Helen Vesperini’s article “Nigeria’s Answer to Stonehenge” was inspired by the inclusion of Nigeria’s Cross River Monoliths (Ikom monoliths) in the World Monument Fund’s 2008 Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. But whereas the WMF listing of the monoliths was meant to draw global attention to the importance of the 300 inscribed, age-old stones now in danger of being lost due to environmental and human threats, Ms Vesperini’s publication was a blatant caricature of the monuments, the people of Nigeria and by extension, the World Monument Fund that did the listing.
Ms Vesperini made no attempt to disguise the fact that she visited Alok (the location of one of the 35 sites that make up the body of stone monuments that have come to be known worldwide as Ikom monoliths of Cross River State) with her tongue firmly in her cheeks, determined to make a mockery of Nigerians and the monoliths. Thus it beats the imagination why the sorry example of a write-up that she came up with is being published and republished in various languages by the Western Media. Her article is replete with falsehoods and half truths. Her choice of words and images are very mischievous. Her need to create a cartoon character out of the curator (Sylvanus by name) of the monoliths by emphasizing his bulk, his sweaty face, a likely slip of tongue in his statement about dates – 450,000 years instead of 4,500 B.C (my linguistic analysis places the inscriptions on the monoliths at around 4,500 BC because they share two letters ‘ki’ and ‘shi’ with the Original Sumerian Alphabetical System which predated Cuneiform); her constant reference to the monoliths as “Chief Sylvanus’ monoliths” (the only photograph in the write-up is a full-length photograph of Sylvanus with his right hand on top of an almost invisible monolith); her description of the annual New Yam Festival of Ikom, a very sacred occasion for the ritual ‘dressing’ of the monoliths in symbolic colours, as an occasion when villagers “laugh among themselves, … joke and … stop for something to drink”, all add up to expose the derogatory intentions of Ms Vesperini and leave no one in doubt that her trip to Ikom, Cross River State, Nigeria was a demolishing mission.
Even though, she quotes verbatim, three phrases from my Web Site www.catherineacholonu.com, the author pretends to know nothing about my work and even claims not to know the actual title of my book, describing it as “seemingly not yet published”, all of which amount to perjury and plagiarism, for as Mr. Sylvanus Akong recently informed me in a telephone discussion, Ms. Vesperini was actually given a copy of the 480-page publication of my research on the monoliths, titled The Gram Code of African Adam, Stone Books and Cave Libraries: Reconstructing 450,000 Years of Africa’s Lost Civilizations which she pleaded to take with her, but was advised to direct her request to me. Yet Ms Vesperini claims not to know the book’s title and falsely claimed that it had not yet been published. Mr Akong is in possession of my telephone numbers and residential and office addresses in Abuja, the nation’s capital (where I live and work) and would have gladly obliged the author if she had been interested in seeing me or talking to me, and she would surely have passed through my base on her way to and from Cross River State.
Considering that I am listed by the WMF as the official nominator of the monoliths for the 2008 WMF Watch listing and that my team has been conducting research work on the monoliths for upwards of five years, with much to show for it on my Website and on Google, Yahoo and other Internet search engines, and considering that someone must have financed Ms Vesperini trip to Nigeria, her decision not to see me sums up her trip as a joke and an affront on the World Monument Fund, to say the least.The emphasis of my team’s linguistic research work is the discovery that the body of inscriptions on the 300 monoliths of Ikom was a lost form of writing, and we carried out actual translations of a number of the inscriptions. These are well illustrated in our book The Gram Code of African Adam and noted on my Website. Other highlights of the Site are speeches and photographs from the World Media Presentation of The Gram Code of African Adam Stone Books and Cave Libraries: Reconstructing 450,000 Years of Africa’s Lost Civilizations: the speech of the Chief Presenter, the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo which was read on his behalf by the Hon Minister for Culture and Tourism; the speech of the co-authors Catherine Acholonu and Ajay Prabhakar and notably, the photograph of the actual book presentation by the Hon Minister of Culture, Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu. Surely Ms Vesperini must have seen all these.
Her reference to Sylvanus as claiming that “his” stones “were 450,000 years old” was a veiled attempt to take a swipe at my dates, and at the same time a proof that she saw and handled my book. Had she eschewed all her prejudice and read The Gram Code, which uses the monoliths as a window into the lost Pre-History of the African continent, she would have been more informed and perhaps might have treated the monoliths with greater respect. The quotation which the author credits to “Nigerian bloggers” to the effect that “a high technology civilization based in the present day location of the Sahara desert whose hallmarks included the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Egypt”, which was decimated by the Deluge and the war of the gods of antiquity”, were my words, taken word for word from my Website. The Gram Code, was published in 2005. Since then it has received several positive reviews in the media including the globally read Washington Post in 2006. Voice of America gave me a telephone interview after the book was published. We received strongly worded commendation letters from Prof. N. Tidjani-Serpos, the Asst Director General of UNESCO, and Head, Africa Department in Paris among others. Copies of the book are available at UNESCO Library, Paris and at Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA.
Nigeria has many monuments deserving attention. It is such condescending attitudes and colonial mentality exhibited by the Vesperinis of this world that give the world the impression that Africa’s cultural heritage is of no consequence. However, I must tell Ms Helen Vesperini that this kind of attitude cannot deter serious minded researchers such as myself from forging ahead with the great task to which we have set ourselves; that whether she knows it or not, the world is moving ahead, while writers like her who enjoy turning true knowledge on its head are becoming anachronisms. And while we are at it, we still commend Ms Vesperini for her flash of foresight in naming the monoliths ”Nigeria’s answer to Stonehenge”, for in fact oral traditions of Britain claim (and frontline Western researchers of the late 20th Century have demonstrated undeniably) that Britain’s Stonehenge were created by Africans and that the stones were ferried across the seas from the African continent.
Let me also use this opportunity to once and for all correct this erroneous impression that The Gram Code of African Adam where I elucidated another major discovery, namely, that Tilmun, the ancient Land of the Living was an ancient name for the land that is today known as Calabar in the Delta region of Nigeria, has not been published. The Gram Code was published in Nigeria in 2005 but is not available on the international market yet. However, we are keen to have it republished in Europe or America to make it more globally accessible.
– Professor Catherine Acholonu is an Ambassador to United Nations Forum of Arts and Culture and former Special Adviser on Arts and Culture to the President of Nigeria. She is the Co-Author of The Gram Code of African Adam, Abuja, January, 2008.)