Outside Nigeria, America and Europe, there are publishing companies that sign writers like football clubs sign players with stupendous amounts of money because so sure they often are that apart from the percentages which belongs to the authors and the authors’ agents, they will procure a stupendous amount of profit, depending on the patronage being garnered by the book(s) in question. Worldwide, the emergence of television, movies has diminished people’s love for books. Plato even predicted that in his criticism of poetry. It takes a substantial amount of mental drudgery to read a book, which is totally unlike watching a movie, which requires no mental toil, or only requires a bit of it. This is the reason behind the exodus. Yet the stupendous amounts of money are incomparable with plenty of money that movie makers earn from movies because the whole world is watching movies. The whole world is not reading books.
Nigeria, a sassy country that has had its modest books industry turned to eunuch by the murderous economic policy called Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in the 1990s, is poorer in the activities of books despite the blessing of proliferative writers, poets, playwrights, biographers, et al that it possesses.
Investments are universally profits-focused. Since patronage is not on books, investors don’t invest in books. In Nigeria the few serious publishing outfits that are available abandon the literary realm for textbooks because school persons must patronize for their studies.
However, there are few publishers who are risk takers; they are existing for the writers who have made names, or who have won a prize or two especially non-Nigerian prizes. Prizes deliberated by the Association of Nigerian Authors do not fancy them. Cassava Republic that could battle with Farafina as the leading publishing companies in Nigeria is famous with the act. It was after Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel and Measuring Time have won critical acclaim and prizes outside Nigeria that Nigerian versions were published. The same thing was recently done to Nnedi Okoraofor’s Akata Witch; after the novel which was published outside Nigeria was nominated for Locust Award, Cassava Republic released a press statement that it is publishing a Nigerian version of the novel later this year. It has carried out the dastardly act several times. There are also Dada Books and Kraft who are a bit better than Cassava Republic in terms of giving unknown writers the chance to prove their selves. Perresia was recently unveiled; it has signed two writers with one hundred thousand naira each, which is a rarity in Nigeria, though Wikipedia says Dada Books signed Onyeka Nwelue with a million naira before the young writer even penned the cross-cultural novel.
Many a Nigerian writer now embraces self publishing, which a hundred does not sale out of the thousands printed. The whole noise is absolutely traceable to the infamous words ‘Nigerians don’t love books hence they don’t buy books.’ Some writers even go to gatherings, not necessarily a literary gathering, begging people to buy their books.
But a recent finding has shown that there is a succour somewhere in Nigerian literature. There is a part of Nigerian literature that thrives and it does not suffer the low patronage that is often decried. Sitting on a bench adjacent a fleet of shops recently in Malali, an area in Kaduna, teenage girls and some perhaps in their early 20s were toing and froing a shop with books in their hands. It was so surprising, knowing how people of their ages detest books.
“I just rented these books so that I can keep myself busy for the day. There is a lady renting books in that shop”, one of the books renters who gave her name as Maryam said, pointing to the shop, when she was asked of the reason why girls were haunting the shop in proliferation. No boy was seen around the shop.
The books in Maryam’s hands were Daga Cikin Zuciya volume one and two. She rented each of them with fifty naira. The money would expire after 24 hours. The back covers carried a portrait of a depressed Indian-like girl talking to a deep African man, to portray relationship between the two.
Such books are novels written in Hausa language. Some call them Soyayya novels, but they are known in a section of the academia as Kano Market Literature Contemporary Hausa literature probably because many of its writers live in Kano. There are literary scholars who have conducted research on it from as far as Australia. Dr. Edward Smooth from the University of Vienna was reportedly once in Bayero University, Kano, for research about the subsidiary of Nigerian literature.
“I have been in this business for seven years now and I am not ready to leave it because of how it has been keeping me alive,” said Maimuna, 28, mother of two, the owner of the books renting shop. She was an avid lover of soyayya novels; she used to buy them for her personal reading until many friends and friends’ friends began showing interest and from lending it became renting. She earns six to eight thousand naira daily because she is having renters from far and near. She elucidated that it is mostly young girls who want to learn about relationships or girls who are about to be wedded and want to learn the marital life, or married women who want to be inspired, that are her customers. The novels are mostly relationship stories with instructional or pedagogic flair like children literature.
novels, before the entrenchment of Kannywood or Hausa movies in the early 90s, by the production of movies like Ki Yarda Da Ni, Daskin Da Ridi, Abin Sirri Ne, et al, in the consciousness of northerners, soyayya novels were the toast of everybody. Maryam Abubakar said she travels to Kano, where most of the novels are produced, to get new ones for her customers every week. The only challenge she has in the business is “some people would rents some books and you will never see them again, the money used in buy them is fully lost” the prices she buys the books ranges from two to five hundred naira each, depending on the publishing quality and the storyline.
Ismaila Abubakar, a resident of Malali, Kaduna, has authored four novels and he has earned a substantial amount of money from it. He has four currently in the works. Ado Ahmed Gidan Dabino has reportedly sold over 100, 000 copies of his award-winning book, In Da So Da Kauna, has travel to Italy, England, France and other countries in tandem with his Kano Market Literature writings, although his own is at times tilted from the amorous point of view which is the cardinal of the writers. Most Nigerian writers writing in English hardly enjoy such feat. No place in Nigeria where books written in English are being rented. The sales are usually very low; it would not take more than a superficial observation before knowing that the industry vitiates the infamous low patronage that bedevils Literature in Nigeria.
Filed Under: Writing