Maggie Chinyere Offoha is a Nigerian –American author who is passionate about human emotions, societal issues that affect people around the globe. In interview with NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE, Offoha, a medical practitioner-turned author and a poet, spoke on her determination to tell the stories of her Igbo brothers and sisters in diaspora through writing and publishing of books. She also urged Nigerian government to recognise the contributions of Nigerians in diaspora and accord them the right to vote. Excerpts.
Why writing and publishing of novels and poems?
From the first day I read ‘Things fall apart’ as a youngster growing up in Nigeria, I was captivated by the story about the Igbos of Nigeria, their lifestyle, traditions and customs. Their resilient in the midst of the adversity brought upon them by their colonial masters and their audacity to sustain their cultures and traditions.
I was inspired by Chinua Achebe, the father of African literature to write the stories of my Igbo people both at home in Nigeria and in diaspora. I wanted mostly to tell my story, and that of my Igbo brothers and sisters living in other countries of the world.
Can you state the themes of the books and what massage do you want to convey to the readers?
The quest to leaving Nigeria for a greener pasture, challenges of immigrants in foreign countries, the negative impact of brain drain in birth countries, identity crisis due to cultural clashes among second generation immigrants and the dilemma of being caught at the crossroads of two countries, these are the themes of my book, ‘Return to where I belong’.
You are a medical practitioner venturing in to writing, what is the relationship between the two careers?
As a medical practitioner in America, I take care of patients, after hearing their individual stores about themselves and their families. I encounter people from various paths of the world. I take notes as I listen to them, everybody in this world has a story to tell.
Writing involves taking notes, doing research, listening to stories, it is the same thing as being a medical practitioner, for you have to take notes, do research in other to provide proper care to your patient.
So, I think am in a better position with my experiences in dealing with people, and my love of literature, to venture into story telling. A passion I have always enjoyed.
My inspiration to write comes from people, I love people, I am an empathetic person, I love to tell the stories many cannot talk about themselves, so that others can understand them better. As a poet, also I have a strong believe that my inspiration to write comes from God. Is like I have a vision, to connect people around the globe through my words of poetry as my poems focuses on human emotions, societal issues that affect people around the globe.
Many of my poems, focuses on humanity, their sufferings, peace and unity around the globe, and I believe only God can provide the level of faith and wisdom that are shown on the words I put on the paper.
What are your challenges as an author and how have you been able to navigate around?
My major challenges in writing and publishing a book in America, is money, one must have enough financial resources to embark on the business of self-publishing. Another challenge is time, writing especially requires a lot of time, as a wife, mother and a health care provider, I had to struggle to make out time, to pursue my passion of writing. I was able to navigate around these challenges, because I have patience, dedication, and refusing to give up on days when I could not write, I manage to write everyday even when I have only a few minutes to myself in a 24 hour day.
My hope, is to tell the true story of people, their challenges and to build bridges among people through literature.
Do you think Nigerians in diaspora have contributed immensely to the development of their home country?
I believe that Nigerians in diaspora have done great for the development of their home country Nigeria.
Many have built roads, hospitals, schools, orphanages and many more especially were the government neglects their towns, these diasporas have taken it upon themselves to contribute to the education, health and welfare of their people back home.
It is estimated that, diaspora remittances is the highest source of foreign exchange to Nigeria and contribute more to Nigeria’s GDP than oil and more than 11 times the total sum of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country. So, I would say that we the diasporas have done well for our country.
Despite the fact that we have no say in the government, and continued to be denied the right to vote, we still carry our homeland Nigeria on our back, I believe it is time the government recognise our contributions by according us the right to vote, a basic right of a free citizen of any democratic country. For we still remain Nigerians citizen regardless of our geographical location in the world, we still call Nigeria home.
My view with the recently concluded Nigerian election was that of epic disappointment. As a diasporan living in America, I was for the first time optimistic, to see a politician who was able to connect with all the people of Nigeria, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbos among other especially the youths who refused to be manipulated with religion, tribalism and social economic status. I was so excited, for this new democratic movement, that I got involved in the campaign for Peter Obi, the only candidate among many others, who saw the pain and anguish of his country men and women, and wanted to change the situation of hopelessness in the country. I added my voice to this movement through my poems, which included, Arise Nigerian youths, Flag of our father land Nigeria among others.
So, you can see that I and many of other Nigerian diasporas were involved in this election, because we thought that the political liberation of our people back home in Nigeria are finally here, but we were highly disappoint by INEC and Nigerian government, as we watch helplessly the violence and rigging that superseded the election of February, 25 2023.
What is your advice to those who want to venture in to writing and publishing of books?
My advice to those who want to venture into writing of books, is to make sure they have the love and passion for reading and writing, patience, dedication and ability to focus on the task at hand.
They should also keep a daily writing habit, read diligently, take writing classes, join a writing group.
Also they should keep reference books handy, write in a variety of forms, learn the rules, outline before writing, be ready to endure financial hardship, while you are trying to break through, among others.