‘I have always loved to be a writer’
Ernest Bhabor is an award winning filmmaker and one of the pioneers of the Nigerian film industry. He is a founding member of both the Writers Guild of Nigeria (WGN), and the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN). He is a product of the University of Ibadan; the British Film Council, the Lagos Film Institute and the Directors Guild of Nigeria Training Program. He is also a member of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF), the Brooklyn Community Television (BCAT) Community of Producers, the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC), and the Canon USA XL-XH Series Owners Club. He has written, produced, directed, shot and edited several short films, television shows, documentaries and features.
Bhabor had always wanted to be writer and was not disappointed when he became one. “It started when I was about four or five years really. Then, my dad, Isaac, would make me read out loud, newspaper content. Of course, I couldn’t read every word. But he sat with me and helped me pronounce the big words. He got me a dictionary and a big hard cover notebook. He told me any time I came across a word I didn’t know, I should look it up in the dictionary and write it in my notebook. This was many years ago before digital dictionaries. I still have that notebook,” he said.
He continued: “My dad also bought me a bunch of storybooks then. My favorite was the ‘famous five’ series. Dad and I read them together. I loved the stories. That was how I turned to story telling, and eventually writing, because I wanted to tell my own stories. And as I got older my love for storytelling and writing just grew.”
Talking on his new book, he informed, “Legacy is about life in Nigeria. The hardship and all. And the natural establishment of the dastardly 419 crisis. It explores how the criminal enterprise started. It also highlights the damage it is doing to people all around the world; including Nigerians.”
Bhabor added, “Legacy is a story based on a true life experience of the destructive and oppressive life in Nigeria. It is about the wanton penury and abject poverty of the people in a country that is supposedly the world’s fifth largest oil-producing nation, an ‘aberrative’ incubus that has culminated in the present-day criminal enterprise. It has wrecked and is still wrecking havoc on the lives of unsuspecting victims worldwide. The scheme, aka the scam, is well known around the world by different names; e.g. 419, Advance Fee Fraud, Cat Fishing, Letter Writing, Internet Fraud, IRS Call, Mirage, Ngbada, The Madoff, Wash Wash, Yahoo Millions, Yahoo Yahoo, etc. It is a known fact that many lives have been lost to this cancerous disaster. The FBI, the Interpol, and countless other law enforcement agencies around the world are working tirelessly to put an end to this epidemic. The 20 chapter book with 288 pages explores the genesis of this malady through the eyes of Frank Audu – a typical Nigerian youth in the pursuit of the proverbial Golden Fleece.”
The writer feels accomplished with what he has done. “It is a story I’ve wanted to tell for sometime now. And I hope many people across the world would read it and perhaps do something about the 419 curse. My desire is to educate the public about the problem. And I hope this book does that. A lot really. Unquantifiable amount of research. A lifetime to be succinct. The book covers a couple of generations. It reflects some historical periods in Nigeria. So loads of research had to be done. But luckily for me I did experience some of that period personally, up until the present I might add,” he quipped.
On what inspires him to write, Bhabor said, “life, people, situations and human condition. I observe my society and write something on what I feel strongly about. Completing this first book has taught me some valuable lessons for subsequent books, hopefully. This first published book has definitely improved my process. I think the next one wouldn’t take as long to complete.”
On his favorite authors, he said they include, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Mario Puzo, John Grisham and James Hardley Chase. “However, Soyinka has had the greatest influence on me personally. He’s my mentor. And I believe what he said in his book, The Man Died. The man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny. Wole Soyinka is a man who fights for the oppressed and disenfranchised. And that is something very dear to me,” he admitted.
My advise to aspiring writers who would like to get their work published is write your book and find a way to get it out. “We all have a book in us. We all have a story to tell. It’s like food. You have to cook the food before you eat it, right? You have to complete the book first. There might be someone somewhere in a remote part of the world waiting for your book. Write the book already. And once it’s complete, you can consider all the available options for publishing. But then again, nothing is wrong with considering publishing options while you write. But don’t limit yourself by finding a publisher first before you write… that’s like putting the cart before the horse. The manuscript comes first, should come first.”
He continued, “the most unethical practice in the publishing industry is piracy. Many books and other works of art are pirated with reckless abandon; and I think that is really reprehensible. To tackle this problem, the first step is to enact stringent laws against piracy. Then the next thing is to actually enforce the laws. Enacting laws without enforcing them is like owning a dog that barks but never bites. If the laws are backed by a proper enforcement unit; and some guilty parties are arrested, tried and imprisoned for a long time others will think twice before engaging in the act. Also, the fight against piracy should be universal. It shouldn’t be seen as a fight of the artiste alone. It should be a concerted effort.”
The government, the law enforcement agencies and all citizens must participate in the battle against piracy. The government’s role is the enactment and enforcement of very strong anti-piracy laws with the legislative and law enforcement arms of the government. The citizens must also be adequately educated about the ills of piracy, e.g a major loss of income to the artiste; and a loss of revenue to the government. And their role in combating the problem must be highlighted.”