- ‘If you want to be successful as a writer, pursue excellence’ – Eazy
- ‘Turn your God-given talents to money-spinners’ – Nura Ahmed
- ‘Write for God and humanity’ – Richard Ali | #WednesdayWritersWorld
- ‘Meeting Soyinka was a life-changing experience’ – Mujahyd Ameen Lilo | #WednesdayWritersWorld
- ‘To be successful, writers need to treat writing as a profession’ – Vincent de Paul
- Focus, consistency and mastery are ingredients of a successful writer – Aswagaawy
High-flying Mujahyd Ameen Lilo, winner of Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (North West), notes that prose take him to the outside world.
You are on Memorila’s #WednesdayWritersWorld. May we meet you?
Yes. I’m Mujahyd Ameen Lilo, a secondary school student here in Kano. I sometimes write in my pen name Deen Ameen.
You recently won the WSICE award for the North West region. What is the award about?
It’s an essay competition that is part of the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange programs which is organized yearly under the auspices of Zmirage Limited in collaboration with the US-based Global New Haven. It’s designed to coincide with the birthday of the nation’s only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. It draws participants from all over Nigeria and sometimes even Nigerians schooling outside the country. The students have a chance to chat with Prof Soyinka live and mentorships session.
What was the title and theme of the entry that won you the award?
The overall theme of the year was ‘Freedom, Justice & Equity: The Children’s Intervention in the Renewal of the Nation’. The essay that qualified me for the grand finale was titled as the theme. However, at the final stage, the theme was changed to ‘Challenges to National Development: Discuss.’
When did you realize that your teeth were cut for writing?
In my early junior secondary school years.
What’s your best writing genre?
It is prose and I believe will remain prose. Even when it comes to reading, I love reading prose most. I like this free tickets to the outside world prose gives me. I love to create worlds.
Why do you write?
Because that’s the best way to get rid of the worlds my imaginations create in my head. I have this wild imagination. Because they are many stories untold.
Aside the Wole Soyinka award, what other awards have you won?
I have taken first place in the BUK Writers’ Club contest in May 2019 and third place March 2019. I have received honorable mention in the PeacePanel/ANA Kano Short story contest.
How many published works do you have and where have they been published?
I don’t keep count. I have a poem published in Daily Trust when I was honored with the Poet of the Week, two poems in The Arts Muse Fair when I was chosen as the Poet-Today. I have poems in The Triumph, Tuck magazine, Memorila, Praxis magazine US. I have stories in Insightful Observer, Daily Focus, Triumph, Libretto magazine, and others.
What do you want to become in the next ten years?
I cannot see far into ten years. I’m not a diviner, you see. So I just know it will be better that what I’m today.
If you were to address first time writers who aspire to become like you or better, what will be your advice?
To read more than they write. To be patient.
Many people have acknowledged being your mentors. What is the rationale behind seeking many mentors?
Yes, I have many mentors including a Booker prize judge and most recently I have been mentored by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. I seek many mentors because of their immense importance to my being and writing. When one is busy, you can turn to another. Imagine sighting so many wells of knowledge, will you just relate with one? Haha.
Have you ever benefited financially from writing?
Alhamdulillah, writing has fetched so many things for me. Winning the WSICE, came with books that are worth more than twenty thousand naira. And there is a tablet. Also my flight to and fro was paid for. The prize for winning the BUK Contest also came with a cash of N7K.
What do you think will become of writers and writing in our climes in years to come?
I’m a son to the late Yusuf Maitama Sule (May his soul rest in peace) in optimism. And besides, with what other young people are doing like Salim Yunusa, Gatawa and co in Poetic Wednesday, Gulani through the ABUFest, and older ones like what BM Dzukogi has been doing at Hill-Top art centre, Wale Okediran with the Ebedi Writer’s Residency and Hadiza Elrufai with YELF, Eriata with PIN, I believe the future is bright.
How can reading culture be encouraged?
It’s saddening to learn that some schools here in Kano don’t teach literature to even art students. How do we expect wide readership? So literature should be introduced to them. Other examination bodies apart from JAMB should be giving texts to be studied.
Who are your role models?
The emir HRH Muhammad Sunusi II: for his large readership, standing by truth and his unique self.
Back to the WSICE award, what were the processes like and how did you scale the hurdles?
It’s not that hard or long a process. You just try to make it to the finalists. You will be invited to the state the program holds. There, we had an exchange with Prof Soyinka, and a mentoring session with Ondo’s governor and his wife.
What was it like when you met Wole Soyinka in person?
It was more than an honour and privilege. I didn’t just meet him, but I read him my work and presented a gift to him. I also explored his Ijegba forest. We asked him questions, too. It’s was life changing experience.