Wow, so it’s been a little while I did an interview, basically because I didn’t just want to interview people who’ve been interviewed so many times already you could practically quote the answers, and even before you asked! It’s more my style to uncover people behind things that have really impressed/inspired me, or shine my Fairy light on people/areas I think we should all be aware of. What comes to your mind when you hear the name Onyeka Nwelue? To answer this question you should be on Twitter and Facebook, be Nigerian (not compulsory but will help), and if not for anything, be aware of the #LunchwithGEJ saga that sparked not a few wars and set the juices of writers (creative or not) flowing. Some of the articles can be found here, here, here, and here. Sorry if I didn’t list yours!
Anyways, somehow, Onyeka and I got talking and I remember saying I would really like to look inside his head; understand the way he thinks. I thought about it for a couple days and then the light bulb moment came; why not do an interview? Ah ha!
Little background on Onyeka; he wrote ‘The Abyssinian Boy’ (DADA Books, 2009) when he was 18, won the 2009 TM ALUKO Prize for First Book, 2nd runner-up, IBRAHIM TAHIR Prize for Fiction, nominated for the Future Awards 2010, lectured at NSS College, Ottapalam in Kerala, South India, appeared at The Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival alongside South African writer, Andre Brink and has interviewed Wole Soyinka for the Guardian. He is currently working on his debut film, The Distant Light and second novel. The son of a politician-father, and school-teacher mother, Onyeka writes mainly on religion and sexuality. On to the interview, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
FGS: First question, tell me three things you hate?
Onyeka: I hate beans, dogs (I know someone will be pissed off right now) and poverty!
FGS: who is that ‘someone’?
Onyeka: A world-class flutist who has over nine dogs and loves his dogs so much, that he thinks they are human beings too!
FGS: So your parents didn’t force you to eat beans as a child? Mine did, and beans is one of my best meals today!
Onyeka: My mom did. My father is a good cook. He used to cook for us while my mother was trying to get a university degree. And he was just cooking beans and making pap in the morning and I was getting angry, but I couldn’t do anything.
FGS: Ha ha ha ha!!!! Ok, let’s move to question two; or maybe I should ask that later on in this interview. What do you think?
Onyeka: Go ahead. I am here to answer anything!
FGS: Tell me about you. What is it that we don’t know already?
Onyeka: I am 23 years old. You already know that! I was a seminarian for 6 years. I practiced Hinduism for some time and visited the Buddhist monastery in Dharamshala, India, thinking I would become a Buddhist, but no, I couldn’t. I tried other religions by reading about them and meeting people who were part of them and decided to turn to atheism, which I find satisfying right now.
FGS: You’re younger than I am (which isn’t surprising since I am older than everyone – Fairy sturvs)
Onyeka: I have studied Sociology & Anthropology for 3 years and gave up, by withdrawing officially and travelling back to India to train as a scriptwriter. I have also lectured at Centre for Research in Art of Film & TV (CRAFT). I teach Film Adaptation. Few days ago, which nobody knows, except people close to me, I’ve been admitted into Prague Film School, so I will be starting the session by September. I’ve struggled to make films (hopefully, my documentary will be out soon) and I’m working as the editor of FilmAfrique, published by the Africa Film Academy, curators of African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). The last is that: I can’t hold my mouth. I talk a lot.
FGS: So, for the first time I’m having a chat with an atheist; I’m not going to pass the opportunity to ask some ‘home’ questions! What does that mean? I know atheism entails not believing in God, so what do you believe in?
FGS: *congratulations on your admission; I hope you’ll finish that*
Onyeka: Oh, thanks. I will definitely finish. This is something I’ve always wanted to do: filmmaking. I had imagined myself as an anthropologist for a long time and I found it awkward! Back to the question about God: truth is, yes, atheism is the belief that there is no God, but that doesn’t mean that I have a proof that there is no God or you have a proof that there is God.
FGS: So you just don’t believe.
Onyeka: Every one of us has questioned the existence of God, once or twice. There is no doubt about this. It is left for us now to choose what we want. I am happy I’ve chosen atheism, because it brought out another part of me that I didn’t know existed: that man who could tell anyone anything because there is no paradise for him and no hell…
FGS: Religion is the opium of the masses right? I spoke with a friend here in the UK one day on religion et al and he said he didn’t believe in God because his government takes care of him. Would you say the same?
Onyeka: Well, a friend said recently that I need to communicate with God. I was in the seminary for 6 years! God didn’t show. I was being bullied. I was maltreated and I also turned into a bully myself when I was made the Head Boy! So, you see? Man is your God. He rules over you and as time goes on, you become the Other Man’s God too. Life is just like that. There is nothing we can do with our imagination that much, but to think of someone who will always watch over us, even when we are in toilet. Or bathing naked in the bathroom; this awesome God is watching over us in the bathroom like a pervert!
Onyeka: So, the answer to your question is this: if the God of your friend in the UK is his Government, my God is that person who is always by my side when I need help. No one can fault this conclusion and I think anyone who does, has actually seen God or ‘felt’ God as they always claim, which I find very ridiculous.
FGS: Ok, since this is just to get your thoughts on that, why don’t we move on to what I’m itching to talk about….the note you wrote about the lunch.
Onyeka: Okay. If you ask me, na who I go ask? LOL.
FGS: One question: What informed that article?
Onyeka: I don’t jump into conclusions. I was patient enough to wait for them to start blowing the smoke around and it was getting right into my nostrils. And I just didn’t find it funny that Chude Jideonwo was being attacked with fine grammar, which didn’t come off as insulting as it should when you write like a certain Onyeka Nwelue that didn’t go to school. And I am also not very good at running around the bush. I am not very good at looking at others being clamped down.
FGS: So who was being ‘clamped down on’? Because, it seemed to me (and a couple others who were made aware of the incident via notes that young people were just upset that there seemed to be a lot of secrecy about the whole thing)
Onyeka: I honestly felt if Feyi thought Chude went wrong somewhere, he should just say it, without running around like a village child…
FGS: Let’s be easy on our expressions………. what do you mean by running around? You said Feyi was ‘running around’.
Onyeka: He should not have gone to that length of wanting the dude to update his Facebook and Twitter, telling the world where he was and trying to keep them in the loop about the things that didn’t concern them. If he did in the past, he didn’t have to continue. If you read that Feyi’s stuff closely (and which you need to), he was being too personal on Chude and Amara Nwankpa, but the good thing these days is that these young men build some strong friendships after yabbing themselves and I’m sure Chude and Feyi are friends right now. He could have just done a less-worded note, saying, “Chude, this is where you went wrong.” And then try to tell us a bit about what they know that has been happening in the dark. That I can swallow and not comparing the young man to Tinubu, which actually annoyed me.
FGS: So from where you stand, if given the chance you would write that note again?
Onyeka: Definitely. I sat down in my office that very day reading all the Tweets and comments. Everyone abused me. They wanted me to write something more INTELLIGENT; that they read Feyi’s stuff and mine side by side and they wanted quality education, because Onyeka Nwelue is not educated. But hey, every writer single possesses a different style from the other. Feyi has expressed himself the way he wanted and I was there doing mine. I am sure if we meet, you won’t find me speaking English, so I would have even written the stuff in Igbo, ka o buru nani Ndigbo ga-agu ihe m dere…
Onyeka: And please, don’t translate this to anyone who doesn’t understand it. Please.
FGS: I’ll try not to…. but you know I have a wide audience….
Onyeka: Please, don’t! FGS: I promise to try.
Onyeka: I have just finished my second book, narrated by a Chinese man and I have Chinese in it, which I’ve refused to translate. My first book I wrote some Hindi, which I intentionally refused to translate and a lot of Igbo words too. I feel people should know what they are supposed to know, so if I have to write that note again, I will do it in Igbo Language and you will find out that those people who think they have quality education (in English) don’t know anything at all…
FGS: So on to the second set of questions I was going to ask; what are two things you think people will absolutely love you for?
Onyeka: Nobody loves me, except my parents, my siblings, my publisher and my boss (who absolutely tolerates my eccentricism and mood swings). I don’t know why anyone should love me and arrogantly speaking, right now in my life, I don’t care!
FGS: Hmmm, don’t you ever feel lonely?
Onyeka: Not at all.
FGS: So there are no two things that someone can love you for? This is an opportunity for you to sell yourself…. *wink*
Onyeka: Ha, ha ha. Cool. Let them love me for not believing in God. Let them love me for NOTHING. I just like it that I won’t have to sell myself or force anyone to love me!
FGS: Do you have a girlfriend?
Onyeka: We broke up with my girlfriend in March; we felt we should just take time off. But you see us together most of the time!
FGS: Forgive me if that question was a bit personal
Onyeka: No, it’s fine.
FGS: Where do you see yourself in the next three years?
Onyeka: I will be 26 years then! LOL
FGS: apart from advancing in years, what else will you have achieved/done?
Onyeka: I understood your question. I just don’t want to say anything about my plans. I have learnt not to talk about some certain things before they happen! Hope you understand?
FGS: I understand…
Onyeka: Thank you so much, my love, for understanding.
FGS: You’re welcome. What in your opinion is the problem with Nigeria?
Onyeka: I will definitely blame the ONE problem with Nigeria on RELIGION!
FGS: Seriously? religion? Not corruption, light or anything?
Onyeka: No. Religion. There is God, so if there is power outage, the old woman in the neighbourhood says, “God, please bring this light na.” The pastor milks market woman in the church, by using the name of God. They go home broke, because they are scared of not giving to God percentage of what they make in the market. Of course, God has directed those Hebrew retards to write it in the Bible, so they must do it. A woman who is so poor has to make a contribution for some Bishop Oyedepo guy to buy a jet and you don’t see it as a problem with Nigeria.
FGS: Ok, how do we take care of the ‘religion’ problem?
Onyeka: First, we have to tax the church, the mosque and other religious centres in the country!
FGS: I saw that post on Facebook, so you think that taxing the religious institutions will solve the problems in Nigeria?
Onyeka: Yes it will, to a certain extent. The Government needs to watch them closely. They are the ones causing all the wahala in the country, I will tell you. They are the ones who feed the people with lies. They are the ones the people listen to, because they are believed to come from God. They are the ones who possess more power than the celebrities.
FGS: Ok, thanks for talking to me Onyeka. One final word; ANYTHING you want to say?
Onyeka: You are welcome! Final word: biri ka m biri. Please, don’t translate again. LOL.
FGS: So let’s say I gave you that opportunity again, but I said you had to give that final word in English……
Onyeka: Erm, it is difficult in English. Okay, I will just say, live and make we live. Is that okay?
FGS: Great! Thanks Onyeka!!!
Onyeka: Thank you so much.
On that note, I give you Onyeka Nwelue, and wrap the first/second interview in the 3, 2, 1 series! Guess who I’ll be talking to next? Keep guessing, or tell me who you’d rather I spoke to, and why!