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Q&A with Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi, a Nigerian author, will launch her book, Eyo later this evening, April 7, 2010, at the Nairobi Serena. Eyo, was nominated for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa. It tells the story of Eyo, a young Nigerian girl who is taken to the UK where she is turned into a sex slave. This book exposes the evils of human trafficking and it is a call on readers to make steps to bring an end to this vile trade. The book is published by WordAlive an indigenous Kenyan publisher. Maisha Yetu sent some questions to Abidemi and she graciously answered them below

Maisha Yetu: What does the Commonwealth prize nomination mean to you?

Abidemi Sanuni: The Commonwealth Prize means a great deal. It’s a prestigious Prize and to be nominated is an honour in itself.

The author in a book signing session

MY: In terms of modern literature Kenya is way behind Nigeria, especially in creative writing, yet you were published by a Kenyan, how did this come about?

AS: I wouldn’t say that Kenya is behind Nigeria in literature or indeed in anything! I facilitated a writing workshop at the University of Nairobi yesterday courtesy of the Department of Literature and I can honestly tell you Africa has a new generation of writers with experimental and innovative ways of bringing African literature to the global marketplace. In terms of meeting Wordalive, this was done through my literary agent. He submitted my manuscript to them and they liked it. The rest, as they say is history.

MY: Is there any hope of eradicating human trafficking especially child prostitution in Africa?

AS: There is always hope and a way to eradicate child trafficking in Africa. A wise person once said that evil thrived when men do nothing. As long as we do nothing about childtrafficking, it will continue to thrive.

MY: It took you seven years to write Eyo, why was it so important for you to write this book?

AS: Eyo was inspired by my time in the field as a human rights worker and also, child trafficking is a real problem in Nigeria. It’s a pandemic and writing Eyo was my way of raising awareness of the issue.

The book cover

MY: Reading Eyo one can tell that you put in a lot of research into this book, what would you tell up-coming authors who think they can dispense with research and yet expect their books to be well received.

AS: Research adds depth to a writer’s work. Without it, a book doesn’t quite satisfy and leaves the reader unfulfilled.

MY: How has Eyo been received in Nigeria?

AS: Eyo is not yet available in Nigeria

MY: Eyo was the only book, among the Commonwealth nominees, published by an indigenous African publisher, what does this say about African publishing – does it mean that African writers have no faith in their publishers?

AS: African publishing has suffered a great deal in the few decades or so but there is a new generation of publishers such as Wordalive in Kenya and Cassava Republic in Nigeria who are doing amazing work to restore African publishing and put African literature back where it belongs; with the people and accessible to the rest of the world.

MY: What do you think hinders the marketing of African books within Africa, yet books by Western writers are readily available all over Africa?

AS: There used to be a disdain for local literary talent caused in part by bad writing, atrocious editing and poor quality printing. Within this context, you can see why Africans didn’t support local writers. International writers are backed by well heeled western publishers who have the funds to market and promote their authors well in Africa and that is why you see their books in the African marketplace. But that is changing with people like Wordalive who are restoring African literature to its former glory.

MY: Any plans for writing a sequel to Eyo?

AS: There are no plans for a sequel.

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Nigerian published by Kenyan is commonwealth nominee

Having a relative in Europe or in the US is normally a source of pride for many families, particularly in Africa. This is reinforced by the fact that these relatives occasionally send much needed money back home.
To these people it does not matter what their loved ones do out there as long as the funds keep flowing. In her book Eyo, Nigerian author

Book Cover

Abidemi Sanusi addresses an issue many African families, with relatives abroad, would rather not talk about. In fact human trafficking and child prostitution is an issue many governments are very shy to talk about.
Eyo is the name of a 12-year-old illiterate Nigerian girl, who is taken to the UK with promises of a good job and education. For a girl used to hawking ice water in the heat and sun of Lagos streets, this would seem like a dream offer, right?
Wrong. Eyo would rather she remains in the lawless Ajegunle Slum than leave her four-year-old sister Sade in the amorous hands of her father. There is a secret understanding between Eyo and her father that he would only leave Sade alone if she continues to satisfy his sexual needs.
She lands in the UK and into the hands of a Nigerian couple Sam and his wife Lola. While the couple has no problems having Eyo take care of their children, who are almost Eyo’s age, they are also not averse at turning her into their punching bag. That’s not all. Sam seems to have found a source of relieving his perverted sexual desires.
He, in the process, discovers Eyo’s ‘expertise’ learnt through her father back in Nigeria. It is this expertise that makes the poor girl a favourite at Big Madame’s – another Nigerian – brothel among clients looking for ‘special care’. This is after Sam is finished with her.
Eyo eventually ends up prowling the streets, trading in her body under the watchful eyes of Johnny, yet another Nigerian, her abusive boyfriend cum pimp.
When Eyo is finally rescued from the streets and taken back to Nigeria, she discovers to her horror that her father eventually made good his threat of turning Sade into his sexual object, the moment she left for the UK. The mother knows this all along but will not do anything about it as it is the duty of a woman ‘to endure’.
Abidemi admirably uses fiction to open the lid on the sensitive subject of human trafficking and more so child prostitution. Today, it is an open secret that child prostitution rings continue thrive worldwide, while authorities continue to look the other way.
Through her narrative style the author manages to bring out the readers’ anger at the cruelty of it all. However, as the story unfolds the anger paves way for helplessness. The helplessness starts creeping in as it gets increasingly apparent that the perpetrators of this vile trade are getting away easily. The fact that they are able to manipulate the law to their benefit goes to show child prostitution is not about to be brought to an end.
The book ends on a rather dark note as Eyo, faced with despondency and poverty back in Nigeria, considers going back to the UK and back to prostitution. Perhaps this is the author’s way of saying that the African girl child will continue to be an endangered species for a long time to come.
Eyo has been nominated for Best Book in the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize.

The book is published by WordAlive Publishers