By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim | Publish Date: Apr 1 2017 2:00AM
Wole Adedoyin is the president of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW) and the coordinator of Read Across Nigeria (RAN), which in 2016 organised a reading in honour of Wale Okediran in 20 states of the federation. In this interview with Bookshelf, the computer analyst, blogger and member of the National Young Writers Mentorship Scheme of the Association of Nigerian Authors talked about the ideas behind his literary interventions and plans for RAN 2017.
Bookshelf: You have been involved in numerous literary initiatives. Why do you think these initiatives are important?
Wale Adedoyin: For Nigeria to develop as a country literarily, we need more literary activities and events. Apart from my own literary initiatives, there are countless young literary enthusiasts across the country that are now organizing one literary event or the other and they are doing well. They are helping young Nigerian writers both at home and in the Diaspora to enhance and hone their creativity and even publish their works. To me, this initiatives are important because there are still more unknown young writers across the country who are talented but don’t know what to do to bring out the talent in them. Our major literary initiatives cut across reading, writing and publishing processes. If you take a glance through our annual literary initiatives, you will see that they are very important. Is it our Fagunwa Day event (which consists of Fagunwa Inter-secondary Schools Creative Writing Competition in Yoruba Language and the reading contest) which is aimed at testing the reading and writing skills of students of some selected secondary schools in Yoruba Language and Literature. What of our quarterly Workshop which we started in 2012 and has trained over 1,000 young writers. And of course Read Across Nigeria project with the major objective of promoting the reading culture across the country and lastly, our 2000 E-Books per school project (also known as Paperless Book Club project) aims at encouraging and assisting public secondary schools to build E-Library and Electronic Book Clubs in their schools.
Bookshelf: One of your most successful initiatives is Read Across Nigeria, which managed to inspire reading events in 20 states last year. How did the idea come about and what are the objectives of RAN?
Adedoyin: As I always say, the glory of that first edition should go to three people not me. Firstly, to God for giving me the brain and might to conceive and execute that idea. Secondly to Dr. Wale Okediran, whose popularity and personality helped in the execution of the project. And to my Egbon, Denja Abdullahi, the current National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). I do tell people everywhere I go that ANA gave birth to SYNW. This dream Egbon Denja Abdullahi brought into manifestation. He didn’t see us as small or timid. He embraced us and gave us a sense of belonging to ANA. Read Across Nigeria was conceived when we did a reading sensitization project in some 30 selected primary schools in Osun and Oyo states in 2015. The major aim of RAN is to promote and enhance the reading culture across the country. It is also an avenue where writers meet readers and readers meet books.
Bookshelf: How did you get these readings to take place in 20 states?
Adedoyin: When I conceived the RAN idea, I listed 20 important literary personalities out of which one will be used for the project. Myself and other members of the committee like Idris Bankole, Marcus Ugboduma, Lanre Babajide, Tolulope Adedoyin, Olaitan Fadunni etc. did the SWOT analysis of each literary personality. There were 7 Professors and 3 Doctors on the list. All of them were rated well but the committee agreed on using Dr. Okediran for the first edition. From our research and findings, we would have failed had we used another person. The personality and the literary fame of Dr. Wale Okediran paved way for us. Those who organized readings last year did so because of the love they have for Okediran, a former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors. Six state chapters of ANA participated in the project last year. They did so to honour their former president. The remaining readings were done by interested individuals and state branches of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers which is the organization responsible for the execution of the project. SYNW has branches across the country too.
Bookshelf: Following the success of the programme last year, what do you envisage for your 2017 event?
Adedoyin: The first edition was historical. We documented the whole event on a blog and DVD. Firstly, we want to be gender sensitive. We think a woman should be the focus this year. Not an ordinary woman but the first female Hausa published novelist by the name of Hajiya Hafsat Abdulwaheed. This will be special because we are delving into indigenous writing. This development is also prompting me to know who the first published women authors in Igbo and Yoruba were. Some individuals, schools and SYNW state chapters have shown interests in organizing readings. Intending organizers are also welcome.
Bookshelf: Other than her gender what influenced the choice of Hafsat Abdulwaheed for this year?
Adedoyin: Hafsat Abdulwaheed writes indigenous literature in Hausa Language. Not only that, she is also the first published Hausa female novelist. The Read Across Nigeria initiative will be the first initiative to honour this great woman with readings across the country.
Bookshelf: As the president of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, why did you think there was a need for a body like this?
Adedoyin: You are taking me back to when I was an EXCO member in Oyo ANA around 2006-2010 when I served as State Auditor and State PRO in those four years. I was the youngest of them all. There was a misunderstanding between myself and the then ANA Oyo Chairman in the person of Mr. Akin Bello (one time winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature). I was not given a single task to do. He made me redundant and useless while I was ready to serve and selflessly work for ANA. I had ideas back then part of which is what I’m now using in SYNW today. They saw some of us as inexperienced and less educated. Then I also noticed that young writers between the ages of 17 and 28 then were reluctant to attend readings because they always described Oyo ANA as old writer’s club (mainly meant for and consisted of old people). There were other issues which I won’t like to make public. If you google, you will see my article titled “The Credo of Being and Nothingness in ANA Oyo” which I wrote then to express my disappointment. When I saw that they didn’t give us a chance to express our own literary ideologies, we created a new platform known as SYNW today. Though it was formerly known as the World of Poets and Literary Society. Today SYNW is the first young writers’ body in Nigeria.
Bookshelf: Some people might argue that writers are writers, irrespective of age, why exactly did you focus on this demographic?
Adedoyin: Writers are truly writers depending on experience and literary exposure. There are writers and there are writers. I think the difference should be spelt out. If writers are writers, ANA won’t be creating schemes like National Teen Authorship Scheme, which I once served national secretary and member of the committee under the Prof. Remi Raji-led ANA Presidency and the recently formed National Young Writers Mentorship Scheme by the Denja-led ANA presidency, in which I am also serving as a national committee member. Our organization only focuses on writers between the ages of 10 and 35. Especially those writers between the ages of 10 and 18 need to be tutored. This age bracket includes primary and secondary school students. That is where our quarterly workshop comes in.
Bookshelf: As a writer in the digital age, the future of books has been debated for some time now. Do you see young people moving away from books to digital reading devices?
Adedoyin: In SYNW, we also embrace digital publishing. Most of our anthologies were published in digital formats (PDF, TXT, PUB, AUD, MPEG). We have helped many of our members to publish online. We created 2000 E-Books per School project (also known as paperless book club project) mainly because of this purpose. We want secondary schools (both private and public) also to embrace digital books. That is why we’ve been going to schools since last year giving out e-books to their school libraries and establishing paperless book club in their respective schools.
Bookshlef: You have been keen on promoting writers in local languages with your annual celebration of D.O Fagunwa and now Hafsat Abdulwaheed. Why do you think this is important?
Adedoyin: I am a writer and lover of indigenous literature. When I was in secondary school my late Dad, Prince Albert Aderemi Adedoyin would ask me to read one of Fagunwa’s books per term. There I developed interest in the sage’s work. There was a Yoruba radio programme where I was invited to speak about yoruba literature and my interviewer asked me to mention my three favorite writers. He expected me to mention Wole Soyinka and Achebe but I mentioned Pita Nwanna, D.O. Fagunwa and Abubakar Imam as my three favorite writers (though I have not read the translated works of Pita Nwanna and Abubakar Imam but I have heard and read a lot about them.) He then asked me why? I told him because they wrote their works in their mother tongues. I am happy that today, I am a D.O. Fagunwa Scholar. And a friend of Fagunwa’s family. The sixth edition of Fagunwa Day is holding this year