Thursday, 7 June 2007

My mission is to see people changing for the better, says Habu Dawaki

The nation’s most popular motivational columnist reveals the secrets of his own motivation and aspiration

HABU Dawaki is best known as the man writing the motivational column in the Weekly Trust and the programme "Moments of Destiny" on FRCN Kaduna’s FM 96.1 radio station. For years, he has touched the hearts of many Nigerians with his half-page column and radio commentaries and made them to believe positively in themselves, to know that in spite of the difficulties in which they live, there is hope.

An indigene of Gombe State, Dawaki is a product of Ramat Polytechnic, Kaduna Polytechnic, Petroleum Product Institute, Warri, and Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa University, Bauchi. He originally studied Engineering and has a post-graduate diploma in Management. He worked with the Bauchi State Agricultural Development Project before the creation of Gombe State (1983-1988), ALMO Gases, the largest LGP plant in northern Nigeria, and KFCC, Kaduna. He retired in 1996. He is presently a businessman and also runs his Destiny Foundation in Kaduna, which he set up purposely for the promotion of his motivational and inspirational activities.
Dawaki is also a pastor, ministering in his own church in Kaduna. Asked whether he is a reverend father or simply a pastor, the easy-going, gregarious motivator answered with his always ready smile, "Well, I don’t like titles. It doesn’t make any difference if you call me a pastor."

Last year, Habu Dawaki published three books on motivation. The books were subsequently launched and are on sale. Prior to the launch, I interviewed the all-rounder author on his universal ministry of motivational writing and broadcasting. Excerpts:

You are popular within the media circle as a motivator. How did you become a motivational commentator?
It’s a long story. I started reading inspirational write-ups since my early days in life, works of authors like John Kennedy; I read his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, in 1980. I read the books such as The Power of Positive Thinking. The first book, I actually started with was one I could not remember its title but was written by Dr. Lara Morei, who was an American. That book inspired me so much. Ever since then I developed the interest of reading books about motivation, leadership, and management. My life is mostly spent on reading books.

Do you read any other books apart from those ones?
Yes, I read management and leadership books and several others. I spend so much on books.

When did you decide to start writing on motivation?
Well, I was in Gombe in 2003, the state government gave me a job to go as a member of the local government transition committee. One day, the governor invited me to his office intending to appoint me as a commissioner. But something inside me revolted against everything. I can’t tell the reason. I just felt that he was going to give me that job. I walked out of the office to make my first debut the following day. But since then I have never gone back to the office. Later something occurred to me. I said to myself: "You have gathered information and derived inspiration. Why not share them with other people?"

I came back to Kaduna, and did not know how and where I was going to start it. One day, I went into a bookshop along Ahmadu Bello Way. I sighted a book which inspired me. Ideas started occurring to me, and that was the genesis of my radio programme. Then other media began later. Immediately after, I went home, I stopped reading and started preparations for writing inspirational commentary. From morning to night, I was putting to paper all that kept flowing from me. My first column, however, was daily motivational write-ups.

Why did you start with radio?
I understood that radio covers a wider range in terms of communication. As I was saying, the inspiration came with a view to sharing the experience of life with others. So we went to a radio station and, after series of discussions, the script reached one of the directors, who saw it and appreciated it. However, he seemed to be skeptical about whether I could sustain it. Some people started writing, only to stop half-way. And that was a weekly programme.

How did you start the newspaper column?
Well, from the beginning, I was introduced to the (Weekly Trust) Editor, Malam Garba Deen Muhammad, who soon bought the idea.

Who introduced you to him?
Sam Nda-Isaiah (presently the Editor-n-Chief of Leadership) introduced me to him. He demanded a few articles to assess. I gave him and he liked them. Incidentally, he set up his Leadership, which also invited me. Now, The Companion also uses my contribution.

So you are writing for three newspapers. Is it the same piece you submit to them every week or do you write separate articles for each of them?
Sometimes separate, sometimes the same.

Are you still running your radio programme?
No, I have been off air for some time now. Yet I wish to continue soon. I have been very busy recently. My intention is not to stop here. I intend to pass the message across.

Briefly, what is your core belief in life? How do you expect people to think about themselves?
Basically, our major problem in this country is attitude. People have wrong attitude towards themselves, towards others, towards the leadership, and so on and so forth. People see things mostly from the wrong perspectives. I believe that is the wrong direction. It also spells the main objective of my mission: to change the way people do things in life, to change the way we think; and changing a man entails changing his thinking. I believe everybody is qualified to have a crest in this life. Everybody can be fulfilled in his life. If he can utilize his potential and given the chance, everybody can live his life to the fullest. The problem is that most people don’t even know they have the potentials. As I wrote once, I didn’t know I could write before I started writing. And the only way they can realize their potentials is for them to be tried. Knowing my background, I set out to give hope to the people. I was born in a mud house, on a mat floor. I wasn’t born to a rich family. I was poor; that was perhaps part of my limitations. I never knew I could come so high like this. If I were richer, I would have become greater than this.

As a man of God, has spiritualism been another source of inspiration for you in this mission?
Yes, it has. As a human being, you operate on three dimensions–the spiritual, the mental and physical dimensions. No man is complete without these three factors coming into him. Some time we underestimate one for another. That’s where we encounter problems. From my experience with people, books I have come across and the places I was privileged to go and meet their peoples, I have learnt that all these things have powerful influence on our daily lives. Having grown up in this part of the country and having witnessed the level of poverty in the land, one cannot but start to think of how to change the status quo. I have come to find out that the best way to change it is through making people to think. But one thing is fundamental: you can’t expect things to change when the people continue to share the same values, manifest the same attitude and see things in the same way.

Our people believe that everything is in the hand of God, and He will solve all our problems for us if we depend totally on Him. Do you share this belief?
To me, it is a wrong way of thinking, I may be wrong, but I don’t see it that way. You are sitting on a chair, it’s somebody’s thinking. God gives us raw materials; He gives us cars, but how can a car come while we are sitting here? He gives us raw food; He doesn’t give us cooked food. So if you’re hungry, you’ll be expecting Him to give you finished food? I mean, even if He gives it to you He will not put it into your mouth!

So I believe there is the human factor. There are things we cannot do for ourselves and there are those we can do.

One intriguing thing about your commentaries is that you do not quote religious books like the Holy Bible to inspire people. Rather, you quote secular scholars and philosophers. Why is it so?
Of course, it is deliberate. Number one, I want my message to cut across ethnic and religious divides. This is a multi-ethnic country, people can see things from different view-points. To reach all and sundry, you have to avoid using beliefs and quotes that may come to offend them in the process. So I write what will be acceptable to Muslims, Christians, other tribes and faiths. The issue is that we all face the challenges. We live in the same environment; we all need hope and encouragement. We all need a good legacy and have a good name regardless of our differences.

Many people don’t know that you are a Christian because your name sounds like a "Hausa" name. Are you aware of this?
Well, some Christians fear the use of their names when they go to places where other faiths are predominant. That is not the issue. I have met different kinds of people in this part of the country. We all aspire for the same thing. It is just like in school. You don’t offer Geography because it was written by a Muslim, Christian or Hindu. You do it because you have a God.

What can you say has been the impact of your commentary on your readers and audience?
I receive letters virtually every day either by email or text messages. To me, the most pleasant thing is to tell me, "Thanks, you have changed my life." And I receive such glorifications times without numbers.

Do people come to meet you for counselling?
Some come to meet me physically. They call and say they want to see me from different parts of the country.

Is that the reason you set up Destiny Foundation?
Yes, it was part of the reasons for that.

Do you charge fees for the services you render?
No, I don’t charge anything. I offer consultancy services. My yearning, my mission, my desire is to see people changing for the better in life.

Do the media houses for which you write pay you anything for your work?
Of late Trust started to give me a token allowance to enable me to continue with the work. But on principle, I don’t charge for it.

Why did you decide to compile your commentaries in a book form now? By the way, are they extracts from your write -ups?
Yes, they are but I have worked on them and made so many additions. Number one, it is part of the dream to reach everybody. Two, one likes to leave a legacy behind him for which, at least, he will be remembered. I therefore said I will document them in a way that they will not be forgotten?

When will the book be launched officially?
By the grace of God, it is coming up on 16th September, 2006 at the Trade Fair Complex, Kaduna. The beauty of it is that wherever you go, somebody would have read it somewhere.

How do you plan for the book to circulate very well?
I have started discussing with many publishers about that. I want the book to reach all the nooks and crannies of the country.

Do you have any special message to the Nigerian people?
Number one, we must never give up hope despite the economic malaise in the country; I always say after the rain, the sun will shine again, and no matter how dark it is the sun will always rise. The most important thing is for Nigerians to respect one another, to love one another and to aspire for greater things in the future. This is a country where there is so much division, so much factionalisation and there is so much selfishness. You can’t become great with these. The moment we respect one another and think in a positive way, we will make Nigeria a better place.

Finally, can you please tell me your age and the number of your children?
I should be forty-three now and have a child.

Newspaper Poetry in Northern Nigeria

I was interviewed by Ismail Bala Garba, a poet and lecturer in the Department of English and European Languages, Bayero University, Kano, on the role I played in spawning literary columns in Nigerian newspapers, with focus on poetry. Ismail was working on an academic paper. He sent similar questionnaire to other "literary journalists." The interview was conducted via email, as follows:

A) What motivated you to start a poetry column?

ANSWER: Mind you, I was the one who created the poetry (or literary) pages in the following newspapers: Sunday Tide; The Reporter; Hotline; New Nigerian; Weekly Trust; Leadership; The Companion, and Public Agenda. Except The Reporter, all the others are still kicking, mostly under the titles I personally created (The Write Stuff, Bookshelf, Bookarts, Books).
Back to your question: I am a bookworm. My interests span a wide array of fields in literature. Poetry happens to be one of them. I have been involved with poetry from my secondary school days when I read the works of great poets from Chaucer to Okara; from Browning to Soyinka, etc. I also read a lot of Hausa poetry. Consequently I experimented with writing poems myself, and I think I have done well. hen when I became a journalist I discovered the power of giving people chance to express themselves in any way they can. Poetry is one of those ways. I realised that many of our people have poetic intuitions, but the lack of space to communicate their poems was hampering their creativity. I have learned, through the efforts of Al-Bishak (who edited a poetry column in the Sunday New Nigerian, to which I contributed every week when I was in secondary school in the early '80s), that the responsibility of providing such space for our numerous poets lay heavily on me. I had the opportunity, being an editor with clout in all the newspapers where I worked/contributed (Sunday Tide, The Reporter, Hotline, New Nigerian, Weekly Trust, Leadership, Public Agenda). So I created poetry columns (beginning from the Sunday Tide in Port Harcourt in 1990) essentially to give creative minds the chance to express themselves, to try to become Wordsworth. I was motivated by the works of those ancient and contemporary bards that I read with the view to trying to continue with the tradition of poetry-creation, especially on this side of the world.

B) Do you have any idea about the volume of poems you receive from readers?

ANSWER: It depends on the popularity or influence or circulation of the medium through which I communicate. When I was editing the Weekly Trust's literary pages I received my largest volume of contributions. Probably forty poems a week, out of which five to six could be published. (Don't forget, poetry is usually given a small corner in the pages - we call it Poet's Corner, unlike prose, which is given most of the space). But after Trust, i.e. when I went to Leadership and later Public Agenda, the traffic has reduced due to the limited circulation of these newspapers. Other factors are at play, too, because I am sure even the readers's poetry contributions to Weekly Trust are no longer as copious as they used to be. The economic downturn in the country, which has changed the poet's mood for the worse, could be one of the reasons.

C) What is the nature of audience reaction to the poems and the column?

ANSWER: Reaction has been positive. That's why we keep the light one. And you see people telling their friends, "My poems have just been published in the Weekly Trust!" Then you receive more contributions. The beauty of it all is that many of these contributors eventually become published in book form, thus launching themselves to stardom as authors.

D) Do you foresee the development of newspaper poetry? What is its future? Do you think poetry in newspaper is different?

ANSWER: Poetry in newspaper is not different from any other. The audience is bigger than those who buy books due to the poor reading culture in Nigeria. The future is really uncertain. Unless the reading culture is improved, "newspaper poetry" will remain in a cocoon, unable to grow. As I said, the poetry corners in, say, Citizen magazine and Weekly Trust used to be hugely popular. But Citizen died, and contributions to Trust declined. That means the genre is not improving as fast as it should. Recently I launched a 'Poet of the Week' corner in the Public Agenda (the type I created in the Weekly Trust years back). I received only two contributions in a month. The column was rested (till further notice). In short, the future is bleak for newspaper poetry in this country. I think one reason is that no one, apart from us the so-called literary journalists, is coordinating the genre. And we are doing it as part of our routine career. Or hobby. Or whatever.

Hausa fiction directory

Bibliography of Hausa Popular Fiction 1987 - 2002, by Graham Furniss, Malami Buba and William Burgess; published by Rudiger Koppe Verlag, Koln, 2004; 179 pp.

By Ibrahim Sheme

Just a few years ago, the buzz in Hausa literati was the exciting debate over the usefulness or otherwise of the novellas that inundated the bookstalls in most of northern Nigeria, as regards moral reawakening. A group of critics, on top of whom was Malam Ibrahim Malumfashi of the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, argued that the Hausa novellas, which Malumfashi contemptuously dubbed the Kano Market Literature – after the infamous Onitsha Market Literature of the 1950s-1970s – had no value whatsoever to the call to morals. They said the books were substandard, a heap of needless romance fiction, and written by low educated youths. In one controversial submission, Malumfashi called for the burning down of all of those books in order to rid the society of their "filth."

On the other hand, another group, consisting of people like Dr. Abdalla Uba Adamu and Malam Yusuf M. Adamu of the Bayero University, as well as Ibrahim Sheme, countered with the argument that the novellas, which came in the range of forty to eighty pages, served the purpose of upholding or promoting literacy, providing entertainment in a dour economic environment, spawning youth associations and was an economic activity for the authors, booksellers and, later, filmmakers. Besides, contrary to the claim of the antagonists, it wasn’t only romance the books dealt with.

While the debate lasted on the pages of newspapers and in seminar halls, Hausa academics simply looked the other way and avoided the study of the novellas like plague – much to the disappointment of most cultural activists who had wished that, as an epoch in the language’s historical progression, the book production ‘industry’ should have been documented for future generations. It could have been the dearth or lack of funds assailing the universities and tertiary colleges, sheer naïveté or just plain stupidity that disallowed such study by the academics. Only lecturers whose calling wasn’t Hausa language or literature – such as Adamu, Abdalla – and journalists such as yours sincerely, who indulge in the promotion of that literary epoch as a useful milestone in Hausa popular culture.

Outside Nigeria, interest in these books began to manifest most prominently at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Prof. Graham Furniss led a group to closely monitor the activities taking place in contemporary Hausa fiction. With their environment conducive for study, including research grants and other incentives, they began to document the genre, buying the books from Nigeria, categorising and stocking them. The result was the book, Bibliography of Hausa Popular Literature 1987 – 2002.

Perhaps needless to say, the book is as relevant to documenting a stage within Hausa writing as the novellas were to capturing the images of life of the Hausa people within a certain span of their evolution. For, the books have captured modes of life, even if skewed heavily towards the romantic side, in the society. Furniss et al.’s book is the pioneer and, to-date, the most authoritative documentation of that writing industry.

The book is essentially what it claims to be – a bibliography. It contains a listing of most – if not all – the books published from 1987 to 2002. There are 731 titles in all. Not only titles are listed, but also the authors’ names, the publisher and year of publication (where available). The list is then regurgitated to make other lists for easy comprehension. One list is the translation of each of the book’s titles into English; e.g. "A Co-wife is not a Problem," from the book Kishiya Ba Laifi Ba Ce. An alphabetical list of the titles, with their authors, is also provided. This is followed by a list of the authors, also in alphabetical order, accompanied with the titles of their books. This could tell you who the most prolific authors were at the time.

There are two very impressive sections in the book. First is the one where the full-colour photographs of the covers of all the listed books are printed (p. 143 - p. 179). Each tells a story from that literary era–from the illustrations to the typeface and even the colours used to present the book. The second is the introductory chapter, where Furniss give background information on the events and issues that led to the emergence of the contemporary stage of Hausa prose fiction writing. One notable reason was the collapse of the Nigerian economy in the 1980s, which led to the break-up of the known publishing firms like the Zaria-based, government-owned Northern Nigerian Publishing Company, giving way to the frantic self-publishing initiatives of young school leavers. The chapter notes – as the lists proved – that women were very much active in the contemporary writing activities. This in itself is a point missed by the antagonists, that it exemplifies a step ahead in the orientation of the Hausa woman who was hitherto shackled by cultural mores and denied avenues for self-expression.
The book touches on the contribution of writers clubs to the availability of the books, the themes of the books, readers, production of the books, and transition to the ongoing video film production, which is so widespread. The chapter is a summary of the background, the characteristics and the impact of the so-called Kano Market Literature.

The cover is simple, with green text over a white background. The first lapse one would notice is that unlike studies of similar weight, this one does not have a blurb. This is carrying simplicity of design too far, as a blurb would tell a potential reader or buyer what the book is all about. And inside the text, the translations of the book titles are not entirely apt. Many were haphazardly done and even misleading. Examples: Ganin Kwam! as "Bloody-minded!" (instead of "Over-inquisitiveness!"); Idan Ungulu Ta Biya Bukata as "If the Vulture is Happy" (instead of "If a Vulture Satisfies One’s Need"); Budurwar Zuciya as "Young Love" (instead of "Young at Heart"), etc.

Nonetheless, the book is important to the study of Hausa literature and language and is a contribution to the small corpus of studies on Hausa popular culture. Researchers, students and the general reader interested in this area of study would do well to obtain copies in order to keep as reference material.

There is also need to conduct further inquiries into this era with the view to identifying other ethos omitted by this introductory, though watershed, book. What were the other literary activities taking place in Hausa land during the period under study? Who were the authors themselves? What followed the year 2002, the end of the period covered by the book? Have the contemporary writing practices continued or were they replaced? What is the impact of those chapbooks and, by implication, criticism on them, on the society?

There is certainly more ground to be covered. Furniss et al. have opened up the gate for further study. It is up to others (and Furniss et al.) to carry on from where this book stopped.