Monye … drawing attention to children’s plight through writing
Though friends and acquaintance have been telling Samuel Onyedikachukwu Monye that he writes well, but the 2017 Quramo Writers Prize Winner was not in total agreement with them. In fact, he felt flattered each time such compliments come his way. However, to ascertain how true these compliments were the Delta State-native applied for the maiden edition of the Quramo Writers Prize and won.
How did you come about your writing skill? The Nnamdi Azikwe University-trained environmentalist said: “It’s one of the family gifts, so to speak. From my father down to us; we have always been writing one thing or the other. For me, growing up, writing fiction is just like I write a story every other person gets to read.”
Observing that he writes good stories, his literature teacher while in Senior Secondary School (SSS2), advised him to switch to the arts and study literature, so that, he would be able to give his ideas the right expression through books, but the young Monye would not sacrifice his sciences for anything. He instead studied hard to excel, while still holding to his hobby.
Leaving school, Monye in 2010 joined the publishing department of his church where he honed his skills. “My writing skill was further developed in 2010 when I joined the publications department of my church. Here, we prepared articles for publications every morning. And in 2014, I joined the Trio, where we write poems and do the spoken word. In the real sense of it, fiction for me started somewhere 2012, when a friend gave me some novels to read and after reading them I felt I could write good stories just as the authors had written and that became it,” he revealed.
What is Give Us Each Day all about? “It’s about a 13-year-old boy, Seun Ajumobi, who was lost in Libya, after his uncle was killed while they were trying to enter Europe illegally from Libya. After a while, lonely Seun began to mingle with street children, fending for himself, and as well looking for how to return to Nigeria,” he said. According to him, the idea came while carrying out the national youth service in Ibadan, where he was posted and where he met different group of beggars pestering for alms. But out all the beggars, a particular boy left an indelible impression on him, which made him believe that there must be numerous children suffering in streets of which little is known about them.
“On one particular Sunday, I was in front of a pharmacy when a boy came to me for help, I just blacked out, I was making a call and after a while I noticed he had stopped asking for alms, but was still standing next to me. I felt sad and asked: ‘Where are your parents?’ And he said, ‘he hasn’t seen them for about four years.’ The idea of the boy living on the streets around Bodija market made me ask myself, ‘what if there is a child somewhere he/she is not supposed to be?
“Coincidentally, the period fell into when government was talking about Libya and Syria crises. Remember there was an incident where a lot of children died in the chaos. Then the question is ‘what if there is a Nigerian child lost in Libya or stranded or on the streets of Libya trying to survive? And the more I pry into the incidence the more I learnt about illegal immigrants and the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea into Europe,” he said.
Did it ever occur to you that this idea could make you win the prize? ‘Not at all, though, I looked forward to winning, at a point I was interested in people knowing that my story could be a reality, because the more I probe into the issue of illegal migration, the more I hear horrible things. I heard unbelievable things about detention camp, men and women abuse, but never really heard much about children. It must be noted that cases about children were underreported. But the truth is, they may be living on the streets or dying as we speak; so, I want to bring the issue of illegal immigration and child abuse to the front burner: let people know what is happening. I want to use my book to draw attention to the plights of children, especially in Nigeria and Africa,” he stressed
Observing the troubles the children and illegal migrants go through, the author titled his book, Give Us Each Day, to reflect the unforeseeable day they have to hope for. Why make the title sound religious? “Our Lords Prayer inspired the title,” he said, continuing he added, “I saw a lot of correlations between the struggle for survival of the children living on the streets of Libya and Our Lord’s prayer. Take for instance, ‘Give Us This Day,’ focuses on one getting his daily bread. Reading the book further, you will see that the children got into trouble when they went to steal, which is more of, ‘ Lead Us Not Into Temptation, when things turn really bad. You can see Deliver Us From Evil, which is the travail, while the end or the rescue turns out to be a blissful one; which is the Forever And Ever. Each chapter is wound around ‘Our Lords’ Prayer.”
Now that you have won the prize, what is next? “I hope to go back to my library, to take a second look at all my previous works with the aim of bringing them to standard. Currently, I have three projects, but they are not for any competition,” he said.
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