A writer is the conscience of the society and at all-time have to be morally upright- Jamiu Abiola.
Jamiu Abiola, a multi-linguist and businessman, son of late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election. A graduate of Political Science, French and Arabic from the University of New York, Manhattan. He speaks with NIGERIAN WRITERS AWARDS team about his three captivating, romantic and political thriller books “The President who never Ruled, Prisoner of Conscience and Realistic Hope”.
NWA: The book “The President Who never Ruled” how were you able to put it all together, taking us back in history before your father was born to his death?
Jamiu: It was not an easy task; my father’s death was a painful experience. It’s easier to talk about something painful because the memory still lingers. Getting information together is something I got from my brothers and the things my father told us. My father was someone who talked a lot. While growing up he told us about his upbringing. He did not hide anything from us.
NWA: In the book you wrote about some private conversions your father was engaged in, how were you able to know about all that?
Jamiu: After the annulment of the election a lot of people abandoned him, he was depressed. Then I was still schooling in America. He came to America where we stayed together for a long time; we had midnight conversations so he told me so many things which I used to develop the story. I was able to get the raw information from him, also from his friends and aides.
NWA: Why should people read the book “The President Who Never Ruled”?
Jamiu: The reason why people should read the book is because it’s a part of Nigeria’s history. Also, it is a book about how somebody can become productive in life; the fact you were born from a poor family does not mean you can’t achieve greatness. My father came from a very poor background but he challenged himself and became a self-made billionaire. So, aside it been a political history of Nigeria, it is a book that is important for Nigerians and people all over the world to know that no matter the condition they find themselves in there is always a way out so far they work hard.
NWA: Challenges you faced writing the book.
Jamiu: One of the many challenges I faced was the pains; with all the ideas in my head trying to pen them down, the painful experience of the death of my parents fought me real hard. Sometimes, I write long piece then tear it off and start all over again and again. Several sleepless nights but am glad it came out successful.
NWA: What is one great misconception people had about your father?
Jamiu: One great misconception people had and may still have about my father is that he was friends with the military and involved with some deals in the political system. Forgetting he was a successful business man and did not in any way squander the country’s money. He made money from government; nobody is disputing that but brought back whatever money he got from the government. In Nigeria today, how many people make money from government and return them back? He did a lot for Nigeria, and if people can do what he did this country will not be going through what it’s going through right now. There is a lot of looting and this has affected the masses and the whole Nation at large.
NWA: What are the missing parts journalists leave out about your father’s death?
Jamiu: Journalists talk about so many things but most of them failed to be objective; they were particular about him being friends with the government, they failed to recognize the fact that he did great things for the nation, one of which was his struggle in resorting democracy to our dear Nation. Many of them did not talk about his generosity and humility. Journalists should try not to be bias in giving out information. That is one of the reasons I wrote this book, which is to correct some terrible insinuations about my late father who was a valuable vessel of democracy in Nigeria and also as my own way of immortalizing a man who meant a lot to me and my country.
NWA: If you are given the power to change one thing in Nigeria what would that be?
Jamiu: Many of we Nigerians are greedy and self-centered most especially those in power. Millions of Nigerians are suffering yet no one hears their plea. If this is eradicated from our system I believe the Nation will be a safe haven for everyone to live in.
NWA: Do you believe writers have the power to change the world?
Jamiu: Yes I strongly believe so, writers are creative people and they are idealists. Bringing their ideas into reality can impart change to the world. A writer is the conscience of the society and at all-time have to be morally upright.
NWA: Let’s talk about your second book “The Prisoner of Conscience”, is the book symbolic to anyone in your family?
Jamiu: No, the idea is not in any way linked or related to any one in my family. You see, in the Arab world there is so much prejudice between Christians and Muslims, some people find it difficult to get married to someone who do not practice their religion. The whole idea came when I discovered so much of this prejudice, so I decided to write a book for people to understand that love is supreme, irrespective of your denomination or ethnicity.
NWA: Advice to parents, guardians and people in general on tribal and religion issues.
Jamiu: This is one problem that is affecting us most especially in Africa; if we are able to get rid of this tribal issue you will see that there will be unity, love and peace. Tribalism was not born with us, it was something we were taught. Personally, this is one reason I go out of my way to study different languages, as we speak I understand and speak ten languages, Yoruba, Hausa, Italian, Japanese, Kanuri, Arabic, French, Spanish and German, presently I am learning Igbo language. So, I feel it’s good and important especially for our young generation to learn and embrace unity, also try to learn not just his or her mother tongue but others so our languages will not go into extinction. Bringing this to the society we live in, when it comes to giving appointments there must be a balance. Nigeria is not meant for one tribe alone. Whenever you travel out of the country no one will ask you if you are Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa all they know is that you are a Nigerian. So, I will advise we all to embrace oneness, and I believe with these there will be unity in the country.
NWA: Is there something you are doing to enlighten people about this?
Jamiu: My book is one means of enlightenment and communication, also when I meet people who discriminate I advise them on it.
NWA: In writing who is/are you mentor(s)?
Jamiu: I have so many mentors even the young and established writers. But I admire Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Adichie.
NWA: Are we expecting more books from you?
Jamiu: Yes, I am writing a book presently titled the reluctant spy.
NWA: Where can people get your books?
Jamiu: Amazon, Jumia, Glendora bookshop (Lagos), the Palms (Lagos, Nigeria).
NWA: Advice to the present government
Jamiu: The present government should heal the wounds of this country. They need to come up with a dialogue, people are not happy and as leaders they need to care about the feelings of the masses. Right now, there is so much bitterness, frustration and anger. The government should be able to tackle poverty; they need to implement new and realistic strategies. The federal government should give the each state a target and ensure there is a follow up else the essence of the implementation will be a sure waste. Also, the agricultural sector needs to be re-awakened not just depending on oil alone as a source of revenue. Agriculture is a sector that can solve the issue of foreign exchange. The government needs to change their tactics and support young entrepreneurs; we can’t keep doing the same thing all over and expect a different result.
NWA: Advice to young people.
Jamiu: Young people needs to be focused in whatever they do. They should build on their talent and not to get involved in shady deals.
NWA: Thank you so much for you time.
Jamiu: You are welcome anytime. I will like to commend your team, great work and I hope people will be there to support this course.