A poet, short story writer and a novelist, Adekoya is a seasoned author with four published books, including Friendly Storms. He trained as a surveyor and also holds two postgraduate diplomas in Education and Theology. He has been the secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Ogun chapter twice. Some of his books are on the reading lists of many schools in Nigeria. Henry Akubuiro chatted with him on the social consciousness bent of his writings.
Friendly Storms, your latest book, was presented recently in Abeokuta. Can storms be friendly? How did you come about the title?
The storms of life are inevitable, but we can control how we react to it. It is just like a bird that you cannot prevent from flying over your head, but which you can prevent from building its nest there. The storms can be friendly when they are genuinely confronted, with strong decisions to improve on the negative situations, if not to completely eradicate them. Storms serve as camouflage of a better situation ahead. Geologically, when drilling a well or borehole, you are most likely to encounter a rock layer before the body of water. That is enough to discourage, but blast it and water gushes out. Seeing your storms as your friend is a matter of choice. This nation experiencing her barrage of storms of unmitigated systemic corruption, killings, kidnappings, peace-less peace and insecure security, can bounce back to global reference and take her rightful place in the comity of nations, if the leaders and the citizens are willing.
So the title was chosen with reference to the prevailing nose-diving economy and the already collapsed security system in Nigeria. We need to see that everybody is a stakeholder. We need to sit down and have a round table conference. It is more important to jaw-jaw, instead of preparing to war-war.
Friendly Storms treats contemporary issues, such as insecurity, kidnapping, corruption, and the like. What informed this collage of themes?
Corruption is having a roller-coaster ride to the palace of infamy, and it is being given a gold-studded chair on the throne of the governance of the nation. While the government is reiterating her zero tolerance for it, some sacred cows still go about unhindered. The bourgeois salary and enumerations of the legislators at the nation’s capital is worth reviewing. Exhortation on the highway is still unabated. The hapless citizens are still being attacked, maimed or kidnapped. The clearcut message being passed across is that there are three laws in the country — one for a section of the country where they are pampered, handled and treated with kid’s gloves. The second law is for the high and mighty, the untouchables, who are unofficially above the laws; and, thirdly, the hoi-polloi (the talakawas, the commoners, the downtrodden, the dregs)
The wrong signal sends negative ripples of “getting rich quick”, especially to the teeming youths. Kidnapping, as a heinous crime, is also a negative offshoot, which thrives under the atmosphere of insecurity. So the trio of insecurity, kidnapping and corruption are an inglorious bloc that has to be dismantled.
The presentation of Friendly Storms went along with a public lecture entitled “The Writer, the Media and National Security – A Veritable Triumvirate Nexus”. The lecture was to seek a meeting point where the writer and the media could be a unifying factor at promoting a robust and wholesome security network in the country. The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Solomon Iguanre, an associate professor of Dramatic Literature at Babcock University. Writers, authors, the media and some security agencies were in attendance.
The matter is even shoddier, because the government, whose first duty is the assurance of the security of the people, is seriously in a quandary. The general populace is tired of empty promises. They are tired of the government’s indirect choice of bowing to the horrific demands of the kidnappers. The case here is now: “God for us, everybody for himself.”
You are a surveyor who is holding your own as a creative writer, where’s the meeting point between both worlds?
Survey profession calls for tenacity of purpose on the field or site, in spite of the sometimes unfriendly terrain and harsh weather. Creatively, the inspiration to write may not flow on a continuous basis. Many things may be competing for your attention, but you must hold on. Thoroughness is also important in surveying because you have to create some special quiet time to transform the observations on the field into the necessary working data that would also be used further. In like manner, sometimes a creative writer may take years to write a book. Creative writing calls for thoroughness, just as the survey profession does.
Creative writing sometimes could be a natural gift or talent, like for Cyprian Ekwensi, T.M Aluko, Elechi Amadi who were pharmacist, civil engineer and mathematician respectively. In like manner, it is more of a natural gift or talent to me. Reading had been part of me from my youthful days. I remember by the time I turned seventeen, I have read seventy novels, mostly James Hadley Chase, a few of Nick Carter, Mickey Spillane and later on, most of Jeffrey Archer’s Books and, of course, African legend writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, James Ene Henshaw and, later, the Pacesetter Series.
It wasn’t until 2008 that you published your first work, The Golden Verse anthology, targeted at the youths. Why did it take you long to write your first book and why the focus on the youths?
The initial problem was that I never thought my writing could get to the stage of being published, despite the fact that I did write sketches of poetry and short stories. I engaged in writing poetry for people on request for certain occasions such as burial and birthdays. Sometimes, I was present to recite them there, all done just for the fun of it. I remember contributing a poem for a Christian magazine. It was entitled Cacophony of Goodbyes. Till today, the man who sourced the material from me still calls me Mr. Cacophony. I never thought of getting published until 2000, when, providentially, the situation became right. I wrote a sonnet of different topics for about thirty students.
Suddenly, one of them asked, “Sir, why can’t you turn these poems into a book?” I then sat down to write. That was the beginning. I had no money initially, but I just remembered my shares in the defunct Intercontinental Bank. I sold them and invested the money in publishing it. The submission to the Ministry of Education followed, and it became a recommended text for the Ogun State students. Since success begets success, that spurred me on to write more.
The anthology was targeted at the youths because of my special love for them. They fascinate me a lot because of their promising future. You can never fathom how in-depth the potential of a youth is. Their future is so fragile, and so it has to be handled with care and inculcation of positive moral values.
Your second anthology, The Oaks of Tomorrow, followed three years later. What did you do differently in this collection, compared to your first?
They are written specifically for the primary school children, quite a bit different from The Golden Verses which was recommended for the Junior Classes in the Secondary School. Some of them are dramatic and in the form of miniature plays that can be acted among them. The concept of the book has both a national outlook, because it cuts across all barriers of ethnic divide. That is why the cover depicts the rich cultural dress of the three major ethnic groups in the country, the Yoruba, the Igbo and the Hausa. The poems were also written to minister to the African Children, in general.
In Selfish Rabbit (2016), you showed your versatility as a writer with a short story collection. What went into this book?
Of course, it is a pot-pourri of different animal stories, richly laced with evergreen moral lessons. Available are the like of The Selfish Rabbit, The Sheep and the Goat, The Disobedient Little Fish, The Pretending Lion, The Frog and the Scorpion, The Lion in the Net, The Fox and The Cock, The Dog and his Shadow, Who will Bell the Cat?
What lessons are you trying to impact with the travails of Orekelewa in the fiction, Orekelewa?
Obedience to parents and the authority and the laws of the land should be sacrosanct. Orekelewa flouted the established law of investigating the family of you proposed spouse before marriage. It opens our eyes and brings to the fore the home grown virtues and ethics that are the hallmark of African culture. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children the way of the Lord and how to pray. Our reaction to adversity and challenges will shape our lives more than anything else. We should imbibe positive attitudinal disposition.
You write across genres, what determines the genre you choose at a particular time?
What determines the genre I choose at a particular time are two factors, the inspiration and the prevailing situations at that time.
What fascinates you most about writing for children?
I am most fascinated and engrossed by the moral lessons I intend to inculcate in them their open minds, their innocence to receive whatever is taught them and the readiness to learn. I am fascinated by the untapped potential in them and their beautiful destinies. Each time I write, I paint the dream I have for them in my heart so clearly: that the African child must excel, not a mediocre, discarding fear, shunning vices and to comport themselves so well. I am fascinated by the fact that they shall reign, sound and bright, they shall be focused, chaste and pure, unmolested, appreciated, full of zest and bubbling up to their best.