By Anote Ajeluorou
THESE are exciting times for publishing in Nigeria. In spite of perceived poor reading culture and sheer apathy for the book and lack of patronage among the populace, many Nigerians are not deterred. Realising how important books are to personal and national development in a world built on knowledge economic indices, they have kept faith and are expanding various frontiers to make the book accessible to those keen on not being left behind fast-moving 21st century train.
And while the reputable publishing companies are busy chasing recommended texts from ministries of education to be in business, innovative ones like Magic Wand Publishing are not only focused on creative, fictional books, but are taking advantages of the internet to launch into realms already commonplace in other parts of the world. For Magic Wand, Print-on-Demand (PoD) is the future of books in Nigerian and West Africa’ it claims first to venture into the platform in the region. Toxic Eucharist by Uzor Ngoladi is one of its major works, although it has been in the shadows in the past three years after publishing Myne Whiteman’s A Heart to Mend.
Magic Wand’s Lead Account Manager, Mr. Adewumi Fabarabe, stated in Lagos last week that it was going public with its exciting new publishing offers with Toxic Eucharist because the book breaks new frontiers, as it boldly takes on the explosive issue of religion often seen as a taboo, with its dose of unquestioning dogma. Print-on-Demand, he explained, works on a lean publishing framework that sheds wastes on all fronts. First, you print as many or as few as you have need of so as to avoid stockpiling unsold books in stores or warehouses. In other words, printing is done based on demand at a given time.
Although Fabarebo agrees it’s an elevated form of self-publishing, he, however, noted that Magic Wand goes further than merely pushing a book into an author’s hands to do with them as he wished. His company, he assured, goes the extra mile to provide book editing, promotion and marketing support for its authors. Although he does not pay royalties to authors, he only collects a small percentage from the printing cost, and allows an author a wide margin so his book becomes profitable. But he promotes his authors on reading tours.
From March 21 when Toxic Eucharist will be presented at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, Magic Wand would launch its 1000 books on its web portal - www.booksbymagicwand.com.ng. By this scheme authors are being invited to send in or bring the first three chapters of their fictional manuscripts to Terra Kulture for instant assessment. Accepted manuscripts would be properly edited and uploaded into the web portal and made available on Amazon and other web-based bookstores available to readers worldwide for the Print-on-Demand marketing format.
On Toxic Eucharist, Fabarebo said working on the book had been a journey on account of the controversial nature of its subject, as “It’s a great deal of religious stuff. What can be said is that it’s a great, awesome read”.
WHILE the inclination to defer to some higher being seems ingrained in man’s genetics in his quest to understand himself and humanity at large, the extent to which he has inflicted injury on his fellow man on account of religion seems incalculable. Boko Haram’s self-appointed mission of destruction is a case in point, not to mention other subtle ways by which innocent worshippers are daily being defrauded and degraded by those who purport to lead them in various places of worship.
These are some of the issues Ngoladi tackles in his new and controversial fiction, Toxic Eucharist, set in Eastern Nigeria. Although Ngoladi did not set out to attack on a particular religious faith and its adherents, he has merely brought his creative vision to bear on some of the common vices plaguing modern-day religious practices. Such issues range from fleecing the flock in the guise of revelations or prophecies, priests molesting minors, sex abuse, greed for money, stealing in the church and other such vices that crucify Christ anew in the sheer brazenness of atrocities in various houses of God.
While presenting the novel to the media last week at O’Jez Restaurant, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, Ngoladi said although the works is pure fiction, he was forced to take up religion, as a way of urging critical self-examination on all, as society’s wellbeing is linked to its religious health. He noted with alarm the high level of moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy evident in places of worship in the country, saying a moral regeneration was needed to steer back the cause of religious faith for the healing Nigeria needs.
Anchored against the backdrop of Catholicism, the faith the author grew up in, which acts as springboard for Toxic Eucharist, Ngoladi stated that his work is nowhere near Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses even though he’d had angry reactions to it. Some had even gone as far as referring to the work as blasphemous. But he said there was nothing new under the sun that hadn’t been written before and that the work must not be construed as castigating all priests as immoral, but that some were upright men and women working out a salvation for themselves and their followers.
“Religion has brought a lot of good and bad,” the author stated, “but there’s the crisis of identity; we have discarded our African religion for the Hebrew God. What are the tenets of Christianity or Islam? Now, there are a lot of religious clashes. It’s time we do self-examination in the name of religion. Why do the clergy scam the flock? Expectation from the clergy should be high; it’s not for the morally bankrupt, as the priest character in Toxic Eucharist is portrayed.”