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‘Writing is a natural progression from reading’

My Book World: Kayode Fayemi

In this concluding part of the interview on reading choices, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi speaks on his preference for hard copy books, his ability to straddle between fiction and non-fiction and his emergence as a writer.

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What steps have you taken to ensure that your state plays a significant role in preparing young people for the digital age?

We are doing quite a lot on that. We are also preparing them for coding. Coding is not part of the curriculum, but we feel that Ekiti State should be a leader in that critical segment of the digital economy. We are working with a number of institutions and partners to get this mainstreamed into our educational curriculum.

Secondary schools?

Yes, but ultimately in primary schools as well.  Because if you catch them young, it is easier. But then you do not want to distract those in primary schools. Let them master their numeracy and literacy. When they get to a mature level, they can then take on these other subjects.

What is the timeline for the Knowledge City?

It would be ready in 2022.

Do you prefer hard copy or digital texts?

Sorry, I am old school. I have all these Kindles and Nooks and all of these things. I like the feel, it is indescribable, what turning the page does to you and to your soul. I hopefully will get there one day, but I like to carry my book around like a baby.

Any preference between fiction and non-fiction?

You can see that I straddle all areas. I read fiction but not as much as I read non-fiction. I am an avid non-fiction reader and writer. I don’t write fiction. I have a wife who is quite adept at writing fiction and poetry. I dabble occasionally but,mostly, I am a non-fiction guy.

What is your view of the notion that Nigerians do not read?

It is commonly said. I think there is a sense in which it is true that Nigerians do not read. But then again, Nigerians read. Nigerians are very imaginative. Nigerians read what interests them. You have also to make it available. Part of the problem is that access is a big issue. What are we doing about ensuring that people have access? Technology has made access easier. I think it is the form rather than the content in which the materials come to people. Particularly, younger ones who are not very fond of carrying around heavy books in the way we were trained. They read in an eclectic manner and not in a straight-laced, focused, disciplined manner.

You are a writer. What motivated you into writing?

I think it is just a matter of natural progression.

As I said, I grew up reading. Reading informs writing. There is nothing that informs writing better than reading. If you want to be a good writer, you must be a very avid reader because that then opens your mind to various possibilities and experiences.  Before we left the shores of Nigeria, we could probably describe from reading Hardley Chase’s novels the way Miami is, the streets of Washington DC, the history of those places. Reading does a lot for you. From there it was natural to be in the quiz and debating society (High School) or be the editor of the Press Club and on and on into journalism, research and academia. I think it was just inevitable.

What did your book discuss, just for the benefit of our readers?

I have written a couple of books. The one that I think that people are most interested in is Out of The Shadows. It was a memoir of the exile years and the struggle for democracy and freedom in Nigeria in the aftermath of the annulled election in 1993. I gave a perspective that was ordinarily not present in the books that had been written by local drivers of the campaign because they did not have that information. These include the diplomatic shuttle, the underground radio that we ran, the campaign in African countries, at the Commonwealth, in the United States and the Internet wars that we had to wage, the frustrations, the bitterness and the very strange liaison that we had even with Chief MKO Abiola himself, not being a fan of his relationship with the military but also very determined to fight for what we believed was the right thing-helping to restore his mandate. Those were the issues tackled in the book.

What are the other books?

I had written a number of books about my experience in office. Every year that I spent in office in my last term, I wrote a book about the year: what I did in office that year, the challenges that I faced, the policy issues I dealt with, my reflections. That series –Reclaiming TheTrust, Regaining The Legacy, Legacy of Honour and Serviceiand Staying The Course.

And then I had written in my narrow field of strategy -military strategy, civil-miltary relationship and post-conflict reconstruction work. I have written a book on security sector governance, post-war planning, democratic control of the military in Africa, the war in Liberia and reconstruction and on mercenaries. But those are technical books in my field.

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