I wrote my first story when I was twelve – a story about a poor boy who went to college, and who, despite all the financial and academic challenges he faced, graduated with flying colors, and went on to become a very successful man. It was typical of the kind of stories I had been reading – Eze goes to School, Kole the Superstar, Chike and the River. Most of these books were recommended texts in school, but that was not why I read them (I was a smart student who never read for exams). I read the books because I loved to read them. I would read them inside the toilet, while I was eating, sleep over them and wake up with torn pages.
My first reader was not my dad or mum or big brother; it was a tall, outspoken girl in boarding school. Ebun always called me pampers (because my butt protruded in my green shorts), and she always smiled at me whenever our paths crossed. She caught me writing one day in an empty classroom. It was supposed to be Afternoon Prep, but for a reason I can’t recollect now, everybody was in the hostels. As she strode to where I sat, she offered her usual smile. She hovered over me, and peered into what I was writing. I can’t remember how the conversation went, but she begged to read the story when I was done. I agreed. She loved it and asked for more.
I remember my second reader as well. Tola was a short boy whose clothes were always neatly pressed and clean. He was a big fan of the short stories I wrote in exercise books. He would read part one, and constantly bug me to write the second part. There was always vibrant enthusiasm on his face when we walked down together towards the Dining Hall, chatting about what next would happen in the ongoing story. I was barely 14, and I had two loyal fans who thought I was the best writer in the universe.
After finishing Deathly Hallows (seventh Harry Potter Book) within 36 hours (it was a borrowed book and the owner had given me two days to finish up), still at age 14, I started to write stories about magic and witchcraft. Nobody believed I was the author of the stories. They were grim, bloody and contained so many deaths and tragedies. Harry Potter was a major inspiration, but I was also a troubled child who dreamt dreadful dreams and saw ghosts across hallways.
I left secondary school before I clocked 15, narrowly passing my final exams. I passed JAMB that same year, but didn’t get admission into Adekunle Ajasin University, after failing to travel down to Akungba to write the Post-JAMB. My father said the university was in crisis, and I was still a young chap. I could wait at home for a year.
During my one year wait at home, I gave up fiction to study for the next JAMB exams. I refused to attend tutorial lessons, but instead bought most of the recommended texts for the exams, and studied hard inside the solitude of my room. JAMB came, and I smashed it into pieces. My score was so high that I started to dream of becoming a professor. Uniben admitted me into its Mass Communication program, and like most new students, I was sure I was coming out with a first class.
I didn’t write fiction until I clocked 17, and in my second year at the university. The school authorities had just smashed my dreams of running (together with some of my friends) a newspaper publication within the school. I was bored with academic work, and life was like a brown canvas, until my friend, Ikechukwu, gave me a book written by Chimamanda Adichie.
I was skeptical about Purple Hibiscus from the beginning. I had a mindset that Nigerian writing could never have the deliciousness of foreign books. But as I ventured on into the book, I began to feel magic. I had written stories previously, but it was Purple Hibiscus that defined for me what it meant to be able to narrate a story. The book was like a mirror. It reflected my own abandoned writing skills, and helped me to see what I was capable of. It helped me to remember the magic of fiction. I owe Ms. Adichie a whole lot.
I started to write again, and soon enough, after some few searches on Google, I found out Naija Stories – an online site dedicated to publishing Nigerian fiction, and creating a community of writers. Like before, my first attempts at a story were received with great reviews, though with minor corrections. It was then I knew I was born to do this stuff.
I created a Facebook page and on my 18th birthday, I started to post serialized stories. People loved it. They asked for more. I wrote more.
It’s been a long journey since then. I have grown as a writer. But I still have a longer journey ahead. I don’t know where that journey leads. I don’t know whether I’m going to win the Nobel Prize or any literary prize or sell millions of books. I don’t know any of these things. But I am sure of two things. Yeah, just two. The first is that my name is Ekus. And the second is that, come storms of rejection or scorching summers of creativity blocks, I want to write.