The dynamic duo of award-winning journalist and activist Chido Onumah and debutant novelist Richard Ali, will be the featured writers in the June 30 edition of the Guest Writer Session, an initiative of the Abuja Writers’ Forum(AWF), which holds at Hamdala Plaza, Plot 23, Jimmy Carter Street, off Protea Hotel, Asokoro, Abuja.
The Guest Writer Session which started in June 2008 is generally regarded as the most consistent literary event in the country and has become the template for similar interventions, has this year already featured an interesting mix of writers including Uche Ezechukwu, Steve Okecha, Oyibo Ameh, K K Iloduba, Betty Abah and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim.
Chido Onumah , whose latest book is Time to Reclaim Nigeria (Essays 2001-2011), has worked as a journalist in Nigeria, Ghana, Canada, and India. He has been involved for more than a decade in media training for professional journalists as well as promoting media and information literacy in Africa.
He is currently coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Abuja, Nigeria. AFRICMIL is a pan-African centre dedicated to a new vision of media and information literacy as a key component in the education of young people in Africa. From 2002 to 2004, Onumah worked as Director of Africa programmes, Panos Institute, Washington, DC, U.S.A., helping journalists in West Africa, as well as the Caribbean, report in depth on issues that are frequently underreported or misreported — issues such as HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation, and ethnic and religious conflicts.
Onumah was educated at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, as well as the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, where he earned an MA in journalism. He was associate editor of Weekly Insight newspaper, and assistant editor of African Agenda magazine both in Accra, Ghana. He served as coordinator, West African Human Rights Committee, Accra, Ghana, and correspondent for African Observer magazine, New York, and AfricaNews Service, Nairobi, Kenya.
In 2003, Onumah spent some time in Haiti and Dominican Republic where he worked with, and reported on, people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as on cross-cultural dialogue between African and Caribbean journalists. Between December 2001 and January 2002, Onumah was in New Delhi, India, on fellowship with the Indian Express newspaper, reporting on international issues.
Between 2006 and 2007, he served as pioneer coordinator of the crime prevention unit (Fix Nigeria Initiative) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, working on a civil society anti-corruption agenda for the country, and in partnership with the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism developed programmes on ethics and investigative reporting for Nigerian journalists.
Between 2001 and 2002, Onumah volunteered for the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre, London, Ontario, Canada, working on integration and provision of information for refugees and new immigrants to Canada. Since 2005, he has been a volunteer for the World Computer Exchange (WCE), Hull, Massachusetts, USA, seeking donations of used computers from corporations, universities, and non-profit organizations, and assisting in recruiting community organizations, universities, and secondary schools in Africa that benefit from the services of the WCE.
Onumah has earned a number of awards, including the Clement Mwale Prize for courage in journalism, AfricaNews Service (Kenya) 1997; Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) Award for excellence and courage in journalism (Nigeria), 1999; Alfred W. Hamilton Scholarship (Canadian Association of Black Journalists), 2001; William C. Heine Fellowship for International Media Studies (Canada), 2001; and the Jerry Rogers Writing Award (University of Western Ontario, Canada), 2002.
He has edited books on various subjects, including Making Your Voice Heard: A Media Toolkit for Children & Youth (2004); Anti-Corruption Advocacy Handbook (with Comfort Idika-Ogunye) 2006; Guide to International Anti-corruption Laws (2007); Youth Media: A Guide to Literacy and Social Change (with Lewis Asubiojo) 2008; Understanding Nigeria and the New Imperialism (with Biodun Jeyifo, Bene Madunagu, and Kayode Komolafe) 2006; and Sentenced in God’s Name: The Untold Story of Nigeria’s “Witch Children” (with Lewis Asubiojo) 2011.
Richard Ali, whose debut novel, City of Memories, was published in May 2012 by Black Palms Publishers and has received generally warm reviews, hails from Idah in central Nigeria and was born in Kano into the family of Mr. Adejo Ukwubile Ali, a Chartered Accountant, and his wife, Ajuma [nee Ocholi], a Grade II teacher, in the early 80’s. He began his primary school education in Kano and continued in Jos when the family moved there in 1988. His extended family, hailing from Idah in the present Kogi State, is distinguished, having held high political positions in the 1st and 2nd Republics [NPC and NPN].
Primary schooling was completed at the Air Force Primary School, Jos and he proceeded to Emmanuel College, Jos, where he obtained his WASSCE in 2001. That same year, he enrolled into the 2001 undergraduate class at the Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he lived for the next seven years, graduating with an LL.B in Civil Law in 2007. As an undergraduate, he was active in the Law Society and students’ activism, serving on various committees, as Secretary to the National Association of Nigerian Students [NANS] Committee of Interreligious Dialogue and Campus Peace [2004/2005] and eventually as President of the Oil and Gas Law Student’s Association [2006/2007]. He was also Chairman of the Creative Writers Club [2006/2007]. In 2004, he became the youngest magazine editor in Nigeria when he took up an appointment with Sardauna Magazine, published in Kaduna and still in publication. He, together with forty-one other Nigerian writers, was a participant in the British Council’s Radiophonics Workshop in March 2008, the same month he made the shortlist for the John la Rose Short Story Competition.
On graduation he joined the Plateau State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors and was soon elected Secretary [2007/2009]. He then proceeded to the Nigerian Law School where he bagged a BL in 2010 and was duly called to the Nigerian Bar. He briefly worked at the law offices of Pascal Mammo and Co. in Jos before leaving in mid-2011. He has, for the last three years, edited the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine (www.sentinelnigeria.org).
He serves as MD/CEO of Mantle Technology Ltd, an IT firm based in Jos which just rolled out SYNTAX—its school management software application. In January 2012, together with Mrs. Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi, he formed Parrésia Publishers Ltd—Nigeria’s newest publishing company. He is presently attending the Ebedi Writer’s Residency at Iseyin, Oyo State, Nigeria.
The June 30, 2012 edition of the Guest Writer Session starts at 4pm and will include the usual side attractions of poetry performance, mini art exhibition, and a raffle-draw as well as live music. The Abuja Writer’s Forum meets three Sundays each month and hosts a reading on every last Saturday at the International Institute of Journalism, Hamdala Plaza, Jimmy Carter Street, Asokoro, Abuja.
Public Relations Officer (PRO),
AbujaWriters’ Forum (AWF),