The alarm blared by 4 am. I was awake by 3:37. I had brushed my teeth (outside, in the quadrangle, which I later learnt was not acceptable), used the toilet to flush out whatever remnant of the previous 3 days’ ordeal was still left in my system, and had taken my bath. It was like any regular camping experience, and I was no stranger to camps, so I knew to wake early and finish up my shit before the place becomes the muster point for a different kind of clarion call, a not-so-palatable kind. The alarm blare was accompanied, right on time (and they maintained this for all 21 days of camp, right on time, except the night after the carnival. We marshalled for morning parade by 6 am – two hours later instead – that day) by the military men, of various ranks and shades, blowing their many whistles, and I was on my mufti. I looked around; I wasn’t the only one in that room donned so, but odds were that in the entire camp of over two thousand potential youth corpers (yup, they made sure to emphasize the fact that going to camp does not equal becoming a corps member, everyday), that very Thursday, I would be one of at most seventy persons not dressed in the traditional white-on-white.
Enter an average Nigerian street today, you’ll find little clusters of people, different genders and ages, talking, animatedly, over drinks or light food or some such, about matters—problems—that are really out of their hands to solve, directly that is. These are complaining lips, grumbling hearts, murmuring souls, angry and upset about any number of things— the way of governance in the country, the wealth distribution or its lack thereof, the fact that there are no jobs to help even the most optimistic partake in a little of the unevenly shared wealth, the understanding that corruption cannot be replaced as the blood that circulates the veins of industry and economy in Nigeria. It’s so rampant finding these groups that categorizing the act of finding time to indulge in it as part of the Nigerian lifestyle would not be so arguable.
Last day of camp. Bags are packed. All mattresses returned. All queues dissolved. The closing formalities are all done. The NYSC officials come out of their camp offices with bags of papers. They are the posting letters. Everybody’s heart is racing. We have all wanted some specific area of Kebbi State or the other. We had asked questions; to the military officials (some ladies as far as befriending them, and such such, for answers and help), to the camp officials, to Kebbi natives, to our new Northern friends; we had enquired, which local governments are survivable? How do we survive? What’s the weather like? Northern states have too much land, how much does it take to travel from Aliero to Argungu? Or from Birnin Kebbi to Yauri? Are there shopping malls in Gwandu? What would it take me to access a bank in Zuru? We had made our choices. Such futility! NYSC had other plans for most.
“Everybody, whether they know it or not, needs a platform to scream—at the world, at life, at nature. Most people never get that chance, or rather, never get to stumble upon it as most others do. So, they have to create it for themselves. Tukobos is a way of reminding writers out there that freedom of speech is real, and can be exercised. They can scream, just as I constantly do here.”
If you are close to me, you have probably heard me utter those words, “the Ozinta series” a couple of times, and wondered what it was all about. I’ve uploaded a logo bearing the words a couple of times on social media. It’s even on a monogram I designed for myself. I’ve been quite cryptc about it.
Well, the time has come for cats to jump out of bags.
The Ozinta series has been a pet project of mine since three months after my non-profit for writers was birthed (August, 2016). I have been nurturing the idea since, waiting for the right time to let it out and let it blossom…because once it is out, the way it is designed, it must not fail.
I am passionate for writing, especially searching out and bringing out to surface unknown African voices out there with pen and paper ready to do damage. This is the very precipice upon which Route Africa (my non-profit for writers) was established. The Ozinta series is yet another clever way, that if it works, will ensure that this goal of mine is achieved.
So, what is it?
The Ozinta series is a wattpad-based project that incorporates social research, a short contest, and a two-month writing period where a chosen collective of writers from the African continent (does not matter where you currently reside) pen down short stories based on results of the research and it is collated for a one-time anthology titled, Ozinta: Little African Messages.
Ozinta is a conjoined word from the Igbo words “ozi” (message) and “nta” (little), meaning, “little messages”. I’m a firm believer that what forms the identity of a people is the cumulative of many little stories, told from different points of view, from different persons within that social circle. I am African because I know that I act in the African way; and I know this because I know that the African way involves the eating of eba or fufu with a variety of vegetable soups; I know the African way involves the use of local cloth materials (ankara, dashiki) to sew and wear clothes. And I know these because I was told so, at different sittings, in different forms, by different African peoples, sharing these little African stories of eba, and fufu, and ankara. Ozinta is a passion project that I can only hope you reading this can buy into.
Ozinta is wattpad-based as a tribute from me to the very platform that served as cradle to my growth as a writer. Also, wattpad is the foremost independent story-sharing site, that is very closely watched by publishing houses and agents, and the ultimate goal is to use the sheer force of will, passion, and drive, to get any of these agents or houses to pay attention to the series’ campaign, and take us up to publishing when we are done writing.
I say “we” because as you read this, The Ozinta Series ceases to be my project. It becomes yours as well, if you will buy into it. You will be required to pour in as much soul (maybe even more) as I do into it to make it work.
So, then, how does it work?
Ozinta is a four-month project in three phases: Research, Contest, and Writing.
The research period will run from today (22nd June) to Wednesday, 22nd August, 2018.
During this period, two sub-campaigns will be run; one on wattpad, and the other on all other social media streams. On wattpad, a wattpad club will be created in the café (those on wattpad will be familiar with the café) called “Your Very African Problems…Share It!” (with some dashes of glitter of course). Wattpadders, African or not, are to come in, and freely talk about issues they have witnessed, are witnessing, or are afraid they would witness, about Africa as a continent, Africans as a people, the African government, cultures, traditions, mores, norms, et cetera, without being shut up or penalised or even witch hunted for their contributions (unless they begin pointing fingers and disturbing the peace of others in the club sharing their own stories as well).
Because wattpad has a demographic that comprises predominantly female writers in their teens, and this campaign targets all group and gender of African writers, the campaign spreads into social media by having writers we can get to adding the hashtag #myAfricanHero to any of their tweets, IG posts, facebook posts, etc, about African events, no matter how mundane or insignificantly African. Also, participants of this vision (writer or not) can purposefully tweet, post, write on these social platforms with the hashtag #myAfricanHeroIsSomeoneWhoCan and then you talk about what your African hero should be capable of doing. It would be exceptionally spectacular if this particular hashtag can trend anytime within these two months of research.
Now these campaigns are research because it is the period where interested writers for the Ozinta Anthology Book can log in (or sign up, if they don’t have accounts) to their wattpad accounts and observe and record everyday the diversity of topics brought up during the discussions. They would also go online and search these hashtags every day and record as well the diversity of topics circling around them. They would note it down and store it. They also have the double task of driving these conversations, such that they give feedback and reply people who require replies to share their stories, and like stories, and repost/retweet them. They are in charge of engagement. And I will surely be among them.
If so far, you like where this is going, and you wish to be part of the contributing writers (who would also foster engagement on social media using both hashtags, and on wattpad, replying messages in the club), just click on this link and fill the little form in it.
On the last day of the research period, the research fellows (the persons who filled the form above) will be asked to collate all the topics they gathered from “watching the space” (observing the discussions and talks) and then we stack them up, pair matching issues, and finally come up with a list of topics to write on. These topics, individually, will be the central theme of a short story to be part of the anthology.
The contest period runs from 22nd August to 29th August, 2018.
What this contest aims to achieve is pruning. Yes, I know, we hate it when these things come up, and now you now have to work to be part of something you have worked your ass off for. But the truth is this: if we want publishers to even pay attention to us, we must offer up our very best writing, from our very best writers.
So, for the one-week contest, random topics will be given to all the writers who did the research, no matter where you’re from. You’ll write a 1000-word fiction on those topics, and using very fair, but very rigid judging criteria, the best writers will be selected.
There is no numerical quota for the number of writers to be selected. All selections will be based on a pass-mark system, where anybody who scores above it gets to write, and if you don’t you cheer on those who will spend the next two months with me penning African stories away.
All judgments, I swear it, will be free and fair.
The writing period runs from 29th August to 29th October
After the contest is over and the writers selected, all selected writers will have to open a wattpad account, if they do not have one already, and start a new book. This book will be titled solely by the writer writing on it, and the book’s title will be based on a central theme which is based on the results of the research. The theme allocated to each writer will be determined by random lot. You’ll be asked, via email, to select some random numbers, alphabets, and shapes. They will be code to which theme you will be assigned.
Once your theme is assigned, come up with a title (liable to change at the end of the writing period), and a rough book cover where you’ll attach the Ozinta series logo on it.
The word limit for the entire work for each person is 35,000 words, with very minimal flexibility on that number.
The writing period doubles as a marketing period…and how this will be achieved is by sharing the stories part by part and tagging just one publishing house to the tweet or facebook/Instagram/snapchat/reddit/tumblr/wordpress/pinterest/medium post promoting that single part of the whole story. So, if a writer has 15 parts of his or her short story, he or she is tagging 15 different publishing houses when it is promoted through socials, one for each part of the story.
The goal is to get them listening and watching closely. And, by 29th October, we would have one or two publishing houses down and ready to go to print.
All stories must be true to African roots, original in flavour, adhering to the given theme (but by all means, employ any avant-garde writing device you may know or can come up with to achieve your aim…the weirder, the sweeter, and the more spectacular). They must not be unnecessarily vulgar, unnecessarily pornographic, or unnecessarily provocative.
If you have gotten to this point in reading this, then surely you have an invested interest in this project. It does not matter if you know me or not. Don’t believe in me; believe in what The Ozinta Series aims to achieve. Why not fill the form now, and let’s get this party started.
Thank you for being part of this.
Tell your family, friends, writer-friends, non-writer-friends, colleagues, acquaintances. Everyone. Let’s do something great.
So...you're looking for that new book to start reading, or you're already reading one and you need motivation/a reading partner, look no further than my goodreads reading list here. Feel free to email me for more suggestions and/or questions on any of these books at email@example.com
Chizzy Ndukwe N is a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from Federal University of Technology Owerri. He is a yet unpublished writer, and has been writing, mostly on online platforms, for eight years now and counting. His works can be seen on his wattpad profile, toryhub, yolar magazine, inspirecrib.com, and Birds and Bridges (the official blog for Route Africa Writers Organization, which he founded in May, 2016).