Jonas Dogara, a writer and blogger who comment on politics and the attitudes of the average Nigerian
The use of New Media in general and blogs in particular is very important, especially for the young and young-at-heart in Nigeria and Nigerians in the diaspora. Port Harcourt being named the World Book Capital in 2014 is a very welcome development
Jonas Dogara was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He trained as an engineer in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. He grew up devouring every reading matter he could lay his hands on, sometimes with disastrous consequences. He has burnt a few of his mum’s delicious soups, while trying to heat them up and read an interesting book at the same time. His Twitter is @nfsqueezed
By: Alberto Berenguer Twitter: @tukoberenguer
When did you start writing?
I have been writing bits and pieces of stories, poems and songs since I was in secondary school and have never stopped since then. I began to take it more seriously very recently after a smart man wrote an article that seemed to speak directly to me.
Your blog is called notfreshlysqueezed.blogspot.com, how did arise the idea? What did you reason to create a blog?
I wish I could come up with some very sophisticated reason for naming my blog Not Freshly Squeezed but unfortunately, I cannot. I like the South Africa-based band Freshlyground and I wanted something that sounded like them. Obviously, I could not copy their name and I could not go for Notfreshlyground as that would have been corny. So, the name, Not Freshly Squeezed, popped into my head and I decided to go with it.
Is the use of the blog important among the Nigerian population? Why?
The use of New Media in general and blogs in particular is very important, especially for the young and young-at-heart in Nigeria and Nigerians in the diaspora. The mainstream media has been doing a fantastic job for years, bringing us the news and trying to shape public opinion, but there is a feeling of disquiet among a lot of young people in Nigeria about its role now. A lot of people feel the mainstream media has not done enough, as the fourth estate of the realm, to hold the government to account for a lot of its wrongdoings as well as deliver undiluted news to the populace. There have been cases where news bulletins have been lauding government’s good works and simultaneously, villages were being razed to the ground by militia groups, with no mention of these events in any of the electronic or print media that day or any other day. With New Media and blogs, people can say what they want to say, how they want to say it and the message goes out undiluted to the target audience.
Also you write in several important websites in your country as Nigeria Daily Post or Ekekeee, what role do you have in the media? Do they allow you to always give your opinion?
I comment on politics and the attitudes of the average Nigerian to issues that affect us in our daily lives on my blog and other websites, with a view to making people understand their individual roles and responsibilities as stakeholders in the Nigerian project, inasmuch as we hold the government and elected officials to account as well. Fortunately, I have not encountered any resistance in airing my views. However, getting some of these views into the mainstream print media is a bit trickier for reasons best known to the editors.
250 dialects and more than 50 languages corresponding to various ethnic groups are spoken in Nigeria. Do you think this makes a literary cohesion in your country?
Most educated people in Nigeria received their education in English and are only literate in English. This certainly helps in literary cohesion. There are people who can read and write in Nigerian languages, but unfortunately, literature in these languages is not very well developed. By and large, English is the language of literature for us and is going to be for the foreseeable future.
In 1970 it finished the civil war in Nigeria affecting to literature in many ways as the death of the poet Christopher Okigbo or damage Wole Soyinka for criticizing the atrocities committed in the war. Do you think that currently continues that censorship or there are taboo topics?
It is a fact that the Nigerian Civil War was a major setback for the development of literature in Nigeria, but it has been 42 years now and we cannot really blame it for where we are at the moment. There are taboo subjects, as exists in every society, but these are more related our culture and religions than to government censorship. For example, even when homosexuality had not been criminalized, it would take an extremely courageous Nigerian to write a glowing commentary on gay relationships.
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe’s novel has been translated into more than 50 languages around the world. For its part, Wole Soyinka pride Africa when I won the Nobel Prize in 1986. Do you think that Nigerian literature is consolidated and recognized internationally thanks to the efforts of their writers?
By the efforts of our illustrious countrymen, Nigerian literature is recognized internationally. However, the new generation of Nigerian writers needs to aspire to the same heights these writers reached. There are some excellent writers at home and in the disapora, but their works need to find their way into the hands of readers, in other for them to leave an impression.
Port Harcourt was chosen by the UNESCO to be the “World Book Capital” in 2014. What kinds of activities are scheduled the Nigerian city? Do you think that this appointment is important for your country?
Port Harcourt being named the World Book Capital in 2014 is a very welcome development. We are in the news, and for all the right reasons! The Rainbow Book Club (the body that put in the bid for Port Harcourt) is organizing a series of activity all through the year, one of which is the Garden City Literary Festival that has been holding annually for some time now. There has been a decline in reading and interest in literature in recent times and it is my belief that the resulting interest from naming Port Harcourt the World Book Capital, will rekindle the reading spirit in us as well as endear the reading culture to a new generation of people.
The poet and playwright John Pepper Clark made a provocative use of the ijaw myths and social situations. Do you continue writing about this indigenous people resident originally in your city?
J. P. Clark made excellent use of our culture in his literature and that gave his works a special feel. I am Ijaw and am proud of his work. In my writings in Pidgin English, I always make sure to use speech patterns and expressions that are local to my part of the country, while making sure that the message I send across is a national one. This is my way of remaining true to where I come from i.e. Port Harcourt, while remaining a Nigerian first and foremost.
Casa Africa is an instrument of foreign policy of Spain and it aims to promote mutual understanding between Africa and Spain. Did you know this initiative of our country? Does it come about in your city activities of this kind to know the Spanish culture?
I have to confess I do not know about Casa Africa and have not heard of any of its events in my country. This, however, is a good time for me to find out what it is all about and how it’s programmes can be of benefit to us.
Have you thought at some time writing a book? If yes, is it difficult to find a Publisher to publish a book in Nigeria?
Back when I was about 15 years old, the thought crossed my mind and I even penned down a few chapters! That was the first and last time I have thought about it. I am not saying it is not a possibility in the future, but I have not given it much thought. I see books written by Nigerian authors and published by Nigerian publishers, so I think if one has written a good book, there will be a publisher out there who would be ready to take it on.
We talk about the literature that you like now. If you had to choose some literary genre, what would it be?
Prose is my love. Historical fiction is my favourite kind.
Do you also have any favorite author?
That is a very difficult one to answer. I have quite a few favourites. Achebe’s is up there with the best. Tolstoy, Haggard, Tolkien, Forsyth, Archer, Bolano, Adichie and a few others also have the ability to keep me glued to everything they have written.
What must you have a book to get hooked?
A book must tell me something I do not already know or something I already know but in a way that makes me want to see it through the author or narrator’s eyes. It must also be witty.
Finally, what book would you recommend to followers of De lectura Obligada?
The Hand of Fatima by the Spanish writer, Ildefonso Falcones. At this time when we are dealing with a religious crisis in the world, this book gives us some historical perspective and some good, old-fashioned romance to go with it.
Now, if you want to add something, you can do it.
I believe that most things can be done with a bit of humour infused in them. So, in my writing, I set out to pass my message across in the clearest possible way while making sure the reader receives this message with a smile.