By Prisca Sam-Duru
While most teenage girls in Nigeria today will opt for a career in music or become a notable Nollywood actress considering the fortune and fame in the industry, it is surprising that Oluomachi Chinedu, an 18-year-old 400 level student of medicine at Babcock University, Ilushin, Ogun State, is not fascinated by a career in the movies or music.
She has chosen at this age, what she wants to become in life – a writer.
Oluomachi Chinedu is not only holding unto her childhood dream but has made an amazing start with a debut novel, Love outside Home, a 175-page book about well-heeled, globe-trotting parents who value their careers more than their two children. Her novel was presented to the public last week at The Patron Hotel Lekki, Lagos.
In the book, Cyrus Peters, a high-flying oil tycoon, and Hilda Davies Peters, a supermodel with a corresponding international itinerary, are the parents of two daughters – Joyce and Judy age 16 and 14 respectively. Spousal squabbles and domestic violence are part of the daily life of the Davies, with the children often bearing the brunt of the acrimonious and violent shout-downs. Since husband and wife are seldom together at home for any length of time, divorce ends the union. The consequence on the children is predictable: denied vital parental care and love, one of them dies and, because of that, another is traumatized for life.
Good enough subject matter for Oluomachi who never experienced such disorientation at home herself. But it was not hard to imagine, as most writers do. Besides, in her reckoning,such themes are seldom mentioned in contemporary Nigerian fiction.
“I wanted to write something that is close to home,” Oluomachi said shortly after the book launch adding, “Everybody feels that the home is a place of love, filled with happiness and moral support. That is not the case for some people. Every child deserves to be happy, to be protected.”
Oluomachi focuses on family values in Love Outside Home, emphasising on the physical and psychological damage done to neglected children by a divorced couple. It is not for nothing the author pointedly remarked in a prefatory statement that “children require presence and not presents; no amount of gifts and meeting of financial obligations can replace the presence of parents in the life of a child.”
For much of the book, the absence of parental care is the lot ofJoyce and Judy and the author, with a combination of teenage zeal, innocence and rebelliousness, lays bare for readers how far and deep the trauma can go.
But what you can’t deny the young author is her determination as a writer.
She took it for the normal childhood preoccupation, busy with pencil or pen and paper sketching whatever catches their youthful imagination. But Oluomachi kept at her drawings or writings up to secondary school and university.
“She never told any of us what she was writing and we didn’t press her,” the author’s mother, Mrs. Chinedu said. Chairman of the occasion, Mr Diamond Tietie, praised the author’s efforts towards a better society pointing out that “It is not easy to be a medical student in a Nigerian university and write a novel at the same time. This is a remarkable feat for a young woman in a country where teenagers like her are inseparable from their handsets and obsessed with whatever is trending in the social media at the expense of writing or reading.”
Asked which of the two – medical practice or writing she is likely to concentrate on more in the coming years, Oluomachi paused momentarily and then with that teenage precosity, declared that “I want to become a writer fully and also practice medicine. Both are different professions. For me, writing is more like a hobby and medicine is something I want to do.”
Chimamanda is Oluomachi’s role model and the young writer hopes to be as good as her someday. Very ambitious, you would say. But like an acolyte eager to learn from the master, Oluomachi has read all of Chimamanda’s novels, from Purple Hibiscus to Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. She has also read all of Chimamanda’s interviews. “I admire Chimamanda a lot. I’ve read all her books, listened to her interviews. I see her as a strong woman, I see her as a warrior. I like her novels and I love what she stands for- women.”
With this promising beginning for the teenage author and many years ahead to learn her craft, Oluomachi might someday become a role model herself to one or two of the coming generation of writers among the female folk.