Dr. Biodun Adeneye–Marcus is considered a forerunner in literature in English. And his books are often assigned in primary and secondary schools. Biodun’s unsentimental books vividly convey the traditions and speech of the teenage-themed language that can we read and understand in the preliminary context.
The fine writer has over 25 books to his credit, with wide coverage across the 36 States of Nigeria and beyond.
In the warm-up to the launching of his next book “English Without Teacher” in November 2019, City Peoples’ GM Production, Wahab Bashir, and Online Editor, Seun Joseph had an exclusive session with the versatile writer and he spoke a lot about his journey, career, publications and many more.
Let me start by asking you what gave you the inspiration to start writing when you have experience in other areas?
Before my university days, I went to Teachers College, Sagamu, in fact, I graduated from Teacher’s College in 1979, and due to my brilliance, instead of posting me to primary school to teach, I was taken to secondary school. And from there, being a secondary school teacher, so many things were involved. I discovered that I was asked to take on History and Geography.
And I know the volume of work that one has got to take. Then when the Principal discovered that I was also good at writing, He also brought me into the teaching of the English Language. There, I discovered that the exercise that we had in our days were not there. So I developed an interest in writing Drama scripts that were acted by the students.
So from there, I went on writing some other stories but all these did not become full-blown until when I got to the university. My first degree was psychology, University of Ibadan, but going beyond psychology, I came from the family of storytellers. We would be brought together in the moonlight and my great grandmother would tell us stories. I lived with her because I had lost my mother when I was in primary one and from there, I discovered that storytelling was also rich in the impartation of culture and learning. I graduated in 1984 and finished the Youth Service in 1985. During the period of my NYSC, by providence, I became a millionaire. I served in Abuja and that was the time the military was just settling down after taking over from Shagari.
So, those of us that were there, had the opportunity of utilizing our God-given talent to access resources, so by the time I came back as someone who was good in psychology when I was in Teachers college, I sought for teaching appointment again, but this eluded me, so I was at home relaxing until when a classmate of mine came and encourage me to go for journalism. So I packed everything and entered the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba.
That was the beginning of the process of being fine-tuned, where the raw material in me became well processed. Now, going back to the English book, before I got married, I said to myself that my children would be the best in communication. So, I started writing the script and I was storing them. I started this book in 1986, and I was not married then. I got married in 1990, but we have been in the matter of marriage since 1985.
So I said beyond the school environment, there must be my input in the intellectual development of my children. So, when my children started coming, the firstborn, the second-born, boys, I said to myself, I should not leave these children in the hands of teachers alone.
So, the manuscript right from their Nursery school, I made them to be very much at home with it. Do not forget, I have worked in some media organizations. The Republic Newspapers, my editor back then, Kunle Odufuwa, liked anyone who could write and report correctly. I left Republic Newspapers to C & A Prints, Ilupeju, where I became Assistant Public Relations Manager. So, everything was brought to my table. Nduka Obaigbena was then Publishing This Week Magazine. That was 1988-1989.
Obi Comfort came up with the Source. Prof Pat Utomi was also running a communication company in Surulere, Patik Communications. So every material that they brought for printing, will come to my table. So I developed that innate tendency in me. In the journey of my life, I founded my own organization. I was the Managing Director/CEO of the first military magazine in Nigeria, Neutral Force Magazine, though it’s defunct now, and that gave me some kind of contacts with the top shots in the military.
What was the purpose of the magazine?
It was majorly about the information on the activities from the military across the African continent, and we had good hands then, from Brigadier General Fred Chijuka, who was the Director of Army Public Relations. And I moved inside and out of the military formations all over Nigeria. But the experience of Okah’s coup in 1990 made us to soft-pedal. So, by 1992, that organization had its own problems.
So we had to repackage. So ever since then, I went into publishing other things. Ijebu Priemier Magazine in Ijebu Ode. I was just telling somebody recently that when I got to Ijebu Ode, all the publications in Ijebu were not as good as expected. So by the time we came, we took over the market. I also said we should not just be the only set of people in Ijebu that would be involved in publishing good materials but that we should encourage those we met on ground to also become the best that we were.
So we decided to establish Premier Institute of Journalism and Public Relations, where other local and untrained journalists in Ijebu were trained. So having achieved that, Ijebu Premier relocated to Lagos and we changed the name to Premier News. It later became International Premier but over the years, all the other publications came together under International Premier, we were still publishing stories from Ijebu under the Ijebu Premier and stories from other areas under Premier News.
Back to the story on the English without Teacher, the book came up through the propping of some factors, the need to raise money to finance the education of my children and destiny propellers who led me out of extinction by the purchase of my script by a publishing organization in Lagos. But the company had asked me to return for the next day. By providence, I stopped over in the office of a friend of mine, Barrister Banjo Abass, and sought his legal advice on the matter. He was shocked that I allowed my manuscript to remain with a publishing organization without being paid for. He asked me about how much they wanted to pay and I said 30,000 naira.
He was so furious, He stood up annoyingly and inform me that for them to agree to pay that much, they would be making billions from the manuscript and that every day I stumbled on the book, I might end up committing suicide, He handed over 30,000 naira to me and urge me to go and collect the materials before the typesetting and that helper would come over. So I went there and they told me that my materials were no longer handy and that I should give them one month, within which they would be able to locate where they kept them. I became furious, I shouted at them, they said tomorrow, come, by the time I went back I found out that the materials had been mutilated, they removed some parts of the pages. Then I had to do them a letter that if peradventure, I came across any of the contents on what I wrote in any publication, I would sue them out of existence. And I have been on the lookout since then. By the time I came back and started typesetting in Somolu, naturally help came. I went to my Uncle, Dr. Segun Aromolate, a consultant surgeon at NOH Igbobi, Lagos. I told him my story He encouraged me. He gave me 5,000 naira. I Spent close to 200,000 on the first publication which then I named, English Lessons: Where There is no Teacher.
After that, I went to Ministry of education, Alausa with 10 copies for them to put in the library. When I entered office of the permanent secretary then, Mrs Gbenga Benson in 2000 August. I told her I just wanted to submit what I have written to the library, and possibly to, if it merited enlistment of the book in the school curriculum.
She informed that the ministry had since concluded on recommended books for the schools in Lagos. When she collected the book she was surprised to see a good book and this made her to immediately reconstitute a special review committee which for about two weeks returned a verdict of “English Lesson, where there is no Teacher is a good text for students in Lagos” and so, the book found inclusion in the book list in Lagos for JS1, JS 2, Js3, SS1, and SS2 for 2000-2004.
I was surprised when I was also invited again by the Curriculum Services Department that Government of Lagos State would like to hold a workshop on my book. They told me Lagos State would fund the workshop needs and all they needed from me was just an approval.
The Workshop was held at Igbobi College in the year 2001. All the private and public secondary schools were brought together at Igbobi. I requested from them that I needed a professional colleague of mine to speak at the occasion and they approved. So I invited the Managing Director of Tribune, Dr. Rotimi Oladele, who spoke on the reasons for Mass Failures in English in WAEC and other examinations across Nigeria.
That was how I became Prominent in Lagos State.
By 2002 the glory was cut short by an accident that nearly cost my life, so, I ended up in Igbobi for three years. Within the period of 2002 and 2005, some boys were on the road with several copies pirated. My friends called me all over Nigeria, “Biodun congratulations”, that my books were all over; Benin, Calabar, Kano. So, I had to involve the Police.
Now, I am back to work on this one: It has a new name, “English Without Teacher” which is now very difficult for a pirate to work on. We are now launching this one November 28, 2019 at Commerce House, Idowu Taylor, Lagos.
By His grace I hold Doctorate Degree in Communication and Management. I’m also a pastor; a general overseer of Sanctuary of nations Assembly. Former pastor in Redeem, former Seminarian in the Anglican Communion.
Looking at the title, you described yourself as an activational author. Why? How did you become a millionaire in your youth service period?
Where do I start from, “Activational”. A lot of brainy people out there are half dead mentally. You need to have somebody that would behold them, not just make them sit to listen to you, but you make them work. You activate them, to be able to walk their works.
Peter, James and John were going to the Synagogue at the hour of prayer, a lame man was there. He was crippled from birth. And the man was begging for alms. And Peter, a fisherman had nothing on him, but he had the grace of God in him. He looked at the man and said; “Silver nor gold we have none, in the name of Jesus Christ, arise and walk”, between the time he could not walk and Peters order, was motivation. He’s been motivated by the word of God, but by the time Peter took action to hold him upon his feet, that was activational. The man stood up and started limping. So, using the word, activational is to show you that an encounter with me will activate the hidden or sleeping potential in you.
If you work with me, I would want to know your academic journey, if you don’t have the necessary requirements, I would ensure you have and also be encouraged to do so.
On becoming a millionaire, Grace met with me while I was in Abuja. One old Hausa man in Abuja, introduced me to the business of cow. People were employed to butcher it and I will send it to Lagos. My allowance as a copper was 200 naira and it was enough to buy a cow then. I was buying, butchering, drying by fire or solar and bagging to send to Lagos where my uncle was handy for its sale. The returns were lodged into my account and I became rich in millions on my return from NYSC.
Which of the classes in secondary school would this book be recommended
JS1 to 3, SS1 to 2.
Thank you. May God prosper City People, the more.