Mrs. Ifeoma Ndiolo-Enaholo is a multi-talented author and poet. Having worked in the media, banking and insurance sectors and having acted in the movie Glamour Girls, she has put her experiences and those of others for readers to learn from. She recently unveiled a book, You Too Can. She spoke with OMIKO AWA
What prompts you to write?
I started writing ever since I could remember. I am a very observant person; I pay a lot of attention to what happens around me and that forms my writings. I actually started writing early. I began with poems, but in the real sense of it, I began to give writing a greater thought during my youth service when my sister reminded me of how I have been writing since we were in secondary school and wondered what I have been writing about. Apart from this, I became conscious of my writing, when some of my poems were published in Panorama in 2013. Things I see around me prompt me to write; I observe what happen to people, what they go through and their reactions to it. The things I write about are some of my life experiences. My other published work is Juggle The Dice; it is a short story published in 2013
As a mother, public servant, administrator and counselor, how do you juggle your works?
It amuses me how I still find time to write, too. However, sometimes, I find myself writing while in traffic; I write whenever the thought comes, no matter the place, I scribble something on paper. I find myself writing even in the church during service; so, it is where the thought comes. But, every Saturday morning, I get up at about 5am and write till other people begin to wake up. If I am alone, I could work till whenever I am tired, but with my maternal duties, it reduces my ability to write as I used to do.
After the Panorama and Juggle The Dice, my next was Hidden Treasury Of The Heart published in 2014. I still have over 160 poems, yet to be published. Writing is one of my gifts. In fact, I was so troubled before I published my first work. I said to myself, if I die today; what will happen to my gift. So, it is not a common gift and I feel guilt, if I do not put down my experience in print.
Would it be right to call you a feminist?
Some people have described me as one because I bother about what happens to women and the girl child, but the truth is I write about the down trodden — women, children and men. Though, I write more of women issues than men, my writing cuts across gender. I write to impact life, to make people learn from my experiences and that of others. I have come to realise that what I went through in life was to prepare me to counsel people passing through the same or similar challenges.
Why put so much interest into writing when people no longer read?
I started by reading. Fortunately, I had a father who studied abroad and a teacher for a mother. I started by reading my fathers’ newspapers, then graduated to reading any book that came my way. I found out early enough that there is a lot of knowledge one can get from reading books. I know many people do not read, but we cannot rule out that there are a few that still read books. If we start early to teach our children to read, we would have adults that read and not spend their quality time watching TVs and movies. We should encourage children to read novels and others, not just their school textbooks, when we do this, you will see them learn more, have wider scope of life and acquire more knowledge.
I believe those who read will read my book and those who do not, will come across those who would have read the books and they will share knowledge of what they have read. I am not losing hope in writing because many people do not read.
Which of your books do you cherish most?
I love all of them. Each has a different story and impact on life in a different way. For instance, in Panorama, there is a dirge and someone saw and called me to permit her read it at the graveside of her dead brother. In my other novels, or storybook people read them and relate the stories to their lives. They call me and say, it is as if I am telling their stories. So, I love all my novels and poems. Even, You Too Can, my latest book. I write about real life situations because I grew up in Nigeria and relate with different people from different culture; so, I write about things that happen on daily basis.
How do you assess that your books are touching lives?
Books are meant to be read and not to be kept at the shelves. When you read, you reflect on what you have read. We need to teach our children to read, encourage reading culture, as this will help improve on our society. I am winding down from working full time to go into training and writing books because I find out that there is lack of knowledge in our society. Some of the things we know as adults, the youth do not know them because they have not been told or taught. Their parents probably do not know them. You can only teach or talk about what you know. Also, our educational system is not helping matters, because some teachers are not in the first place qualified to be in the classroom because they are not knowledgeable enough to teach the children. So, I am going to use my organisation to reach out to young adults and children, help them have a focus, know where they are going and, of course, to better the society. The late May Mofe-Damijo generally known as MEE (May Ellen Ezekiel) encouraged me to write. She published my poems in the anniversary edition of her magazine, Classique Magazine and that has been it. So, we need to encourage the young ones, groom them and make them have focus and then tap into their talents. I assess my writings from feedbacks I regularly get from readers.
But the Internet is there for them to learn from, isn’t it?
Yes, but most of them are not learning the right thing from the Internet. They are easily distracted. They use the Internet for music, game and other things they are not supposed to do. They have the Internet, but they need a mentor to direct them on how to use it, on how to carry out research with it and how to improve on themselves. Recently, I held a seminar where I thought the youth how to write CVs and prepare for interviews. It was expository and many of them were surprised at some of the things they learnt. They do not even know that they have the right to ask questions during job interviews.
Who should we blame for this?
The first blame goes to the home. You start training a child right from the day the child is borne; from day one. Anything you do not want your child to do, do not do it. Don’t think because the child is small, he/she does not see what you are doing. Child training should start from the day the child cried out. You should be mindful of what you say, the music you play and even how you treat people around you. The way you want the child to talk to you is the way you should talk to him or her. Don’t wait for the child to be an adult before you start, because by the time he/she is 10, he/she has formed a character trait. If he/she has not learnt how to say; I am sorry or please, forgive me, or thank you; he might find it difficult to say so later in life. A child that is well groomed has a way he/she talks, walks, looks at people and even dresses. If you are leaving the home, let your child know where you are going to; so that when he/she is leaving home, he/she will tell you where he is going to; it is a two-way thing. Let them ask questions and if you cannot provide answers to their questions, there is nothing wrong to humbly tell them you do not know. Do not cook up stories, be honest with them; if you want them to be honest with you.
Are there differences between women’s writing now and in the 1970s, 80s and 90s?
Yes, there are whole lot of differences because the world is changing and the issues too. There was no Internet in the 70s and 80s; so, if one is writing anything about that period he or she should consider that the behavioural patterns, fashion and others are not the same with what we have now. We now have issues such as cultism in our schools, high school fees, security, tech scam, kidnapping and others that we never thought could exist in our society. However, there are some issues that have remained the same from the 60 till date. Take for instance, marriages falling apart, child-upbringing, assault and battery; despite that they are the same, there are some factors within them that differ. For instance, the reason marriages break now is different from what it used to be in the past. There are now contract marriages, young men marrying women old enough to be their grandmothers and other strange things in marriages. Values that kept the family united in those day are today waning, which is the reason the society is what it is today.
Why motivational book when there are a lot of other issues to write about?
My reasons are simple. There are a whole lot happening around us in Nigeria. The recession and cost of living is high. There is no good Medicare, breakdown of infrastructure, the society is in a mess and suicide is on the increase. In the past when the society was close knit, family members will talk to a depressed persons and even contribute money to resuscitate ailing businesses of their brother or sister. But all that have gone with the wind and many people are in hopeless situation.
So, my book, You Too Can, comes as a wake up call to encourage depressed and discouraged people never to take their own lives. It is to discourage those people that would secretly kill themselves or may want to jump into the ocean that there is a reason to stay alive. I wrote the book because I went through a very bitter experience and came out a better person; so, they too can also do the same.
Having written scripts for TV series and acted in a movie, how do you see authoring a book?
They are both challenging in different ways. However, writing a book is more challenging. Books go beyond putting down one’s ideas on papers; one has to edit and re-edit, which sometimes runs into months, but with movies, I can finish up writing and editing in a few weeks. The second task of movies is that you have to manage people and the story must be in line with the environment and time you are talking about. You make people do what you want them to do, you must be conscious of day and night time. In fact, once you have the money the movie is half made. Though, it requires editing, it is still not as tedious as writing a book.
When will you convert your 26 scripts to TV series or movies?
One of my books, Juggle The Dices was converted into drama TV series. It was televised in five TV stations, including DSTV. A movie is a story, while series are much more than a story. In the kind of TV series I did, there were three stories in one and each of the stories can be converted to a movie.
When will you go back to the movie industry?
I will soon join them. I am still in touch with the industry, though I am getting my stories ready. When I get back, I am going to do movies before series.
Does your husband not complain about the time you spend writing?
Sometimes he does in a subtle manner, but with time he has adjusted. Most times, I sneak out of the ‘other room’ to my study, but I have to learn to balance the home, husband and writing. I need to sacrifice my midnight writing to satisfy him.