Ikenna Igwe is a novelist, poet, playwright, short-story writer, and children’s author. He also writes nonfictional books. A Quantity Surveyor by training, and he also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. His published works include: The Judas Web, Kenechi the Honest Boy, Chinedu and the New Yam Festival, Quantitative Reasoning With Vocational Studies Primary Books 1-6, and Verbal Reasoning With General Knowledge Primary Books 1-6.
Some of his poems have been published in various anthologies by Forward Poetry, UK; Poetry Potion, South Africa; and Authorpedia, Nigeria. In 2015 his poem, “Nigeria Anew”, won the April edition of the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest.
Ikenna lives in Lagos, where he is working on his next book.
Face-Me-I-Face-You buildings are a regular sight in both urban and rural areas in Nigeria. I lived in one when I was doing a pre-degree program at Delta State University, Abraka. The students there were crazy, bath time, especially in the mornings, were crazy.
Every day came with its own drama. Although it was fun, life in that building was frustrating.
So when I came across Ikenna’s book, The Dark Rivers of Yesterday, I was moved by the introductory comment on the cover: “A young boy and his family are sent out of their home due to financial constraints. This book tells of the horrors they face in their new home”
I am confident that this book will be the most hilarious, heartbreaking, yet motivational book you will read this month.
We caught up with Ikenna, and this was how our conversation went:
OKBS: Hi Ikenna, it is nice chatting with you.
Ikenna: Hello. It’s great to be here.
OkBS: Please, share with us, how did you come to be a writer?
Ikenna: I’ll start by saying that I have always been a reader. When I was little, I read virtually everything I could set my eyes on. I remember my dad bought me my first grown-up novel, a spy thriller, along with a dictionary when I was just nine. But I never imagined that I would one day creatively put my thoughts in writing. And I have three people to thank for that. The first is one of the tenants in a Face Me I Face You apartment building. We were on friendly terms, and he once suggested that I should endeavour to ‘record’ the obnoxious dramas that characterized such an atrocious environment, seeing how much, he knew, I loved books.
The second person is my late mother, who once told me she felt I should have written my own book given the number of books she had seen me read at the time. Of course on both occasions, I had laughed away the idea. Me? A writer? Come on.
The third person, however, got through to me. She was the vivacious English Literature lecturer I had in my final year of higher learning, who passionately encouraged me to give creative writing a shot after I did exceptionally well in a class test. And, so, I did my first piece of creative writing a few weeks after my final exams. It was a poem. I was simply amazed at how the words seemed to ‘magically’ come together.
In fact, I was so excited I wrote three more poems that day… and since then I have never looked
OKBS: Is there something you’ll love to achieve with your writing?
Ikenna: It’s easy to say fame and money (laughs)…but for me, it really goes beyond both. For me, it’s more about being able to connect emotionally with readers…informing and entertaining them with my story.
OKBS: How do you merge writing with your day job?
Ikenna: Well, it’s somewhat easy merging it with my job as a teacher and a book editor, since I write mostly at night.
OKBS: How did you come about the title of your recent book, ‘The Dark Rivers of Yesterday?’
Ikenna: My older brother gets the credit for that. You see, I have come to learn that one of the, sometimes, difficult aspects of writing is actually coming up with an apt title for your book. ‘The Dark Rivers of Yesterday’ is actually the third title for this novel. The first two just didn’t feel quite right. So I took the issue to my problem-solving brother who I always bounce my writing ideas off, and, in less than five minutes or so this title was born.
OKBS: Can you throw more light on what the book is about and what inspired you to write it?
Ikenna: It’s a thought-provoking, often humorous, story about the negative experiences of a young boy and his family when they move into a Face Me I Face You building apartment. And, what’s more, their troubles are compounded because they’re from a different tribe. I was inspired by the fact that this is a true story; one I felt was worth sharing with the world.
OKBS: What are those things that irk you most about a Face-Me-I-Face-You building?
Ikenna: A Face-Me-I-Face-You building is a horrible place to live and/or raise a family in. It’s a place that pulsates with all kinds of vices and other terrible stuff…envy, jealousy, slander, witchcraft, etc. It is a place that can be detrimental to one’s physical and psychological well being.
OKBS: Have you ever lived in one?
Ikenna: Yes. Me and my family. In fact, this story is actually our story.
OKBS: Wow! Now I’d really love to read your book. Do you know anyone who lives in a Face-Me-I-Face-You Apartment?
Ikenna: Presently…no. But during my primary and secondary days, about 90% of everyone I knew lived in one type of Face-Me-I-Face-You building or another.
OKBS: What survival ideas/skills would you suggest for those living in a Face-Me-I-Face-You Apartment?
Ikenna: You need the grace of God. You need divine wisdom. That is the honest truth. Because, in my experience, as well as those of people I knew, no matter how godly you are, no matter how peace-loving you are, there will always be that one person or persons who, for no concrete reason, will have it in for you; like a messenger of the devil sent to torment you; a thorn in your flesh. So, you need every drop of God’s grace to live and survive in such a dreadful place – especially if you have a family. You can be as gentle as a dove… so long as you are as wise as a serpent (laughs).
OKBS: Do you think Face-Me-I-Face-You apartments will one day be a thing of the past?
Ikenna: If poverty is totally eradicated from our society and the living standard of people improve…then yes.
OKBS: Thanks so much for your time, Ikenna.
Ikenna: Thank you for having me.
If you would like to get a copy of Ikenna Igwe’s book, The Dark Rivers of Yesterday, click here