Maverick author, scholar and self-acclaimed pagan, Naiwu Osahon stirs up controversy in this interview with James Eze
His grey hair glowed like a clump of fireflies in the dim light of Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Lagos, where an eclectic audience waited patiently to hear his dear friend, Chinweizu rail at the West and sound yet another warning to Africans. The fiery bard, Odia Ofuemun had pointed him out earlier in the lobby; “That is Naiwu Osahon”, Your curiosity had the better of you. You tip-toed after him when the lecture ended. But he had declined your request for an interview with a big grin that halved his face in two. But he had taken your phone number. About one week after, your mobile phone suddenly twitched with bionic impulse. The message on the screen said: “I am willing to do an explosive interview…..” Naiwu.
Now, it´s difficult to come across Naiwu Osahon and miss his whiff of enigma. His lean frame, loud sepulchral voice and sallow, introspective mien mark him out. But Osahon´s enigma does not end with his looks. It lies deep in the pages of his incredible oeuvre of 152 books, his incendiary pan-Africanism and his puritan paganism.
Osahon has cultivated his mystique like a Mullah´s beard over the years, and it´s still growing. Although it´s not clear whether his taking up residence in a desolate farm in Agbara, Ogun State is part of the mystique, it has deepened his legend by a jot as the ensuring dialogue had to be conducted online on account of distance. After emptying his venom on the ´imperialist West´ and their African collaborators for the black man´s pitiable lot on the planet, the exchange tapered off to literature; an area where the wiry intellectual would seem to have made the most mark. Still, Osahon had to be pushed against the wall. When will all these finger pointing to the West for all of Africa´s woes end? You queried. “The problem now is about the Blackman´s mindset. We have made significant progress in re-orienting the Blacks in Diaspora. We still have some work to do in the area of alien religions. They are waiting for us to provide home grown alternatives.
Africans in Africa are our greatest problem at the moment and that is largely because most of our people are still illiterate. Even the literate ones have no books to read that can transform their lives. Where such books are available, they are too expensive to procure because of the marginalization of the local currency by the IMF and the World Bank. They dump their Bible and Koran on us free of charge to keep us perpetually illiterate,” he said. Osahon never lacks opinions on the issue of ´alien´ religions, which he blames for the general inertia among Africans. He thinks religion is the strongest neo-colonial weapon against black Africans.
But there´s one area where neither religion, nor slavery nor colonialism can erode. The African has an edge in that area. That seems to be what Osahon was suggesting in his popular book, Sex is a Nigger. So, what did he actually set out to do in that book: dispel ancient stereotypes or re-enforce them? “Sex is a Nigger was my second published book and remains Africa´s best seller, along with Lagos Na Waa, I swear, and three other similar books, he replied. “They were written principally to pay my bills. I am better known as a rabid critic. My books are among the most hard-hitting books in the world. I have written 26 adult books with titles like God is Black, The Black Agenda, The Climate of Darkness, The Colour of Anger, The Cradle and The End of Knowledge, which is my magnum opus. I am considered the leading author of books for children in the black world. I have over 126 titles for children. On the issue of unconcealed attempt to proclaim black sexual prowess in Sex is a Nigger, the story is about my true holiday experience in the Scandinavia in the 60s. I had a wonderful time and my white girl friends indirectly provided the title with their relentless demand for my services. It is not a secret that blacks dominate in that department. White men are not circumcised and so are invariably weak. Before their instruments find their way out of their sacks, they are pissing prematurely already,” he explained, sounding more like a racial ambassador than a ´rabid critic.´ But Osahon is like that, brash, vocal and almost visceral, he has no room for prisoners. It does not matter to him that there may not be a scientific proof of his submission above.
Again you sought to have his back up against the wall once more and have him come down smoking. The titles of his books sound a little voyeuristic, you observed. Like something one would rather associate with the popular Onitsha market literature than some more distinctive literature. What was his explanation for the overt banality of his themes? Sadly, this move did not elicit the desired response as the maverick clammed up. “If five books out of 26 for adult and 126 books for children sound like Onitsha market literature, that is not a disaster for literature? I wrote those books as I have already said, to pay my bills because our people do not buy serious literature as you call it, and people like me would not accept financial assistance from the CIA”, he posited. He didn´t have to say it though. It has always been clear that Osahon could not be tempted with certain kinds of patronage. But wasn´t it remarkable how his literary enterprise had gone? A look at his graph of literary productions indicates a steady growth that began with The Climate of Darkness in 1971 and reached an orgasm in 1981 when he pushed out 25 books for children. Since then, his inkpot seemed short of the precious fluid. What was behind this temporary aridity? Is he a shout away from menopause or already in it?
“No, I now have 126 books for children and I have pushed out 12 additional adult books since then. I hardly do book launching and it is book launching that register book titles in our critics minds. Our book critics do not read. They copy what others say. I sell most of my books abroad and the internet has now enhanced that culture. With a website, you can have a shop on the electronic highway of the world. It took ten years to complete, The End of Knowledge, because it reveals secrets never before revealed to mankind. I don´t think I was human most of the time I was writing it. An incomplete edition came out six years ago but distribution was spiritually blocked because I had not said everything I was supposed to say. The End of Knowledge was virtually spiritually dictated. It required a learning process to write. That is why it took so long. I went through severe suffering to receive what I wrote about. I have now added 120 pages to the book. I am still adding bits here and there even now. Those waiting for the book should be patient. It is the greatest book ever written and there is not likely to be anything like it ever again,” he submitted, leaving you to wonder what he meant by The End of Knowledge. It sounds visionary though, and of course, writers are regarded as visionaries whose creative effusions define the ebb and flow of the national polity.
Would he say that the Nigerian writer has acquitted himself in his sacred duty to speak truth to power within the Nigerian context? “I am not sure that we have quite done that,” he opined. “We do not have committed writers like some of the old breed. People like Chinweizu, Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, Chinua Achebe and myself. I think my writing influence attitudes. Yes, we can influence attitudes. Chinweizu and I ran a regular workshop for young writers in my Apapa office in the eighties. People like Ogaga Ifowodo were graduates of our workshops and see what he has turned out to be now. I am not saying we are his only influence, but we helped. We have many others like Ogaga and we are working at the moment on reviving the workshop. Young writers need mentoring by the established ones and there has not been much of that in recent years in Nigeria. University education is not enough; there is something you learn from Naiwu that is not available in any book”. Osahon is almost always assertive in his declarations. So, how would he assess the present Nigerian literary scene in view of the fact that the period of his high literary yield coincided with the creative ferment of the era when Nigeria maintained a literary invincibility on the continent? “I am impressed by what I am seeing. The young ones are not letting up. They are winning international laurels and I have seen some great poetry and essays. I think there is hope. We need institutional support to sustain the ferment. That is all.”
While preparing for the dialogue, you had come across the fact that his career with the UAC, where he began his working life had ended rather sadly on account of his volatile brand of unionism.
You wondered what exactly happened. “Ok, that is well in the past now. I have even forgotten that I once worked in the UAC. They recruited me from England immediately after my MSc. degree in marketing from the University of Sanford. I enjoyed myself in the UAC because I was highly respected and largely undisturbed. I was writing critical books against our oppressors and running institutions to strengthen our resolve. At the push point, they decided to disorient or frustrate me from continuing my activism for my race. I rejected this and insisted that I must not be treated differently from how white managers were being treated in the company. We fought a battle over the illegal termination of my appointment in court but they used the money they were to compensate me with to buy over the judge and that is history now.”
Again that finger to the West. Again this we-against-them posture. Again, the undisguised victimhood. But it all sounded a bit phoney. His has been a strong voice against racism, imperialism and all, but he gladly accepted the key to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, USA….a strong racial enclave. How would he reconcile this jarring contradiction? “Memphis is not a racial enclave now in the sense that you have portrayed. Memphis is politically a black dominated enclave. The mayor is black. The counselors are mostly black. It is culturally a black dominated city and I was given, apart from the key to the city, several other awards from neighbouring counties, including councilmanship, citizenship, commissionership and also a silver shield (trophy) by Morehouse College, for my services to the entire black race. I was honoured for what I am doing for my race. People like me do not win the Nobel because we are aware and critical of what the West is doing to suppress us as a race. It is great, therefore, to be honoured in one´s life time by the people you are fighting for. Usually such honours come after we are dead. I am glad I received some while still alive. They serve as incentive to do more for my race.”
You recalled that you had heard it noised in some quarters that Osahon was an agnostic. Was his resentment of religion an offshoot of his famous hypersensitivity to racism? “An agnostic is a person who believes that nothing can be known about God or life after death. That is not me. I told you that I am the first in the history of the world to know certain things. I have put them in ´The End of Knowledge.´ Some of the knowledge were known to a few and were referred to historically as the secrets of the ages. Others had never been revealed before to man. For instance, I know that the Jesus story is a lie. The knowledge is not a secret to the spiritual elite of the world. Yahweh himself confirmed the Jesus lie to me before I dug up the proof that was hidden from most of mankind for ages. It is annoying to see our people living a lie. I know about life after death and I also know that what you think is ´God´ is not ´God.´ The problem you have understanding what I just said is that you have a wrong definition of ´God.´ What you think is ´God´ is a deity. Yahweh, the Christian and Muslim ´God´ is only a deity. Yahweh, the Christian and Muslim ´God´ is only one of the ten Jewish deities.
All Gods are tribal deities, i.e. intermediaries between man and the spirit world. All deities are gods and are all to be spelt with the capital letter ´G.´ The Jews called the Ultimate Source of Spirituality En-Sof, which we in modern time call Tu-SoS, meaning, The Ultimate or Unlimited or Universal Source of Spirituality. No religion or spiritual movement in the world worships the ultimate Source. Even the largest spiritual groups in the world, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism do not worship the ultimate Source of Spirituality.
I am a Pagan. I am the leader of the modern Pagan world and the Spiritual Prince of the Black race. I know that the spirit world exists and it is the real world. Our physical world is a mere illusion. The spirit world is not in some remote or obscure place called heaven or hell but right here in parallel orbit with our world. The living and the dead cohabit. They can see us but we cannot see them unless with specially trained eyes. Everything that happens to us happens first in the real world. So, our physical world is only a shadow or reflection of the spirit world. Every living thing consists of the physical and the spiritual and it is possible to transmute from human to spirit life and back to human through the process called alchemy."