When my book – 'Stadium: The Devils' Playground' – was published in April, 2009, I got a lot of positive attention from the media and the Polish readers. Many people, especially the Polish people, who attended my meetings were thrilled. Many of them told me that they did not know that an African here in Warsaw could write a novel (that was supposed to be a complement). For them, I had gone a long way in shattering some of the stereotypes they had about Africans, especially the black people who live here in Warsaw. I was thrilled by the positive reaction I got from the Polish readers, but what thrilled me even more were the make-up sessions before my TV appearances. Also, being sort after by journalists for radio and newspaper interviews was an exciting experience I was not used to. Those were fun.
But unfortunately, the fun ended there. To many people, Polish people especially, I was a rising star; I was a new voice for Africans here in Poland. BUT, to my fellow Africans here in Poland, I was the exact opposite. I was seen and treated as the biblical Judas. For most of the Africans, because of my book, I was seen as a betrayer, a saboteur and a sell-out. I was treated as a terrible infectious disease. Almost no one wanted to have anything to do with me.
The hatred did not end just there. Many of them vigorously planned and plotted to set me up, to publicly disgrace me and tarnish my image.
But, the question is WHY?
Why were my fellow Africans angry at me?
Why such negative feelings towards me because of a mere book?
The answer is ignorance.
From my estimation, over 90% of the Africans did not read my book. I can rightly estimate also that about 80% of my African brothers did not even know what the covers of the book look like. But, for them, it did not matter. It was not important to read the book and get first-hand information about the stories in the book. NO. That was not important at all. NO. That was a waste of time. For them, the first rumours they heard about the contents of the book were all they needed. The question many of them asked were 'did he mention contract marriage in his book? did he mention fake NIKE and ADIDAS in his book?' The answer they got was 'yes'. With that,they had heard enough. With that they believed they had been able to summarize the entire book and therefore passed judgment and ultimately crucified me.
But fortunately, those who read the book know better.
The second answer is also ignorance.
For reasons best known to my African brothers,they believed that the trading of fake and sub-standard items at the stadium was such a HUGE secret that no one in Poland knows about. Therefore, having written about it in my book, I had committed a terribly unpardonable sacrilege and as such, I should be stoned to death.
Another point that is closely tied to this ignorance is fear. Among many of my African brothers who work at the stadium,there was this terrible fear. They believed that since my book had 'exposed' the unknown, that I had put their business at the stadium in jeopardy. They feared that I had put their business on a collision course with the police. Many of them feared and assumed that the police would read the book and then 'find out' about the stadium trade. Nothing can be more hilarious!
But among the very few Africans who read the book, some of them had very genuine and sincere criticisms and concerns that I strongly agree with. Ironically, those criticisms were not based on the contents of the stories inside the book rather, on a statement that appeared on the back cover of the book.
The statement was that 'Nigerians are experts in committing fraud.' That statement,as offensive and wrong as it is, had nothing to do with me, the author of the book. I was not consulted with that back cover before it was published. Those words were not mine and I sincerely and angrily reject them as both untrue, damaging and most regrettable.
But having said that, I wish my African brothers would come to see the book for what it is- a novel telling the stories of three African friends. I wish they might some day come to realise that the book was never and will never be seen as a true picture of every black man in Poland.
But, would it not be a great idea if the read the book first?
Text by: Ify Nwamana, author: Stadium: The Devils' Playground