Author of the Week — Olukorede Yishau

Olukorede S. Yishau

An interview with Olukorede Yishau. Read our review of his book, In the Name of Our Father, here.

LE: Hello Olukorede, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Olukorede: I was born in Somolu-Lagos in 1978 but was raised in Agege, where I had my primary education. I thereafter went to Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School in Isaga-Orile near Abeokuta, where I was the Senior Prefect (Boy) in 1995/1996. I had the best result in my school in SSCE. After secondary school, I attended the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) in Ogba, but a crisis broke out over the non-accreditation of the school’s National Diploma by the National Board for Technical Education. As a result I did not take my final exams. By the time the crisis broke out, I had started the professional examinations of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). I wrote and passed all the three stages. By an Act of the National Assembly, the NIPR Diploma is equivalent to a first degree.

I started practising journalism in 1999 at The Source magazine published by Comfort Obi and edited by Maik Nwosu, the author of Invisible Chapters, Alpha Song and A Gecko’s Farewell. While at The Source, I also started a sandwich degree programme in Mass Communications at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.

It was at The Source that I wrote the first draft of In The Name of Our Father. The novel is meant to shake tables and let our people know that they do not need prayer contractors for them to have access to God. God is for us all and we can pray to Him without employing the services of prayer merchants. God gave us brains to think and not to sub-let our lives to smart guys who obviously are using means other than God to ‘perform’ miracles. Some of them even charge for deliverance; they charge to help you pray to receive American visa; and you are made to pay to receive God’s favours, which we all should all get by serving Him diligently.

LE: What you do for a living? Is writing your full time job?

Olukorede: I am a journalist. So, in a way, writing is my full time job. But creative writing is by the side for now. I am looking forward to a time when I can face creative writing and other stuff associated with it full time. I have been a journalist for 20 years and in these years I have worked in two news magazines and a newspaper. I worked at The Source for five years, Tell for four years and I have been at The Nation for about 12 years.

I am an Associated Editor at The Nation and in my career I have won major journalism awards, including the Columnist of The Year.

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LE: When did you start writing and what prompted it?

Olukorede: I am sure I wrote my first story in secondary school and I must have been prompted by something I read. I remember that when I read novels back then, I used to feel I could write something like that and I started trying my hand on writing. Before In The Name of Our Father, I think there were three other manuscripts, one, which was written in secondary school, another in NIJ and there was another novella titled Perilous Fears, which a former Editor of Hints, Mr Chim Newton edited and was supposed to have published for me.  I wrote the first draft of In The Name of Our Father in 2002 after reading a true-life story of a ‘man of God’ who was using fetish means to deceive people.  I was fascinated by that story and I told myself it would make a good novel. So, I started work on the novel and decided to find a way to have a story-within-story, which will document the experience of journalists under the Abacha regime.

While working with The Source, the magazine had a section called Night Diary. It was meant for reporters to share their night experiences. Occasionally, outsiders were allowed to contribute. One of such outside contributions was about a pastor who joined the occult to acquire powers to perform miracles and attract people to his church. When I read the piece, I felt I could do a novel out of it. This was in 2002. Nwosu, my editor then, had published Invisible Chapter and Alpha Song, which made a large impression on me.

At a point, I also felt that if the story was based alone on the pastor, it would be too ordinary. I decided to do a story-within-a-story. I was clear about what I wanted to do. So, I decided to do a prologue to introduce the narrator of the story-within-the-story before going into the main story.

It occurred to me early that people could get confused by the shift from the prologue to the main story, but I took care of it by making it clear in the last line of the prologue that what would follow was reading from a book. Any reader who glosses over the prologue or misses this last line may be confused. But I am glad most people have been able to understand what I set out to do. I also made sure the link between the story-within-the-story and the narrator’s challenges were well-established at the end of the book and this, according to readers, was a rude shock they did not see coming.

As an apostle of art for relevance, almost every single work of art I have done, be it poetry or prose, has had a critical message for the society. This has been with me right from my days at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, where some of my poems were featured in a collection called ‘Activist Poets’. This principle was on my mind when the principal script of ‘In the Name of Our Father’ was written while I was 24.

LE: Are you currently working on any book and if you are, what is it about?

Olukorede: I am actually working on two books, a collection of short stories and a novel. The collection of short stories should be out next year. It is being edited at the moment. The novel has gone through a second or third draft. It has benefitted from the insight of respected novelists, including a two-time Booker Prize finalist. Based on feedback, I have had to change the Point of View from third person to first person, with each of the two female characters narrating the story from their own perspective. It is called ‘Like Someone Skating on Thin Ice.’ A man suddenly dies of cardiac arrest and the woman he lived with discovers she is not his only widow. She finds out that he was traditionally married to another woman before marrying her legally in the UK. A lot of dramas happen thereafter, including deaths and so on. This book set largely in London and Liverpool also deals with issues, such as black-on-black violence, HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B, Brexit etc.

The collection of short stories, which has no fixed title yet, is about so many things. In one of the stories, the narrator is the Conscience. This story is about a woman, whose two children are fathered by her ex. There is also a story about a man who is troubled by the fact that the man he knows as grandfather also turns out to be his father; another story is about a woman dying of Leukaemia; and there is a funny one about a man who has a special gift of walking in at the wrong time.  We also have a story titled ‘This Thing Called Love’, which is about how a man thought to be in love with his wife suddenly fakes his disappearance and relocates to the United States with his secretary.

LE: Lastly, what are your hobbies?

Olukorede: I do not have what many see as regular hobbies. My hobbies, especially in the last two years, have been reading and cinema-going. Of the two, reading takes the first slot. I read every day. I have read 54 books, including novels, collections of short stories and memoirs, this year and I have six more to meet my New Year resolution.

In The Name of Our Father is Olukorede’s debut book.

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Olukorede is on Twitter.