Lagos is a cauldron of muses – Oribhabor

In this interview with AWAAL GATA, Eriata Oribhabor, a former chairman of ANA Abuja, tells how his transfer to Lagos is boosting his writing, how the crisis currently rocking ANA could be resolved, etc.

You left Abuja for Lagos since 2014; as Lagos is said to be the hub of Nigeria’s arts and entertainment, has the city given any boost to your writing ?

Lagos is a cauldron of muses that every creative mind would want to experience or live in and routinely draw from. It is a huge boost to my creative writing especially in crafting poetic lines. Lagos offers the good, the bad and nasty that every one could tap from for creative deliveries. In diverse ways, it serves needed boosts to my doing what I passionately do: writing and promotion of poetry in both English and Naija pidgin respectively.

You used to write in and advocate for Naija Langwej; there has been a lull in that aspect of you in recent years, what happened? What is going on?

Yes, I was an Advocate of Naija langwej and ran a column in Leadership Newspaper in Abuja called NAIJA LANGWEJ A-Z until I got transferred from Abuja. The column was written in English but spiced with pidgin words and phrases which were also explained. Essays written are being compiled as a book entitled, “The Good Old Naija.”
The lull you observed may not be out of place because you haven’t seen any new publication of mine recently. However, what appears as a lull is a salient transition process from Naija langwej to Naija pidgin. Talking about Naija langwej, an experiment that was to put out an orthography that would guide pidgin spellings, it turned out unworkable. This was due to challenges readers faced accessing the literary output of the orthography. The available idea is to go back to the popular pidgin and do what could be easily assessed without compromising accessibility.
No doubt, it has been really tasking, because it requires re-editing all previous works to reflect current realities. These works include my very first works: “Abuja Na Kpangba And Other Poems” and  “If Yu Hie Sey A Dey Prizin.”

Don’t you think you should collaborate with academics to bring out a standardised orthography?

The idea of collaboration between the town and the gown is ongoing. But the original intention of having an orthography for  Naija languej as suggested at the conference on Nigerian pidgin, didn’t work. I know efforts are ongoing at working out a bridge to meet the day’s realities but I am not part of it.

Why are you very passionate about literary advocacy?

It is a familiar ground for me. I started in secondary school. I was the president of my school’s literary and debating club. I was responsible for managing the Press  Board where articles and defferent writings were posted. Education is light and societies that downplay it suffer for it. Literary advocacy  sensitises both the masses and the authorities to be alive to their responsibilities. 

What is the idea behind Poets in Nigeria (PIN)?

PIN is an agenda to generate interests for poetry reading, writing and performance across Nigeria. It is envisioned to be the biggest literary hub driven by poetry in Nigeria. 

How do you think the crisis currently rocking ANA could be resolved?

The outgone president should invite every relevant stakeholder to a meeting. At the meeting, appeals should be made to every party to shed their ego and think of the role of literature in society and ANA as a driver. The meeting could be moderated by Oral Solutions, an Initiative of PIN. This could be done after Covid-19 lockdown. It is never too late to start a crisis resolution. The more we delay, the more we drag the name of ANA to the mud.

How did you become a writer and what is your longtime goal?

My becoming a writer is traceable to my secondary school days when I was in charge of the Press Club’s Board where various articles were posted every week. To have been in charge meant I was also writing.
Meanwhile, I was also the Library prefect with deep interest in reading and radio-listening. If one looks back at my early years of participation in various writing competitions on international radio stations like the BBC, Radio France International (RFI), etc. one could easily situate roots of my interest and drive. But the interest to brave writing for public consumption started in Abuja when I began writing a column in Leadership Newspaper.  

How do you juggle your writing with your day job?

Juggling between my job and writing is a lively sport of commitment and focus for my today, judged from yesterday and my tomorrow apprised from my beginnings into tomorrow. On how I achieve this, it is multitasking for successful outcomes with balance as key. In this regard, special attention is given to work that provides the fund helping me drive my passion over the years. It is fun for which credit and thanks go to my bosses who have always identified with what I do and different poets who continually believe in me and support in diverse ways to achieving successes. Even my colleagues at work and bosses do ask same question.

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