Ever since I could remember, I’ve always loved stories. With that love came the evil twin, books. See, I loved hearing stories so much that when the interval between episodes of ‘Tales By Moonlight’ on NTA started getting too long, I turned to books. I remember the first novel I read, ‘Ralia, The Sugar Girl’.
After reading that book, my life changed and I was always looking for the stories in all my English textbooks. When I was done with mine, I graduated to reading my siblings books. Took, read, saw the story vividly and then I moved on to the next story. Till I read all the stories and had to graduate to a higher calling, yes, novels!
My mom is an avid reader, and back when, she had a compedium of AWS (African Writers Series). So when I was done reading all the short stories in the textbooks, I made the leap and started with the AWS books. Thus, I was introduced to Chinua Achebe and his ‘Man Of The People’, ‘Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease followed.’ I found the world drawn in those books rich, I was lost in it.
Then I read Wole Soyinka, Ngungi Wa Thiong’o and as many other books as I could read. All this while, I was still in primary school, and though for all of my best intentions to ace mr Bassey’s Geometry, I could only score credit passes. God bless mr Amaoko’s soul in heaven, he made mathematics a little fun.
I remember the day he took three boys round the school stopping in each class to enact the same drama. Apparently, he had seen their notebooks and noticed they couldn’t spell ‘Mathematics‘. Instead of getting furious, he took them from class to class, disrupting tutorials and asked the boys to spell the subject. They spelt it as ‘math’, ‘maths’, and ‘mahematics’ when they got to my class. The teacher as he had done in previous classes gave them six lashes of the cane free :d. Imagine that, no one dared score less than eighty per cent (80%) in his subject. That was real motivation eh?
Okay, back to the original story, where was I… yes, so I was reading works of literary gurus before I was ten and telling the stories to my younger siblings. My older sibling would sit and listen attentively to my story, waiting for me to trip so they could hijack the story and tell it properly. What I lacked in words back then, I made for, up with gestures and enactment. It was then I found out, I had a talent, a talent to tell stories, and tell it richly.
Primary school was ending, I had read through all my mother’s books (it took two long years) and I wanted something else, I had re-read my favourite book ‘Efuru‘ by Flora Nwapa so many times. If you cannot tell, it was because I was in love with the protagonist. Her beauty, her poise and grace, the way her hips sashayed… oh well, you could label me a randy eight year old :p.
When I started hurting, felt a vacuum in my heart, and finally heard the voices in my head speak, I made a mistake. I wrote. At that time, I was a really frail boy, really small and bony, so I couldn’t like other boys settle my quarrels with the fist. I penned my angst, it was my catharsis to situation around me. Until aunt Titi read an article I wrote and threatened to show it to daddy.
I may have written a little vitriol about my father, his sister, my aunt was on a mission to expose me, obtain daddy’s good grace for such fine detective work, and destroy my budding writing career. I remember she said I had written it like a story in HINTS Magazine. That may have been high praise for a nine year old, but I knew I was utterly screwed. Then mum intervened; she expertly collected the book, and then did the most bizzare thing I’d seen her do. She tore up the page and chewed it, I was at a loss. Had mum lost it? Years later when I eventually got round to reading her Hardley Chase collection, I understood the reason why. She had saved both our lives: hers, and mine. My father was a retired soldier, need I say more?
I was stumped for weeks, avoided daddy like a plague just in case one of my siblings decided to bring up the subject. Inspiration dried, I began to enjoy math some more, all was well in Derin world, or so I thought till I had a crush on Omotayo Omotosho in SS1. I stalked her, smiled at her, and gave hints, but the dumb girl couldn’t tell when a brother was trying to woo her.
So I reverted to my old ways, damned muse had been waiting patiently for me to come back and when I attempted to write a simple love letter, you know all those ‘ditto’ and ‘doxology’ ones, I turned shakespeare. I wrote her a poem instead. Memorised it for days, and when I finally gathered enough courage to recite it to her, she was so freaked, she ran away from class. Relief washed over me as I thought she had at least noticed me, I was a fool in love.
I can’t really recollect the entire poem, but I remember this much:
Tayo, your smile is as radiant as the sun,
Whenever I see you, I develop wings and fly
Come away with me fair maiden,
Let us write our story bold… Like Romeo and Juliet…
That was all she heard before running off, in retrospect, the Romeo and Juliet example may have truly scared her. By the way, did I mention that she was the Vice-Principal’s daughter? I didn’t? Oh well, she was, and almost twenty minutes after she left, the ‘sharks’ descended on our class. It was reminiscent of when a SWAT team stormed a criminal’s apartment in order to make an arrest in an American flick. Problem was I was just fourteen, and the ‘sharks’ didn’t mind. I had dared to call out the gods themselves, the consequence was my tango in the night….
Immediately mr Opeolu entered the classroom looking all mean and wielding those demonic pankere* canes of his, silence descended on the class and it was apparent to all that the culprit who commanded all that attention would die that day. Well, I almost, Olorun ni o je.
So he called me out, looked at my frail frame and shook his head in pity. You would think he would grow a lil heart and let go a first time offender. Walai, it was tospi* (beating warm-up, usually done by the teacher hitting the student with the cane. Those strokes, no matter how many they were, did not count one bit. So everyone learned to step out of the tospi circle), that I got. Remember I said sharks abi?
That group comprised four more equally sadistic teachers. Officially I received sixty strokes: each teacher scored twelve hits. Unofficially the strokes I received would be more than two hundred. Strangely, I didn’t cry through the ordeal, just lay, stood, crouched and shot my arse out as each successive teacher desired. I was their ho, and they fucked me bad.
After that incident though, I decided that I had had enough of the damned writing thing. Twice in my young life it had brought me really close to extinction. So like the ‘baba blue’ advert, I swore, I was not going to write again. And I stuck to my gun.
That was when senior Rotimi in the Arts class offered me fifty naira to write a poem for him. I mean ‘better life’ for real oo, so I decided to write just that once, get paid, spend the money to buy amala Mulika and go back to my life of peace. That was not what happened sadly.
Since my notoriety had obviously sky-rocketed, I was the dude who dared to serenade the VPs daughter, seniors started asking writing favours. Apparently, what I wrote for senior Rotimi was such a hit, he was reselling lines to his classmates. If I knew then, I coulda sued for copyright, abi? Anyhos, I survived, lived on and in SS3 Tayo did write me an apology letter, and we made out at the back of the toilet. (Ewww.) I learned a lesson with her back then, and simply put, it is: persistence pays.
After SS3 I took a writing sabbatical. Of course Tayo’s incident had taught me not to write any article of any sort and present it to a girl. I was mercifully saved from suspension because the teachers couldn’t find the paper on which I had written my poem. They never found out it was nestling in my stomach.
All those were child’s play though, when the muse would rear it’s head again, I couldn’t stop it. It came back with a loud bang! I was reading novels then, doing an average of four paperbacks weekly. Then slowly the nudging started, I resisted at first, but there was no use. Like a virgin boy presented with a naked lady I was powerless, hormones and intuition took over. I was doomed to a life of writing.
I’ve been writing since. Written so many novels I should be termed eclectic :d. The articles and poems me sef nor fit count and I never even begin. In the writing world I’m still a green-horn, a newbie; or so I always seen myself. Whenever people hear the words, ‘I’m a writer,’ they look at me in a reverential way, like whoa, this dude is tight.
If you can’t guess it’s the MPD (multiple personality disorder) that’s making them reverence in awe and wonder, this dude can be anybody. That and the love poems, rme. It is often said, that ‘good writers write moving stories, whilst great writers live their story.’ So imagine if I was writing a story about an HIV/AIDs and I’m a great writer what do you think would happen?
Then there’s the zoning out and brooding. You’re blocked for whatever reason and can’t find words to describe the pictures in your head, so you snap at everyone. Yup, even dearly beloved gf and so she dumps your arse after the umpteenth time. She has had enough.
The job of the writer is a very tough one. Offering fresh dynamic perspectives to every subject matter, recycling dead material and making it desirable. I long to be named in the same breathe as Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Wole Soyinka and DO Fagunwa. My heroes. But to become as adept and prolific as these men were, I have to first embrace. Embrace fully, the plague that is called writing.
I now pronounce writer! *sigh*
PS: when you see any writer acting up, don’t take it personally, he may just be going through his creative madness… And girls, abeg na, the fact that we don’t ping or call don’t mean we love you less, it’s just that when your first love calls… 😡 chai, may I nor use mouth cause gbegs for here oo.
PPS: Some parts of the article have been jazzed up to improve the story-line… now keep guessing… :d