Judging by recent developments within the literary community in Nigeria, it appears that female writers are gradually taking over from their male counterparts.
Investigation shows that women writing, which started flourishing a few years ago, used to be more or less a novelty with only the likes of Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Mabel Segun and Zulu Sofola as the biggest actors.
Before now, Nigerian literature reflected societies dominated by the men and targeted at the men folk. Women were a little more than appendages denied active participation in such societies. They were, as it were, believed to be fit for the kitchen.
Fortunately, the situation is no longer the same as the women, as if suddenly awakened from slumber, have begun to assert themselves on the literary turf. For example, female writers have dominated the final short lists for the Etisalat Prize for Literature since the inception of the award.
Still, while available evidence indicates that more women are currently winning the most important literary prizes and awards open to writers from Africa, poet and literary critic, Dr. Obari Gomba, disagrees in an interview with our correspondent.
He says, “The women have been wonderful. But domination is such a problematic word to apply in this context, unless we are able to clearly determine the indices of such an application. If prizes are the yardstick, then we must note that male and female writers have been winning prizes. We have to be a bit statistical to know which gender has won more.”
Arguing that such issues are the least important, Gomba notes, “We should be more excited that men and women are writing great books. We should not resort to cheap competition based on gender. Every great book or prize is to the credit of our robust literary tradition.”
The award-winning poet also believes that Nigerian literature has come a long way and the creative process is not gender-restricted because it is a platform for interaction between the human spirit and the social space.
Unlike fellow writer and former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Dr. Wale Okediran, who believes that, given the present situation, further claims of marginalisation and gender discrimination from female writers are no longer justifiable, Gomba thinks the problems of the latter are far from over.
He says, “It will be simplistic of our society if we assume that the problems of women are over because women writing is gaining greater attention. The social structures that hold women down are still in place in our cultural space. They are in place, and it is in the interest of women that they should speak out; it is in the interest of development that men too should speak out for women.
“No society can expect to develop if it pushes down its female population. We share the world together; we own the world together. Women have contributed more to mankind than we are willing to admit. And they have made such contributions under insupportable systems.”