It’s 2118 and you’ve arrived in Lagos for a book festival. When you step out of the airport, what is the first thing you see?
A robot that identifies me by scanning my face, welcomes me and then ushers me to a waiting Flying Danfo taxi.
You’ve been selected for a mission to the moon. Which African author are you taking and why?
That would be Deji Bryce Olukotun. [It] will be familiar territory for him, having written the book, ‘Nigerians in Space’, which incidentally has to do with the Moon. I suspect such a mission will come with many strange encounters and he would not only make me feel safer, but will also weave such interesting tales about it to keep us both entertained while there and regale others, when we return to earth.
What invention do you think would change the lives of Africans today?
A powerful, high capacity but cheap battery that is accessible to everyone and can power entire households and communities. It is important that this almighty battery is one that never runs out because it runs on clean, renewable energy sources. Cheap, affordable and renewable Power will empower Africans to unleash their potential, transform the economics of our communities and enable our people (and businesses) become more competitive in the global economy.
Two things you’re doing when not reading or writing?
Watching football – I am a big fan of Manchester United. Manoeuvring through Lagos traffic – this is an art in itself and should qualify as a profession, given how many hours in a day one spends doing that.
To what extent has African literature envisioned an African future?
We have, for the most part, been focused on chronicling our past and our present circumstances. The future appeared too much of a luxury to contemplate and write about. But this is changing. We are beginning to see a lot more attention being paid to futuristic writing by young African writers and it is exciting.
What book do you think best captures Afrofuturism?
The Black Panther comics readily come to mind here. But there are a lot more examples. ‘Zahrah the Windseeker’ by Nnedi Okorafor will be my pick.
You wake up one morning to find that you’ve grown a pair of wings. What do you do?
I will flap them and fly away. No kidding. That will mean, I would not have to drive through Lagos traffic that morning. Fantastic.
The only down side, though, is that if I get entangled in some power cables that crisscross Lagos streets and I crash land, the closest Pentecostal church will celebrate it; and my pictures will trend on social media as a ‘witch’ arrested through prayers, on his way to attack innocent people. I am not sure I want to be in that situation.
Name one book that made you think differently about the world.
‘The Bottled Leopard’ by Chukwuemeka Ike, which explored Igbo Metaphysics and how men acquired powers that made them transform into leopards, was quite fascinating. I read it at a very young age and it did make me reimagine the possible.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Starting a new story. I would have thought about the story, built my characters mentally, conjured up various aspects of the story and even decided how the conflict is resolved but faced with the blank MS-Word page and a blinking cursor, punching out the first sentence becomes a herculean task. I could stare at the screen for extended periods of time without success. It often feels like all the words are struggling to rush out at the same time and my fingers go numb. As you may imagine, there are few things more frustrating than this.
What is your African dream?
A prosperous continent devoid of unnecessary wars, strife and diseases and in which the epidemic of bad leaders is history. I dream of a continent that is able to feed her people, that is not at the receiving end of Aid, and one whose citizens are proud to brandish their country passports anywhere in the world.