‘My father could have built a second house with the money he spent on books’ – 2013 NLNG prize winner, TADE IPADEOLA

Legal practitioner and Poet, Tade Ipadeola is the winner of the 2013 Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Prize for Literature. The Ibadan Oyo state based Lawyer dusted two other finalists Amu Nnadi Through The Window of A Sandcastle and Promise Ogochukwu, Wild Letters to the top prize of $100,000. Tade Ipadeola’s book entitled The Sahara Testaments was adjudged the best among the over 200 books that were in the competition. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the Ibadan born writer tells his story. 

Cover of The Sahara Testament

Cover of The Sahara Testament

What would you say stand your work out among over 200 in the 2013 NLNG Literature Prize?

I can’t point to one thing particularly in the work. The 11 books on the initial long list of the NLNG sponsored Nigeria Prize were excellent books. When it came to the final shortlist of three, any book there could have won but the judges read all the works and picked The Sahara Testaments.

You participated in the prize before, why do you think you didn’t win and what prepared you for the second time?

In 2005, I entered the competition with The Rain Fardel. Placing the winning book side by side the 2005 entry, I think I didn’t put in all my energy at the time.

Now that you won what is your plan for the $100,000 and why?

Generally, books are central things in my life. I know books I’ve been wanting to buy for a long time that I can now afford. I have plans to build a library in memory of Kofi Awoonor, a poet and diplomat, who was murdered by terrorists during the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya. That would be nice.

Tell us what The Sahara Testaments is all about, the message?

Critics and scholars are best qualified to tell the world what The Sahara Testaments mean. Let the reader respond to the work, that is my attitude to work already written.

How long did it take you to write The Sahara Testaments?

In all, it took four years to write the book.

What influence your love for writing?

My grandmother, Oyepeju Apinke was a great user of the Yoruba language. I wish I wrote all she said in my hearing down. Then, of course my father taught literature all his life and I learnt to appreciate great books early. I must add that I have been blessed with fantastic friends who read. I share books with them.

Tell us about other books you have written?

In 1996, I co-authored a volume of poetry with Temilola Farinloye, nee Abioye. In 2000 I wrote another volume of poetry, A Time of Signs. In 2005, I wrote yet another volume of poetry entitled, The Rain Fardel.

As a writer, whose works do you love to read?

I read other poets mostly. Then I read novels, essays and plays. The names are too numerous. But my latest discoveries are Rotimi Babatunde, Ian Duhig and Rachel Boast.

As a lawyer which do you find fulfillment in – law or writing?

Law and literature provide different kinds of satisfaction. Law is an occupation, literature is a pre-occupation.

How long have you been in Law practice?

I was called to the Nigerian Bar in December 1992.

What are those ingredients that make a good writer?

Reading, first. Read other writers as voraciously as you can. Then writing. Some people take up to 20 years before getting it right.

Many will want to know about your growing up and how it shaped you to what you are today?

I have had great teachers from my first day in school till now. Even as I no longer enroll formally in school, I continue to learn from the great authors in both English and Yoruba. My father could have built a second house with the money he spent on books.

Tell us about your family?

My family is a family of teachers, artisans, librarians and men of business. In a way, my extended family was the best kind of environment for a writer to be in. My late uncle, Ayanlere Ipadeola, was a deliberate man with whom every spoken word counted. My aunty is a librarian, my sister is a librarian and my brother is a librarian. It is not a mystery, really.

In your own opinion what is the future like for young writers in Nigeria?

It is the same as the future of young writers all over the world. It is a life of almost masochistic labour. But the future is very, very bright for those who continue writing.

What are your hobbies aside writing?

I play chess when I can and walk. I also travel and sing in my bathroom.

Your favourite foods and drinks?

African food thrills me. Then, Korean food. Lately I have been experimenting with Scandinavian food. I like South African wine, especially the Claret. The best drink in the world has to be fresh palm wine chilled to taste.

Your favourite holiday spot?

The city of Stockholm works for me. It is both ancient and modern. There are great theatres and great restaurants. The most unique is a place called Pontus.

What is it you will like to change about your personality?

I will like to work much more efficiently. Time is of the essence.

Who are your greatest heroes?

Those who do great things for no promise of reward have a special place in my heart. They are mostly anonymous people, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Teachers top the list.

How about your social lifestyle?

Younger writers take me to cool clubs in Ibadan and Lagos from time to time. Those cities have a nice tempo. I go to parties when invited. Unfortunately, I am not nearly as great a dancer as my father but I will attend a Burnaboy event any day, the guy rocks.


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