BY GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR
IT’s impossible to turn your eyes away from Ebimoboere Omoaruke Akpeti’s Growing Pains. Published in 2006, it tells the story of a man called Oyinkro, who went abroad to study, but came back home deranged.
To some, he had gone abroad and had spent too much time studying the whiteman’s letters and books (a feat, which surely, to their way of thinking, a black man’s brain wasn’t designed to handle) and had lost his mind while to others, he was a recluse; a learned man, who had rejected the white man’s way but on his return found it hard to fit in with his own people, who could no longer relate with him.
But one thing the villagers agreed on, was that his life was over. He was just waiting to die.
But was he? “No because at the end of the story, you will see that he was not just able to get up, he was also able to get back in line! So that’s what my stories are all about.
“To encourage people, that no matter how far you have fallen, you can still get back on your feet”.
The book opens the eyes of the readers to the ‘double’ life of Akpeti. But you can’t blame her for this. She’s a writer and banker.
This afternoon, Ebi is in her office, poring over files. There’s a gentle knock on the door.
“Come in,” she answers.
“The journalist, “ she asks her guest.
“Yes,” he answers.
Pregnant silence follows.
“I was once in the media,” she says in a voice that leaks out high pitch. Handshake follows. Suddenly, the thought of life outside newsroom flickers.
The lady, who bagged her first degree in Business Management from the University of Calabar, also holds a Master of Science degree in Finance from same school.
She recently added another Master’s degree in Media and Communication to her string of certificates.
In 2006, she was one of the nominees for the Nigerian Media Merit Awards in Capital Market category. However, Ebi, now in the media relations of a bank, says, she got into writing by mistake.
“After my first Masters’ degree, for some reason, which I now understand, I just could not get a job. I was jobless for almost six years and out of frustration, I wrote a story titled Growing Pains. I took the story to a media house for it to be published and when the editor saw it, he was impressed and employed me right on the spot and since then, I have written three other books. Stories are all around us each and everyday. In fact, it is stories that make sense of the world for me. I was just faithful with the gift God gave me and that was how it all began. I did not want to be perfect, I did not want to be rich, I just wanted to write,” Ebi says in a gripping voice. The sound moves like wave in the ears, but not enough to drown.
Do you wonder how she writes, considering the time she spends in the office?
Not to worry. “I write when I get the urge, which is virtually all the time.”
She talks animatedly, waving her hands as if offering them as a gift to her guest. “People always ask me that question because they wonder how I am able to write in spite of my daily responsibilities as a full time banker but it’s never been a problem. Writing is how I relieve myself from stress. Every blessed day, before I sleep, I write something about that day. I just jot it down.”
AS a media relations’ officer/banker, how does her job impact on her literary calling?
From Ebi’s seated position, passion lifts her voice and raises her out of the chair. “Balancing time between different types of writing projects is definitely something that I struggle with but the good thing is that my job complements my writing. As a media relations’ officer in a bank, I do a lot of writing and that has greatly improved my writing. When I began to write, I did not aim at perfection, I just wanted to give my all to something I knew I could do and since then, I have become better at writing stories because of the constant use of words on the job. My job is the greatest motivation for my stories and I thank God for it. I would not have it any other way.”
Does she write other genres such as drama and poetry?
She sits again, dabs her face with a white handkerchief. She relaxes and a broad smile fills her face. She snorts: “No. I don’t think I will ever write poetry because it is something I have never really identified with but I think I will do drama… sometime in the future.”
What’s her goal as a writer? Nobel? Caine? Booker? What really?
She laughs and flicks her eyes; a shadow of hope rushes in. Talking slowly, she says, “the truth is, I don’t really have a goal. I don’t aspire to get rich, famous or win any prize, but if I do, it will be good. Writing is something I’m passionate about and something I would do whether I get paid for it or not.”
Who are her favourite writers and why?
“There is this young man called Sanchez Aghahowa. One of his stories, which became a home video, is titled Letter to a Stranger. He, in my opinion, is one of Nigeria’s gifted writers; he has a good grasp of words and the ability to hold you in complete suspense,” she muses.
Is she working on anything now?
She heaves, “Yes! I am working on a book titled God has a Sense of Humour.”
How many books has Ebi written so far and what are their names?
Gradually, she begins to count them in her left hand.“So far, I have published three books. Growing Pains, Castrated and The Perfect Church. I am working on my fourth and fifth titled The Vicious Circle and God has a Sense of Humour.”
She looks at her guest intensely and asks did I make sense?
“Yes, I think,” she gets as response.
FOR Ebi, God has a sense of humour, really. For about six years, she was out of job, passion led her into the newsroom and now, the tempo and volume of literary creativity has increased into a certain chant in the banking hall.