You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler. Denis Waitley

Chijioke Dikeocha Interview Published on: 12, Nov 2018

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the cause you represent?

My name is Chijioke Dikeocha. I am a Nigerian and I grew up in Umuaka, a small town in Orlu zone of Imo State, a state in the Southeast zone of Nigeria. I am the second son of my parents who were teachers. Growing up in my home was very interesting and funny especially when one realized that they were rules and regulations that one dare not break. Moreover, having disciplinarians as parents, one is admonished to always be a ‘good child’ and whenever one goes contrary to the lay down rules and regulations in the home, one is punished. Growing up in such environment really shaped my thought about parenting, family life, society and interpersonal relations. I realized that our society is made up of families. In other words, our society is the reflection of the families we have. If there is breakdown of rules and regulations, indiscipline and social vices in our society today, I believe that the families contributed a lot to that. I also believe that we cannot continue to advocate for a better society without putting the families in order. Therefore, the changes we desire to see in our society should be first promoted and encouraged in our families.

I represent progress and development, and I advocate them in my writing. I strongly believe that we cannot continue to complain about the social vices in the society when we, as individuals, are not ready to amend our lifestyles, to live the life that promotes the kind of society we desire.

Tell us about your childhood. Have you always been a writer?

My childhood was very interesting. I grew up under the tutelage of my parents and they introduced me to reading, writing and studying (research) when I was very young. I grew up with these exercises and they are part of my life. I give myself to reading, writing and researching and I enjoy doing them. Reading good books show me the way to go; it is my pathfinder. Writing helps me to express my confidence on the way I am going, while researching helps me to increase my speed. I cannot image how my life would have been without these exercises. They have really helped me as a child and they are helping me, as I grow older. I started writing when I was very young. I wrote articles, speeches, children stories, short stories, poems and plays not for pride, award or recognition, but to express myself, my confidence on where I am going. Though I did not take my writing very serious then, it was a voluntary act and I see it as a medium to express my thoughts. After writing, I discussed it with my friends and most of them wondered where I got such ideas I wrote. As a child, I was very active in church activities and my mother really contributed a lot in my active participation in the children’s ministry of my church. My mother served as a Sunday school teacher in my church and she always took me to the church. I became prominent in the children’s department of my church where I led the children’s team of my church to several competitions in Orlu Diocese of Anglican Communion, Nigeria. I took part in drama, quiz, essay and recitation competitions, and my team won several prizes in the competitions.

How is it that you use communication and media platforms to promote the development of African communities?

As a writer, I strongly believe that my works have great potentials to initiate and sustain positive change in our society. Taking cognizes of the truth that as a writer, I am a teacher; therefore, I put my very best in my works both literary works, research papers, book chapters, essays and articles to promote and advocate thoughts and ideas that would enhance the development and progress of our society. I know that through my works, I can make great positive impact in Africa and across the world. I consider my job as a calling rather than a career and I give absolute attention to it. This belief inspired me to establish Farreach Initiative for Development Communication in Africa, a non-governmental organzation. In addition, I am very happy that we are making great progress. Our core mission in Farreach Initiative for Development Communication in Africa (FIDECO) is to engage media and communication platforms in facilitating, driving and sustaining development initiatives in communities in Africa. I strongly believe that media and communications have a role to play in initiating and sustaining the desired change we want to see and experience across communities in Africa. Performing this crucial role in Africa, Farreach Initiative for Development Communication in Africa has a vision to lead a paradigm shift in the development communication in Africa. In addition, we are very determined in pursuit of this vision in Africa. I founded FIDECO in 2017 and incorporated it as a non- government organization in Nigeria. Our main activities include:

i. We assist in disseminating of information, increasing awareness about development trends in rural communities in Nigeria.
ii. We assist in facilitating participation and generating knowledge for sustainable development in rural communities.
iii. We assist in the production of media products that will aid development in rural communities.
iv. We assist in conducting training for communication and development personnel of Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

As a start-up NGO, our scope of operation and community outreach is small now because of fund. We focus on some selected communities in Imo State where we visit women groups, youth organizations, town union organizations, schools and churches in the rural communities. We enlighten and educate them on issues that are centered on agriculture and food security, public health, education, good governance and rule of law, and youth & women empowerment. We adopted my new book Walking Shadows in our school campaign and it has facilitated great discussion among students because the issues I discussed in that book are what most students and young adults encounter on daily basis. By introducing Walking Shadows to students and donating some free copies to school libraries, we create a better platform for students to participate actively in the discussion for a social change in our society. Some of the students have told me that most stories in my book are more of true than fiction stories.

To what extent are the stories in Walking Shadows fictional and to what extent are they true?

Walking Shadows is a fiction, and the stories in the book are fictional. However, when one considers the stories in the book with our contemporary experiences, one has no reason to doubt that it is a true story. Most of the stories portray accurate picture of our contemporary society and the experiences most people encounter on a daily basis. For instance, “Campus Lovers” portrays the university system in Nigeria, and there is no student that would read the story once and drop the book. He /she must certainly read it repeatedly because the story is engaging and largely, a true account of the university environment in higher institutions in Nigeria. Likewise, the “End-Time Disciples”, “The Face of Love in Tragedy”, “To Please Her Husband”, “Victims of Circumstance”, “Hard Times Never Last”, and “The Trial of Ikeoha Ikemba”, these stories were carefully written and each of them speaks for itself. They are very compelling and interesting stories that capture the experiences of people in our contemporary society.

Largely, these stories are true account of the experiences of people we meet every day. The mistakes, challenges and triumph of the characters in these stories have great message for every reader of Walking Shadows. In addition, Walking Shadows outlines universal experiences of love, struggle, change, and survival; and these are themes any reader can readily understand. It is only the last two stories: “King Godwill & His Wealth” and “My Journey with Tortoise to the Animal Kingdom” that are largely fictional.

Why did you decide to write a book like Walking Shadows? How long did it take you to write?

As a social entrepreneur and development communication practitioner, I engaged the platform of creative writing and fiction to launch this campaign for social change and development in Africa especially Nigeria. This is because of my passion to see positive change and development in my country. There are some issues of concern, which I cannot wish away or keep silent on them. Issues of concern in our education sector, health, gender equality, economy, good governance, social injustice, human right, youth unemployment, and many others need to be discussed. This is what inspired the writing of Walking Shadows. Walking Shadows reminds me of the experiences of most people I have met in the course of my job. As a researcher and writer, I am always in the field, meeting all kinds of people and hearing different stories and experiences they share with me. Although I have written Walking Shadows a long time before I met these people, yet their stories and experiences resonant my mood and thought when I wrote Walking Shadows. I wrote the first draft of Walking Shadows during my undergraduate years in the university. Moreover, it took me three days to finish the first draft of the book. I left it in my bookshelf for a long time before I picked it up and started working on it for publication. Whenever I read Walking Shadows, I notice that I have built intimate relation with some characters in the stories. I found myself feeling the impulse of their experiences and an irresistible urge for a social change grows stronger in me.

Which is your favourite story in this book and why?

Honestly, it is very difficult to pick a favourite story in this book because each of the stories is unique. Each of the stories in this book discusses important issues in our contemporary society and share important messages. Each of them ignites irresistible urge for a social change in our contemporary society and it is hard to water it down. I strongly believe that each of the stories in this book has excellent qualities that would attract my passion in a unique way any time I read the book. I like every story in this book and I enjoy reading them whenever I pick Walking Shadows to read. I think that readers of Walking Shadows should decide the favourite story in this book. I believe that each reader of my book should be able to make this choice after reading the book.

Can you tell us about a story that didn’t make it in this anthology? Anything you wish you had added?

All the stories that I wrote in the first draft of this book were published in the book. Moreover, I have nothing to add in the collection of these stories. The stories were carefully written and I believe that they will fulfill the purpose for which they were written and published. This book will make great impact in the life of students and schools that will recommend it for students in their syllabus. Certainly, Walking Shadows will facilitate scholarly discussion among readers, literary critics, social and public commentators, students and teachers across schools in Nigeria and abroad.

What is the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa (BMIA) and what is it that you do there?

Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa (BMIA) is an initiative of Michael R. Bloomberg to develop the human capacity of some financial journalists, development experts and communication practitioners in Africa to enhance their skill and knowledge to better serve the public interest as a critical part of continental development and progress. The Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa furthers Michael R. Bloomberg’s philanthropic efforts on the Africa continent. BMIA aims to increase the pipeline of skilled financial journalists and analysts, embracing a data-driven journalism culture across Africa. It is an executive training programme in financial journalism organized in three Africa countries namely South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. Bloomberg Philanthropies funded the programme with support from Ford foundation.

Do you enjoy reading? Which was the last book you read and what did you think about it?

Yes, I enjoy reading a lot. I read both fiction and non-fiction books and as a researcher and writer I give much attention to books that are related to the project I am working on. For the past few weeks now, I have been very busy with my research project and some research papers sent to me for review by some international journals where I serve as a member of the editorial board. Most of the books I read recently are non-fiction books and academic books. Some of the books discuss subjects on entrepreneurship, media management, sustainable development and development communication.

What, according to you is the definition of utopia?

Utopia is an imaginary society that captures most essential qualities of an ideal society which humanity would love to inhabit. The concept of utopia ignites the urge for a better society as humanity looks forward to the creation and inhabitation of such a “paradise”. In reality, utopia is nowhere to be found, neither in the past, present, nor future time. It is a creation of imagination and desire.

Did you get published through traditional means or are you self-published? Where do you stand in the debate between the two?

My book was self-published and I enjoyed the experience of publishing my work. Self-publishing has given me the opportunity to learn and master the rudiments of book publishing and marketing. I was actively involved in almost all aspect of my book publication and I have learnt a lot in the process. It has made me a better author and entrepreneur. My company, Farreach Media, published my book and it is a great opportunity for the company to be announced globally. Wherever my book is sold and read, Farreach Media is announced. It is a risk for a new company like Farreach Media to enter a highly competitive publishing industry, publish, and launch a book in the international market. After weighing the options, we considered publishing Walking Shadows and launching it in the international market as a calculated risk and we took the risk. I am happy that the book has been published and launched on Amazon platforms worldwide. Therefore, wherever Walking Shadows is sold and read, Farreach Media is announced. We stand to lose nothing as a company because a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. We have taken the step and we are making great progress so far. Walking Shadows has received excellent reviews from some professional review companies in the USA and UK. Readers’ Favourites gave Walking Shadows 5-Star rating. The US Book Review recommended it and it received excellent review from Midwest Book Review. These excellent reviews from professional book reviewers speak volumes about the quality of my book. As a company, we are very happy about the quality of Farreach book, we have published.

Personally, I do not consider the debate between the pros and cons of being published through traditional means and self-published as a serious one because the two are different. In addition, it depends on what an individual author wants. For sure, traditional publishing takes out most of the challenges an author would encounter and makes things easier than self-publishing.

While self-publishing gives an author the opportunity to master the process of book publishing and ignites the entrepreneurial spirit in an author. Most often, traditional publishing deal does not come by easily as expected especially for a new author. Moreover, it would be an unfulfilled dream for a new author to spend years waiting to sign a traditional publishing contract at the expense of his/her career as a “published author”. What does a new author or published author do after several attempts to get a traditional publishing deal? Of course, some people would say, “self-publish and perish”. I strongly do not agree with the saying. If a new author or published author does his/her homework very well, that author cannot perish with his/her work when he/she self-published it. Moreover, it depends on what an individual author wants. I believe that if an author weighs the two options and researches very well, on what it takes to publish and market a book, an author that chooses self- publishing will not regret taking such a step. It does not mean that a new self- published author would expect to sell thousands or millions of copies of his/her book. What should be the concern of a new self-published author is to publish a high quality book that will announce him/her.

What is your motto in life?

I strongly believe that with God, nothing is impossible. No matter how challenging a situation might be, with God, it is surmountable, and victory is assured.

What is your favourite part about being an author? What is the biggest challenge that you have faced?

My favourite part about being an author is the inner strength I have to think deep concerning the issues I want to discuss in my work and the opportunity to research on them before writing. In addition, I enjoy sharing my idea on my work. It gives me great joy. However, the biggest challenge I face as an author is the marketing and promotion aspect of my books because of the time and huge finance involved in these aspects of the job. I want to thank AllAuthor for promoting my book. It is very challenging marketing and promoting your book in the international market as an author in Nigeria especially when you do not have a literary agent or publisher in the USA or UK. There are lots of constricts to one’s progress as an author that lives in Nigeria. For instance, there are many promotion and marketing facilities on Amazon that one cannot access or use from Nigeria. You cannot buy an eBook on Amazon from Nigeria because Kindle app is not available in that country. The “Gift card” is not accessible from Nigeria.

I do not know about other Africa countries whether the app and marketing facilities are available there. As an author from Africa, you cannot sell your eBook (Kindle) in your country and most of your friends and fans who would like to read your book cannot buy it. The Amazon gift card is not available for authors in Nigeria. The paperback is very expensive to most of my readers and fans in Nigeria and other Africa countries especially when they consider the cost (list price and shipment) of ordering a copy of paperback on Amazon. Certainly, the number of copies one would have sold is greatly affected by these constricts. In spite of these constricts, I am very optimistic about my progress as an author and the positive impact my works will make in our society.

What book ideas are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on my novel and some short stories for publication.

Share Chijioke Dikeocha's interview