“I write because I have something to say; it’s therapeutic and fiction is a safe medium, and this particular story was written, because I had an encounter with an orphanage…”
It’s not every day one comes across a governor’s wife writing a book, yet Hadiza Isma El-Rufai does change that, and a lot more. She has distinctly set herself apart that one can achieve more than is expected giving the right amount of determination and passion. She didn’t start out to be a writer, though, having studied architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Her love for literature made her get a MA in creative writing, and the result is an intriguing story of grief, death and strength, as we see in her debut novel, An Abundance of Scorpions, which, in February 2018, was publicly presented at the Musa Yar’adua Centre, Abuja, and the raves has continued to spread as much as her popularity.
In a bid to reach more audience and connect with her fans and potential ones, she made an appearance at the Goethe Institut, Lagos, recently, to read and sign copies of her book. Book readings are not just a great way to meet with the author; it affords readers to ask questions about the book and the author. This Hadiza more than did most pleasantly for the many who defied the rainy day to meet with her. The mood was set with a background song by Jeremiah Gyang specially written for the novel. Lola Shoneyin, publisher and editor of the book, noted that Hadiza was a woman who defied all stereotypes for men and women, and that she was a special Quida books author because her book was originally published in Nigeria. “Before now, we used to obtain the rights from the publishers abroad and then we publish the Nigerian edition, but what we are committed to doing is developing our own authors, which means we start the process from scratch, the first draft to the design, and we had a lot of fun doing that with her book,” she explained.
The book party, organised by Quida books, in collaboration with book clubs around Lagos, and supported by Sterling Bank, is in line with the. Let’s Read Africa campaign targeted at getting people to read as much as possible. “The idea behind Let’s Read Africa campaign is that we are all reading the same book at the same time. So, we have a book club where all the different book clubs key into this programme. We read excerpts from the book, get comments and an app will be created and people will download and have access to 1.9 million books at affordable prices.
“This is something is that is in the offing that Reader Books is working on and will be announced soon when it is available on e-books or buy the hardcopy books or download true audio books. We don’t like the whole idea where we wait for the West to dictate to us authors that we should read and literary works but we should be able to discover Nigerian authors, promote, develop and support them by not illegally downloading their books.”
To further set the tone of the day, Celeste Ojatula dished out some music and notes from her guitar, as the audience soaked in the highs and lows of it like a hot bath. It created a relaxed ambience for all to enjoy the rest of the day.
Reading from the first chapter sparked off the conversations between Chukwu Jones and the guest author. How and why did an architect turn a writer? “I write because I have something to say; it’s therapeutic and fiction is a safe medium, and this particular story was written, because I had an encounter with an orphanage. The transition for me took place when, in 2008, I had a lot of spare time on my hands following the political problems my husband had to deal with. The stress put me in a low place and that was when I remembered that I loved to read reading so I started reading again. When you read, you are transported out of your misery and travel wherever you want to go.”
Reading further generated questions about the place of religion, misconceptions about Northern women and the similarities between the protagonist and herself, to which she explained, “A lot of people have asked if the story is about me, because the protagonist and I are from the same culture and she has suffered loss, I also lost two of my children, but I always tell them it’s fiction. But sometimes there is no way you write and a piece of you doesn’t go into the story.”
The party did not end without celebrating her birthday, which was two days earlier with the cutting of a cake and, most importantly, wishing her next book comes soonest.