By Chukwuma Umeorah 

Departing from the conventional approach at addressing the many challenges bedeviling the country,Tessy Nwaogo Aroh, Associate at Woodstyles Ltd with experience in banking and hospitality sectors, has advocated for the integration of emotional intelligence into policy and law formulation by leaders and government officials. 

Her recent publication, “Tales of You,” an anthology delving into the intricacies of human emotions, serves as both a literary journey and a call to action for addressing pressing social issues. 

In this interview with Sunday Sun, she sheds light on the pivotal role of empathy, understanding, and emotional intelligence in decision-making processes, emphasizing the urgent need for leaders to reconnect with the grassroots and prioritize the well-being of the populace. Excerpts: 

Your book; ‘Tales of You’ is an invitation to explore the depth of human emotions, what social problem do you intend to solve with this? 

Many Nigerians face a lot of challenges ranging from social, mental, psychological and even financial. One of the major challenges that this book addresses is psychological in nature. That is why its central theme is love, empathy and emotional intelligence. The exploration of human emotions goes beyond the individual, but extends to others and society at large, mastering the art of interacting with others. This is perhaps why Nigeria is in a dire condition. We have been plagued by years of bad governance which boils down to the fact that most of our leaders are driven by selfishness rather than empathy and love for the people under their control. Gone are the days when we had true nationalists like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and others who at the core of their human entity was an undying love for their nation and for the people. 

Emotional intelligence, how can this be applied in improving Nigeria’s leadership style, particularly in terms of the government decision making process? 

Everything we do as humans revolves around emotions. If our leaders can master this, it would enable them to make sound decisions and formulate the right policies in addressing the problems of Nigerians.  There is need for those in government to connect with the grassroots level of society. Inflation is over 30 per cent, the cost of food, rent and transportation have all skyrocketed. The ordinary Nigerian out there is finding it difficult to afford the basics of life, and it is a sorry case that some of our leaders do not even know what the people are going through. How can you address the pain of the people when you don’t feel it. Yet we hear cases of mismanagement in government. As cited in one of the poems in the book, ‘Lovers TIFF,’ which was inspired by the present economic situation, Nigeria is in a situation where the leaders are stealing the essence of what it means to be a Nigerian from the heart of people.  Of course, things can go down the rail sometimes, but we need leaders that can come out and say; ‘I feel your pain’ so that the masses do not have to languish for long in silence as if there is no leader at all.  Government at grassroots also has a strong role to play as they interact better with the people, they can take their concerns to the state and from there to the central, then we can have a better government. 

Given the present economic challenges, how can businesses in Nigeria leverage on this to improve productivity and efficiency? 

Communication is a key factor. I believe that there should be a genuine point of interaction between employers and employees on a personal level. And by that I do not mean just in exchange of emails, but as simple as a boss asking the subordinates or employees that; ‘…oh, tell me how your day has been, I hope everything is well with you?” These are just simple questions, but are all it takes to show empathy to the next person. I have been privileged to work in different countries, aside from Nigeria. And one of the take-homes from countries that I have worked in is the fact that people do not get to lose their essence even when they are doing business. You realize that they maintain the sense of respect and dignity of labour. And for that to be fully expressed, it is borne out of the fact that they are happy doing what they are doing. A person who is satisfied doing the work he or she does would be highly productive. This would grow that business and in turn the economy of Nigeria as a whole. If this communication gap persists, then it is as good as the employees not being happy doing the work whereas the employers will keep on complaining about lack of productivity. This applies to both the private sector and the public sector. 

In your opinion, what role can literature and art play in sparking societal change and addressing pressing issues in Nigeria, such as corruption and social inequality? 

Literature and art have immense potential to spark societal change and address pressing issues in Nigeria, such as corruption and social inequality. Through literature, authors can illuminate societal injustices, challenge prevailing norms, and advocate for positive change. Moreover, literature and artistic expression serve as mirrors reflecting the realities of society, allowing people to confront uncomfortable truths and envision a better future. By engaging with literature and the arts, individuals can develop critical thinking skills, empathy, and a deeper understanding of complex social issues, which are essential for fostering social cohesion and driving meaningful change. 

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Reading culture, particularly among the youth, is getting weaker. How can this be addressed? 

Addressing the decline in the reading culture among Nigerian youth requires a multifaceted approach. Firstly, we need to promote literacy programmes in schools and communities, ensuring access to a variety of books that appeal to different interests and backgrounds. Beyond traditional books, embracing digital platforms and incorporating technology into reading initiatives can also attract the tech-savvy younger generation is essential in revitalizing the reading culture in Nigeria. 

 As an advocate for emotional intelligence, how do you suggest incorporating it into educational curriculum to foster better understanding and empathy from a young age? 

I propose incorporating lessons on social and emotional awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and interpersonal relationships into various subjects across the curriculum. These lessons can be taught through interactive activities, role-playing exercises, and discussions that encourage students to reflect on their emotions and understand the perspectives of others. Additionally, training teachers by providing them with resources to support students’ emotional development is crucial. By prioritizing emotional intelligence in education, we can cultivate a generation of compassionate leaders who prioritize empathy in decision-making and contribute to a more harmonious society. 

How does your book apply to Nigeria’s cultural diversity? 

In terms of the socio-linguistic and socio-cultural diversity of Nigeria, the book appeals to every human, not just the Nigerian ecosystem, but to a global audience. That is why, the ‘You’ as used in the title is not centered around an ethnic group or region. It is centered around human beings, regardless of race, culture, tribe or language that you speak. However, there are some certain local motifs being used in the poem.  

What inspired you to go into writing?  

Writing has been a part of me right from a young age. My father was a lecturer, and my mum was also a graduate of English, so I was opportune to have access to reading via my mum and she actually provided some access to books right from childhood. And with that, I have always been in love with literature. This is not to mention the fact that I also studied English and literature in the university. So, my family has been my greatest inspiration and motivation for writing. Not just that, but in everything else that I do. 

You have firsthand experience in the banking and hospitality sector, why shift to poetry? 

Well, it is not a total shift because what I do professionally is different from what I do as a vocation. Writing has always been there regardless of wherever I find myself.  


Tell us more about the book 

Tales of You, as you mentioned, is centered around human emotions. Often people think it is only about love, but it is all encompassing. We have poems in it that centre around pain, anguish, even the praise of a lover. The messages contained in this book can be applied virtually in all aspects of human existence.