Words put in Print are Instruments of change | An Interview with Sunday Saheed

Sunday Saheed, a sixteen-year old boy, is a young and passionate writer whose catchphrase is “change”. He lives in Ifo, a city in Ogun State. He attended N. U. D. Grammar School, Solu-Ifo, for whom his team won many paeans for; some of which were published in The Guardian Newspaper. He is a member of one of the most prestigious literary platforms in Nigeria, named ” Hill-Top Creatives Arts Foundation. He was one of the shortlisted finalists for the WSICE(Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange) 2018, wherein he had the opportunity of seeing the literary wizard, Prof. Wole Soyinka face-to-face. Saheed’s articles, e-books and poems have been published on websites/blogs like Amazon, Litlight, Opinion Nigeria, The League of Poets, Solace Writers, Opera News, Strida, United by Ink etc. Adamu Usman Garko enters into a discussion with him for the Nigeria Review.

Garko: Who is Saheed Sunday?

Saheed: Saheed Sunday is someone who is trying to impact the world positively with his pen. He is someone who is aspiring to create a place for himself in the literary world. This tenderly determination keeps him moving, no matter the circumstance.

Garko: I remember vividly as a participant also, in 2018, you were among the very few students in whole of the country who had the opportunity of having a one-on-one encounter with Nigeria’s only Nobel prize winner, Professor Wole Soyinka. Can you recount your experience and what it means as a young writer to meet him in his home?

Saheed: If there was one thing I remembered from the experience; it is hope. Seeing a literary wizard physically, really encouraged me to become a better poet. Then, I thought; If this man could be a human and do all these, who am I not to do so?The physical encounter helped me in deciding to live an ardent and exemplary life.

Garko: Do you see yourself as a Nobel Laureate in the future? What are your preparationsfor attaining this outstanding stage in life?

Saheed: Of course, I do. Being a Nobel laureate has always been one of my greatest aspirations.  I don’t just aspire; I work towards it. The encounter of the first Nobel-laureate in Africa has given me a guide to being one. The only thing I can do to achieve this is by kindling a fire under the garment of laziness and procrastination. Children have dreamt of becoming US president and they did become. Even in nearby Kano, here, somebody aspired to become an emir and he became one.

Garko: What’s your definition of a contemporary writer?

Saheed: My definition of a contemporary writer is one who uses the ancient to be modern, simply put, anciently modern. Something of the current times. However, this does not mean one should discard the old. A juxtaposition of both will make a writer to be extraordinarily proficient. That’s my definition of a contemporary writer.

Garko: But is it not hard for young poets to blend the past with the present, more so, with the apparent decline of reading culture in Nigeria? Reading influential long-gone writersof the ancient times might be difficult. Again, young poets are mostly obsessed with reading poets of their generation. What do you have to say on the diminishing reading culture in the country and the bizarre silence of the country’s Literary Industry to take up the challenge and effect changes?

Saheed: In 1998, there were about 180,000 workers in Kodak selling at least 75 percent of the world’sphoto paper. Few years later, Digital photography drew them out, throwing them into the labour market, and making Kodak go bankrupt. Do you know what caused the bankruptcy? Inability to adapt to changes!

The main thing people of this modern age find hard to do is adapting to changes. A quote says “Fortunate are they flexible, for they can bend and change”. If the writers of the modern age can adapt to change and juxtapose the modern with the ancient, I can assure that the result will be success.

Poets of nowadays must learn from past writers. They should try to find worthy things about them and uphold. There are many things to learn from poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson and other masters of yesteryears.

The knowledge of the modern is in us already, learning from the ancient will make the knowledge vast and serve as an addition. This can be achieved through vast reading. Reading is the key to higher quality production in Literary Art. Also, reading makes a sounder individual in the society.

Garko: You are a poet and an incredible essayist. Also, you try your hands at reviews too.  It’s often hard to be an all-round literary chap, how do you cope with the two, and is there any possibility of you delving into story writing in the future?

Saheed: Thanks for the compliments. Actually, I believe there is time for everything. When the inspiration comes knocking on my literary heart, I create time and write.  I write stories too, it’s just that I’m not through with them yet.When I am disturbed, it is mostly the time Iget inspired to write. Until I pen it down, I would be totally restless. It may be this, that makes me cope with finding time to write no matter the circumstance. If the interest is there, you don’t find it difficult to write. I think writers can write in many forms. However, some forms are just dominant while others are recessive. So, the level of your interest allows you to cope.

Garko: I have come to believe that writing could serve as a veritable instrument of change, are you with me on this? How possible do you see writing as an instrument of change?

Saheed: I love this question! Yes, I am totally on your side.  There are two ways with which I will answer this question:Writing can change(influence); writing should also adapt to change.The first answer is, according to my belief and principles, words/writing travel faster, longer and farther than the writer. I can write something here in Nigeria and it may be read in the US. With this, the fastest and trusted means I think can help to change(impact) people positively, is through writing. So, words put in print are instruments of change. While the scientist uses elements and materials for weapons of destruction, the writer uses words as instruments of construction or reconstruction.

The second answer is, sometimes, we really need to change the way we write. Our readers should not be able to predict the contents of our write-ups before reading it. They should read “you” before knowing what’s in “you” or in the text. Craft, originality and experimentation can change our write-ups. Right now, this milieu is filled with copious of writers whose writings seem too prosaic because of their inability to change their ways and formats. They keep repeating steps.

Garko: Who are your favorite writers and why do you think young upcoming writers should look up to them for inspiration?

Saheed: I have many favorite writers that I cannot list all now. But the most outstanding ones are:William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Frost, etc. All have different qualities that make them distinguished among other writers. The prominent feature is, they all fit in with time. William Shakespeare and Alfred Lord Tennyson had died for a long time, but when their literary works are read today, it seems as if they are not dead yet and writing in the present day. Well, connotatively they are not dead yet.I will advise young writers like me to uphold this writing skills of these great writers. If they can, in the next ten centuries, they should still be read with the depth of their works laid down on their readers. I mean, we should try to produce works that are timeless.

Garko: Thanks for your time. It feels great exploring your artistic sense and world. Give an advice toyour would-be-writer colleagues as regard the nuptiality of writing and reading?

Saheed: It’s my pleasure spending my time with you. “I wish my would-be-writer colleagues will put one thing in their minds, and that’s “Reading and application”. Some people think when you read and you apply, it’s plagiarism, no! It’s not! Reading and application is the best guide I can highlight to the upcoming writers. When you are impressed with a write-up, did you gain something from it?  Or just ordinary pleasure of entertainment?  If you gained something from it then it is good, develop and turn the write-up in and out until every feature of yours is different from the one you read.”As I have said earlier, the upcoming writers should observe well before writing, look for a way that their write-ups will behelpful to the society. Lastly, they should live forever!

Adamu Usman Garko is a short story writer, an essayist and poet. He is the author of When Day Breaks, a collection of poetry, which was listed among the 15 Best Published Books in 2018 by the Daily Trust newspaper; also, the book is a recommended text for 400L English students of Gombe State University in 2019. He is the 2020 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors and the convener of Gombe Book and Arts Festival, an up-coming LiteraryFestival in Nigeria to kick start in 2020.