This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: 'I Started Writing Professionally At 18'

interview

Writer and Blogger, Ekenyerengozi Chima, Speaks of his Motivation and Dreams

It is interesting to know all the things you do. A Jack of all trades?

No. I am not a Jack of all trades. I am only a visionary artist and writer, humanist and satirist using the mass media for mass communication for the benefit of humankind.

Let's know your background.

Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, aka Orikinla Osinachi, was born on January 30, 1963 on the Lagos Island in Nigeria. He is the second son and third child of Mr. Sunday Eke and Mrs. Gladys Eke, who migrated to Lagos from Umuahia in South-Eastern Nigeria. A writer of many books he is also a popular blogger. He has been one of the most published illustrators in Nigeria, commissioned by Johns Hopkins University's Population Communications Services (JHU/PCS) and Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) for the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN) and National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwifes (NANNM). He later became an IEC Officer for the Centre for Education on Population, AIDS and Drug Abuse (CEPADA) and a program consultant for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) which he combined with his occupation as an artist, independent scriptwriter and production manager for TV. He has worked for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and DBN TV in Lagos. Presently, he works as a literary and media consultant in Lagos as well as also running his own companies as the Publisher/CEO of International Digital Post Network (IDPN) Limited, the largest Nigerian online news and information media network and the founder of the annual Eko International Film Festival and Screen Outdoor Open Air Cinema's "One Village, One Cinema" Project to take cinemas to the urban and rural communities in Nigeria. Michael Chima is committed to his Christian faith and charity for the benefit of humanity.

So much; what would you say is your gift?

Sharing important information and charity. I am addicted to helping people- rich or poor. My pastor calls it the Ministry of Helps.

Can we talk about your books first? How many have you written?

I won my first prize when I was only 13 in 1976, an essay on What I Like Best About Nigeria. Then I started writing professionally at 18 and my first book "Children of Heaven", a collection of poems was published in 1987 by Krystal Publications Limited in Lagos. In all I have written six books.

They don't seem to be very visible locally. What is your marketing strategy?

My first book "Children of Heaven" was well publicized and reviewed in The Guardian, The Punch, Radio Nigeria and made the prime time Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) news read by Siene Allwell-Brown in 1988. It made me a national celebrity. And The Guardian reviewed "In the House of Dogs" prominently on January 1, 2012, for the New Year and actually addressed the critical issues that caused the nationwide protests against the government's removal of the fuel subsidy on petrol. "The Language of True Love", sold out on Bonny Island and the copies at Glendora sold out as well and copies were sold by roadside book sellers in Lagos.

Which of your books is your favourite?

I love "Bye, Bye Mugabe" and I am revising it for a new edition. The new book will be titled "The Prophet Lied" and I know it is going to become an international best seller for original contemporary poetry. The subjects are gripping as the book addresses all the issues of life on earth from the classic temporal to the spiritual in all existential circumstances with provocative thoughts and evocative figures of speech on every facet and aspect of what transpires in our contemporary world.

How do your book ideas drop, and how do you write?

First and foremost, I am inspired by God, as He gives me the Rhema as an eye witness of what is going on the planet He created. My books are my testimonies of life on earth as God gives me the grace to write.

Now, let's talk about your blogs. Your name doesn't seem to come up among the popular bloggers in town. Is it because you blog mostly foreign stuff

I am one of the most popular and most prolific African bloggers, but many people in Nigeria don't know this, because they don't know the leading bloggers of note in the world. In fact, I was even unfairly banned from the award winning Global Voices when someone falsely accused me of inciting Igbos reprisal attacks against Hausas that could be an indication of some popularity.

I am also a member of the most popular bloggers networks where you hardly see Nigerian bloggers, like Technorati the leading blogs network in the world where I am also an author and on Blog Critics. My blogs are participating in The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) hosted by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a research center founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. And my flagship news blog Nigerians Report is studied at some universities in the US. My blogs are among the only few Nigerian blogs with international contributors. Nigerian Times is the highest ranked African blog on film by Technorati that is indexing over 112.8 million blogs on the internet with my Nigerian Times ranked 143 for film news and information. I don't make noise, I make news and I make history.

How many blogs do you run? Why so many?

I have 30 blogs and still counting. I did not set out to have so many blogs, but Google's Blogger unlike Wordpress does not have features for many categories so I have to create different blogs for different subjects and interests on Blogger which is the most popular, because it is very easy to use like Facebook.

You do so much, what is your private life like?

My private life is doing charity work without making noise about it; like being part of the fund raising efforts to save the Blue Mouse Cinema. It is the oldest cinema in the state of Washington in the U.S.

You are into films too: Tell us about it.

My passion for film goes way back to going to watch movies at the cinemas like Kings Cinema in Lafiaji and Sheila Cinema on Broad Street in Lagos, where my father took us in the 1970s. That was how I got the motivation for the appreciation of motion pictures. I later became a script writer for NTA Channel 10 Lagos in TV puppet drama. I acted in one Nollywood movie in 1996 and made the casts of two other movies before I left to concentrate on office work and later returned to work on a documentary in 2004 on the first museum in Nigeria located on Esie, Kwara State, where we have the largest single collection of soapstone figurines in the world. But I am now working on my first feature after four years of research on Bonny Island in Rivers State, exploring the beauty of the Niger Delta that is more than the crude oil. The screenplay was co-written with Chika Onu, the prize winning prolific Nollywood filmmaker.

What are your views about standards in Nollywood?

Film making is an Art and video is not film. Nollywood is a child of circumstance. Nollywood addressed an important need among majority of Nigerians, the masses who needed to be entertained and these Nollywood home videos told their stories in the language they understood without elitist airs and graces. So, the quality of the art and craft of motion pictures was not the priority of the Nollywood producers. But we have learnt our lessons and now improving the standards to produce better movies that can be compared to the world class films in Hollywood.

And your comments about literature in Nigeria generally?

The new writers are actually better than the older generation, because of the emergence of modern tools of mass communication which we are now using to improve the literary standards of contemporary literature in Nigeria. But we don't have the readers that the older generation had in the post colonial period when pupils and students enjoyed reading both their recommended text books and other books like novels and children's books. Nigerians are not reading novels, because of the dysfunctional system of education and poor intellectual development in schools where examination malpractices have made pupils and students lazy and less competitive for intellectual scholarship.

So much you have done, you must be a rich man

I am successful by the grace of God, but success is not measured by personal wealth, but by how many people you can share your success with. Only a foolish rich man has poor brothers and sisters.

I don't measure success by how much good and ill-gotten riches someone has got, but by how many lives you have touched and transformed positively in your home, neighbourhood, community and society. I believe more in building lives than building houses.

What is likely to be your focus in future?

My mission is to use the social media for mass communication for the nation building of a New Nigeria.

Anything you want to excel in?

Charity. Charity. Charity for the benefit of every member of our society.

What are you working on presently?

My next book is on President Barack Obama, and completing my first feature film next year by the infinite grace of God who alone makes all dreams and wishes possible.

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