Stories by Anote Ajeluorou
Ebeddi International Writers Residency Programme, Iseyin, Oyo State, has continued to add immense value to the growth and sustenance of Nigerian and African literature since it opened two years ago. This self-imposed mandate was made manifest again a week ago when another three writers left the residency after weeks of stay to execute their literary projects.
Niyi Fasanmi was one of three resident writers (the other include Kano-based Richard Ali, author of City if Memories, and editor of online magazine, Sentinel Nigeria; and Awwai Sakiwa, author of children’s book, The Story of Bayajiddah), and he commended former House of Representatives member, medical doctor and former president of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Wale Okediran, for envisioning the Ebedi Residency programme to help writers finish or perfect their craft. Fasanmi has urged that “more corporate sponsors should come in and join in the good work Dr Okediran is doing towards promoting literature in the country”.
He got to know about the residency in “the dailies, with some newspapers having featured it for quite a while, and I tried to find out what it is all about. And when I got all the information I needed, I applied and I was selected. Actually, before I was selected, I was thinking that my age might stop them from selecting me, but I am happy I got here”.
A mature writer of note, Fasanmi shed some light on some of his past works and ongoing ones: “My writing takes a long period of time before being published. One of my works actually took up to 20 years before it was published. However, when I started seeing reports about the residency, I just felt I should apply and spend a few weeks with fellow writers, where we can share knowledge; and I can honestly say that the experience has been worthwhile.
“I published the book, The Flood in 2010. The writer is futuristic, and could be likened to a seer. So it was a kind of coincidence, with the devastating flood disasters that have ravaged Ibadan since last year and not that I actually planned it that way. This issue of flood is not only an Ibadan problem; so, it happens everywhere because of lack of proper channelization, which therefore, makes it difficult for water and waste to flow freely”.
His stay at the residency has sharpened his sensibilities towards projects he has been pursuing in his Ijebu Ode hometown. According to Fasanmi, “I am clearer now on what exactly I want to do. I hope it will come out soon. Also, my coming here has clarified some of the things I was involved in in the past. I used to run a kind of resource centre in Ijebu Ode, which was targeted at the youth on development, thereby making them more focused. But now, I want to focus on books, and this residency has helped me to concretise it better”.
Writers-in-residence at Ebedi usually encounter local students in Iseyin school and coach them on language and writing. But Fasanmi, like other writers, are appalled at how poorly English is being impacted to students in Nigerian schools. He lamented, “It is unfortunate that students don’t really understand the English language. There are many basic things they ought to have known at their level, which they don’t know. The teaching of the language is very bad in secondary schools, and students don’t even go out of their ways to learn the language; they only wait to learn from the teacher.
“This is, however, not an Iseyin problem. The situation is almost the same in other parts of the country, although it is fairer in the big cities. However, there are many problems, which bring about this, ranging from the sociological, psychological and economic problems”.
Also and as a way of engraving the host town of Iseyin into the hearts of the writers-in-residence, who come periodically from outside, Fasanmi advised the board of Ebedi International Writer Residence to develop a library for the resort with materials devoted to Iseyin history. In his reasoning, “Some of the writers who come here might have an idea to write something on the town, but as it is now, there is nowhere to get anything about the history of the town. Also, I would suggest that there could be a tour bus to take residents around the town. However, considering that this project is being run by an individual, this may not be a priority yet, and that is why more corporate sponsors should come in and join in the good work Dr Okediran is doing towards promoting literature in the country”.
Other works by Fasanmi include The Story of Ajantala, Barricades, Against the Culture of Silence and The Floods.