“My alma mata was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” – Malcolm X
Over the years, Nigeria has produced great writers whose sterling contributions to the literary world is widely acknowledged. The likes of late Professor Chinua Achebe, Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Adichie, among other budding writers, have contributed a great deal to African and modern literature.
One of such budding writers is Samuel Monye whose first stint in the literary world propelled him to win the maiden edition of the Quaramo’s Writers Prize in 2017. A native of Delta State, Samuel was born into a family of writers; yet, he was never fully conscious of his own literary potentials until family and friends constantly stimulated his interest in the realm. He was gifted, they would always emphasize.
During his service year in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo State, after graduating from Nnamdi Azikwe University, Samuel made an entry for the Quaramo’s Writers Prize. His book ‘Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread’ won the QWP. The text tells the story of Seun, a young boy whose life changed after his uncle smuggled him through the Sahara Desert on an illegal quest.
No doubt that writing springs from many fountains; at times it comes from true life experiences or inspirations. Samuel’s case wasn’t in any way different. His seminal work which earned him limelight in the QWP was birthed from an experience he had while serving his fatherland.
“I served in the city of Ibadan in 2017. The city is beautiful and carries a lot of historical connection. But you immediately come to terms with one hard reality, that there are a lot of beggars on the streets of the city. On one particular Sunday morning, I was waiting for a colleague just outside a pharmacy when a boy no older than ten approached me. Because we were running late and I wasn’t really in the position to help, I paid little attention to him.”
“I had just made a call to my colleague when I noticed that the boy was still standing by me but wasn’t pleading as they normally do. He stood there watching a couple a few feet away from us playing with their daughter and it broke my heart. I asked about his parents and he told me he had not seen them in over four years. When I asked where he lived, he said he slept at the market.
“That experience played through my mind for a while. I knew there were children living on the streets but it became real to me at that moment. And that was how the wheels began to turn. I wouldn’t say coincidentally, but that same period happened to be a time where we were making a lot of prayers for children and families in war torn areas like northern Nigeria, Aleppo in Syria and Libya. I started asking, ‘What if there was a child living far away from home separated from his parents?’ I started studying and researching the conditions around the migration in and through Libya and Seun’s story was birthed in the process.”
Furthermore, Samuel has reiterated the need for a healthy reading culture be groomed in the country.
“I once saw an expression on a billboard at the headquarters of the National Library of Nigeria, Abuja. “A reading nation is a living nation”. I feel a reading nation is not only a living nation but also a developing nation. The seeming failure in Nigeria’s leadership cannot be disconnected from one fact: many Nigerian politicians don’t read. And this has manifested in the haphazard development the nation has witnessed for close to six decades after independence. According to the Canadian novelist, Yarn Martell, “the reading habits of politicians matter because in what they choose to read will be found what they think and what they will do.”
He believes that there is no better step to redefine our path to progress than for every home to develop a reading and writing culture.
“A home where reading and writing is held in high esteem and the search for knowledge is praised will breed a powerful generation of creative thinkers and leaders. Books are powerful and we can never get enough of them. Likewise, there is need to develop more innovative and rewarding platforms where readers and writers can be vanguards in leading coming generations to the truth that the pen is really mightier than sword.”
Winning the QWP has fired Samuel’s zeal to up his game in the literary world. He has since begun to pen many works which are expected to make indelible marks in the world of literature. He claims he is sharpening his skills and learning new things to expand his frontiers of knowledge and with this, one is rest assured that Nigeria has got again another writer whose erudition will boost the nation’s image across the world.
Chinua Achebe once said, “My weapon is literature.” There are many Samuels out there whose inherent literary talents have unconsciously not been unraveled. Should they be lucky to be spurred by family and friends, they would make great impacts with their ideas too.
If you are one of them, never feel inferior to put those burning ideas on paper; they are not meant to be hidden. Those thoughts which run through your memories like a soothing breeze could be the only weapon to free your readers from the bondage of depression and frustration. Give the world the best of your viewpoints; you never can tell the impacts they would get from it. Malcolm X opined that, “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” Yes, you could change a whole life not just with a book, but with an article. Do it. Now!