Writing Huge Passion For Me – Joseph Muyiwa

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Joseph Muyiwa

Joseph Muyiwa is today an author of a number of books. Strangely, he was very poor at English Language such the he was denied becoming a prefect back in his days in the secondary school on account that. With some published books to his credit, Muyiwa is presently aiming at getting other young folkes to read, and possibly, write books. In this interview with “My Literary Hub”, he relives his up-coming days and also weighs in on various aspects of life and living in Jos, where he resides.

Enjoy:

What Brought You to Chronicle the Crises in Jos?

The journey started in 2017/2018. On June 25, 2018, there was an attack in Barkin Ladi Local Government. The attack took place for three to four days, and there was no intervention. During the course of the attacks, a lot of people were killed. So many people were rendered homeless. A whole lot of properties were destroyed. We were getting the messages on social media, from people who were stranded and couldn’t leave the place. They were ambushed, so they were trying to call us, while we were trying our best to get help to them. But it seemed practically impossible. So after the whole incident, then, since I worked with the Nigerian Fellowship Society (NIFES), we went to one of the IDP camps to visit those who were rendered homeless. When we got there, I personally interviewed them and heard their stories. I knew that it would be difficult for the world to know their story, if nobody told the world about it. So I decided to chronicle it down and make more research on the issue. That was what led to this book.

What is your background, as to what you studied and the experience that must have led you into writing?

That’s interesting. I studied Computer Science. But I started writing before I commenced my studies. I started writing in 2013, and that was when I wrote my first book, titled, “The Latter Iscariot”. However, it was never published. I don’t think it would be published. It is quite a long book, 250 pages on A4 paper. When I got to UJ, I wrote the first book I published on the internet. The title is “Akudaya“. More recently, I wrote another one titled “Dancing in the Dark”. And of course, I just finished writing “Sometime in September”.

Now, which other books, in creative writing, have you read, to give you this impetus to put the things in perspective?

I think I like this question. That is a question that people have not really asked me. In 2019 or thereabout, I came across a book written by Theophilus Abba, a Nigerian journalist who lives in Kaduna State. He was in Kano when Rhenhard Bonkke came to Kano. His coming to Kano led to a huge crisis in Kano. He was in the middle of the crisis, and his experience helped him write a book titled, “Lost In The Wood“. When I read the book, it was very fascinating to see how he was able to mix facts and fiction to really write out what transpired in Kano back in those days. His book gave me a perspective on how to bring these things together. That book was one of the major contributors to my writing this book.

What kind of background do you have as to parentage, and siblings?

I grew up in Lagos, my father was a business man and my mother was working with the government. In Lagos then, we had one perspective about the North. It was a Boko Haram region. In fact, when I was coming to Jos, a lot of people, my family and friends, didn’t want me to come to Jos. Actually, to an extent I was scared. Two weeks after I came to Jos, there were two bomb blasts in Terminus. I started telling myself that coming was a very big mistake. For the next two weeks, I was planning how I could return to Lagos. But here I am today.

What has been the experience of “Dancing In The Dark” as to royalties to kick you up for this “Sometime In September”?

I don’t think I got any royalties for “Dancing In The Dark“, because I did not publish it traditionally. I published it myself, online, so most of the sales it made were on Amazon. They were not very much, actually. But I know I sold to people traditionally by myself also. I think writing for me is a passion. Basically.

How many copies did you think you may have sold traditionally?

I didn’t print the “Dancing In The Dark”. I had it online in a digital format, where people can access the link and buy online. So I had it online where people can access it and get the link and buy online. After removing their charges, the platform would forward the money to me. I would not say I made money from it.

How would you encourage younger ones like you to get into creative writing?

It is one of my major responsibilities, now. To get people into writing. It is a little bit complicated, and a bit difficult, because I remember sometime I wrote on Facebook that in my first and second WAEC, I got F9 in English language, twice. While I was in school, I never liked English Language and I never understood it. My English teacher would never believe that I would be able to write now, because she flogged me almost every other day. In fact, the school management mistakenly chose me to be a prefect, and when I went for the interview the woman screamed and said, “This boy, no way”. The other teachers tried to persuade her otherwise, and she told me to go and get my English note. When I did, and they saw it, they were very disappointed. Based on that experience, it would be difficult for people to believe that I am now writing. I see a lot of students these days who are not doing well in English, and some of them have written themselves off, the way I did to myself. So, it is quite difficult to convince them that there is actually a potential in them that can be unveiled. That is what we are planning to do now. I met with Victor Meshach, and that is what we are planning to do. I teach in schools, and I constantly inform the students that there is more inside of them that need to come out. So I think the journey has already begun.

What brought this transformation from the Muyiwa of Secondary School to the Muyiwa of a Writer; what are the things that led you to that point?

When I finished my secondary education, after failing my WAEC, I was looking forward to writing another WAEC. In the meantime, I got a menial job at a bookstore, to be selling books. I would stay there from morning till night, not doing anything until a customer comes to buy books. So I was feeling very bored. I saw the vast resources around me. So, I started reading, even though my madam must not hear that I was reading a book. But I continued reading books, and then I discovered that I enjoyed reading. At some point, one of those days, I thought that the writers of those books did not have two heads, and I started writing. I wrote the “Latter Iscariot” while I was there. So, at the point when I was leaving I had something tangible I had gotten from that place. That process led to my writing career

Back to “Sometime In September“, what particular page or chapter would you say has been the main hit, that is, the high point of this particular novel?

Honestly, from me, as the writer of the book, it is all of the chapters. That is the honest answer from me.

Now, what do you think that people should learn/gain from this book either as a policy maker, parent or youth?

I am very much interested in knowing the slogan of any state I go to. Lagos is Centre of Excellence, and I can brag that there are excellent things happening there. When I go to Benue that is the Food Basket of the Nation, I made sure I ate food very well. When I came to Jos, Home of Peace and Tourism, I learnt that there were tourist attractions. But, I didn’t see anything special like I had seen in Lagos. Some people said I haven’t gone to certain places. I was very curious and I went to a number of Places such as Shere Hills, Bokkos. I have been to 11 out of the 17 local government areas due to my curiosity. I saw a lot of things, both those that fascinated me and those that did not. I know that there is an abundance of tourism in Plateau State that can generate revenue for the state but it is not being maximised. That tourism part for me, I think it is an irony for the state. One of the reasons that I think it is an irony, is the fact that the peace part for the slogan is not really real, so to say. Because in Plateau State, almost every day, we wake up we pray to God to help us live and survive to the end of the day. There are so many attacks doing on in some places. Some we know about and others we do not know about. Being the home of peace and tourism, we expect that peace should be a natural thing. It is not supposed to have a problem of peace, with keke (Tricycle) closing by 6:00pm. That peace aspect is a problem; I do not see how they would say that plateau State is the Home of Peace and Tourism, and both of them are not real, but abstract. So, I would say that the book is a wake-up call for the government to see how it can put things in place, so that Plateau State can live up to that dream of being a Home of Peace and Tourism for anybody who comes around.
There is so much for parents to learn in the book, because it has a story in a chronological order that involves parent and children. One of the lessons parents would learn is how to take education serous for their children. There is a character in the book named Azi. Because he is born in the village, he cannot go to school. But he says he wants to go to school. The parents rally around to get money for him. It is his little education that he gets from the University that is able to save a lot of people caught in the crisis. A lot of them are going through depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Using his background in psychology which he gets in school he helps a lot of people, including some who want to commit suicide. He utilises that knowledge to be able to teach people and help them to survive. So I would say that parents should prioritise education for their children.
The youths are like the gambit of the entire story. Most of us are denied education. When you are denied education, you look for whatever means to survive. So people can come to us and say go and demolish so-so place. Since I need money to get food, I would go and do that. So, there is so much for us to go and learn. It is not until we go to the four walls of the classroom before we can learn. We can start learning from anywhere we are. Education doesn’t have to be formal. It can be informal. So the more we learn formally and informally, the more informed we are. The more we know that people cannot just come and use us as thugs and get away with it. So there is so much for every individual to learn from the book.

What has kept Muyiwa in Jos despite the two bomb blasts that happened two weeks after he came to Jos?

In 2014, I was in the University of Jos, and after my first year, I went back to Lagos and I didn’t enjoy Lagos anymore. One of the major reasons was that in Jos, I could say that I want to be in Terminus in 10 minutes, because the road is free and keke is easily available. In fact, if I want to drop at my house, provided my house is at the road, keke would drop me there. But it is not like that in Lagos. You would be dropped at the junction and there is a lot of hold up. That aside, I think I love the people of Jos. They are very respectful and they value people. One thing I experienced that is very strange to me is that if I walk by the road and pass by a stranger, there is a great likelihood that the stranger would greet me even when I don’t know him. They would say Sanu, Good afternoon or Good morning. At first, it was strange to me but eventually, I had to adapt. When I went back to Lagos that first year, and I entered the bus and I greeted people in the bus, and everybody was looking at me like a suspect. I knew there was something spectacular about the city of Jos, not just the place but the people themselves. I find a people relaxing, accommodating, loving and I am hoping to get married to a Plateau girl sometime soon.

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