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"When discouraged, I look at myself and say, 'you're not bad..." — Ayeyemi Taofeek Aswagaawy

Happy new Month, Dear Readers. It's such a great day to start with today. I pray and wish everyone a great day and a prosperous month. I wish you all well.

Today, FROM THE OTHER SIDE is here again. We have a special man with is today, he spoke on your radio weeks ago, start
You want to know him? You will, soon.
So, let's get to the interview in proper and meet the Sagacious Sage, he's not ugly! I think he's still single.

The Interview.

Can we meet you, Sir

Guest: I am Ayeyemi Taofeek Kehinde fondly called Aswagaawy (my penname). I'm an essayist and poet.

What part of literature do you write?

Guest: As earlier stated, I write essays and poetry. I write creative articles as well, particularly on personal brand development, culture and places, literature and relationship.

What drove your interest and captured your attention to writing?

Guest: Actually, I'm someone who enjoys scribbling words together to pass interesting and creative messages and information. These are the pleasure I found in writing in the first place that made started writing.

When did you start writing?

Guest: It will be nice to say I was writing some essays and creative articles around 2008 but they were just for fun except the ones I was assigned to write. Even in 2010 when I was reading for WAEC and JAMB, I was writing some poems just to practicality of some figures of speech. There was no serious intendment behind it.

However, I started taking creative writing and essays serious in 2012 when a senior colleague saw an essay I submitted for a school magazine. He advised to embrace it, he showed me the way, I went the way and this is how far we've come.

But for poetry, it was in December 2015 when a junior colleague told me about his friend, Oyin Oludipe, who also writes well and is widely published. He advised me to also make my works published widely. So when I visited the social media accounts of Oyin Oludipe, I realised it was poetry. That was how I started learning the rudiments and writing it as well. Luckily in January, I was published on Poets In Nigeria website. It will also interest you to know that I later met Oyin Oludipe at University of Ibadan for Okigbo Poetry Prize where he came first and I came second.

What are your full achievements so far?

Guest: If we look at renowned writers, they become renowned for their impacts, works and laurels. If these are achievements, then I've impacted and made difference with my works. Many have said "Because of you, I started writing." Many have said "Because of you I didn't stop or I or I picked up my pen again." And by that, I've become mentors to some and inspiration to some. And anytime I see them growing, I see it as achievement.

Also, I've shun hundreds of mind boggling works into the world. I've been published by international and local platforms such us Tuck Magazine, Inspired Magazine, Peregrine Reads, Srafng, Omojuwa and so on. Also, I'm the founder and Chief Editor of Writers Connect and we've polished 3 high impact anthologies. And, personally, I've got anthologies in the pipeline but will be publishing one soon titled "Ọrọ n Bo: Dripping Words."

Then, I've gotten laurels for my works. It started with Equity Prize of Advocacy 2013, Winner of SRAF Poetry Competition 2016, Creative Writer of The Year Award (TPC 2016), Two time receiver of Writer of The Year (LASULAWS 2016 and 2017), First Runner up Okigbo Poetry Prize (UI 2016), rated in 2017 among the #EGCtop50 Contemporary Poets that rocked Nigeria in 2016, mentioned in the TPC African Poets Encyclopedia 2016 and 2017 among other coveted prizes.

Wow! That’s great, tell us, what has writing done for you, how has it challenged you too?

Guest: Well, writing has given me distinguished recognition and has afford me the chance to make difference and given me the prospect of progress. Challenges? There's no serious challenge other than it makes one too busy and in solitude. It makes one addicted to phone because majority write with phone nowadays. Although, I don't regard myself as a social media addict but a social media enthusiast and literary aficionado. The only challenge I can mention is the zeal to be better everyday and remain relevant. These are key aspect of every professions that should give one challenge.

What do you want to achieve with writing?

Guest: Making difference, making living and flying higher every time.

We all know writers are given low recognition compare to artist, models and co, what do you see of this?

Guest: Well, it's simply because writing is strictly for the intellectuals and only the intelligentsias read.

However, it's interesting to know that there are organizations promoting literary activities such as writing associations like Association of Nigerian Authors and non-writing firms such as Etisalat (Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize) and Nigeria Liquidified Natural Gas that promotes the biggest poetry prize in Nigeria (NLNG Literary Prize) with a very fat monetary consideration.

If many other organizations embrace the promotion of literature, in no long time, writers will be given more recognitions like others. And it's interesting that poets have graduated their works to Performance which is introducing more lively entertainment into the art like music. This with its promotion will also go a long way in earning more recognition for writers.

It is no lie that African Indigenous Taste is quite lost in some of contemporary poets' writes, what do you see of these?

Guest: That's true and it's a result of complete acceptance of the western culture or being obsessed with their lifestyle. How do you want a poet who grew up speaking English in a Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba speaking community to exhibit indigenousness in his works? Understanding our culture begins from how much we can speak our language and that's really affecting us. Wole Soyinka, Okigbo, Chinua Achebe, Niyi Osundare, Trade Ipadeola are fluent in their mother tongue and they represent Africa in their works. The taste will not be revived until we go back to the drawing board because you cannot give what you don't have.

It will interest you to know that despite the fact that I grew up speaking Yoruba and was well abreast of many Yoruba Proverbs and Idioms and did Yoruba Language in my secondary school, I wasn't really taught how to place sound signs (Ami Ohun) on the alphabets. So I had to dedicate a month to learning that in 2016 and now I can do the placement well. The indigenousity has helped my works and I've titled many of my works with my lingua franca and the title ain't just mere cosmetic surplusage but they're deeply reflected in the content of such works. As a matter of fact, my first to-be-published anthology is titled ORO N BO which comes from "ọ̀rọ̀ ń bọ́, àṣẹ ń tẹ̀le e" meaning "word is flowing, assertion is following."

If you’re to promote yourself and African Indigenousity, which one will you promote first?

Guest: African Indigenousity of course.

Why did you choose that answer?

Guest: It's because that's who I am and that's the true and original African Literature. If I fail to do so, and no one else does, then the spirit and ingredient of Africanism will die an automatic death. Also, by promoting it, I'm promoting myself.

What do you see of Nigerian Poets in few years to come?

Guest: Nigerian poets will be well recognized because people are gradually falling in love with the art. Those who are not writing it from the like-ness enjoy reading it to the extent of purchasing anthologies of poems. However, there is fear of mediocrity from those who are not ready to learn the rudiments. Anyway, by then, the good will be  clear from the bad. And we'll find it easy to separate the shafts from the wheat.

What are your hope and ambition for the future?

Guest: If this question is personal, like I said earlier, my ambition for my writing life is making difference, making living and flying higher. By this, I wish to be the bus stop of African Literature among my pears who are also icons of Africanism, particularly in my lingua franca. As a Poet Laureate, I wish to take poetry beyond boundaries and shores of the African continent. Making living with it abundantly and effortlessly because it's uninteresting to associate financial non-bouyancy with poet. And, ultimately, a receiver of the Nobel Laureate Prize for Literature, and possibly for Peace.

To answer it generally, then my hope and ambition is that African Literature should become the most interesting centre of interest in the whole world.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve ever gotten and how have you overcome it?

Guest: I can't remember because I've come along way sweeping shrubs of challenges with my feet and hitting heads on Iroko of fears. Well, they all make me grow. Many are still dilating eyes at me and scaring me with their hydra heads. But I believe I'll overcome them, with God. While I don't know which to mention, I'll sincerely let you know that prayer has been my arsenal in tackling challenges, then getting up and getting out to get them solved.

If you’re to advise a weary and discouraged common man, what would it be?

Guest: There's no new thing in life. Whatever is happening to you now has happened and is happening to many others, even in more severe way. All you need to do is persevere and find a way forward. God who brought you to it will bring you through it. Truly, you cannot go back to have a new beginning but you can do well now, and have a brand new ending.

Talking about Religion, what is your unbiased view about Religion?

Guest: Religion is real. If someone examine the objects and things on earth and say there is no God, he'll be a fool to look at the sky and still believe that there is no God. So the universe doesn't exist by chance, Someone created and began them. And the reality and certainty of His existence have been established in the scriptures and the life of His messengers through whom He sent the scripts. All He want is that we should appreciate Him for creating, maintaining and sustaining us, so should we, in His stated practices.

Can you tell us what made you happy the most?

Guest: Overcoming my challenges make me happy the most. It makes life an interesting for me and a sweet tale for listeners.

Tell us, how do you encourage yourself when discouraged?

Guest: When discouraged, I look at myself and say "You're not bad, you ain't just lucky. Your luck will come and it will shine brighter." And what I do depends on what actually discouraged me. At times, it might require me to take action and not giving a self-sermon.

If you’re to do away with something that will disturb your writing career, what would it be?

Guest: I've not engaged in anything disturbing my writing career. Everything is helping. Although, more time is needed to be dedicated to it but all I'm doing now are worth doing because they're complementing my writing career.

Tell us your best quotes for a common man.

Guest: "Sometimes hard work beats talent if talent refuses to work hard." And "If you're loaded, you'll be needed." Because "The future belongs to the competent. Get good, get better, be the best."

Dear Readers, thank you for reading, I'm sure you've been moved with these words dripping from the very man, Ayeyemi Taofeek Aswagaawy.
Stay tuned, read and appreciate what you've read by passing a comment. Thank you.


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