BEING A NETIZEN: THE CHALLENGES AND THE GAINS
(A special interview with Mr Godwin Inyang, the man with the longest poem in Africa)
Our interviewee today is a poet, short-story writer, a budding blogger and a nethead – an enthusiastic, obsessive user of the Internet.
Enjoy yourself in this mind-blowing interview. We would be talking about the challenges and gains of the Internet.
SIR A-ONE: Good to meet you, sir. I’m Goodnews Andrew Eruemuare, also known as Sir A-One. I’m a linguist, rapper, researcher, humourist and blogger. Nice to be with you today. Can we meet you?
GODWIN INYANG: You’re welcome, my president. I’m
Godwin Inyang, a writer and the author of ‘Dr Fixit‘, currently Africa’s longest poem with 2500 stanzas and over 150,000 words posted on Facebook alone.
SIR A-ONE: Why do you choose to be a netizen?
GODWIN INYANG: Well, it was in 2001 after a year exchanging mail with a publisher in the UK and as I couldn’t afford the money he asked for and the publication couldn’t go through, that I turned to the Internet. It was through our correspondence that I noticed he’d used the word ‘Internet’. I became curious. I gradually became aware of people using the Net to send mail and to chat but they used computers. I was handicapped in a way. Though I passed through a commercial school, we thought typing was meant for girls. I used to run away from typing lessons. It was in 2002 or 2003 when I wanted to email an entry to the Commonwealth Short Story Competition that I got to a cyber cafe and the attendant was so busy and asked me to meet one of the children there (kids between the ages of eight and ten). I left that place that day telling myself if those youngsters could do it, then it was time I made use of the computer. That was how I took to using the computer and that took me to the Internet. Discovering sites like
allpoetry.com and voicesnet.com which promoted literary growth turned me to a netizen.
SIR A-ONE: You are a poet, essayist, short-story writer and an Internet maniac. How do you cope in all of these and in trying to stay focussed in creating your poem, ”Dr Fixit”- being the longest poem in Africa?
GODWIN INYANG: I’d been writing consistently since my poems for children, ‘Plea To A Bud‘ and ‘Tell Me, Please‘ appeared in ‘Monthly Life’ magazine (published by Academy Press, Illupeju, Lagos) in issues of November, 1986 and February, 1987. The things I put out for people to read are things I’d written and posted on the Net, sent in as entries into various competitions or just left lying down in my files. So all I do is just pick them, polish and put them out for people to read. So writing a very long poem like ‘Dr Fixit’ isn’t such a problem to me. In a way, I was writing bits and bits of it years ago (without knowing) and I’m now knocking the thing together.
SIR A-ONE: ‘Dr Fixit‘ is the longest poem in Africa. Tell us about the poem.
GODWIN INYANG: It was after reading Coleridge’s ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner‘, that I fell in love with long poems. The first I wrote was ‘Tale From Lagos‘. It’s fairly long. But going for record-breaking was when I read the review and excerpts of ‘The Blah Story‘, more than 90,000 words. When I looked at the substance, I resolved this continent could have a poem longer than that with interesting story to tell. I playfully started doing one. The reception on allpoetry.com where I started and Facebook later, gave me the impetus to succeed. The ding-dong continues.
SIR A-ONE: How many years have you been writing this poem, ‘Dr Fixit‘?
GODWIN INYANG: The first exercise book I copied the stanzas into has the date of 15-05-2014. But I actually started writing and posting the stanzas earlier on the Net.
SIR A-ONE: I know ‘Dr Fixit‘ is a poem following a single story. I love the passion, focus and dedication so far. What is the poem really all about in sum?
GODWIN INYANG: Thanks, my presido. When I resolved I was going to write this long poem, my first prayer was: ‘Lord, use it to glorify your name.’ Whatever the dribbling I’m doing with my pen with this poem, the Almighty God remains the focus. I intend to illustrate to all there is a Supreme Being, that life has both the physical and spiritual aspects and that whatever deterioration we are seeing in the world can only be put right by the Creator himself. Like I had said on Facebook before, I’d long written the concluding stanzas of the poem but the delay in telling the world I’m done is because I have not exhausted ideas in my head.
SIR A-ONE: What gave you the inspiration to embark on this journey of having your poem as the longest on planet earth?
GODWIN INYANG: The first time I browsed to see which is the longest poem in the world was with a phone that would show me if the data was large, ‘memory full’ and I would lose the download. So the information it was able to garner gave me the impression that ‘The Blah Story’ was a really long poem. So I’d thought if I could write something longer than 100000 words, I would really be making such a massive impact, hence my dream to write the ‘world’s longest poem’. When I bought a better phone and browsed and realized a poem from India with over 1.5 million words is the longest acknowledged by Wikipedia, I screamed. I still intend to write one of the world’s longest poems but where The ideas for the theme are exhausted, there I would stop.
SIR A-ONE: You are also the coördinator of Creative Writers Association of Nigeria (CWAN), Akwa Ibom State Chapter. How do you cope in all of these?
GODWIN INYANG: To be honest, I’d not done much as I would’ve wanted to promote the programmes of the association, especially in my state. But very soon, once I make the desired impact with my works – just expect Akwa Ibom Chapter to grow in leaps and bounds. That’s my dream.
SIR A-ONE: I learnt from a reliable source that you have read all the editions of Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. How true is this?
GODWIN INYANG: Well, the recommended dictionary in the secondary school I attended was Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. My old man bought me one. Trying to have a mastery of the English Language, I
turned it to my Bible and along the way, I realized the publishers were bringing out new editions which were more learner-friendly. That forced me to buy most of the editions up to the one I’m using now, the 8th edition. That makes me an ardent user of most of the editions of the dictionary.
SIR A-ONE: Please, brief us about your writing career. How you started. What are the recognition/ awards that you have gotten so far?
GODWIN INYANG: I would say one thing led to another and then to another and then to another. But for the purpose of this interview, my not having a fine art teacher in secondary school as I was good in drawing forced me to turn to writing to put out the images that were forming in my young mind. Also, I loved music and would mimic singing the reigning songs while growing up. I fell in love with Bob Marley‘s music. I remember I actually started writing poetry in hope I could write lyrics like he did. Awards? Yeah. I’m just breaking out. But 2015 CWAN’s ‘Heavyweight Of The Year‘ stands out.
SIR A-ONE: What do you do when you’re not online?
GODWIN INYANG: Trying to eke out a living foraging the jungle. When I lost a low-paying contract security job in 2005, I told myself it was the last time I would apply to anyone for work. I left Lagos and returned home and then left for Cross River State to forage the jungle. This would sound odd to most people but I’d been picking snails and plucking afang (a popular wild vegetable here) and even used the proceeds to educate myself. I hope with the publication of my books (my novel should appear in days) and intensive blogging, the march to become one of Africa’s literary gurus has begun.
SIR A-ONE: What are your hobbies?
GODWIN INYANG: All I do now is write, write, write. My vocation and hobbies seem to be intertwined. I take pictures with my phone for my blog. I hope I get a digital camera soon to take pictures of the awesome sights deep in the jungle.
SIR A-ONE: What are the things you want us to know about you?
GODWIN INYANG: I don’t let the negative things around define me, knowing there’s a Creator who at the end of this life I would be accountable to. I don’t believe in starting a thing and abandoning it along the way. Importantly, what comes to me I know is mine. What I don’t have but want, then I have to bend over and work for it.
SIR A-ONE: What are those things that often disturb your Internet concentration?
GODWIN INYANG: Whatever we do on the Net hinges on money. When PHCN interrupts power (takes the light) and you have no generator; or you have the generator but no fuel, you can’t come online. If you can’t buy the required data bundle, the service providers would not let you connect. The list goes on and on. So it’s money that disturbs my concentration.
SIR A-ONE: What are the gains so far being a netizen?
GODWIN INYANG: If I did not step on the Net I don’t think handling a project of the size of ‘Dr Fixit’ would have been possible. That remains my greatest gain.
SIR A-ONE: Are there challenges you have met so far as a netizen?
GODWIN INYANG: If you like hide in a hole, in life challenges are everywhere. Whatever challenge I’d faced in any aspect of my life when I overcome always ends up making me a stronger person. To answer your question, challenges on the Net depend on the sites you go. I make it a rule to prowl reputable sites and I don’t open links anyhow. I did that once and my phone got corrupted. Reputable websites take security seriously and would tell you how to behave. I pay heed to such instructions and take tips on what to do to protect my interests when I notice any form of threat.
SIR A-ONE: Would you recommend anyone to be a netizen like you?
GODWIN INYANG: It depends on what you want. Personally, I stepped on the Net to further my ambition as a writer and realized there were platforms I could post my works for others to review. That helped my growth. For the newbies, learn to thicken your skin – all sorts of people roam the Net and they’re those whose sole intent is to go round hurting others, an attitude I’ve come to realize stems from their own unfulfilled ambitions. Learn to ignore such people and focus on the positive things you’re doing. With such attitude, you would reap good than evil from the Net.
SIR A-ONE: Sir, your poem ‘Dr Fixit’ is the longest poem in Africa. What has been your challenges so far in advancing to the world”s longest poem on planet Earth?
GODWIN INYANG: What I put out is what people read. So I know the total of what I have with me. As the Nigerian publisher I sent the first 320 stanzas to didn’t show any interest, I did resolve to drag myself up by my own bootstraps. There are things now I want to put in place before fast-tracking the work again.
SIR A-ONE: Any destructive or constructive criticism that has really been a great help or challenge to you to still work on this poem?
GODWIN INYANG: I have seen criticisms of all sorts, negative and positive. Honestly, I make great use of them all. Most negative criticisms had helped me write awesome stanzas as I reply to the cynics. That’s why it’s important to have a thick skin. Whatever nonsense anybody throws at you might even help you in furthering your plans. I say kudos to those who criticise objectively. But look at what the cynics are saying, pick good points (if any) and ignore the trash.
SIR A-ONE: How many verses so far have been written by you as I speak with you?
GODWIN INYANG: it’s around 3500 stanzas.
SIR A-ONE: I learnt one nethead is on extension in one university. What’s your general take on such lazy student?
GODWIN INYANG: (LAUGHING) How do you know he or she is lazy? Do you know the circumstances surrounding his stay in the university? Who sponsors him or her? Is he or she the one sponsoring his or her education? A lot of factors could be responsible for his or her problem, which I don’t know of. So I’m not fit enough to comment. Like in my situation, passing through college was hell. Most of the times I wasn’t present in the classes as I would penetrate the jungle to go look for money. At a point, I thought of dropping out. But what encouraged me to drag myself to the end of the programme was the fact during exams those who attended lectures from beginning to the end would be asking me for tips or outright stealing from me. So I said to myself if such people are in school, then why should I let money kick me out. So they are things that could be responsible for the extension which we don’t know of.
SIR A-ONE: What’s your take on intellectual stealing – plagiarism on the Internet?
GODWIN INYANG: In college when we wrote an essay and borrow any idea, the lecturers demanded at the end of your piece of writing, you must leave a list of references. So taking something from others is not the problem but acknowledging it. Serious writers acknowledge the sources of their writings. If somebody takes your work without permission, then you can go to court to seek for redress. Even on the Net, if you can prove there’s such occurrence and contact the site owners, such writers are sanctioned. So no serious writer takes from others and would not point to the source or sources.
SIR A-ONE: What’s your advice to those who read and don’t like, comment, share or even reply whatever they have read online?
GODWIN INYANG: Everyone has reason for whatever they do. Some may not like, comment or share because you’ve not done that to them. But for any serious writer, you keep doing your thing – who would like would like, who would comment would comment and who would share would share.
SIR A-ONE: It has been an educative timeout with you, Boss. Thanks for your time and energy.
From all of us at www.pengician.com We deeply appreciate you now and always.
More ink to your pen!
About the Interviewee:
Godwin S. U. Inyang got his first poem published at the age of nineteen and had written consistently since then. He is the author of two new books, ‘COLOURS (A COLLECTION OF POEMS)’ and ‘A GIRL’S MIND (A NOVEL)’, published on
Lulu.com. He is also the author of ‘Dr Fixit‘ (Africa’s longest poem – a work in progress of which 2500 stanzas of over 150,000 words have been posted on Facebook alone.
About the Interviewer:
Goodnews Andrew Eruemuare also known as SIR A-ONE is a pengician, humourist and rapper. The CEO of www.pengician.com and now the National Coordinator of Creative Writers’ Association of Nigeria (CWAN) and also the Financial Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Delta State Chapter.
He goes by the self acclaimed title “Literary Shrine Attendant (LSA)”.
A Book by Godwin Inyang