Nigerian Fiction: Pacesetters Series...What happened?

I remember back in the past in Naija, the movies we watched mostly were foreign movies. Today we have Naija movies that get better (and at times worse) everyday.

In the past, most of the music that thrilled us was foreign music. Today we have our own music industry which has gain international acclaim.

In the past we used to read foreign novels (James Hadley Chase, Mills & Boon series etc) but along the line came our own novel sensations - the Pacesetters series (pictured above) which took everyone by storm. You'd see secondary school students as well as adults totting copies of these Nigerian (and sometimes other African) written urban pop-fiction series which ranged from Romance to Action thrillers. We loved them and they showed that we had a lot of talented pop-fiction writers here in Nigeria

These books were hot cakes back then and you saw them to buy at many bookshops then but over time they have disappeared and Macmillan doesn't seem to be publishing them anymore.

And people have gone back to reading foreign paperbacks. And people seem to read more of self help books or gossip tabloids today.

Why didn't the reading culture that seemed to explode during the pacesetters era stay on? What killed it? Could it be the coming of the internet and cable television?

Though lately there have been some revival attempts by some publishing outfits like Farafina books who are doing a good job of it. Also a new generation of authors are springing up with brilliant works all over the place. Reading session events are even recently becoming more frequent.

So should we be expecting that reading and writing culture to come back and storm the literate or reading populace like the pacesetters did back then? 

We've created our own music types and broken away from being hooked to foreign ones; we've opened up the channel for our movie industry to thrive and become a renown one that's now viewed on satellite, we have writers and books coming out again but have Nigerians embraced reading as they have embraced music and the movies? Or are these two countering the reading culture?

I long for book lines like the pacesetters series to come back; they were fun in those days and added value to students way back. I believe it will help develop our reading culture and give us a space to create what is proudly our own that the outside world can appreciate. Imagine these series being adapted to movie versions (that will contribute to better storylines!).

I can't forget classics like 'Mark of the Cobra', 'On the Road', 'Naira Power', 'Director!', 'Coup!', 'Sisi'...and the list goes on. I feel like reading some of them again. we had real creative writers then and a series that was very accessible, and a reading public that was grabbing them.

Who else was ever a pacesetter fan?

28 Screamer(s):

The Okada Hell Ride And My Baby's Poop

Okay, how do I start this story?

I was on a mission; a very important mission – to submit a sample of my little girl’s poop to a diagnostics lab for testing.

My car wasn’t available because the brain box had malfunctioned and I had to park it. That meant I had to move around by public transport.

We had arrived from church that afternoon and had waited eagerly for little Timi to ‘offload’. She had been ill for sometime and was getting better but for her to complete her treatment, there was need for one more test, and it involved a sample of her poop.

Timi ate like a horse (thanks to the B-complex vitamins) she ate her own meal and joined me and wifey to consume ours. She finished off my chicken and almost ate the bones. I was shocked; I didn’t know a one year old could consume that much.

Finally she stopped eating and stood still, her cheeky face rigid and concentrated. She looked into the distance as if trying to comprehend something. I got the message.

‘MJ! Oya bring the container oh! Timi wan begin shit!’

Soon Timi was cleaned up and Wifey handed me a vial filled with her yucky output. It felt warm and I cringed; not at the though of holding my baby’s poop in a transparent plastic but at the thought of carrying it to another destination – like I was some messenger sent to deliver the ‘poop of life’ that would liberate some suffering village (Thanks to the crappy Nollywood movies I had accidentally watched, my imagination was running amok).

It would have been comforting if all I had to do was just board an ‘Okada’ (bike taxi) head there, drop the stuff and come back but that wasn’t the story.

First the journey involved passing through a major road that was under construction; a road that had been graded by caterpillars leaving nothing but brown clay dust all over the road. As cars passed through this road, dust swirled up like a desert sandstorm, covering one’s vision like a thick early morning harmattan fog – only that it was a hot midday afternoon and this was dust, not misty dew. As if to boast of its intesity the dust was on every house along the road, changing every color to dirty brown.

Secondly I discovered that the Okada was going to carry two of us and not me alone. Now I hated riding on okada with another passenger; I preferred being the only passenger but today I wasn’t holding enough ‘change’ so I just climbed on behind the rider and this neatly dressed dude sat behind me.

As the Okada sped along the road, the dust rose and I found myself struggling to stay free from being choked. Cars passing by in the other direction or overtaking us made matters worse by amplifying the thickness of the dust.

The okada man was wearing a helmet with a visor so his face was covered from being blinded by the dust; the dude behind me wore a pair of sunshades so just his eyes were protected.

Only I had nothing to cover my eyes. So I was forced to hide my face behind the Okada man’s back which was not at all comforting. I had to endure looking at his dirty collar and grime caked neck all through the trip while resisting the urge to barf or choke on dry airborne clay particles.

Finally the dude behind me got to his destination and came down. I was so relieved; it was additional torture having a man's privates poking you in the back on a bike. A friend who had been expecting him laughed at us – we had been so pelted by the dust and our hair had turned brown making us look like half-breed albinos.

I hurriedly dusted my hair and face hoping to get all the dust out before I reached where I was going.

When I got to the lab I was directed to where I would drop my ‘cargo’. The lab scientist laughed when he received the vial.

‘Sir, we only needed a small sample, not this much!’

‘Well…at least you have more than enough to work with.’ I said, appalled at the idea of discussing the ratio or measurement of a 1 year old’s shit.

As I was about to leave, one of his colleagues brought something to my notice.

‘Bros, clean your face there’s dust…’

‘Na the road oh!’ I broke in before he could continue and before they mistook it for a woman’s ‘pancake’.

When it was time for me to go back, I steered clear of all the Okadas and judiciously waited for a bus. At least I would be covered and concealed in a bus. It took some time but I didn’t mind. I wasn’t ready to undergo another torture or extreme dirty makeover by that dusty road.

So how do I end this story?

Yeah, I guess I learned a lesson - never ride on a bike in clean clothes on a dusty and untarred road.

I should have thought of that!

7 Screamer(s):