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BY THE BOOK: Politician, doctor and novelist Wale Okediran

Wednesday October 4 2017

Dr Okediran, a medical doctor and politician,

Dr Okediran, a medical doctor and politician, has been a public servant for the Nigerian government for almost 30 years. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Honourable Dr Wale Okediran is the brains behind the first ever International Writers Residency in Nigeria.

In 2010, together with a few friends, Okediran established The Ebedi Writers Residency in Iseyin, Oyo State and the residency has so far had writers from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

Dr Okediran, a medical doctor and politician, has been a public servant for the Nigerian government for almost 30 years while simultaneously developing a breadth of experience contributing to advocacy, regional dialogue, and policy development leading to improvements in health across the region.

He was also a member of the Federal House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007.

He has published fourteen novels out of which ten are adult fiction and three are for children in addition to biographical and collaborative works.

Many of his books are on the reading lists of several Nigerian Universities and most have been shortlisted or won several awards among them The Boys At The Border which was shortlisted for the 1992 Commonwealth Literature Prize, The Rescue of Uncle Babs which won the 1999 ANA/Matatu Prize for Children’s Literature; Strange Encounters which won the 2005 ANA Prize for fiction and Tenants Of The House which was a co-winner of the 2010 Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature.


Dr Okediran spoke to about his literary favourites and fantasies:

Which one book do you hold so dear that it can’t possibly be lent out?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I like it because of the book’s immense poetic allure and the richness of its skillful narration. I have reread it and will keep reading the book over and over, as such, I can’t afford to give it out.

Your favourite book from childhood?

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because it reverberated with my childhood instincts and passions.

Who is your literary crush? (Not a book character but a real person you admire in the lit world).

Wole Soyinka because he is a complete artist. Poet, playwright, novelist, film maker, musician, humanist and human rights activist. He is one of the very few writers who put to practice their thoughts and beliefs. In addition, he is ready at all times to mentor young and upcoming writers.

What’s your greatest fear?

Dying before I write my Magnus Opus.

Most embarrassing writing mistake ever?

Unconsciously using the exact words of a writer which I had committed to memory in one of my books without acknowledging the source as such, I was accused of plagiarism.

If you were to dine with three writers, dead/alive, who would they be and why?

Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Margaret Mitchell-author of Gone With The Wind. I think the three are wonderful writers from whom I can learn anytime, anywhere. Their books have also remained evergreen despite the years. They are writers whose art I wish to emulate and possibly surpass.

Most unforgettable character from a book?

Oliver Twist because I sympathised with Oliver.

Which book do you wish you had written and why?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The sheer poetry and deep introspective style in the book is mind boggling.

Greatest craft sin you have committed?

Forgetting to proof- read a short story which was later used in an International Magazine full of typos and some errors of syntax.

If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?

Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Erich Maria Remargue’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

I’d carry the three because I can read and reread them over and over and thus I don’t mind being with them for years.

If you weren’t an artist/writer, what would you be?

A medical doctor and politician (which I am).

Any other fun/interesting thing you’ve always wanted to tell readers?

My happiest moments in life are when I am alone playing with the characters in my head who are always jostling for a place in my writings.


BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: [email protected]