By Japhet Alakam
Dont Die on Wednesday, a new book that captures some interesting issues confronting contemporary Africa is set to hit the shelves in a matter of weeks . The book written by Bayelsa state born author and story teller, Michael Afenfia,comes with a story that would resonate readers from all over the world. In the book, Afenfia who is author of When the Moon Caught Fire and A Street Called Lonely who confessed that it is passion that inspired his writing said he wanted to do a story about a subject that has held the whole world captive for the last fifty years or so – football.
His goal was to tell the story of life as we see it today through the eyes of a successful football player – Bubaraye Dabowei. Continuing, he said, “We live in a world where football has captivated the minds of millions of people, uniting cultures and generations. Through friends, I picked an interest in the sports and decided to do a story around it.
For me, it was the thought of life after football, music, acting, dance or whatever it is that you are talented or gifted in that captured by imagination. What happens if somewhere along the line you are unable to fulfill your dream?
For instance, if you were born to be a journalist and a factor comes in as a stumbling block from realizing that goal, how would you pick yourself up and carry on?
It could be a trauma, barrier or obstacle that makes it impossible to practice your trade or utilize your God given talents, whatever it is, can you somehow get over it and do something else and still find happiness? I guess that was the driving force and inspiration behind the story.”
To the author, “the plots and characters in the book were well researched with international appeal. The main character is Nigerian, but there are South Africans, Ghanaians, Americans and a couple of Europeans,” Michael says. Speaking on the widely held perception that Nigerians do not read, Afenfia holds a slightly different view. He says, “on the one hand, yes I will say so but then again that cannot be totally correct. Yes we could do with some nudging, but the average Nigerian is curious and would go to any length to get information.
We are avid newspaper readers, we are very active on social media and we have been known to excel academically no matter where we find ourselves.” He also said that “there is need to encourage our children to join book clubs and writing societies and register with libraries. The adults should be committed and consistent in creating the environment for learning and creativity to thrive.”
The book is about life and relationships with a message for everyone because it mirrors emotions and experiences that are real. “It isn’t so much about football even though some of the themes may centre around the game. It applies to people so as Africans we really haven’t told our stories enough. Fifty years from now, there should be books reminding us and our children how we lived. For instance if you read a Charles Dicken’s book, you will discover from just reading it, that as at the time he wrote there was no electricity, no cars and so on. With that, it creates a picture of how life was in those times. If I can do this, then I think I would have succeeded as a writer.”
On his advice to aspiring writers, Michael says he believes it is an innate gift. “If you are a writer, you are writer. You must be able to tell your stories, but you must also remember that writing isn’t about fiction only. People have written motivational books, academic and reference books and so on. In Nigeria, I don’t think it’s lucrative being a writer because most writers are self-published and that requires resources, and then nobody buys your book, they want it for free and those who buy would rather get the pirated copy because it’s probably cheaper.
There are palpable challenges, but the gifted must never give up. Just as it happened in the music industry, the literary industry will experience a boom too. All that is required is persistence and support from the private sector and government. We are who we are as a nation today because of the books we read, because our parents insisted that we go to school and take learning seriously. Remember the Bring Back our Book campaign initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan, that kind of campaign needs to be welcomed and sustained.”