Why do her looks elicit such gushing remarks from people who've seen the interview? It reminds me of a story my aunt once told me and my cousins. She was invigilating an ACCA exam, when a woman was caught cheating. My aunt said to me, "it was such a shame - she was such a fine girl". So I ask, what do her looks have to do with anything?
Actually, by the time I pushed the "enter" button twice for this paragraph, it's dawned on me. Aderonke used the exact same word I was going to use to describe her demeanour during the course of the interview - coquettish - which has come up time and again in people's comments. Her coquettishness and her pretiness are intertwined, which explains why her looks have been so apparently apparent. Her coquettish might be less plausible if she wasn't so pretty.
That said, another word also came to mind. Ingenue. But it's probably unfair to use either ingenue or coquette to describe her, as she is evidently a writer who talks and knows about serious issues. When she talks about Africa being the White Man's Burden, she does it as seriously as one would hope. It's the timing of all the other characteristics of a coquette that make us sit up - a smile, a giggle, a flutter of the eyes, a raising of the eyebrows, a tilt of the head.
My first impressions were that she's such a flirt. But on second viewing, I'm not so sure. HardTalk Extra isn't the kind of interview where you'd expect fierce exchanges between interviewer and subject. I suppose there's an argument for celebs-with-a-view to be challenged more rigourously by the media. When politicians take a stand, we say they're being partisan, or political. With celebs, we ascribe "fights for causes" to their names. It's also understandable, since celebrities are not accountable to us in the same way elected politicians are.
Aderonke called it anti-Western guff. It's a recurrent theme in her interviews, she resents the portrayal of Africa as Conrad's Dark Continent, or the Kiplingesque, White Man's Burden. During the course of the interview, she once again champions the African middle class, and reminds the world that like life still goes on for all those poor Nigerians and Africans the West is trying to save. I've always taken issue with this point of view, the middle/upper class Nigerian view that they are the average Nigerian. They are the ones returning to work in Nigeria, and imploring their friends to go back, because "Naija has improved, oh!", or "mehn, life in Naija is sweet". Improved? Sweet? Who for? Not the properly average man, woman, and child on the street. They don't have connections to government, or the financial institutions so beloved of our people, or the telecommunications industry which is the one and only beacon of anything improved in Nigeria.
Middle class Nigerian arrive in the country, and get into a chauffeur driven air-conditioned car. They see Nigeria through the prism of their car window. There's nothing average about this experience. In the same vein, it's these same middle class people who watch cable and don't recognise the West's portrayal of their continent. She says that watching coverage of Africa might lead one to think that Africans are stupid. Well, Chimamanda, quite often, Africans are stupid. I'm a journalist, and I don't think (the BBC's) coverage of Africa is biased, lacking context, or lacking balance. News organisations only report newsworthy items, we don't make up the news. If we see African children slaughtering each other in brutal civil wars, or sitting around with flies on their faces and protruding kwashiorkor bellies, then we will report it. The same way we will report brutal civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, or Shia death squads and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Chimamanda is asking us to treat Africa more leniently.
We did an item at work once, to see if we could compare the difference between Africa's coverage of itself and the West's coverage of Africa. It was just after the Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, said the West should stop banging on about Africa's exclusive marriage to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and instead talk about good African news. Guess what. Africa knows it's backyard is filthy, and reports accordingly. If I can dig up the item, I will do so and post it up.
It's unfortunate that all people will think about Chimamanda as interview subject is her being a flirt. A friend of mine did say, though, that even she would flirt with Gavin Esler if he was interviewing her. I don't think she means any harm, and I don't think it's intentional. And for those reasons, "allow her".