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Monday, December 5, 2011


He is Nigerian of the mould of the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and as radical as they come. A chief in his own right , tall, spare with a piercing turn of language, my guest on Center Stage today… Chief Sehinde Arogbofa.
Chief Arogbofa started having his books published 37 years ago while still in school. Today he has15 books to his credit and was for a time the state chapter chairman of the Association of Nigeria Authors. (ANA). When I met him, I had asked him to review my debut collection of poems titled CHANTS IN MY DREAMS. He looked at me and gave a wry grin asking why I wanted to launch myself into the public with a book of poems. He said, "books rarely make the grade as pleasure reading and you are thinking of poetry". I laughed then, shrugged and said I might as well start from the deep end of the pool. He reviewed the book to a crowd of 5 who had come for the launching. He watched me keenly trying to guage my reaction to the non existent crowd as the 5 were all family. I think he adopted me thereafter and faithfully attended all other book presentations I have done since then. The attendance got better and I think he approved of me too.

I am thus not reviewing a particular book of Arogbofa, (I would need to review all 17 books published to date) but having a chat with him about the Nigerian Literary scene. It is an interesting conversation, please read.

  1. You have been a published author for some 37 years now, please tell me what it has been like and your experience
Well Biola, I have enjoyed myself a lot. I started writing because I wanted to leave something behind for posterity. I have received some level of satisfaction through that.

  1. Early Nigerian writers have tended to become activist of some sort or the other, why is that?
Interesting! Well you could say a lot of us started out being members of the literary and debating clubs in secondary schools. Naturally I started writing about the things around me, commenting about the society and as a teacher of young persons, which was a natural profession for most of us, I guess becoming at some level an activist was a foregone thing. It came with the territory. Speaking for myself, but for my teaching profession I probably would have been as radical as the late activist Gani Fawehinmi.

  1. The Nigerian literary scene is rather lethargic in the sense that creative authors have an uphill task getting recognition why?
Well, up to some point, you are correct Biola, but the problem is deeper than that. Generally very few Nigerians read for pleasure and reading is restricted to the academia. People read to pass examinations, the lecturers publish in order to sell to the students or make money or get promotions.

  1. Some years ago you were the State chairman of the association of Nigeria Authors ANA, what really does ANA do for its members?
ANA provides a forum for authors to meet, exchange ideas, fellowship and discuss current trends In writing. It has a yearly conference that affords its members to also celebrated excellence. The body tries to network with similar bodies of West African authors to enhance its activities.
  1. Authors today have embraced self publishing in order to get their work noticed, what do you think?
I do not really like self publishing as there are too many disadvantages. One, there is no real editing done and the author is the editor, review person and marketer. The author has no real knowledge of market forces and is subjective about the reception of the book. Most authors do not have much of a choice than to be self published. The Nigerian experience of traditional publishers leaves a lot to be desired. Most traditional publishers here are arrogant, discriminatory and they tend to check if you have a political clout that will ensure sales. 
You also find that these traditional publishers do not give the author enough publicity relying solely on the social standing of the author to push sales. This can be very depressing for an upcoming author. Writers here do not get decent publicity at all so there is little appreciation of the creative potentials that abound in this country. Chinua Achebe became very popular and celebrated because of the publicity he got outside the country.

  1. Internationally, there are different genres of writing with fantasy, horror, sci-fi commenting with old traditional genres of writing, would we be able to see a Nigerian J.K Rowling?.
Why ever not? We had D.O. Fagunwa who wrote about the forest of a thousand demons. How many Nigerians have read about him? Or his books? As I mentioned earlier, it is about appreciation, and proper publicity. D.O. Fagunwa is in some way our own Shakespeare. I mean his town has become a tourist attraction because people want to visit the forest of a thousand demons.

  1. Give advice to young and upcoming authors
Practice makes perfect we say, you must always write, write and write. You should also understand what you write. I remember I wrote in one of my books about witches and witchcraft. A friend called me after reading it and wondered if I am a witch. I laughed and took that as a compliment because it meant I had made the book believable. That is the beauty of creativity.

  1. Could a writer in Nigeria make writing a ful time profession?
Heck no! He will be hungry for a long time. In this country, writing can at best be a serious hobby. You should have some financial background. Have a job, have a business and you will derive some satisfaction from your hobby thereafter.

  1. I see that you have written almost exclusively drama plays.
Yes. Biola I am actually more of a playwright than an author, I read your books as prose and doff my hat to your expertise but seriously I do not write prose. You could say I am lazy. Besides I think plays serve me better as vehicles to comment on the society I live in.

  1. Are any of your books listed on amazon.com or some such?
(smiles) I think I will ask my publishers if they have done that, but I come from the old line, we just wait for royalty which has gone through all types of deductions.

Thank you for coming on Center Stage.

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