A group of students from Ilado Community Senior High School and Wahab Folawiyo Senior School celebrated Children’s Day on May 27, 2013 by meeting and talking with renowned writer and professor Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo at the ZODML Community Library.
In preparation for the session, the students had been given copies of Trafficked, a novel by Professor Ezeigbo, on which the day’s discussion would be focused. At the beginning of the session, the students introduced themselves and shared a few facts about the author they had discovered through internet research. Professor Ezeigbo expressed her delight at being invited to speak with young people about reading, especially given the various social activities competing with it for their time. She shared that while her children were growing up there were few children's books written by Nigerian authors, which inspired her to write children’s stories that depicted and celebrated Nigerian culture and heritage. The Junior African Writers Series (JAWS) gave her this platform, publishing her novel The Buried Treasure in 1992. Professor Ezeigbo told the students that she started writing and drawing cartoons at a young age. Her father was a District Officer who worked in Port Harcourt, Rivers State; although he had a school leaving certificate, he supported his children in furthering their studies. She attended a good high school and became the president of Dramatic Society. She also had access to a mobile library, and was on the editorial board of her university's student journal. Asked why she had written Trafficked in particular (which she said was one of her favourites of the many books she has written), Professor Ezeigbo told the students that she had carried out research on young girls being trafficked to Europe and sold as sex slaves. She had been inspired by the work of the former vice president’s wife Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar and her NGO Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), as well as Eki Igbinedion’s Idia Renaissance. Professor Ezeigbo also highlighted that the practice was not only common in Africa but also in Asia, where men are often trafficked to work in Europe. The students were eager to discuss the book, particularly its ambiguous ending and the relationships between the characters, as well as the particular challenges Professor Ezeigbo has faced as a writer (to which she replied not having enough time because of her roles as a lecturer at the University of Lagos and mother). The author told students who expressed an interest in becoming writers that it was possible to pursue a profession and also be a writer, giving the example of Wole Okediran, a doctor and author. When the students asked her what sources inspired her writing, she emphasised the importance of research in developing a realistic and authentic voice as a writer. The students had been asked ahead of the session to write their own extension of the ending of Trafficked. Three short-listed scripts by students from Wahab Folawiyo Senior High School were read aloud, and of the three, Mariam Adamu won first place while Faith Otabor and Temitope Babalola Adeaga were tied for second place. Professor Ezeigbo presented the winner with her prize, while Ayo Obe (a member of the ZODML Board of Trustees) presented gifts to the students in the second position. Each student who attended the session was also given a gift bag with a t-shirt, book and writing materials and given a tour of and joining the Community Library. Professor Ezeigbo has won the NLNG, Cadbury, Zulu Sofola and Atiku Abubakar prizes for her books and is currently writing a book in Igbo, her native language, which she intends to translate into English. [slideshow_deploy id='1243'] Previous SSRP sessions have played host to JP Clark, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Ifeoma Okoye and Elechi Amadi.