Book Review: A Play of Giants by Wole Soyinka

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It’s been ages since I read a play and I have to say this was an amazing read. Wole Soyinka needs no introduction, he’s only the first African to be honored with a Nobel Prize in Literature (1986).

Now to the review.

A Play of Giants is a political satire set in the Bugaran Embassy to the United Nations, New York. It revolves around four African heads of states who mimicked real-life actors at the time the play was written:

  • Benefacio Gunema: President for Life Macias Nguema (Equitorial Guinea)
  • Emperor Kasco: Emperor of Life Jean-Baptiste Bokassa (Central African Republic)
  • Field-Marshal Kamini: Life President Field Marshal El-Haji Dr Idi Amin (Uganda)
  • General Barra Tuboum: Life President Mobuto Sese Seko (Congo/Zaïre)

With focus mainly on Field-Marshal Kamini (Idi Amin), the Supermen are portrayed in their splendor at the Bugaran Embassy where they are being sculpted. The play opens up with three of the Supermen as they passionately discuss power, responsibility and politics while being immortalised.

I found myself transported onto the fictional grounds of the Bugaran Embassy while reading this. Even though things got quite intense as subsequent characters tried to reason with Dr President Kamini, I really didn’t want to leave. The play ended so abruptly for me. I really didn’t want to be booted out so fast!

A Play of Giants is really enlightening and manages to be hilarious even as it schools you.


“Power comes only with the death of politics. That is why I chose to become emperor. I place myself beyond politics.” – Kasco

“Any fool can understand government, but power!” – Gunema

“I think the author is Don Guadjara – he write that power is elixir. So I say to myself, how I taste this elixir? That is when I go into voodoo.” – Gunema

“We also have a saying in Bogota, ‘Laughter is the tequila that corrodes the machete of anger’” – Secretary General

The version I read, an e-copy had 81 pages. You could get a copy here or here!


Podcasts 101: Women in Diplomacy

To christen this new category on The Elementary Project, I have to introduce you all to the ‘Women in Diplomacy‘ podcast. This podcast is directed by Kelsey Suemnicht and I’m an avid listener.

On days when I need more than a little inspiration, I find myself on this podcast feed. Each episode is laden with gems shared by amazing women in diplomacy. The tenacity with which they pursue their passion is nothing short of inspiring.

Episodes are often role model interviews where the interviewer, Kelsey Suemnich‘sits down with role models in the field to capture their personal stories and career paths paired with advice, highlights from the field, and research inspiration.’

I particularly enjoy these interviews because Kelsey asks really key, pertinent questions and I like getting to hear from these great women on how they got to live their dreams. So far, episodes are 14 – 44 minutes long depending on what category they fall under. Interviews are quite moderate in length and the workshops are lengthier.

So far, workshops have been done on Research and more recently Public Speaking. I definitely look forward to more workshops!

Although episodes should include topic round-tables to highlight overarching topics in the world through debate and discussion, there hasn’t been a round-table episode so far.

I obviously love this podcast but if I have to choose favourites, I’d go with “Hip Hop Diplomacy with Mahogany Jones”, “Political Affairs at NATO with Jacqueline Dow” and “Counter-Terrorism at NATO with Juliette Bird”. You can see how much I’m enjoying the Women of NATO series. I look forward to hearing from Women of AU, UN and many more! Perhaps one day I’d get interviewed too!

Subscribe to the Women in Diplomacy podcast here.



The gospel of Islamo-development

“We can have all the theorization … at the end of the day, we have got to address the question that we have systems in which the government have not made it a priority to put food in people’s stomachs, drugs in the mouths of children and (create) jobs for the youth …” *

“The state has abdicated its responsibility and left it to the society.”*

I got the opportunity to attend one of the debates organized by LeMonde Afrique solely focused on Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano who is definitely a force to reckon with. I was absolutely glad to have attended. He shares his incredible insights and discusses the role of Islam in countering radicalism and the importance of inclusive development for Nigeria.

There has never being a time when society has conformed to what people think it should be…” *

The debates open up with the Emir speaking on the challenges of a Muslim in the 21st century. The individual is thus faced with the need to navigate between two worlds – reconciling Islam and modernity. I think this challenge is one that is quite universal due to the complexities present in the world today. Individuals regardless of religion, race, gender continually strive to navigate multiple worlds attempting to find a balance.

“The only reason Boko Haram became what it became… was the lack of political will to confront them…” *

As the Chairman of Black Rhino which strategically implements transformational projects using in-depth country knowledge across the African continent, His Highness Emir Muhammad Sanusi II concentrates on structural reforms within Nigeria and across Africa.

“You can do something with a desire to help the poor which actually hurts the poor.” *

Key points made by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi:

  • Religion should not be thought of as a category, this increases the tendency of attributing issues which stem from secular and social reasons to religion hence referring the failure of government to as a religious issue.
  • Within religious, political spheres of interaction, certain languages of intolerance could breed a form of identity politics and the phenomenon of othering which could be problematic.
  • There is a risk of appropriation of religious principles such as the Sharia law as political tools wielded by detached lawmakers.
  • There is a tendency to have a ‘helicopter view’ of Boko Haram which results in little appreciation of the case-specific nuances.
  • Strategically and economically, Lake Chad is important. Get the water back into Lake Chad. Water is the life-source of the surrounding communities.
  • No country can afford to leave a part of its region or population marginalized.
  • To have a real impact on the behaviour of people at the grassroots, it is important to address the issues from their points of view. Imploring local populations in the name of the United Nations may not have as much of an impact as advising them from their religious or cultural angles.
  • It is important to focus on education. When people have education, their life chances are improved.
  • Nigeria is clearly influential due to its economy, population and military. Nigeria has to set a good example in terms of good governance. “South Africa is not a competition, Africa is big enough for all of us, if Nigeria gets its act together, South Africa would be nowhere.”*

Tweets from the event:

On Islam in Nigeria and the influence of Saudi Arabia and Iran:

On the gender conversation and Western values:

On subtle jabs:

On measures that could be taken by the World Bank:

On labels:

*All quotes were made by His Excellency, the Emir of Kano – Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

What do you think about the Emir of Kano? Please share in the comments below.

Crossing borders

Who are you? Where are you from? Yea but.. where are you really from?

Borders are around us and even within us, the earth may be round and without angles but borders continue to exist. Geographically, psychologically, mentally, religiously, sexually and so on. Can you imagine a world without borders? One where each comes with an unarmed mind willing to accept the other without labels? One where age, race, ethnic group, gender does not solidify the walls between ‘us’ and ‘them’?

The Paris School of International Affairs launched the Youth & Leaders Talks and I was privileged to attend the event. Its Ted Talks-esque nature made it appealing but I was also interested to see what my fellow students would share as this was an event designed for and by PSIA students to basically showcase the PSIA Community in all of its diversity and strengths. It certainly did!

The theme of this inaugural edition was “Crossing Borders” – a special guest speaker, General Vincent Desportes and six student speakers shared their personal experiences and interpretations of what it meant to cross borders, be they tangible or intangible. Even as each one spoke on issues that differed, it all came together to create an inspiring and thought-provoking atmosphere.

We journeyed from South Africa, where Piroshin discusses apartheid and his experience growing up, to Mexico where Marianna leaves her comfort zone to champion a fight against human trafficking. We made our way into the battlefield with General Desportes to identify our ‘Mont Blanc’ (obstacles, limitations) just so we could overcome them. Nadia talked about ascribed identities and how she’s taking charge of what defines her. Mehrdad implored us to unite and pull down boundaries of age, gender etc that exist to separate us. Carolina shared her experience with straddling two worlds and embracing the two by making the borders fluid. And Nikita’s trip from India to Pakistan was such an eye-opener for her.

Key points made by the speakers:

  • Recognize the limitations and borders within yourself, and then go ahead… shatter them.
  • There is so much room for growth if only we would cross over boundaries and go over our comfort zones. Imagine the possibilities beyond the limitations within you.
  • Borders separate, hold us back, divide and segregate. Crossing borders is not easy but so much growth and potential is unleashed when we do so.
  • We are not one thing, we are a multitude of things, we are overlapping. Don’t starve off certain sides of yourself, embrace them, make those borders fluid.

Change is a continuum, change is continuous, age is an artificial border” – Mehrdad Pourzakikhani

This is creativity… to derive meaning from complete chaos and find connections where there were none…” – Carolina Brandào

Gender can be a boundary that thrives to reduce an aspect of the diversity of human identity into a boundary.. a dichotomy – Mehrdad Pourzakikhani

I am 100% French. It’s up to me to decide & disclose. Embrace the layers.” – Nadia Noumri

Our soils are parted, let’s not part our souls” – Nikita Singla

Personally, I’d say I am still in the process of crossing borders. Everyday for me is an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, confront my fears and break stereotypes. Some days I succeed, other days not so much.

What are boundaries and limitations within yourself? How could you start to break down these limits? Share in the comments below, your experiences or interpretations of what it means to cross borders.

Self-reflection is key.

Enjoy Cecile Emeke’s Strolling Series. Start from France, make your way to Italy… Explore the Netherlands… Now off you go to Jamaica.  Venture into the United Kingdom and check out the United States, the land of many burgers.

Also, what do you think of Taiye Selasi’s TED Talks – Don’t Ask Where I’m From, Ask Where I’m a Local?

Welcome to this Elementary Project!

Whoop! Welcome to this Elementary Project!

In this first official post, what more can I say but to introduce myself!

The year is 2016 and my name is Motunrayo. Six years ago, the perfect welcome post would have been the TMI tag (which I may or may not have done). However, this is a new slate and here we go!

I’m currently listening to My Africa podcast and contemplating how to proceed with this. I’d try not to reproduce the content of the About Me section. This Elementary Project was born out of a need for consistency and discovery. I intend to explore issues I am passionate about, these would vary greatly – think contemporary issues, diplomacy, wellness, faith, adulthood and beyond.

I’m sure you already have some thoughts you’d like to share. Don’t hesitate, share in the comments below what you think of This Elementary Project. How do you think I could improve upon this?

P.S : Some inspiration was garnered from Sabirah O and Ihunda’s Musings. Thank you sisters.