To say that Mr Usman Katun Umar, Broadcaster and Author is passionate about issues that affect youth, girl-child and other challenged groups in the society is an understatement. The host of “Youth Forum” on Aso Radio 93.5FM Abuja reveals to TMG the numerous problems dogging Nigerian youths today and how his strong belief that providing equal opportunities for girls in certain parts of Nigeria led him to publish his firs novel, “Dear Father”, an epistle to parents and children.
TMG: Tell us a little about yourself..
U.K. Umar: I am a Nupe indigene from Bida LGA of Niger State, studied Mass Communication and Development Communication for my BSc and M.A respectively both from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. I’m a Broadcaster, writer and motivational speaker.
TMG: Tell us about your book “Dear Father”.
U.K. Umar: The book “Dear Father” is an epistolary novel featuring an average young girl from an average Nupe family in North Central Nigeria. Her name is Zainab. Zainab writes her father telling him about her school life, her friends, teachers, her first menstrual flow, her boyfriend, her new phone, her siblings, her relationship with a Corps Member and then her biggest challenge; the plans to scuttle her education and by implication, her dreams. Care was taken in the choice of words to make the book enjoyable to all categories of readers. The reader will find the novel educative, inspiring and entertaining. It’s a simple tale of what we have all passed through at different times. It would be difficult not to find a character in the book that speaks to you.
TMG: What motivated you into writing the book?
U.K.Umar: Although this is my first published work, I have three other yet-to-be-published ones. For “Dear Father”, my motivation came from my personal experiences in my community and what I see going on in the larger Northern Nigerian society with respect to the issue of Girl-Child education and Women Empowerment. The field works during the course work for my M.A in Development Communication revealed so much about the reasons for our development challenges. For so long now, we have deliberately, through the application of flawed interpretation of religious texts and counterproductive customary practices, relegated a critical portion of population to the background. Women, for too long now, have been pushed to the rung of dependency in our homes. We have turned them into liabilities. Majority of women in our communities don’t get to realize that they also could dream and fulfil those dreams. They are caged and their lives stunted by abject lack and suffering. Issues of basic healthcare, adequate nutrition and the likes are grossly neglected. Consequently, our homes are filled with people who don’t get to live life but constantly struggle to survive. Also, due to a prevalent culture of shame (‘Zunye’ in Nupe or ‘Kunya’ in Hausa), communication between particularly female children and their parents on serious life issues are limited. When they need guidance, they feel it’s easier to confide in outsiders than their own parents. This shouldn’t be. This is the era of social media, parents must know that their children now have access to multiple sources of getting information. This must be guided to avoid them falling prey. All these issues were touched in the book in ways that reawaken the minds of those who already know and provide guidance for those who are yet to know.
TMG: How do you hope to use the message in “Dear Father” or the book itself to change the narrative?
U.K.Umar: Thank you very much. The message of the novel resonates all through the chapters – as parents, our children, particularly the Girl-Child need our attention; they feel the need to speak to us. Secondly, we must understand that although the biological make-ups are different, the potential for boys and girls to be useful, productive members of the society are the same. If a male-child can go on to become a medical doctor, pilot, teacher, lawyer, journalist, Nurse, etc, so can a girl-child if given the opportunity and support. Therefore, the call to parents is to stop the discrimination. They should stop killing dreams. Even if you want to marry off your daughter at an early age, ensure that you let the would-be husband know that she must be allowed to continue her education. Also, the young ones, particularly secondary school students who would read the book would get to know from that tender age, the need to encourage Girl-Child Education and Women Empowerment as a panacea to many of our development challenges.
It is my resolve, as the author, to establish a scholarship fund meant to provide financial and material support to indigent female students who are either about to get into higher institutions or are already in but can make do with the support to stay and finish. The fund would also provide working tools for women who are learning various crafts as a way of encouraging them to contribute to the upkeep of their families. Therefore, I am calling on all well-meaning individuals, organizations and NGOs to partner with me by way of purchasing copies of the book for donation to schools, public libraries, readers’ clubs and literary associations. By this, apart from enriching the literary shelves, you are also making it possible for us to achieve our goals.
TMG: Who are the target audience for your book?
U.K.Umar: As stated on the book, it is an epistle to all “parents and children”.
TMG: How do you distribute your book?
U.K.Umar: Although arrangements are ongoing with some major bookshops across the country to make it available for people to easily get access to it, for now, I arrange to have the books delivered to buyers by myself. All you have to do is send a text indicating your interest and we would take it up from there.
TMG: How can you describe the acceptance level so far?
U.K.Umar: So far, so good. The acceptance level has been encouraging. A number of reviews have been done on the book by some people who have read the book. Those reviews have stirred interest in the book. So far, NGOs from Lagos, Abuja and Ibadan have ordered for the book and they have gone ahead to distribute same. Also, a lot of individuals have purchased copies for themselves, their families and friends. I get called every now and then by people who just want to commend my efforts in putting the ideas in the book down. Those phone calls and messages have been the most fulfilling part for me. It is good to know that ones efforts are so appreciated.
TMG: Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon.
U.K.Umar: I live to learn. I take interest in so many things and so, whenever an opportunity presents itself to learn about something, I grab it. But to answer your question, one thing that I think dominates my mind to learn and improve upon at the moment is Arabic and French Languages. I hope to be proficient in the two languages to the point that I can write in them. This is also one thing I encourage parents to encourage their children to do; learning languages other than theirs. Language is a key to understanding people.
TMG: What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
U.K.Umar: I am a social media enthusiast. I also make use of search engines a lot to learn about people, things and places. Of course, these are in addition to getting relevant books, journals, newspapers, Magazines and tuning to other channels of mainstream media.
TMG: What way can you encourage other youths not to depend on government for jobs?
U.K.Umar: I produce and host a radio programme called “Youth Forum” on Aso Radio 93.5FM Abuja. On that platform, all we do is to keep encouraging the youths to keep working towards self-reliance. We also provide them with information on youth-related opportunities they can cash in on to make ends meet. In addition to that, I take out time to go to secondary schools to speak to the students on the need to understand that they are at the foundation laying stage of their lives. All these engagements have been yielding positive results.
TMG: Do you have time to socialize?
U.K.Umar: *Smiles* Well, I think “socializing” is all that I do when I’m not working alone. Depending on how you look at it, I socialize a lot because most times, either online or offline, my job and life entails communicating with people. But again, I know what you mean. I create time to hang out with family and friends once in a while. I also cherish bush trekking. I enjoy the company of nature. It gives me joy to see untouched green lush, hear the sound of nature; hissing snakes, croaking frogs, whistling insects, splashing water and all that accompanies that ‘organic music’.
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