In the Blink of an Eye | by Eugenia Abu | Spectrum Books, Ibadan | 2007

For most Nigerians, Mrs Eugenia Abu is a household word. She is the Barbara Walters of Nigerian television, the voice and the face of the national news. She also wields a sharp pen as a newspaper columnist. But unlike the women who seem to reach the top of the greasy pole in American TV, she is decidedly politically incorrect. Recently she published a collection of her writings as a journalist over the past 20 years, In the Blink of an Eye, which strides straight through sacred cows instead of tiptoeing around them.

Take Nelson Mandela, for instance. Nigerians, like the rest of the planet, revere Mandela. So no one raised an eyebrow over his separation and subsequent divorce from his wife Winnie. In a man’s world like ours, many see no reason why a man should not be at liberty to marry many wives and keep as many concubines as he deems fit. After all, that’s one of the prerogatives of being a big man. In “Was Winnie a Sacrificial Lamb?” Abu broke every rule by condemning Mandela for placing his party above his family. Winnie had “exhibited her fair share of bad girl behaviours” but she did not deserve to be dumped. To Abu, “the separation, no matter how political pundits analyse it, is a sad and saddening affair”.

How about Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a Nigerian musician and political activist? A million people attended his funeral. Abu cried too, but she had stern words for his dissolute lifestyle. “I am an ardent fan of Fela’s music, but the last thing I would like is for a relation to identify with his marijuana habit. It’s good for him, so what? It is unhealthy, period. I have seen kids destroyed from the first drag. It’s dangerous and the press perpetuating his habit daily; is to say the least disgusting”. What would Oprah have said?

How about feminism? She attended the Beijing Conference on Women in 1995, but she has tough words for the sisterhood. “We need only theories of socio-economic development in Africa. We need good drinking water, good hospitals and good roads. We are not ready for high sounding Westernised theories. When we cook for our men, we don’t feel enslaved because we enjoy doing it .”

Abu is proudly Nigerian and she loses her patience with the Diaspora. “It takes each and every one of us to turn things around, should we all run for the cellars in America every time something goes wrong? Then who are we going to leave this place to… Egyptians?”

In “The Relics of Auschwitz”, Abu recounts her visit there with “tears in my eyes and a sigh in my heart.” She however adds that “it would be good for all world leaders to visit Auschwitz as part of their orientation for leadership.” This would not only ensure that the sad events of WWII do not happen again, but also because “the truth of war is invincible at Auschwitz… and we were all accomplices to the crime. The museum is an evidence of our guilt”.

How about Michael Jackson? Abu’s sharp tongue did not spare the legendary Afro-American pop-star; her conclusion after “Psychoanalysing Michael Jackson” was that “Michael has remained a man in search of identity… his attitude to skin colour and being black leaves much to be desired. One is perplexed by his repeated nose jobs. Is he rebelling against his own race?”

In “Women in Broadcasting: An African Perspective”, she says that women should not shy away from high professional jobs and should not be treated as eye-candy. She insists that African women broadcasters must address issues concerning their own from an African perspective. “Our singing and poetry encapsulate the vibrant history of our continent. Let us harness it to give African women back their voices for, before Western media visited us with their technology and biases, we were already a continent of communicators.”

Eugenia Abu also relates her personal encounters in “One-in-One” with Presidents Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. She also has a full quiver of Nobel Laureates like Wole Soyinka of Nigeria, Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Nodine Gordimer of South Africa. But the highlight was Pope John Paul II. According to her, “blessings were in abundance on that day. Mine was doubly special, a set of twins; a great gift from God. You can interpret that whichever way you like.”

Mrs Abu is still married to her husband, Thompson, and they have six kids. Her values are traditional, and in at least more than two pieces, she takes on the task of parenting as she advises young ones; in another piece, she exposes the godlessness of otherwise religious people; in other instances she preaches about decent dressing, the need to avoid drug abuse and the duty of parents. I am sure that Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters could learn a thing or two from her.

Nwachukwu Egbunike is a book editor in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Nwachukwu Egbunike is a book editor and writer in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria . He studied Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and currently blogs on Feather's Project,...