At the end of 2014, author of the popular collection of short stories “The wonderful life of Senator Boniface and Other Sorry Tales” Ayo Sogunro published another book “Everything in Nigeria is going to kill you”, a paradoxical representation of the lifestyle of an average Nigerian summed up.
According to him, the book is his “relentless pursuit of understanding the survival abilities of the average Nigerian in a system that is definitely dysfunctional. Some of us complain, some of us protest, some of us go spiritual and still many others go material, and also a few of us turn to the arts for solace–we write, not to cure other people of madness, but to avoid going mad ourselves…”
Here is our chat with him on his books and lifestyle as a writer and lawyer.
What has most influenced your life and career as an Author and Essayist?
I’m glad you included “essayist”: the essay is a genre that is gradually being lost in Nigeria—having been replaced by news articles and journal pieces. That aside, my strongest motivation has been a continuous desire to propel social action through my writings. It sounds a tad cliché, but I also want to make some sort of difference in my time.
There was an 8-year gap between your first book “Cracks in the Ivory Tower” and the second, “Death in the Dawn” which is a play, was there any reason for that?
I didn’t like my first book much. I was 17 when it was written (co-written with my friend Goke Gbadamosi) and 19 when it was published. It was brashly written, rashly edited and harshly printed. The outcome was depressing; and I shied away from the thought of publishing until my confidence in both my writing and Nigerian publishers were equally restored.
Your most popular book, a satire on our socio-political state “The wonderful life of Senator Boniface and Other Sorry Tales” got a special mention at the 2013 London Book Festival, how did that feel and what led to writing the book?
I don’t really fancy literary awards and so I’ve not pursued them much or given them much thought. The London Book Festival award was very random. I suppose I don’t care to be remembered merely as the winner of a literature prize.
As for “Sorry Tales”, the book is a kaleidoscope of my fancies and nightmares on Nigerian socio-politics. The book didn’t start as a deliberate whole, instead its pieces emerged at different times and for different purposes—but somehow, the stories and poetry all fitted together nicely.
Have you been criticised badly for your new book “Everything in Nigeria is Going to Kill You” at least for the title alone?
No, at least not to my knowledge. Though it may seem somewhat alarmist, most of my readers realise that the title is anything but that. Everything in Nigeria is going to kill you because you don’t care.
What is it like combining writing with working as a Lawyer?
The day-to-day interactions between those two aspects of my life can be strenuous. Particularly as a trained corporate lawyer in the capital markets sector. But the substantive impact of this interaction is quite rewarding. Nevertheless, I try to see myself as a writer first, and a lawyer second. I get upset when the media—kindly but misguidedly—refers to me as a lawyer while I have been acting in a literary capacity.
Do you have any special writing ritual? Like music in the background, tea or coffee on your table, prefer to write at a particular hour of the day or night, a writing corner, and how long does it take you to write and publish a book?
I have no writing rituals, per se. But my writing tends to follow a generic pattern: an idea or theme plops in my head, I mull over it for a while—could be up to a couple of days, meanwhile I jot down the points that substantiate the idea, then I pick a day (or two) to sit down with those points and spin some writing out. It also helps if there’s some wine and quiet music handy.
How do you relax and sustain your creativity from the energetic and fast pace of living in Lagos?
Hahaha. I’m one of those type of people who are able to find peace in their own thoughts, and so, comfortable solitude comes easily to me. A glass of wine—or something friskier—and a good book or movie easily restores my creative energy.
Where can we buy your books in Lagos?
You’ll get them in the major book stores. Patabah in Surulure, Terrakulture in Victoria Island seem to be the favourites. People also order from the online store adibba.com —their payment on delivery option is very encouraging for readers.
As a writer, how often do you buy books and what are your top 10 must read books?
These days I have too many eBooks on my gadgets/Kindle and so I tend to buy only new titles by Nigerian authors as often as I attend book fairs, readings and other literary events. I’m not quite sure what books will qualify as “must reads”, though. I suppose all the religious and philosophical books are must reads—though that will also make for a lot of tedious reading. But, if you mean the books I have enjoyed the most over the years, making recommendations would be a very impossible task: I would have to cheat out dozens of my favourites—like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—which I dare not mention in any serious literary discussion.
Do you have a schedule of book readings and other interactive literary events coming up this year?
No fixed dates for now but I intend to participate in the major book festivals this year. I’ve been accused of being very inaccessible—I’m trying hard to change that.
To know more about Ayo Sogunro, you can follow him on social media or his blog activities on www.ayosogunro.com and in addition to where you can buy his books, contact AMAB Books on 08129333031 or www.amabbooks.com for payment on delivery options too.