It is Celebrating Greatness Day people… I had a Guinness World Record breaker the last time, I have the author of Omo which I recently reviewed. Happy publication day and happy book launch! I am excited for this project because the message in the book is powerful. Alexander Emmanuel Ochogwu is a Flight Lieutenant which you will ordinarily not assume to be an author but he is. Enjoy this interview with the latest author in town.
What is the transition from that young man ‘Alexander’ to the author we see today? Who is Mr Alexander Emmanuel Ochogwu? I find it hard to define who I really am. I have evolved into many things, and I think being a writer is just one of them. I am by profession a Flight Lieutenant of the Nigerian Air Force, a Strategist, Peace and Conflict Management Expert. I love to write. Music is my addiction. I find safety and comfort in isolation ( weird right? I am still dealing with overcoming that part of me)
You wrote a book about the girl child, what inspired you? For me, probably because I am Mathematician (My first degree), and a strategist, my focus has always been towards problem solving, and as such I have grown to become one who strives to improve things around oneself. The girl child conundrum is a global and a contemporary debate, and unfortunately they seem to have been the most victim of most societal ills. Last year alone, about 17,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 were trafficked out of Nigeria for international prostitution, according to NAPTIP and CNN. The trend of the use of young girls as Weapons of War (suicide bombing, negotiation at war), amongst other vices is worrisome. These and many other concerns piqued my interest and I thought to do a research on this subject, which eventually gave me deeper insight into these realities and the urge to pen it into a material that will make a statement in this light.
Last year alone, about 17,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 were trafficked out of Nigeria for international prostitution, according to NAPTIP and CNN
Is there any character in the book you identify with? My most exciting is Old Soja, Omo’s father. You will be amazed that we still have such characters playing out till date. If you grew up in a military community, you’ll identify easily.
How was the process of writing the book, how long did it take you? The idea of writing Omo, even though not as a novel or with this title, was a vague idea I had in secondary school, as far back as 1996. I had written an article about a character in African Night of Entertainment, and the kind of suffering meted her as a result of social cultural bias. The emotions I got out of the two page write-up altered my orientation and stirred my affinity towards the girl child. If you have the opportunity to ask my wife, before we got married, I had told her it were girls I had wanted as children. So, this and many other endearments I have for the female gender stuck and only became visible after I wrote my first book, The Diary of a Boy Soldier. I did some sketches and lost them after my computer crashed in 2008, so I abandoned it after the frustration that got me. It was only in July last year, 2017, that my wife woke me one night, and told me in plain terms that God wants me to complete that book project, and that He, God, has put men and resources in place to make the book (Then called The Withered Flower) a global success and that was how I started again. I spent a minimum of 12 hours every day since July last year to April this year when I was satisfied with the standard manuscript. Of course, this was not without the writer-editor warfare with my editor, Amara of Purple Shelves.
So, no matter what life throws at me, my eyes are fixed on what God has spoken concerning me. Excellence.
Do you think there is a significant change on how the society treats the girl-child now? Statistically, there hasn’t been so much change as expected, as young girls are still exposed to ills of human trafficking, drug abuse, sexual abuses and child labour. This is one reason why we have pitched our voice by use of different platforms to reawaken our minds to this social reality.
Old Soja in the book is an example of a bad father, literature portrays that a lot, was that a reflection of how you thought most fathers were? As I mentioned in my earlier response, when you live in a military community you will understand that such are just normal even though things have improved with time.
Who was the most stressful or painful character to write? I would say Alhaji Sani. This is because I had to bring him in as an extraneous character that would break the earlier plot progression and also to portray him as the harbinger of the Boko Haram crisis story in the North, thus merging the story of Northern Nigeria and the South, and from the South back to the North… and then to the rest part of the story you already know.
Your top five books every human should read. Myles Munroe’s Power of Vision remains a compass for me. Danielle Steel’s A Long Road Home inspire me. I am her number 1 fan. Titi Horsefall’s Influence of a King is a seamless and incisive write. I enjoyed Edify Yakusak’s thriller, After They Left. Cyprian Ekwensi’s The Passport of Mallam Ilia is a classic.
What keeps you going in the vagaries of life? I am a believer of the influence of God in man’s life. I define life according to His assertion of what my life should like – of excellence. So, no matter what life throws at me, my eyes are fixed on what God has spoken concerning me. Excellence.
What are your expectations for ‘Omo’? Hmmm… Omo (pensive). You know I say something whenever I want to respond to similar questions, that is “Omo is more than a Book.” I say this because I believe that no material is sufficient to convey a creative message accurately. I see Omo as an ideology that would pervade climes and become a tool for social change and change of attitude towards the girl child, as well as a material that will spur stakeholders in the direction of policies that will gear to protect and re-assure the personality of the girl child. I desire that every young girl in Nigeria should have a copy of Omo.