Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry and Short Story Competitions Past winners

This page lists winners of the first three places in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry & Short Story competitions since July 2009. You too could become the next Sentinel poetry or short story champion. Your name will be on this wall, and your work in the Sentinel Champions magazine with pride of place in hundreds of personal and corporate libraries across the world. There is just this little thing you need to do: ENTER THE CURRENT SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY & SHORT STORY COMPETITIONS. CLOSING DATE: 20-12-11
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry and Short Story Competitions Past winners

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Excel for Charity - writing competitions in aid of the world's charities

Excel for Charity - International Writing Competitions Series in aid of charities. Current competitions: 1. The TRYangle Project Poetry (Judge: Gabriel Griffin) & Short Story (Judge: Kate Horsley) Competitions on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Closing 10-10-11 2. Stepping Stones Nigeria Poetry (Judge: Susanna Roxman) & Short Story (Judge: Toni Kan) Competitions on CHILDHOOD. Closing 31-10-11 and 3. Swale Life International Poetry Competition. Open theme. Closing 10-11-11
Excel for Charity - writing competitions in aid of the world's charities

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2011, judge - Roger Elkin

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2011 | Closing Date: 15-Oct-11
For previously unpublished poems in English language up to 50 lines long, on any subject, in any style. Poems entered may not be under consideration for publication, or accepted for publication elsewhere. Prizes: £500 (First), £250 (Second), £125 (Third), 5 x £25 (Highly Commended). Publication in Sentinel Champions magazine #9, February 2012 in print and eBook formats. Judge: Roger Elkin, author of 'No Laughing Matter' and 'Fixing Things'. Results will be announced on 30-Nov-2011 at
Entry Fee: £5 per poem (You may enter as many poems as you wish)

Contact: Send poems with Cover Note or Entry Form with Cheque/Postal Order in GP£ only payable to SENTINEL POETRY MOVEMENT, Address: Unit 136, 113-115 George Lane, London E18 1AB, United Kingdom.
Enter online or download Entry Form at:

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2011, judge - Roger Elkin

Monday, 19 September 2011

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition. | Closing date: Midnight 20th Sept, 2011. | Judge: Todd Swift | Prizes: £150 (1st), £75 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £10 x 3 (High Commendation) + first publication in Sentinel Champions. | Fees: £3 (1), £12 (5). Enter online now

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Spesh Yahya interviews Sauti2Soul

“But someone has to stand up and make that change happen, ‘cos even if we criticize it or not, the ones we have out there are representing you as a northerner; and each and every one of us isn’t happy with that.” – Sauti2Soul {Awal Abubakar Aliyu}

Awal Abdulkadir Aliyu, known as ‘Sauti2soul’ by his friends and fans alike, really defies pigeon-holing, he is what we may call a ‘freelancer’ though that doesn’t quite cut it. He's into radio, {day job with Quest Media’s Vision FM 92.1}, real estate amongst other things. . . The main passion of this recently married Education/Banking and Finance graduate, however, is driving the music industry to new destinations. Farida ‘Spesh’ Yahya, recently caught up with Awal so sit back and enjoy this free flowing chat with the man behind the new wind blowing through northern Nigeria;

Spesh: Can you tell us who Awal Abdulkadir Aliyu is?

Awal: Well, I'm just a regular guy! I'm from Azare, Village in Bauchi State, Katagum LGA. But I never schooled in Bauchi because my dad was a civil servant, so we were moving from one place to another . . .I'm a media person, into real estate, and so many other things.

Spesh: What drives you?

Awal: Quality! A passion to succeed, and to make things happen. Music is my passion and it drives me. . .

Spesh: Knowing how the entertainment industry is like in the north {Nigeria}, where do you think the problem lies?

Awal: I believe the major problem is the religion/culture issue. Unfortunately, music is not seen as a noble profession in the core north, and that now creates a huge gap in the music industry. Also, I think the quality of what you put out there determines how people will view you and take you seriously or not.

Spesh: So, after bringing up the whole culture/religion issue, where do you hope to draw the line? Because there will definitely be a group that will be like: “‘These people’ {musical artistes} are not ‘serious’?”

Awal: Your content. At least, your content should matter. Personally, I wouldn’t sing about women and objectifying women. Rather, you talk about burning issues; talk about marriage, talk about life's challenges and all. Like most of my songs are three parts; first I lay out everything, then I say what I think the problem is, and lastly I try to proffer a solution to the problem.
You could still do a dance track with a burning issue. Like, we have a song we are doing right now that’s going to be called "Shatara" - we are taking it to the grassroots, and being really crude. It’s going to be a {thought} provoking song discussing the current economic situation. We are not trying to insult anyone, but if you listen to it, and your doing something bad, and you get offended, then yeah; good God, you should be...and the way we want to do the video, we are going to use local people, and its going to be nice and you should look forward to it.

Spesh: After listening to your songs, I have said, it’s a fraud that you’ve kept it away from the people so long. So, what are you doing about it now?

Awal: Well, suddenly, I'm about to do something. You know, coming from the north, and from the core north, it’s not easy to wake up and just say you want to do music. I still don’t see myself as an artiste, but a lot people have said that my songs are good, so I will like to avoid to use the word ‘amateur’. I'm not an amateur. I have worked with a lot of professionals on my songs, so my songs are very professional. I’ve worked with some of the best producers in the country; some of them are not even in the country right now. I used to do music for fun ‘cos I'm into Media and so a lot of my friends have studios, and so I just walk into their studio, and burn songs and then give to some of my friends and family folks to bump in their cars. But, so many people are like ‘these songs are good, you should do something’, and I decided to give it a shot.
I have like 18 finished songs, and about 5 or 6 that are unfinished. I tried to make the content "clean”, it’s something you will like your daughter to listen to, your kid brother, and your mum and you wouldn’t feel like it’s not good {for them}. There’s just something for everyone.

Spesh: How did you get into the Media, knowing you are more of a scientist?

Awal: I have always had a passion for the Media! I think if your have a flair for something, it just flows naturally, and you know in Nigeria, you don’t have to do what you read. So, a friend of mine used to work in radio, so I was like, “I think I can do this" and I auditioned and the boss was like, “you’re good but you should know there’s no money in media" and all that. But that’s how it all started. Media has always been something I wanted to do, even though I didn’t read it professionally. Even right from school, I’ve been an artistic person; I’ve written a couple of poems, I don’t know where they are right now. I used to keep a diary, and I really love rhymes.

Spesh: Can you tell us some of the producers you've worked with?

Awal: I've worked with Dr Bengtine, Mr Seth, and a lot them are really huge right now . . . worked with almost everybody in the entertainment industry. Yisheng Garba; he's tight, and really good. He’s a genius. Tommy Shields; KD Worlds Records, he's really really good.....and one thing I’ve got good going for me is that I work with two or more producers on a song. Like if I wanna do hip-hop, and they are like Tommy will know the garaya thingy, and then, Garba, who did bakon lahira. So many others. Because I know what each has unique, and what I really want, I try to also get involved in the production. You know, even writing my songs sometimes, especially when it comes to Hausa, I try to get people that are really good with that, like Ibrahim helps me to write it well, and how I can re-phrase it.

Spesh: Listening to you talk about music, it’s like you sleep and dream it. But how do you decide what to sing about?

Awal: Well, something has to trigger, or a situation, and I'm like; ‘people should know this, this will make a good song!’, and that makes you wanna sing about it. Or you walk into the studio and there's something playing, and you’re like, “this will make a good song". But most times, I have a beat in my head for like weeks, and then I finally go into the studio, and get the violin, because I really love violins, and the bass, and then after recording the beats, I take it home, and there the words just shout at me. Like the song, "Please Don’t Say", I was just driving home, with the beats in my head, and the words kept coming to me, and I decided to write it out as a song.

Spesh: What’s this whole movement going to be like? Are you going to meet people one-on-one, or have, like, an organization?

Awal: Yea, there's a standard. We really need to come up ‘cos we are really really behind. And as an artiste, there are so many people that are gonna make you who you are; you need your manager, and sometimes even a songwriter. It’s teamwork really. So, anyone that’s interested should really get on this wagon. I know a lot the Hausa artiste; I know Yakubu Ahmed, I know Sani Danja, I've met Ali Nuhu. I also love Baba Ari, and I’ve spoken to him about this, and he was like "Dude, anytime!" I've also spoken to El-Faruk; he's a producer in the industry, and we've exchanged ideas and they all wanna do this. But someone has to stand up and make that change happen, ‘cos even if we criticize it or not, the ones we have out there are representing you as a northerner; and each and every one of us isn’t happy with that. I look at some of these things, and it just breaks my heart to see that these movies don’t really talk about the issues in the north, and since the music is here to stay, its not going anywhere, then we might as well just embrace it and accept it.

Spesh: Any last words you wanna share? To the youth and about the Movement?

Awal: I think if we come in as educated and cultured as we are, then maybe, some of our people will let their daughters from decent homes do this, and see it as a decent and noble profession. The advice for the youth is that they should believe in themselves, and have faith. You know what they say, "Faith can move mountains"; so we just might move a mountain. But with the movement, I want to release my first album soon, and then maybe a second, but I will definitely not do a third, because then, the standard will have been set. then, I’ll be more into production, to help bring up more young artiste into the industry..

Spesh: I think we are done here. Thanks a lot Awal for your time.

Awal: It’s been my pleasure, Spesh, thank you!

Spesh Yahya blogs at

Monday, 28 February 2011

SARABA MAGAZINE: Call for Submissions


from Saraba Magazine

The Fashion Issue

To interrogate fashion and what is fashionable, we are publishing #8 of Saraba. As usual, our concerns are beyond the superficial details of everyday life. We are asking previously unasked questions, contemplating questions about art and life that may remain unasked were we silent.

There is so much to write about ‘Fashion’ that it is impossible to make a list. So we ask you to draw the line yourself.

Send us work that interrogates fashion in ways that we wouldn’t have contemplated – let this be as much about dress as it is about life.

See an example in Suzanne Ushie’s “The Serious Guide to Becoming a Seriously Unfashionable Writer.”

We’ll accept entries until 1st of March 2011. If you’ll feel better, let us into your head before you submit.

Please use our Submission Manager at

And read our submission guidelines.

So, expecting your submissions.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Arachne’s Web: Lola Shoneyin’s “Baba Segi”.


Reviewer: Richard Ugbede Ali

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Author: Lola Shoneyin

Pages: 245

Assuming a reviewer could be more favorably disposed to a book on account of its aesthetics, the most attractive book in Nigeria in the year 2010 would be Lola Shoneyin’s Cassava Republic Press published “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives”. It is a beautiful book done in black with images of women imposed on woodcuts dominating the covers. Fortunately, reviewers must with great responsibility consider weightier matters. Lola Shoneyin’s debut, accomplished in 245 pages, is the story of Ishola Alao, his four wives and his daughter. The wives, in order of “seniority”, are Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi and Bolanle and their secret lives unravel around Bolanle, the University graduate fourth wife. The daughter is Segi, Ishola Alao’s first child and she, emphasizing the centrality of children in Nigerian life and in the novel, gives her father an identity; that of being “Baba Segi” {Segi’s father: Yoruba language}. The book begins with the raging determination of Baba Segi, a confident, illiterate, middleclass contractor, to find an end to the barrenness of his fourth wife. Being uneducated, he consults a friend, the degenerate intellectual, Teacher, who advises; Bolanle is a graduate, the way to the bottom of her situation would be found by taking her to a hospital. The novel ends amidst the cinders of Baba Segi’s household. In the fire before was laid bare the secret lives of his wives and the related, tragic death of his first child, Segi. Shoneyin achieves her story by winding it tautly and colorfully, capturing our imagination with Arachne’s skill, keeping us expectant until the very last page.

Using simple diction, Lola Shoneyin nonetheless makes use of a tricky handling of point of view, unraveling her novel mostly via an omniscient narrator whilst occasionally dipping into the minds of several characters to illumine her story with each character’s words. Hers is a complex social novel clearly interested in the issue of polygamy and its human incidence and she, understanding that there is no single track, that her novel would not succeed if written in the form of a viragiad, invites the reader to understand each character in their own circumstance so that the reader comes to anticipate their idiosyncrasies. Her handling of these two elements, diction and point of view, have the effect of giving her characters a full relief and a simple believability not easily achieved. Shoneyin achieves this and much more. There is a depth of thought evident in every sentence in the novel yet this is not the sort of labor of love that blares its effort; hers, to return to the imagery from Greece, are stitches so fine as to be invisible to the eye, hers are word-stitches of a writer, in the mold of Ondaatje, who can turn laborious effort worthy of footnotes and bells into elegant, effective sentences that strike with the irrefutable assuredness of folk sayings.

The most noteworthy technique employed in this novel is the use of “foreshadowing”, a technique widely attributed to the prose of John Steinbeck. This technique involves having simple occurrences happen earlier in the tale that recur later on, only then with a nuance. Its nature is of a vaguely disturbing premonition that, time down the line, bears unquestionable causality to a sinister real-life event. Nowhere is this technique used to more stunning effect than in the events leading up to the death of Segi. At the realization that Bolanle’s “persistent menstruation” would blow the lid off their secret lives, Iya Segi and Iya Femi co-opt the spineless Iya Tope into a plot designed to get their husband to drive Bolanle out of the house; it involved planting the head of a dead rat in Baba Segi’s room and the “discovery” of a fetish-looking calabash in Bolanle’s room. On discovery of these, Baba Segi physically assaults Bolanle, but Bolanle, who is already getting out of her lethargic tryst with being victimized, shows only pain, not a modicum of guilt. Baba Segi, further confused, goes to his friends at Ayikara who rightly deduce the obnoxious exhibits were planted by his other wives. This incident foreshadows the death, quite like a rat, of Segi; Segi is the victim of this story and she dies from ingesting a poison her mothers had meant for Bolanle. In the rat’s head event, Shoneyin gives us a hint of what will happen, to Segi, but we realize it only in retrospect.

Shoneyin’s use of foreshadows makes the reader, as a social integer, a sort of patient on a psychoanalysts couch; it is chiefly a psychological technique. Her use of irony, however, is meant to bitterly entertain and subtly censure. Irony permeates the entire book. The very first line –

“When Baba Segi woke up with bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness”

is ironic in linking her barrenness to his constitutional disorder. It is also supremely Ironic that Baba Segi spends so much effort trying to find a solution to Bolanle’s unfruitfulness, yet when he discovers why she cannot conceive, he finds himself not only unhappy but undone as well; his lot at the end of the novel is the bare rags of an ill-used man’s spirit. One more example suffices; when Iya Segi, on watching a TV news story on the arrest of a necromantic Hospital attendant with a number of pre-term babies, wonders;

“Why? Why kill innocent children?” {Page 12.}

it is both ironic and a foreshadowing – for she does unwittingly kill her own daughter in her quest to kill Bolanle, someone else’s daughter. Lola Shoneyin uses the phrase “voyeuristic thirsts” in her novel; she might as well have been winking when she wrote that, for in the active mining of the text for ironies at the inevitable second reading, the reader mimics a voyeur in more ways than one.

“The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” is a story of lives interlinked in an unfurling tragedy; it is, simply, about the relationship between men and women. We are first brought into the ambit of this theme on the very first page when Baba Segi goes to find his mentor, Teacher, in Ayikara; Ayikara is an isle of ill repute, a Bohemia where the women are all prostitutes and where men come “across the {circling} gutter” to liberate themselves from the women of their lives. Men come to drink and talk and nurse each other’s frustrations, to celebrate each other’s triumphs. What is clear at Ayikara is that men find women so problematic that they must create social networks to share strategy and experiences . . . Equally revealing of the relationship between men and women is the story of Iya Segi. Iya Segi, the first wife, was brought up as a trader by a mother, sour that her lover had “left {me} for a beautiful woman”, who dyes the pattern of this bitterness unto her daughter’s psyche. Iya Segi’s mother states;

“Men are nothing. They are fools. The penis between their legs is all they are useful for. And even then, if not that women needed their seed for children, it would be better to sit on a finger of green plantain.”

Iya Segi, the arch-villainess, who not surprisingly has lesbian tendencies, marries her husband because the wealth from her trading, her independence, is taken away and given to Baba Segi, then a struggling apprentice son of her mother’s friend; it is this wealth that forms the basis of Baba Segi’s prosperity. Manipulative, deranged woman she may be, but, should Iya Segi not feel cheated? All she does, reprehensible as it is, are done with a philosophy consistent with her social and personal context; he who would stone her must be without sin, for the man in her life, Baba Segi who goes on a marrying spree, has not proven any different from her mother’s bitter stereotype.

Recently in Nigeria, debates around books revolve around a single issue; the fidelity of the story. This debate is one on the organics of Nigerian writing, a polarity around the recognition of a story by the people it is meant to be about. In the past decade, writers based in Nigeria have argued that a lot of the celebrated Nigerian writing so-called, mostly written by Nigerians in the Diaspora, has got little to do with Nigeria. The country in “those” novels is a Nigeria of foreign-publisher-market recipe books, inevitably one of stereotype and half-truths. It has been felt that these novels pander to western labels of “those tribal Africans”. Even positive things, the achievements of Africans in the Diaspora for example, are spun in a way to show that this genius could not have flourished were they “back home”, conveniently ignoring the ultimate Western culpability for brain drains. Lola Shoneyin’s debut cannot be flawed on the charge of it pandering to stereotype. The author evidently has an issue with polygamy, but she is careful to show that it is an organic institution in which everyone actively participates in their downward spiraling humiliations. Each of Baba Segi’s wives married him on their free will; none was forced to, perhaps with the exception of Iya Tope. The author also makes it clear that each of them could have left him at any time.

Lola Shoneyin is a writer with the vast vision of a spider and the loving eyes of a sun, seeing everything at once as it is really; hers is the compassion of a brave and knowing writer writing about characters she is familiar with, doing consistent deeds, woven into a seamless story that is as complex, and simple, as life. Lola Shoneyin’s world is her portrait of Arachne’s web and it is no more the fault of the butterfly that is caught in than it is the slipup of the spider that spins than it is of the eye that sees all and retains the picture in mind, in print, for posterity. In understanding this, we see exactly why hers makes it into the pack of just a few books published over the last decade that are, without doubt, authentically Nigeriana.

In order to find out what the secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives are about and why it is so catastrophic to his household, all literature lovers should rush to their nearest bookstore or login to an e-store and order a copy of Lola Shoneyin’s stunning debut.”The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” is a book that will be a popular reader’s delight that will at the same time set the agenda of the gender debate in Academe over the subsequent years. Hers is an achievement worth heralding.

Richard Ugbede Ail, a lawyer, is Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine, He lives in Jos, Nigeria, where he writes from.