By Oyeyinka Oludayisi Fabowale
She prefers being described as a ‘Wordsmith’. And for the larger part of her years which notch the 70-mark today, October 3, 2020, Biola Olatunde has justified the title as a novelist, poet, newscaster, script writer, drama producer and public speaker. She has written more than 200 stories for radio and television, as well as poetry anthologies and two novels – Blood Contract and Numen Yeye (Book 1) with its sequel Rose of Numen.Olatunde’s concern is in bringing social issues to public attention using drama and fiction, including writing for USAID on maternal health, democracy and governance, women’s issues and HIV/AIDS. She shot into limelight and reckoning as an artist about two decades ago with an intervention drama series she created for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA towards behavioural change on teenage reproductive health.The drama project, tagged I NEED TO KNOW, was so successful it won the sponsorship of the Canadian International Development Agency which had it adapted for the radio in two Nigerian major languages and shown on national, state and private television, as well as on satellite television!As friends, family and colleagues celebrate her today, the Akure, Ondo State-based writer, who has lately attracted more public attention as a result of her activism in poetry writing, speaks on her life and art in this commemorative anniversary interview with Newspeak.Excerpts:
How will you describe your life at 70?
It has been a life of grace, guidance and phases that have defied human calculations. I will always wish to be a woman, I loved my dad fully and consciously and I have kept up a conversation more than 50 years after he departed the physical. I have no regrets about this incarnation. Just hope that I did my best. When we are permitted to come across the Truth, we learn that nothing is really accidental. In the laws of Eternity, every action is accounted for. I learned in the early years to know myself as a human being and wondered about the rationale for my incarnation. I was never bitter just curious most of the time.
You are an icon in the arts circuit – professionally trained thespian, newscaster/broadcaster, novelist, poet and public speaking expert. Which of these Which of these areas of literary and communication industry would you say you are most adept and which of them has given you the utmost fulfilment?
I my concept of fortunes. My concept think I would humbly state that my being what you might call a wordsmith, brought me fame andof fortune is in the number of human beings I have met and I hope I have reached. Materiality was always a distant second.
About a year or two ago, you were listed among the new emerging (poets) voices in Nigeria/Africa. Won’t you say the recognition came a tad late, considering the long years you have probably been writing poetry?
Poetry for me was instinctive rendition of my thoughts. We read poetry like ab ab abc abc and I was not exactly into that. Being a natural rebel, I preferred free verse, In school I read Chaucer, Williams Shakespeare, and John Keats. But I learned, I could be terse, short or long depending on the emotions I was experiencing. I found that I could write poems on a daily basis In fact, the very first book I published was a collection of my poems that I called CHANTS IN MY DREAMS. I did a launching and six people attended. That was salutary.
What’s the secret to being a successful writer?
I guess it is persistence and a yearning to contribute to shaping our collective thoughts. The creative writer in me is always busy and I am humbly grateful.
So, how has family life affected your career and vice versa?
I am one lucky woman because my family allowed me to have the sleepless nights when I am in the factory of the Muse and one of my characters is busy telling me a story. They watch me take the dictation as it were as my one finger or two rides the computer.
You write so often about womanhood and women. Why does the subject engage you so much? Is it because of the fact that you are a woman? I am a woman and I learnt about how much we missed the boat as the Lord intended. I used to joke that Eve never gave the full account of what the serpent shared with her. Some glorified pastors have come up with some quite hairy explanations. My conviction is, the woman was sent to be guide, keep man’s spirituality alive and burning. To show to the man the way home. In most cultures, there has been the story that this Earth is not our final home. The woman was expected to help. A helper is always given the opportunity. An intuitive woman is a gift and treasure for a real man. I feel blessed that I am permitted to experience this incarnation as a woman. It is also a responsibility. I am happy to allow a guidance that I have not earned pulse through me as I seek Light help to be a woman. It is more fun to hold the hearth and enhance it.
So, what has the last few years of climbing the stairs up to 70 taught you about life?
What have I learned? A lot, I have been permitted to see the loving guidance in everything. The pulsing heartbeats of deceit, the lessons, falling in love with a pair of trousers and learning to be human. Experiencing the Eternal laws in their implacable natures and seeing the justice and Love of the Laws, I searched for me through the years and found I had been cared for. I once in despair asked if the Lord knew me by name and His answer resounded to the depths of my spirit. I think if I look in the mirror, I might be able to introduce me to Jesus and the Son of Man. I know how impossible that is, for I was permitted to learn TRUTH.
Recall the most memorable experience of your life.
When I took the personal oath to serve the Lord of all worlds and belong to Him alone. It never matters about groups and religions nor associations. I follow the Lord and learn His Laws. Jesus made it simple. He said Love the Father Almighty and your neighbour as yourself.
At 70, you seem to still enjoy deep and valued romantic relationship with your husband. What’s the secret?Isn’t it lonely, with the children having all left the family home?
I made a joke earlier, I fell in love with a pair of trousers. I have been in love with him for more than 31 years now. The children learnt to see us as a pair. We have been described as a pair of Siamese twins. I am grateful because each day is new for us. We miss the children but rarely feel lonely because we always saw us as one. I have learned a lot from my husband, my twin, my pair of trousers. I can never understand why a handsome younger man would fall in love with me a writer who could go into bouts of writing and he would make himself comfortable and wait for me. He is my friend. We have been friends from the day he walked into my living room some 32 years ago. Thank you Tony.
Beyond 70, you will be given many more years to live I’m sure. How will you spend them?
I will just go on writing, publishing and teaching anyone interested about writing. I am very grateful for the gifts I was blessed with. I hope now that I am permitted a chance to review and be grateful, I thank the Father Almighty as I stand in the departure hall of creation waiting.