Adaobi Nwaubani: Humorous writer, journalist
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a writer to reckon with among Nigerian female writers. Her works portrays the Igbo culture and thereby carved a niche for herself in the literary world. She is a novelist, humourist, essayist and journalist.
Nwaubani is the first contemporary African writer on the global stage to have an international book deal while still living in her home country. She was born in 1976 in Enugu into the family of Chief Chukwuma Nwaubani and Dame Patricia Nwaubani. And was educated at Federal Government Girls’ College, Owerri. She studied psychology at the University of Ibadan.
As a teenager, Nwaubani dreamt of becoming a CIA agent, but the necessity of exhibiting her writing prowess snatched the dream from her.
She earned her first income from winning a writing competition at the age of 13. Her mother, a cousin to Flora Nwapa, the first female African writer, had always been an inspiration for her writing, though she never took writing seriously.
One might conclude that Nwaubani got the knack from her maternal lineage. In 2006, she wrote her debut novel — I Do Not Come To You By Chance — and won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Africa).
She also has to her credit the “Betty Track First Book Award” in 2010, and was a finalist for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2009, and was named among Washington Post’s Best Books.
Nwaubani was also shortlisted for the quadrennial 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature.
Her father never treaded the path of art, yet he was reckoned with in his milieu as one the most experienced chartered accountants in those days. And one would be dismayed at her father, having had interest in studying law, still went back to school and graduated as best Law student in his class at the age of 63.
When asked about what spurred her into the pen career, she said, she had been interested in writing from childhood and was also influenced by environmental experience. “I spent the second part of my life in Umujieze Village, Umuopara, near Umuahia, in Abia State — where none of the roads were tarred, where bare-footed children yelped with wonder whenever they saw a woman and see trees and foliage that were home to different wild animals,” she added.
She added, “I started writing stories at the age of 10. I earned my first income from winning a competition at the age of 13. That was the first of several winning competitions.
At age of 15, I was awarded the best poet and playwright in my secondary school. But then writing was just one of many things I was good at — such as chess, scrabble, oratory, singing and washing dishes.
In fact, I once boasted to a friend that I would be the very best dish-washer if I ever got a job in a restaurant. That, of course, was before I realized that washing dishes was not the most interesting way for a lady to spend her days.”
But one cannot dispute one fact, that this young articulated lady would have had her grasp from her mentors who had lured her into doing something worthwhile. Moreover, her exposure to African children literature had also portrayed her African mentality in her books.
She justified this in one of her recent interviews on her book — “I Do Not Come to You By Chance” — where she depicted the Nigerian email scams. She said, “Just like Chinua Achebe, she has felt the need to paint the picture of her milieu the way she has seen it. I didn’t feel threatened to do anything apart from telling a story the way I knew it to be – things I had observed in the world I lived in. I wasn’t worried about those westerners who think everything Nigerian is 419; I wasn’t worried about those Nigerians who are obsessed with changing the impressions of the west. I wasn’t too worried about stereotypes, either,’’ she commented.
Nwaubani is the first writer in the history of world literature to capture the 419 scams phenomenon in a novel. She is also the first African writer to have got an international publishing deal while still living in her home country.
In 2012, Nwaubani was selected as one of 15 emerging leaders in government, business and civil society from across West Africa to attend a “Leadership For Change” training programme sponsored by the Private Investors for Africa (PIA), which is managed by the African Leadership Institute (AFLI) — the programme aims to create a network of “World-class Pan-African, high potential, emerging leaders across all sectors, working in partnership as catalysts for change in Africa.”
Nwaubani has expressed concern over the largely somber tone of African novels. She credits the Irish-American writer, Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer-winning ‘Angela’s Ashes’ with showing her she could write about serious issues in a humorous tone. Her articles often generate heated debates. Her novel “I Do Not Come to You By Chance’’ has won many accolades.
According to The Times, “this is a fast, fresh, often hilarious first novel by one of the remarkably-talented young African writers who are rapidly making everyone else look stale.”
The Washington Post described it as “a lively humoured and provocative examination of truth behind a global inbox of deceit.”
Nwaubani was one of the pioneer editorial staff of NEXT newspaper. She was the editor of Elan, the fashion and style magazine of NEXT. She was later appointed to the position of opinion editor. She lives in Abuja, Nigeria, where she works as a consultant.