Interview With Sylvanus Omoniyi: Everyone Loves Attention

Have you met Sylvanus Omoniyi? He is, among many things, a writer, broadcaster and trouble-maker. I cornered him the other day and we had a chat. Some chat. Grab a sack of pop corn.

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Hard Voices: This interview was delayed for several days because I was mourning the defeat of Hillary Clinton. What came into your mind when I asked to postpone the interview because of what happened in America?

Sylvanus: I think you are just wasting your time because you will gain nothing from that mourning. And to me, either the victory of Donald Trump or the defeat of Hillary Clinton has nothing to offer Nigerians. Most of you are just having sleepless nights over things that don’t concern you. I want to ask you, has America’s election reduced the price of rice in the Nigerian market? Has it reduced the price of condom? Has it even brought food to your table? Please, continue to mourn o.

Hard Voices: Well, whether we like it or not, the world economy is so poorly aligned that if American economy coughs it trembles. Again, we poor countries have usually looked up to America for assistance, acceptance, patronage and refuge, even. And Trump, a mad man is now in charge of nuclear weapons capable of annihilating the whole world. Maybe this last one should worry you.

Sylvanus: I’m not worried a bit. We’ll all die eventually. And something must kill a man. Not everyone will die a natural death, but no one prays to have a painful ending.

Hard Voices: What is it that particularly worries you? Something that keeps you awake at night?

Sylvanus: I have many of them: some unfulfilled dreams. They are numerous. I’m someone who likes a simple life. And to some extent, I’m materialistic. I have had a lot of failures in the past. And sometimes I’m afraid of the future. I’m sometimes worried about my incapability to help a lot of people. These and many other things make me worry.

Hard Voices: Talking about helping people, the other day you posted on Facebook asking for people’s account numbers. I didn’t think you were serious (and I still don’t think otherwise) but many in your timeline took it seriously, typing their account numbers. I laughed when someone typed his BVN as well. Did anyone get anything from that?

Sylvanus: Yes. I had thought people won’t take it seriously as well. I thought people won’t respond to it until I got about five hundred inbox messages of bank account details. I became worried because I’m not rich yet. At the end I was able to send N500 each to 50 people. It is a little sum, but I believe we should do whatever we want to do, no matter how small. That’s part of my contribution to humanity.

Hard Voices: 500 naira is a lot of money. Did you say you got 500 account numbers? Wow! Now what does this say about the Nigerian situation?

Sylvanus: It shows that many people need help but most are afraid to come out and say it. There are times I feel this way too. You know, you can’t just predict people’s reactions. You don’t know who is able to help you and who is unable. So, you try to hold onto your dignity. That’s why most people are always afraid to talk about their problems. So, once in a while, I think we should all think of how we can be a source of comfort to people without them asking.

Hard Voices: This preacher side of you is one that people are not familiar with. Some people think you are controversial. You agree with that. Some think you are an attention seeker. I don’t think you agree with this.

Sylvanus: I don’t think I’m controversial. I just like to speak from my heart. I speak as it comes to me. I like freedom of expression. On attention, I won’t deny it. I’m a great attention seeker. I like it when people turn their heads to my direction. It excites me. You see, everyone loves attention. That’s why you see so many people on social media. They can’t deny it. As long as you have a social media account, you are an attention seeker. We all have something that makes us happy. Anyone who does not love attention should deactivate their social media account and go back to the village.

Hard Voices: Haha. I see. And now that you have mentioned village perhaps you should tell us what village you are from, give us a little background on you.

Sylvanus: I’m from Alla, Isin Local Government in Kwara State. I attended a nursery school in the city. I can’t even remember the name of the school. Then I attended St. Benedict’s R.C.M Primary School, Idi-Ogun Adedire, Ife South, Osun State; Ansarul Islam LGEA School, Kuntu, Ilorin; Government High School; Kwara State Polytechnic, and Nesburg School of Business and Management, South Africa.

Hard Voices: Now let’s come home. Let’s talk about literature. Let’s start with reading. What are you reading right now?

Sylvanus:  At the moment, I’m not reading anything.

Hard Voices: As you are a writer I find that curious. Why are you not reading anything at the moment? Is there any problem?

Sylvanus: No problem. I have many work to submit. I’m writing for bloggers and I have some books to edit. They have to be delivered at the speculated time.

Hard Voices: You write for a living?

Sylvanus: Yes. And I do other things as well. I’m also into broadcasting.

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Hard Voices: Want to talk about it?

Sylvanus: I won’t talk much about the writing. I do ghostwriting and write for bloggers. I won’t talk about it for privacy reasons. On the broadcasting, I was a freelance broadcaster with Midland FM. Later, I joined Cruise FM, an online radio station that is still spreading its tentacles.

Hard Voices: Are these radio stations in Nigeria?

Sylvanus: Yes. They are in Nigeria.

Hard Voices: I ask because there are times I get the impression that you are in South Africa.

Sylvanus: No. I’m still in Nigeria.

Hard Voices: But you might want to talk about writing in general. As a creative writer what genre are you most into and why?

Sylvanus: Just like you said, as a creative writer, I write anything that comes to my mind. I write as it comes to me.

Hard Voices: I doubt if I can remember reading a short story you wrote.

Sylvanus: The fact is that I’m not a serious writer. I doubt if I can remember writing a short story myself. I’m more of a socialite than a writer. I just write for fun. I think there was a time I wrote a short story titled ‘The Californian Dream’. I don’t even know where it is now.

Hard Voices: You once said in Nigeria, any idiot can get an award. Will you say you don’t believe in awards? What awards most define your annoyance against awards in Nigeria?

Sylvanus: Nigeria is a jungle. We all know that. Except we don’t want to be honest. We reward mediocrity and ignore excellence. Anyone can get an award in Nigeria as long as they have money. We pander to nonsense in this country. The people that are stealing our billions and spoiling our country are the ones we deify. We worship money but we will always deny it. Let me stop here because I’m beginning to get angry.

And concerning the ones that define my annoyance: I have seen useless Nigerian politicians being honoured with awards. The latest one that sparked my outrage is the one of Chidinma Okeke. Tell me, in all honesty, what has Chidinma done to deserve an award? Because of cucumber?

Hard Voices: Who gave Chidinma an award?

Sylvanus: They just made the announcement. They are to give her on December 18, 2016. The organisers of Miss Diva Awards. You can read their nonsense here. I have nothing against Chidinma but I think the organisers of this award are stupid.

Hard Voices: Perhaps, but they are no more stupid than Nigerians who are practically shaming Chidinma towards suicide.

Let’s bring this award issue to literature. Some awards can be crazy; didn’t the Nobel people of Sweden give the Nobel Prize for Literature to a musician? But without awards, how can we judge literary excellence? With sales figures or critical acclaim? What makes a good book for you?

Sylvanus: No one is telling her to commit suicide. Anyone who chooses to commit suicide is a coward. A coward who is afraid to fight and win.

Giving a Nobel Prize for Literature to a musician is ignorance. They should call it another name. We can judge literary excellence with sales and critical acclaim, not by online votes or anything else. To me, a good book is the one that comes from the heart of the writer and which is free of grammatical blunders and typographical errors.

Hard Voices: How do you tell a book that comes out from the heart of the writer?

Sylvanus: There is always a kind of resonance that follows. You will feel it with your heart.

Hard Voices: What do you think of Nigerian literature?

Sylvanus: We are improving. There are great writers in Nigeria. I’m proud of Nigerian writers.

Hard Voices: Great writers but what about the readership, have we done enough as readers to encourage Nigerian writers?

Sylvanus: Not at all. Nigerians don’t read. We don’t have the time. We are always busy making money. And I don’t blame us. The government of Nigeria doesn’t care about anyone, so you are on your own.

Hard Voices: How will you rate Buhari After nearly two years in office?

Sylvanus: Buhari is a failure.

Hard Voices: What do you make of the education system in Nigeria? The other day, you were ranting about Covenant University. Few days back it was the turn of Nsukka.

Sylvanus: Education in Nigeria is a hogwash. You are expected to cram things and pour it on paper for some old lecturers who know nothing. The system is like a prison yard. They frustrate your life with everything. You struggle for everything. They believe you must suffer to succeed. For me, I don’t think it is necessary. It is idiotic to say people must suffer before they succeed. And we have been brought up with this mentality. That is why we sweat for almost everything in Nigeria. And besides, I don’t think people should be defined by their grades. The educational system in Nigeria is fucked up. There are times the schools choose a course for you. You put in for one course and they give you another. How do they expect you to pass without cheating? I don’t blame people who cheat during examinations in schools. I don’t blame them at all because everyone wants to succeed. Nigeria has a long way to go. I hope the day will come in Nigeria when people will go to school and study based on their ability.

Hard Voices: Religion is one aspect I find your views quite entertaining. Describe your relationship with God.

Sylvanus: There are times I believe in God and there are times I don’t believe in Him. I think God is a confusionist! And those who belong to a religion don’t know what they are doing. They are the confused.

Hard Voices: What informed this belief? Are there background tales?

SylvanusWhen you look at the sufferings in the world, you will ask yourself whether God really cares. The truth is that there are times that God will leave you to sort yourself out. These days, I seem to believe more in myself than in any God.

Hard Voices: Koredo Bello sang a song with the major theme being ‘Oga Don Jazzy, when you go marry?’ A lousy music if you ask me. But the song raised a question many young men should be answering. Oga Sylvanus, when you go marry?
 
Sylvanus: Honestly, I don’t know when. I don’t know the exact time. Personally, a lot of things have to be put in place. I want the future of my children to be brighter than my own. I’m also someone who doesn’t like trouble. So I have to look well before leaping. Marriage is an eternal project. I don’t want to get in and regret later. I want peace and happiness.
Hard Voices: Have you seen her?
Sylvanus: Yes. I have seen her. And she has seen me too. We have seen each other.
 
Hard Voices: Who are your best friends on social media? Perhaps, in this era of Facebook subs and dissing, I should say allies.
Sylvanus: They are many. They are legions. I like realists. I like to befriend people who are sincere. People who speak from their hearts. There are too many hypocrites in the world.
Hard Voices: You seem to have found one in Olufunke Phillips

Sylvanus: Yes. That’s true. About Olufunke, she can never be wrong in my eyes.God knows I love her. If I come back to this world one thousand times, I will still love her as much. Olufunke is real. I’m naturally drawn to real people.

Hard Voices: If you have the power to resurrect someone from the death, who would that be?

Sylvanus: That would be my grandmother.

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Interview With Amanda Chisom: We Have A Lot To Unlearn

Amanda Chisom is a social media force, blogger, feminist and activist. Among other things. In this interview, we spoke about many things, feminism, blogging, blackmail, relationships, etc. Chisom blogs in Amandachisom.net.  Let’s hear her.

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Hard Voices: You just came back having been out of Facebook for one month, I think, what actually happened?

Chisom: My account was banned for 30 days by Facebook for reports of contents not allowed on Facebook.

Hard Voices: ‘Contents not allowed on Facebook’. Perhaps you may elaborate on that. And, when out of Facebook, what did you miss most, the ladies who inbox you for relationship counsel, your friends, your audience, the activism?

Chisom: It was taken down for nude contents. I posted a picture of a naked pregnant woman which I do not regard as nudity but rules are rules. I missed everything and everybody but I need to be clear, it is not only women who come to my inbox, there are men too and it is not always about relationships. Did not really miss out on much except my voice was stifled a bit but I was on the blog.

Hard Voices: You are a feminist; you are determined to fight to see that men and women are given same opportunity, treated with equal respect. How then do you feel when you see some ladies come out and say awful things about feminism and dismiss it as scam? The same ladies whose interest you fight for.

Chisom: It is demoralizing but my interest has always been children in disadvantaged situations and victims of societal anomalies, the grown up women are not my core interest so I do not feel so bad about them. Let me explain better: If a little girl who was married off at 8 tells me ‘Aunty do not fight for me I want to be married’, I will be destroyed. It does not have the same emotional effect on me as a grown up woman who says ‘Do not fight for me, I love being degraded’.

  Related: Interview With Walter (Blogger/Writer)

Hard Voices: In a popular post of yours, you said guys spend money on their girls, that if a guy doesn’t spend on you it means you are a side chick. Where does this leave nice sincere broke guys with a great future?

Chisom: No, I did not say that. I reposted an opinion that has nothing to do with my own opinion. I am an opinion blogger.

Hard voices: In another post you likened dating Anambra guys to investing in bad shares. You said Anambra guys will rarely marry outside Anambra and usually on their mother’s say-so. You are from Anambra which makes the claim more believable. I remember tagging the post as the single story of Anambra men. Do you see merit in people classifying it as a single story?

Chisom: It is a single story and soley a personal opinion.

Hard Voices: Do you ever get worried that your opinion might be wrong and people will still take it as the gospel truth?

Chisom: No, my opinion is my opinion and it is not sacrosanct or finite. People relate to what they want to relate.

Hard Voices: How did you become such an influence on social media? Is there any specific thing you can tie it to? Was it gradual or did you just wake up and boom, there are thousands of messages in your inbox?

Chisom: Lol, of course it was not a boom thing. It was a gradual process. I still do not even know how it happened. It just did and I am grateful for it all

Hard Voices: A Google search of ‘Amanda Chisom’ has a nairaland link of a fellow claiming he has your nudes on top of the result page. You have come out to strongly refute the claim, and the consensus largely believes that the guy’s claim lacks merit. But how do you feel having a negative story about you topping the search engine of your brand name?

Chisom: It is ridiculous that anybody would go that far to destroy anyone. First of all I would be crazy to do that, and when the pictures came out and I knew for sure it was not me I did not care less. What happened to me was just a classical example of a useless man trying to put me down as a woman. His claims are ridiculous and I refuted it with solid cases so I am not concerned about any damage to my brand. I am concerned about the truth and making sure nobody ever does that to a woman again.

Hard Voices: Surprising enough, there are women who willingly send nudes to men. What do you say to such girls?

Chisom: They are adults and should know that there are consequences for every action and inaction.

Hard Voices: You are the CEO of TorchBlaze Media Consult. What are the things your company does?

Chisom: We are basically into public relations, media relations, strategy communication and business content development as well as brand management.

Hard Voices: What is your thought about the blog boom in Nigeria? There are millions of blogs in Nigeria, nearly 100% of them into gossip with no regards to originality, no respect for copyright, spammy and whatnot. It can be painfully noisy and distracting. And, while at it, you may say a word or two about Linda Ikeji the oga at the top of Nigerian blogosphere. So many people don’t seem to like her and they are very vocal (if not proud) about it.

Chisom: Wow. The thing is this, The world has gone digital so it is not out of place that most service will go digital too but when it comes to the Nigeria blogsphere I think we are not doing it right. Everybody is trying to drive traffic and make millions and it is only natural that cases of infringement will occur. I tell my team: ‘Do not be in a hurry to break a news. Let someone else break it, tell the story your own way and reference your source always.’ I think it would do us good if we can all focus on a particular area. Blog about your passion and not focus on traffic and all. I think we are growing so we still have a lot to learn and unlearn.

On Linda Ikeji, I do not have what to say. In this business, as in real life, everybody must not like you. If they do not like her I am sure they have their reasons, I myself is not liked by many but when has that ever stopped anybody?

Hard Voices: Perhaps envy plays a major role.

Chisom: In some cases yeah but I know a lot of people who do not like me or Linda for other reasons that has nothing to do with envy.

Hard Voices: What advice will you give a ten year old Amanda Chisom?

Chisom: Do not ever grow up. Your life is beautiful the way it is. Being a grown up sucks a lot.

Hard Voices: And if she insists on growing up?

Chisom: Grow wisely and stay away from men till you are 25.

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Hard Voices: In an interview with Chinyere Obi-Obasi, when asked about your date, you said, jokingly, that you wouldn’t want to say something now that your oga at the top will come out and say another. Has anything changed since then?

Chisom: Nope, he still has not come out to deny me or claim me so the status quo remains, unchanged.

Hard Voices: What are your views on abortion?

Chisom: I am pro-choice especially when it endangers the health of the mother and there are life threatening situations like a non-viable baby.

Hard Voices: But when it doesn’t endanger the life of the mother, in normal circumstances, when you see a woman struggling with to abort or not to abort situation, what would you tell her if she seeks your counsel?

Chisom: I will tell you to do what’s best for you.

   Related: Interview with Neec (Creative Photographer).

Hard Voices: Between late last year and this year we saw a lot of women coming out on social media to specifically call men out for abusing them sexually. This, to the best of my knowledge, requires so much emotional strength and courage. With this, will you say we are closing the gap on the fight against sexual assault?

Chisom: Yes we sure are. Before now most women were afraid to speak up about being sexually molested or assaulted but now because we advocated for less victim shaming, more and more women are being vocal and that is major step towards ending sexual violations.

Hard Voices: One issue that some have pointed out about these confessions is that the accused are not usually given hearing before being condemned.  And someone tweeted, the other day, that these ladies after speaking out are immediately elevated to the status of god whose stories cannot be questioned.

Chisom: I am sure nobody has ever stopped the accused from speaking out. I do not know about the goddess status either.

Hard Voices: You wrote a fine article about managing a family on 200 thousand naira per month. What I liked most about the article is your quote ‘If you cannot manage a steady income you cannot manage wealth’. Are you a quotes person? Who are the people you quote? And who are your role models?

Chisom: I hardly quote anybody, it comes from my head. If I use a quote which I rarely do there should be relativism to the matter at hand. I do not have role models either.

Hard Voices: You don’t have role models. Has that been the case since childhood? Why do you stop having role models if you had before (who are they)? If you never had role models what informed the decision?

Chisom: Never had a role model because I have never tried to be anybody than myself. Having a role model means someone I look up to and aspire to be like. The only person I look up to is God and there is nobody I aspire to be like.

Hard Voices: But there must have been people you admire and who inspire you.

Chisom: Yes, a lot.

Hard Voices: Do you mind naming them?

Chisom: Oprah Winfrey, the late Jackie Collins, Elizabeth Holmes, my parents, Viola Okolie and others.

Hard Voices: What would you advice your male relation who is considering marrying a woman who cannot cook?

Chisom: Send her to a catering school or teach her.

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Hard Voices:  And for a woman who is about to marry a man who recently suddenly lost his job, what will you advice?

Chisom: To wait a while for things to stabilize with marriage come responsibility; she can go ahead if she earns enough to hold the forte but they should have a quiet marriage.

Hard Voices: My friend who usually mentions me in some of your posts said I should ask you that one thing you will never be caught doing?

Chisom: A lot of things actually depending on varying scenarios. But that would be smoking marijuana.

Hard Voices: What then do you do when you wish to feel high?

Chisom: I do not want to feel high. I do not drink or smoke unless ice cream can make me high then it should be ice cream.

Hard Voices: This change government has really showed Nigerians pepper, no jobs, high cost of living, small businesses are stifled, foreign ones are closing shops, insecurity, detentions without trial, raiding without warrant, shocking propaganda, inconclusive elections, opposition harassment, discriminatory war on corruption etc. Do you know that organising NYSC camping has now become a rocket science project? Sigh. Is governance this hard or is God using Buhari to punish us for past crimes?

Chisom: I rather not answer for God but we are suffering from bad leadership, political rascality, malfeasance and lack of political will as well as bad policies.

Hard Voices: Lastly, is there anything I didn’t ask you but you feel the need to talk about? If no then let’s imagine you have the power of a god for 24 hours, what are the things you will want to change about Nigeria and the (even) world at large?

Chisom: No, this is good. [As for being god:] Take us back to 1959 and make sure the queen refuses to sign the independence form. And for the world, end all kinds of religion.

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Update: Interview with Sylvanus: Everyone Needs Attention