B.B. Suleiman is author of several books including Away in the Dark,’ ‘Answers to Questions You Are Yet to Ask Mum and Dad’, ‘The Hollow Godsend,’ and ‘Advice to My Daughter.’ He was also the editor of Choices Magazine, co-sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Information and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Here, he talks about why he writes about the plight of girls and more. Excerpts:
Bookshelf: You have written several books including ‘Away in the Dark’ and ‘Advice to My Daughter’ which clearly shows your interest in the girl-child. What is the driving force behind the themes you explore in your work?
B.B. Suleiman: Every country that doesn’t emphasise the need to develop the girl-child plays with its future. It’s not just about her, but the natural role she is destined to play in any society. If you allow primitive logic to distort your view this role, it will lead to retrogression.
If I have my way, the girl-child will be given everything that will make her the girl and mother she should be. She needs to be brought up to appreciate herself and recognise her unique role. It isn’t about which gender is more superior but about the female’s uniqueness. When you train a girl, you train a nation. When you train a boy, you train an individual. If she is brought up to have self-esteem and confidence, she grows into a mature woman the society can be proud of.
When a mother gives birth to a child, regardless of the sex, because she is well educated, she will be able to impact her children positively and give them the best education. Research has shown that when a woman is educated, you don’t need to tell her what is expected of her. That is why it is said that the best contraceptive you can give a woman is education. You will never see her children hawking on the streets.
Bookshelf: ‘Advice to My Daughter’ is a series of letters from a father to an ideal daughter of his dream. What inspired it?
Suleiman: When I was in the public service, I was deployed to the information desk where I was exposed to gender issues, particularly gender mainstreaming. We had a magazine I edited called ‘Choices,’ and I ran the column ‘Advice to My Daughter.’ The feedback was overwhelming. I didn’t believe people would be that interested. I used my background as information education communication officer to tell the girl-child’s story, how she should be appreciated, recognised and made to have a sense of belonging. Her potential should be developed by all and not only her family.
Eventually my column evolved into a book triggered by the feedback it got. Some people think ‘Advice to My Daughter’ is about my own daughter, but it is for every girl growing up to achieve her goal in life.
Bookshelf: In ‘A Way in the Dark’ you explored the lifestyles of teenagers in a boarding school, and the theme revolves around pre-marital sex. What triggered it?
Suleiman: ‘Away in the Dark’ is metaphorical. Most people in our society don’t want to hear about sex education because of cultural sensitivity. If a girl doesn’t grow up to appreciate her sexuality, respect and know herself, and ends up in boarding school, she would be ‘Away in the Dark.’ This means she can easily be lured. But if she is given enough knowledge about her sexuality, the chances are that she will be self-protective, even of her virginity.
In the book, Alero comes from a home where she is given enough information about her sexuality, while Nike lacked that knowledge which made it easy for her to be deflowered. Alero on the other hand, stood her ground and became the leading light among her friends.