the most perfect example of writing economy you will find anywhere. The entire thing (address and all) can fit in a tweet:
He does not say I hereby resign or some other tired phrase, he says, and this is high art, let me tell you: “OK, take your broom…”
In syntax and tone, you cannot find a more perfect Nigerian voice. It is not passive, it is not aggressive, it is not even passive-aggressive; it has the indefinite quality of raw “Nigerian-ness” that you would expect a ward level politician to have mastered in order to have any sort of long-term career. When he says, I nor do again, we know an Edo man is speaking, a man of the people.
When this letter first became public, it made a splash on social media, earning a place on Nairaland, the most reliable metric of what is on Nigerians’ minds at any given time. You can see why. It is a simple message. It perfectly captures a certain mood on the ground in the moment (the skulduggery unfolding at the start of the 2020 Edo gubernatorial race). It reveals something of the man behind the pen. We would like to have a drink with this boisterous fellow. We know he’s got stories for days; and he can tell ’em.
He has something to say, he says it, and says nothing else. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how to write.