Ruona Meyer, a Nigerian freelance journalist recently nominated for an International Emmy Award for her thought-provoking BBC documentary on the Nigerian Codeine epidemic shocked friends and fans when she launched into a foul-mouthed tirade against award-winning Nigerian satirical writer Elnathan John, over the former’s criticism of the decision to hold a literary arts festival in the Nigerian State of Kaduna.
It was a surprising and ill-advised attack, given Ruona’s new profile on the world stage as an Emmy nominee. Recall that Kevin Hart stepped down as the host of the Oscars after homophobic jokes he had tweeted years ago re-surfaced online.
Germany, where Ruona Meyer lives, withdrew it’s entry into the Eurovision song contest in 2015 after criticism of their performer’s homophobic lyrics. In the UK, the MOBO nominations of two carribean artists Elephant Man and Vybe Kartel were withdrawn after they refused to apologise for homophobic lyrics in their earlier songs.
Elnathan’s grouse rose from shrinking civic space in Nigeria and what he felt was the refusal of the Nigerian literary class to call out political leaders who oppress people, and instead wine and dine with them.
According to Elnathan, the Kaduna State Gov. Nasir El Rufai, had used and continues to use state power to persecute critics, journalists and writers like himself. Many in the social media space have fingered him as responsible for the disappearance of a well-known social media critic, Abubakar Idris, popularly known as Dadiyata, while another critic, Stephen Kefas is still languishing jail on his order.
In 2016 in Kaduna, the governor was at the center of the Nigerian Army clashed with the Shiites – a minority Muslim group – leading to the deaths of more than 300 men, women, and children; most of whom were buried in mass graves. He derides the group and has vowed do everything suppress it.
Using his twitter handle @elnathan_john, he accused the organizers, and writers who attended the KADAFEST festival organized Nasir Elrufai, of collecting “blood money” to defend politicians and “take selfies with them”. He also called them hypocrites for refusing to challenge “murderous politicians”.
It was to this that Ruona responded, calling Elnathan a sexual migrant and a hypocrite. She then went on an even more explicit rant, calling him, among other things, an alleged sexual blackmailer and a “d*ck refugee”. This vicious homophobic attack shocked many observers, who quickly told Ruona that she had stepped out of line.
But rather than apologize, she doubled down on the hateful and personal abuse of the writer.