Gbenga Awomodu Speaks on #CareerLessons

Career Lessons

On Sunday, October 5th, 2014, I was the Guest on Career Wise Consults (@careerwisenig)’s weekly ‘tweetmeet’, #CareerLessons where I shared some lessons/insights from my career journey so far. While I have not been around for a long time yet, it felt very important that some people would find these observations useful in their respective journeys. I have embedded the tweets below for your easy reference, especially if you missed the live twitter discussions.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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My Next Big Thing!

Last August, I had the privilege of participating in the Farafina Trust Creative Writers’ Workshop, annually organized by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in partnership with the Farafina Trust. It had been my third attempt and the quality of writers who made the final shortlist of 22 was a testimony to how much the workshop had grown and how competitive it had become. A total of 987 entries had reportedly been received from around the globe. Every participant at the workshop brought a unique trait and contribution to the table and I still battle the sense of nostalgia when I recall the two-week life changing experience.

Yewande Omotoso

One of us (the participants) whom we would all have voted as Class Captain if such was allowed is Yewande Omotoso, a young Nigerian born in Barbados. She grew up in Nigeria with her Nigerian father, West Indian mother and two older brothers. She and her family moved to South Africa in 1992 and have lived there ever since. She is an architect; space and buildings being a passion of hers second only to words and literature. She has lived in Cape Town and currently in Johannesburg, working as a designer, freelance writer and novelist. Later in the year, she would go on to win the English First-time Published Author Award at the 2012 South African Literary Awards for her debut novel BOM BOY. The Nigerian edition is to be released in the first quarter of 2013. I can’t wait to lap up the story and interview her exclusively! You can follow her on twitter @yomotoso and read her blog at 1of6billion. One more thing, you can purchase a copy from Amazon here: Bom Boy or an e-version on African Books Collective.

Recently, Yewande invited me to participate in The Next Big Thing, “an opportunity for writers in the blogosphere to tell readers what they’ve been working on, and introduce them to the works of other writers they may or may not already be fans of. A kind of chain cake except there’s no baking involved or a relay race without the baton or hotpants and everyone’s a winner.” She answered questions about her next big thing HERE. Its working title is “Your House is on Fire” [what a title! :)]. We had a privilege of listening to her read excerpts from it at the Farafina workshop, and I tell, you just have to be on the look-out!

The last two paragraphs have been about Yewande, and I guess I should await my check already, right? Let’s get to Part 2 of this post!


Gbenga Awomodu

I can imagine the joy people feel when hold copies of their first book, novel, short story collection, poetry collection, whatever it is! I have stories to tell, but I am not in a hurry to get them out there. The Next Big Thing (literature) I am working on slowly but surely is what could be my first published novel. Here’s more about it:

What is the working title of your book?
Ababuo. Incidentally, that happens to be the name of the main character at the moment.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had been obsessing over the Ghana-must-go bags and the story behind the name. I heard many tales about how really good/competent Ghanaian teachers were, especially those who taught Maths and English in Nigeria. I had some childhood friends whose parents hired a Ghanaian as a private tutor in the 90’s. It is fascinating how a nation whose citizens were kicked out of Nigeria a few decades back is beginning to find its bearing. I also find it intriguing the huge amounts of money Nigerians now spend sending their children over there for education and other benefits. I imagined how some of those Ghanaians who were brutally evicted from Nigeria felt at the time, and how those of them still alive reflect on that experience now. I wanted to explore various characters and ideas surrounding bilateral relations, etc.

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical fiction; hope nothing much changes about that in the end.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Would I want to even get the novel or parts of it adapted into a movie? Maybe, but I am wary of filmmakers and actors/actresses not interpreting the characters adequately. One thing I am sure of is that the movie would cast a handful of Ghanaian actors alongside that beautiful accent.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A young girl, trapped in a foreign land, is fascinated about returning to her home country amidst news of economic resurgence, and she has to overcome vices and inhibitions, both internal and external, to lift her family; but she must also survive the political intrigues she stumbles into in her journey.

When will your book be published?
2015. I would rather not follow the self-publishing route for this particular book. Hopefully, my final draft in the first quarter of 2014 would catch some lovely agent’s fancy.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Now, that’s a tough one. The final draft is still in my head!  I am still having those lengthy conversations in my head, and getting to know the characters better. If my baby-steps approach works, I would have spent between 9 months and a full year writing the first draft. That would include lots of research and perhaps stealing into Ghana if I ever get a holiday this year. I agree with Yewande Omotosho who wrote in her post “I find it takes longer in the beginning and then it speeds up at the end.”

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The multifaceted analyses transformed into a narrative might interest the geeks and political analysts. Nevertheless, fiction should also be interesting and entertaining, so I’m not lost on those.

Oops! The chain cake stroke relay race moves on to Adebola Rayo and Mazi Fred Nwonwu who will blog about their next big thing on Wednesday 16th January 2013.

Adebola Rayo is a full time writer and editor. She works at Kachifo Limited, publishers of Farafina Books. Her short stories and articles have been published in several newspapers and magazines. Rayo’s next big thing, she thinks, is a collection of a few long short stories. Some of the stories are fiction, and some are faction (fictionalised telling of actual events). She blogs at where she will be posting about her next big thing next week.

Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, who prefers the Igbo male title, Mazi, to the English Mr. is a writer and freelance journalist. Melrose Books—who are taking a crack at fiction, away from their traditional educational publications—will publish his short story collection ‘Footsteps on the Hallway’ in the second quarter of 2013. Mazi Nwonwu blogs at and publishes book reviews at His short story ‘Masquerade stories’ was recently selected for Africa’s first Science fiction anthology. By next week, I am sure he would have decided which is truly his next big thing, either a Crime Thriller set in Lagos [Working title is: ‘Death is a Woman’] or a science fiction short story collection.

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Meet Gossy Ukanwoke – President, Beni American University

Every year more than a million candidates seek admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions. Usually, less than 40% of this population get admitted. The situation is further compounded by the limited accommodation and physical teaching facilities in the universities. However, with the continuous advances in technology, especially with the concept of hybrid learning, there seems to be a lasting solution to the problem of inadequate physical infrastructure in the Nigerian and, by implication, African educational system. Today, Gbenga Awomodu chats with Gossy Ukanwoke, a 23-year old Nigerian who is the President and Founder of Beni American University, a forward looking online university which hopes to bring quality education to every African youth, adult or teenager willing to study for a post secondary diploma or degree. He talks extensively on how the BAU team is building a 21st Century University with strong emphasis on technology, web 2.0 and entrepreneurship. Enjoy!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself – your education and where you grew up?
Gossy Ukanwoke, currently concluding my Bachelors in Management Information Systems at Girne American University, North Cyprus. I grew up in Nigeria and had my early education in Nigeria as well.

How, when and why did you found the Beni American University?
Beni American University was conceived in December 2011. However, the eventual news of what we were working on was broken by a U.S Media website and that quickly picked momentum across other news media. BAU was founded out of the concern and challenge to do something about Nigeria’s failing educational system. Based on official and public records, about 30% of secondary school graduates are able to get admitted into local universities annually. This means we have millions of students piling up every year, who are willing to take on higher level learning, but do not have the opportunity. There are also working professionals and stay-home adults who may wish to acquire entrepreneurial skills conveniently and effortlessly to match their schedules. Finally, BAU was born out of a need to ensure that our university graduates can effectively compete based on content, quality of learning and opportunities as against their international counterparts.


Students Circle Network was your first attempt at a start-up. Can you tell us a little about that?
Students Circle Network is the only student-oriented social layer for the OpenCourseware Consortium resources. As a member of the OCWC, Students Circle provides academic content from some of the top universities in the world to students in Africa for free. The students can connect with teachers and fellow learners from across the globe and learn in a virtual social environment.

What valuable lessons were you able to take away from that in setting up the Beni American University?
SCN taught me that once your product is unique and provides value, it will be accepted, recognized and given global attention. I also learned the importance of having a good team as well as working with a very definite but flexible plan that can allow you to refocus and be dynamic with the ever-changing market.

How do you plan to tackle the problems associated with Nigeria’s poor educational system, unemployment situation and overall development challenges?
First we have come to understand that there is an emerging problem. We have considered these problems and have picked out a few ways to deal with them. Firstly, we are working with internationally trained tutors, who are young and understand the dynamics of teaching and learning in the modern environment. They are 80% Nigerians by origin as well. This will allow our students learn from people who understand them, people who have quality backgrounds in their respective fields. Secondly, we are working with a few international Centers for Entrepreneurship as well as Entrepreneurial Hubs to take our students through a rigorous business development boot camp; which will allow them form teams that we will fund. Then, they can launch a product in the market upon their graduation from our institution. Finally, we are also partnering with international institutions that are ready to absorb some of our students when they graduate and allow them complete their degrees and graduate-level learning at their institutions.

Continue reading here: Meet Gossy Ukanwoke – President, Beni American University

Meet Chibundu Onuzo, 21-year Old Author of “The Spider King’s Daughter”

In 2010, Chibundu Onuzo, a 19-year-old Nigerian undergraduate at the King’s College London made the headlines, from BBC to CNN, after signing a two-novel deal with revered British publisher of literary fiction, Faber & Faber, making her its youngest ever female author. She started writing The Spider King’s Daughter when she was 17, got an agent at 18, signed with Faber at 19, finished editing while 20 and got published at 21. When she started writing at ten, her first inspirations included English classics like Jane Eyre and David Copperfield, after which she discovered the rich literary tradition of Nigeria in her favourite authors – Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this exclusive interview with Gbenga Awomodu, Chibundu who has recently completed her first degree in History talks about her debut novel, published in March 2012, writing, faith, Lagos, Nigeria and much more.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – what you do; your education and where you grew up.
My full name is Imachibundu Oluwadara Onuzo – Oluwadara because my mother is Yoruba; Imachibundu because my father is Igbo. I grew up in a very quiet estate in Lagos. I know almost all my neighbours by name and in turn most of them know me as ‘one of Dr. Onuzo’s daughters.’ Both my parents are doctors and are still practising. My primary school was called Corona Gbagada. Our school anthem described us as ‘the centre of excellence’ a motto borrowed from my much beloved Lagos State. I then proceeded to Atlantic Hall where once a week we sang lustily, ‘We love thee o, Great Atlantic Hall.’ It was perhaps an attempt by the anthem writer to brainwash us unruly adolescents. After three years at ‘A-Hall’ as her alumni call her, I went to St. Swithuns, a school in Winchester, where I perfected my phonetics and shortened my name to ‘Chibs.’ I then went to University in London, King’s College, where I dropped my phonetics and lengthened my name once more to Chibundu. Now, on the cusp of graduation, as I prepare for the next phase in my life; perhaps, I will assume the name of Dara.

Could you share some of your favourite childhood memories, growing up in Nigeria?
Anyone with an Igbo father will tell you that Christmas meant going to the village and going to the village meant family, udala (or agbalumo) and masquerades. Unfailingly the masquerades came out on Boxing Day and me and my cousins would drive down to the village square to be scared out of our wits. There was the rare female masquerade, glittering with mirrors and very difficult to catch sight of. Then there were the dancing masquerades which raised small clouds of dust when they hit their wooden heads on the ground. Then last and scariest were the evil masquerades that chased people down and flogged them. Once I ran into a stranger’s house and hid under his table because maoun na bia (masquerade is coming).
And then I loved going to my maternal grandfather’s house in Isale Eko. He died before I was born but he left in his house, shelves and shelves of books. Every time we visited I would go to these shelves and rummage through them. Most of what I gathered was old and musty but books are more than the paper they are printed on and I gained many classics from this foraging of Baba’s shelves.

Chibundu during a reading at the Southbank Centre, London

What were your childhood dreams and aspirations?
I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was growing up, it was assumed that if you were good at Maths you would be an engineer. If you were good at sciences, you would be a doctor and if you talked too much, you would be a lawyer. I was a very voluble child and so I took it for granted that I was destined to become a learned friend. I also dreamed of becoming a concert pianist. I played and still play the piano, but you won’t be seeing me performing at the Royal Albert Hall anytime soon.

Considering the common sentiment amongst many Nigerian parents who want their children to become lawyers, doctors, Engineers or Pharmacists, why did you decide to study History, and what was the initial reaction of your parents to this?
They disowned me and I’m now living with my adopted parents. On a more serious note, I think being the last born helped. My oldest sister is a barrister, my brother is an economist and my other sister is an engineer so my parents were more open to one child experimenting. Sometimes, wistfully I think if I had studied medicine, my parents would have had that invaluable collector’s item: a complete set of professional offspring. And for a while I did dabble with the idea of becoming another Dr. Onuzo but medicine of all the professions, is not one you enter lightly so I withdrew when I realised the matter was too serious for me.

Your debut novel, The Spider King’s Daughter, was published last March by Faber & Faber, UK. It must have been a really long process. How do you feel about that milestone?
Relieved. The publishing process does take a long time if you want to get it as right as you possibly can. Sometimes you feel that the day when you’ll hold a finished copy of your book will never arrive so we thank God it has come and we’re all alive to see The Spider King’s Daughter being read in as far flung places as Singapore and Dubai.

The Spider King’s Daughter touches on the cliche poor-boy-meets-rich-girl story. What (new) perspective do you bring to this concept in your novel for your readers?
All over the world, the rich and poor hardly meet on an equal footing, but in every region, there’s a particular flavour to this meeting of social classes. For example, in England as in Nigeria, people hire maids but to slap your maid in England is viewed as criminal assault whereas in our country, at best it would be frowned upon. So to find out why I think the social structure of Lagos adds its own twist to the ‘cliche poor-boy-meets-rich-girl story’, as you have termed it, I suppose you’ll have to read ‘The Spider King’s Daughter’.

When did you start writing poems and stories; and what are the special memories in the process of getting your first book published?
I’ve never really written poetry, at least not seriously; but I attempted my first novel when I was ten. It was about a group of white American children who went back in time and met some Native American children with whom they then proceed to have many adventures. It was very bad. What looms the largest in the publishing process was when my agent sent me an email saying she would like to represent the book. I actually dropped to the ground and rolled from one end of my living room to the other.

How do you plan to make your book accessible to readers here in Nigeria, aside online orders from Amazon and similar platforms? Any plans for a Nigerian publisher soon?
Fingers crossed for a Nigerian publisher. That’s all I will say for now.

Continue reading here: Meet Chibundu Onuzo, 21-year Old Author of “The Spider King’s Daughter”