Amina Abdulmalik Giwa is the author of awarding winning ‘Painful Surrender’ released in 1995. After a 23-year hiatus from writing, she launched her new book, ‘Wasted Generation’ in Abuja. The banker speaks on finding her niche in writing, the challenges of being a woman in the literary world and a lot more.
What’s the inspiration behind your books ‘Painful Surrender’ and ‘Wasted Generation’?
The first book, ‘Painful Surrender’ was published in 1995. ‘Wasted Generation’ was concluded in 1996 but I didn’t publish it till now. I was inspired by the idea of Buhari’s war against indiscipline back then. I forgot the whole book entirely as I was swamped with my working career. There was a memorial in honour of the late author, Abubakar Gimba. He is the one who introduced me to my publishers. So it is written in his honour and my publisher further pushed me to publish ‘Wasted Generation.’ My first book was a huge success and used in a lot of secondary schools. In fact, I found the transcript of ‘Wasted Generation’ in a floppy disc, which is no longer used. It had to be converted and here we are today, at the book launch.
You finished writing the book ‘Wasted Generation’ way back in 1996. Why did it take you 23 years to publish it?
I became so engulfed in my work. My career took center stage so my writing took a back seat. Although I still scribble, I didn’t really get the chance to properly conclude it. But I think I’m back for good this time.
Could you give us a brief on the book ‘Wasted Generation’?
It’s about Hannafi, who is the main character. He comes from a royal family. His father is a wealthy politician but he came out as a different person trying to fight corruption despite coming from a privileged background. He tried to struggle on his own to get things done but he kept encountering corruption in small and big magnitudes even in his own home. So he was a lone voice trying to make people do the right thing from his years as a youth corps member. Everyone mocked him but eventually, when he realized he couldn’t do it alone, he decided to set up a school because as far as he was concerned, the older generation was wasted. There was no hope. So probably if he started grooming a newer generation, he could instill that sense of hard work and integrity in them.
What lessons do you think people can take from the book?
There are a lot of lessons to be learnt because if you don’t really look at the impact of corruption in our society, when you read that book, you’ll begin to understand why we’re not making progress. Every part of our lives is rotting from corruption. Look at Hannafi when he was sick in the NYSC camp and it was announced that NYSC had budgeted N10 million for medical purposes. He just had a mere headache and they wrote down a long list of drugs to do with meningitis. He tried to prove that he wasn’t sick and the commandant had to call him and tell him that he doesn’t like people with rebellious tendencies. People think that I’m writing about Buhari but I’m not. It’s merely just a coincidence that at this time in our history, there’s a focus on corruption but this book has been in the works for over 22 years.
Why the title ‘Wasted Generation’?
Before I even start writing a story, I think of a title before I begin to write a story around it. So while the war against indiscipline was going on then, I knew that there’s a lot of waste everywhere within the generation. There was lack of direction, no sense of integrity and people were not patriotic enough to think about their county so I had to build a story around that. My first book, ‘Painful Surrender’ had to do more with the struggles women go through. Every woman who reads it will feel like a bit of her is inside that book.
What perspective do you think readers will have from reading this book?
Generally, the people who have read it have said that I’m a protest writer. For me, I look at society and see things that are wrong and I use my story to amplify the problem. Even if it is two people who read it and it makes an impact on their lives, I’ll be satisfied and happy.
What challenges did you encounter while writing the book?
The most difficult part of writing it is the fact that we’re still in a very conservative society and you can’t really say things the way you would want to. Sometimes you have to water down what you want to say. So putting how you feel in words and projecting the issues in society without sounding too raw can be quite challenging.
What do you have to say about the reading culture in Nigeria presently, especially regarding the youth?
With technology, social media and phones, you find that buying a book and sitting down to read is difficult. It’s a real problem now. Like I, for example grew up around books. I read a lot of novels to the point my parents would peep into my room and think that I’m studying for an exam. But in the process of reading there’s a lot to learn and it gives you deeper insight. We have to bring the reading culture back in our youth. They’re loosing a lot.
Do you see yourself going into writing full time?
Yes, I do. I’m towards the end of my career in the banking sector. I have five years left before I retire so when I do, I plan on dedicating my time to writing.
What advice do you have for women who plan to go into the literary world?
When you look at our lives as women, we all have different experiences and when you write, it’s usually from experiences you have personally gone through. So documenting your experiences, even though it is a work of fiction, it’s inspired by things that happened in real life; so go for it! More people than you think will relate your story.
Was there ever a time you felt like quitting?
Sometimes you get to apoint where you’re just stuck. But in your mind, you know the sequence and have the ideas but putting it on paper is the problem. You are communicating and you want whatever you feel, to be projected accurately in the story. At times, you could be somewhere and a sudden burst of inspiration hits you.
Do you think women have been given a fair chance in the literary world in Nigeria?
For me, women should stop saying they weren’t given the chance. You need to go and get it. Nobody is going to give you anything; you have to chase it. I know it’s not easy for a woman to be recognized. You probably need to work ten times harder than a man but we can’t continue asking for a chance. If you want a seat at the table, then sit. Don’t wait to be asked to sit down.
What can women do to become more visible in the literary world?
I think we need a lot of cooperation and support for one another. We don’t support each other but men do. There was a girl who told me she wants to become a writer and I told her she should start scribbling right away. Start somewhere. We need to encourage each other. For example, if I see any lady launching a book then I will most definitely be there. I want to be there just to encourage her no matter how she is.