This #InterviewsMonday, we got up close with the winners of the 2015 I Know a Nigerian Star Writing Competition; young and amazing Nigerian stars who are blazing the trail in their spheres and are on track in their pursuit for the highest mark of excellence.
Somtochukwu Metu was the 3rd prize winner of the competition. She told the compelling story of Chukwuebuka Henry, a young man who defied all odds to establish an enviable path for himself and carve a niche where people didn’t see a possibility.
In this interview, the Nigerian star talks about her passion, motivation, challenges and hope for the continent.
Sit back and enjoy a great read!
Kindly tell us a bit about yourself- family, ethnicity, educational background…
I am the first of six children. My parents are teachers. I am igbo by tribe; but one who believe that the beauty of Nigeria is her diverse ethnicities. Thus, I do not support secession of any kind. I attended Immaculate Heart of Mary, Nursery and Primary School for my First School Leaving Certificate, Federal Demonstration Secondary School, Eziagu for my West African Senior School Certificate and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka for my first degree. Currently, I am studying to obtain my Master of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
How did you find out about the “I Know A Nigerian Star” Writing Competition and what was your motivation for entering?
I was in my room, talking about boys (LOL) with my roommates when a senior colleague, Henrietta Okafor sauntered in. She told us about the competition. I laughed because I had a lot on my table then; thesis to edit, unfinished short stories to complete. Later on, she called me to remind me about the competition. My roommates did not relent too. They needled me day and night and I caved in.
Guide us through your step to step approach in delivering the award winning story.
Environment was a big factor. The University of Nigeria is a familiar setting, a place that moulded me into what I am today. The subject I choose for the competition is someone that I had observed and studied for a while. Though I knew some details about him, I had to set up an interview. With the interview, I was able to fill the lacuna in my essay.
What considerations did you use in coming up with the subject of your essay? Why do you consider him/her a Nigerian Star?
When some students ask me about the Nigeria Star I want to write about and I tell them, I always notice three to four repeated reactions; they gasp, their faces discontent with surprise, then they cackle and some try to mask their surprises. There were many students studying while working, but their jobs are white-collar ones. Some of my friends and colleagues felt I should have chosen someone enlightened, a fellow student, A REAL NIGERIAN STAR, like an actor or a philanthropist. With the essay, I may even be able to ‘Keep up with the Joneses’. But I knew what I wanted. I wanted to write about dignity, humility and doggedness. These three define Chukwuebuka Henry. He is not educated in the Nigerian sense, but he busts his behind (excuse my French) everyday to provide for his family. I wrote about him because I want Africans to hear and learn from his story.
How did you feel when you emerged as the third prize winner of the competition?
The truth? Initially, I felt a tad sad. Soliciting for ‘likes’ on Social Media is not my thing. I have always had it at the back of my mind that if the judges had gone through the top five essays like they did the previous ones; I would have done better (LOL, wishful thinking). In the end, I checked the number of entries, and I was happy that I clinched the third prize.
What major set-back/failure have you encountered in life and how has it shaped your outlook to life?
A year after my graduation, I lost two of my classmates. I am yet to recover from the loss. To think about the stress we went through to obtain our degree certificates, and the fact that these girl; Cynthia and Pauline did not experiment and experience life before their demise was a huge blow. Since then, I have learnt to strive for the best, not to allow trivialities to distract me from my goals, but at the same time not take life too serious.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now
As a Social Worker, working with any organisation that caters for the needs of children, or moving on a fast lane, a Human Resource Manager.
What is your motivation in life? What keeps you going?
My parents. They are very intelligent. They raised me well. The fact that I have not done anything for them slaps me back to reality anytime I want to laze around.
Any mentors or role models?
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. I adore her. Many may hate her, but what she has done for Nigerian economy cannot be wiped out from our history. Jack Vince. I met Jack on Facebook. We are still virtual friends. Jack is a journalist and resides in Maiduguri. You need to read his write-ups on facebook; the way he partners with Femi Owolabi to distribute relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons. He is fearless, churning out stories about the scarred people of Borno, lending support to organisations that care for these displaced persons.
What advice would you give young writers and future entrants in the “I Know A Nigerian Star” Writing Competitions
The ‘I know a Nigerian Star’ writing competition is not fictitious. Entrants should desist from making up stories about their subjects just because monetary value is attached to the competition. There is contentment in doing something and doing it well.
If you had the opportunity to take just one socio-economic problem in Nigeria, which one would you focus on and what would you do?
Poverty. If I had my way, governors, senators will receive Zilch for the services they render to the masses. The money looted in our country is big enough to fix the mess we are in. Whenever I hear the amount embezzled by one person for his generation, I shiver.
Inspire a young African in one sentence.
Live like there is no Tomorrow.
A peek into Somtochukwu’s winning entry click>>>
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