Dr. Sunny Oby Maduka is an Auditor and Compliance Officer at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) headquarters. He is also an author, poet, playwright and accountant. Following the launch of his most recent book ‘A Mother, Her Heart’, MMS Plus squeezed out this interview as Dr. Maduka proffers the solution to building a new Nigeria. He also narrates his journey into writing, its role in the society as well as the challenges.
You have written several books, poems and movie scripts, but what inspired you to write the latest book ‘A Mother, Her Heart’?
I looked at the scenario of the new generation and I discovered that we are eroding some values especially among the youth and children. In the past, our mothers taught us good values such as stressing that it is better to have a good name than money. I looked at the innate qualities of a mother and her role in bringing up the child. This is very important because mothers are the administrative hub of every family. Mothers spend more time with the children than fathers. Most of the values I have inculcated over the years I learnt them from my mother.
The essence of the book is to get us to go back to the basics and get children and youth to know that there is a need to listen to their parents especially their mothers. As you go through the book, you will find that there are values that transcend beyond religion, tribe or race.
As a staff of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), you are yet to write a book on the maritime sector. Do you also have the passion to write on the sector?
Of course, my PhD was in Transportation and I wrote my project on the port concession agreement. I have published several articles online about the sector but I haven’t gone deeper because of the peculiarity of the Nigerian system. Those of us who write are not recognized here in Nigeria. The truth is that I’m more famous for my writing abroad than in Nigeria and I can’t force myself into the Nigerian terrain.
In my project work for my master’s degree, I did a well-researched empirical study on the port concession which was prior to the actual port concession in 2006. No organization has sourced for what I wrote and that is why I said Nigeria is a peculiar place. We don’t source for knowledgeable people, but it’s all about who know and I’m not ready to toe the line. I have done several well-appreciated seminars outside the country. As at today, I’m the only PhD holder in transportation in Nigeria.
As a senior staff at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), how have you been able to create time to write despite your busy work schedule?
I have been able to mange my life, especially time. We are all created with marco-functionality. Every man has the ability to multi-task. I can be talking to you and be writing. There is no time that is appropriate but we just have to create the time.
I’m an off-shot of God and you know God is multi-functional so my attributes includes being multi-functional. I don’t see impossibilities and I don’t make lack of time a challenge. I don’t sleep much too. I only sleep for about two to three hours daily and most times I still have the urge to write even during those three hours. If I don’t write, it becomes a burden because I won’t sleep.
To me, time is never an excuse. I have a focus, a vision and everyone should be the same. My logo is ‘born to excel’, that is how I reason and I believe I must excel.
Book publishing is quite expensive. Where do you get your financial support from and how widely accepted are your books?
Publishing in Nigeria is very hectic and the readership is also not available. I publish most of my books abroad because of the quality I need. For support, let me give you this scenario; this inspiration was given to me free and I make sure I bring it out by publishing it. Most times I spend a lot of money to publish but I’m always happy when the finished copy of the book is out. Although, the readership culture in Nigeria is low, abroad it’s different.
There was a time I was travelling in the United Kingdom (U.K) and an immigration officer told me that he had seen my name before that was after he had looked at my passport. I brought out one of my books, ‘Whispering Voice’ and immediately I did, he said, ‘that’s it, I have read it’. He called others and started marketing my book, he also asked me to sign autographs on one of the copies. I was overwhelmed and embarrassed at the event. These are the things to be happy about. If you only look at the money then publishing isn’t a venture for you to engage in.
People expect that because I work in NPA, the Authority should sponsor all my projects but that isn’t the case. There are several challenges such as tribe, influence, religion, etc, coupled with a lot of bureaucracies. I wrote about some of these things in one of my books titled, ‘My Nation, My Agony’. I encapsulated most of the problems we have in Nigeria today, although I wrote that book years ago.
Have you at anytime approached the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for financial support?
Of course, I have, but when it is not forthcoming one just has to move ahead in life. I believe that a man’s destiny cannot be truncated by another man. It wasn’t NPA that gave me the initiative or inspiration so I can’t fully hold NPA responsible for sponsoring it. I understand God’s purpose and I look beyond the challenges and hurdles.
One of the problems of the leadership in Nigeria is that we still have the same crop of leaders we had in 1960. So, we are still enslaved. We must begin to look out for new things, young writers, young thinkers, etc. for instance, a 1960 fellow still writes with paper and takes it to someone to type but today I use my phones to write. You can imagine the difference. Nigeria is enslaved with the mentality that the old ones can do certain things that the young ones can’t do.
How long have you been with the Nigeria Ports Authority?
I have worked with NPA for about thirty (30) years.
When did you develop the knack for writing?
I started writing when I was a kid. At that time I just wrote without a clear purpose like I have now. I used to take my write-ups to Mr. Eddy Iroha when he worked in the Vanguard newspaper and after reading he always encouraged me to keep writing, although, I never took it too serious.
My first degree was in Accounting, MBA Finance, M.Sc. Transport and PhD in Transport, so from that perspective I had nothing to do with writing.
With the benefit of hindsight, do you think if you had studied any literary course you would have had a better career in writing?
I have also written other books on management and leadership. I wrote ‘Leadership Integrated Approach’ which is a management book and I also wrote ‘Retire Now, Retire Happy’. These books also required the experience I gathered from my academic background.
What are your plans after retirement, do you have plans of becoming a lecturer?
When I branched into writing my books were so voluminous. I remember that the chairman who launched my first book ‘The Whispering Voice’ had remarked that he thought he was coming to launch a small book or a pamphlet. It just dawned on me that it was time for me to preach to the world through my books.
‘Retire Now, Retire Happy’ is a wonderful book which I intend to use to retire as well. The truth is that for those of us working, we should start thinking about retirement the first day we start working. It’s a big book and I hope it would help the society to think about post- retirement.
How many books have you published?
I have published six (6) and I have eleven (11) unpublished. I am publishing them one after the other because of the fund required. To publish one book abroad costs more than 1 million naira, but I have decided not to publish in Nigeria because I want to make a mark and I want to get global recognition. There are lots of sacrifices I have to make in order to get these books published.
I also have two movies presently online. They are; Blood Communion and Blood Butchers and they both have Seasons 1 and 2.
Your write-ups cut across prose, poems, movies, etc. What is your source of inspiration and what is your unique selling point?
My unique selling point is information. My books talk about life, transformation, change, inspiration and I have to be informed to be able to write about these to be impactful. I read a lot and I also have to be creative. Creativity is what brings about development. If a nation is not creative it can’t develop.
People believe that money, cars or influence make a man but what makes a man is what contribution he can make to the society to make it a better place and that it what I do with my write-ups. I don’t just write to entertain but to pass a message.
There is only one source for me and it is God. Most of my works are tailored to the youth. The youth in Nigeria have been cut off, they have embrace indecency and other wrong vices, but they have to the right values and one of them is the culture of reading.
The maritime sector is plagued with several challenges. What is your perception of the sector and how do we move forward?
I read Transportation and Maritime at PhD level. I can tell you that most of the problems in this industry are human. Like the other challenges the nation is facing today, the problem is human. Once we have a leader that says, ‘I’m here and I want things to be done the right way’, one who can put his life on the line, then we would see significant changes.
By Kenneth Jukpor