Age has nothing to do with achievement, and Enajite Efemuaye, Managing Editor, Kachifo Limited, popularly known as Farafina Books is living proof of that. Having achieved a feat that takes most multiple decades to accomplish, this amazon of editing has a remarkable story to share. With over 10 years working experience in the print and publishing industry, she is a ghost writer of memoirs, a ‘badass’ editor – developmental and copy editing, retired graphic artist and a student of social media. With a first degree in Chemical Engineering, Efemuaye is today a voice to reckon with in book publishing in Nigeria. Tomi Falade caught up with her at the recent award ceremony by the Towunmi Coker Literary Initiative, organisers of the Teecoks Writing Competition where she was the guest speaker, and she spoke on her love for books and her thoughts on the reason for the failing library system in Nigeria.
Seeing as you have always had a love for books, why didn’t you just pick a course in the arts instead of the sciences?
Going to science class was an act of revolt for me because I had wanted to study Law, but my parents refused. So I thought since they would not let me study Law, I might as well do a 360 and study Engineering since I was good at it anyway. So I maintained that up till University. While at the University, I loved all the borrowed courses, all the GST courses, but I did well in my core courses as well. Though I wasn’t particularly interested in it, I had an aptitude for learning and passing exams, and that helped me. Even though I do not remember a lot of things now, at the time I was passing the exams.
When exactly did you discover your love for books?
I think it was when I was around the age of four and I was in Nursery School. I was given a book; I think I had passed some exams and I was given a storybook as a gift. But then, my mum had bought the same storybook for me so I had two copies of the book. So I started doing this thing where I would read one copy, drop it, and then read the other copy as if it were a different book. That was the first book I remember reading and from there it just took off because it helped my imagination. As a child, being able to separate one book into two books, that was where it took off.
Was there ever a time that you decided to take a course or sit for a professional exam to get certification as a writer or as an editor?
As good as I am in school, I do not particularly like school in the sense of the formalised way we do school. Classroom learning has never really been something I have enjoyed. So what I did was to attend a lot of workshops. I have attended a number of writing workshops, I have had fellowships to basically go somewhere and learn about writing. But I haven’t really gone to sit in a classroom to study
So how did the job at Farafina Books come about, was it your first book-related job?
No. Actually, I started as a graphic artist; I worked in a printing press. So I was doing graphics and I was working with books. I was doing book covers; I was editing and doing all that. That was my first job after University, right out of school. And then, I volunteered at an NGO where my work also involved working with writers. We had a magazine publication, and we were dealing with a lot of young people. A lot of our works revolved around writing and reading as well. So it just continued that way. Later, I was the editor for an online publication for about two years, Sabinews. I was there for about two years, and then I got the job at Farafina.
Since then, what has the experience been like; do you have any regrets when you look back?
No. I mean, I always knew I was going to work in publishing, I always thought I was going to own a publishing house, but this is as good as it gets, really. So it is very much what I wanted to do from the time I made up my mind about what I wanted. I mean, you go through the phase of wanting to be different things, but you finally settle on one thing and I am doing what I settled on.
For someone with an active imagination like yours, if you had the opportunity to go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self; is there anything that you would want to add or change about your past in regard to books?
Every time this question comes up, I think really hard about it. When people Tweet that question or share it on social media platforms, I always think about it, and I always decide that I do not want to change anything. There really isn’t anything I would want to change because, at the end of the day, everything is what made me who I am. I would wish that there was a library in my community, I would wish my parents were able to afford to send me to a school that had a school library; that is what I would wish for. But other than that, I think everything that has happened to me kind of led up to this moment, and I feel that if I go back and change anything, I might affect where I am now.
With the way things are today, it seems that there were a lot more libraries back then than there are now. It is almost like we are losing the library system in Nigeria. What do you think is the biggest reason for that?
It is not a library problem, it is a Nigerian problem. It is the way we are with maintaining things, we don’t have a maintenance culture, and so the libraries are just suffering from something that is affecting every other aspect of the Nigerian society. Particularly also because education really in Nigeria has suffered, and it is affecting libraries because the libraries are part of that education system. So you find that nobody is paying special attention to them. There are certain aspects of the economy people pay attention to, like Agriculture. You know that when they go to international forums they are going to talk about the economy and other things. But nobody is really asking how the students are doing in school, what the state of education in the country is, are there libraries, are they functional? All those questions are not seen as part of the important questions, but they actually are important. So you find that because no one is asking these questions, no one is even trying to do even ‘camouflaged’ work.
But it is fantastic that you have organisations like GTBank who did the GTBank Library in Yaba, they renovated it. You also have initiatives like the Teecoks Writing Competition by the Towunmi Coker Literary Initiative, which brings books to children. Even if you cannot build the libraries, make the children aware that they should read, that way where they do have libraries in their school, they take advantage of it. It is one thing to have the library, and it is another thing to take advantage of it. When they take advantage of it, they look for books outside of school to read, and they understand the importance of reading.
So what would you say is the most important thing the Towunmi Coker Literary Initiative is doing for the Nigerian child?
Making them aware of the importance of books outside of school work. There is this association of people who believe that everything that has to do with reading has to do with school. You find people who say they have never read a book since they left school. So planting that seed in the mind of children, that reading is not just about school and passing exams is important. You can read for pleasure, to grow yourself, and for knowledge.
Children have access to all sorts of information these days, and there is the chance that when they see people who are doing well but scorn education, they would simply follow them as role models, making education lose its value in their eyes. We have today in Nigeria, cases of politicians vying for offices with no certificates. Isn’t that encouragement to children that reading and education is not so important?
The thing that happens is that while the kids might be looking at it now that way, as they get older, they begin to see what is chaff and what is substance, which is where education is important. So there is a value system that you inculcate in the children so they are able to see that something that is simply flashy and ‘bling’ is mere chaff and it would not last beyond that generation. There was a time when there was this spate of very rich, young men from the Eastern part of the country. They are nowhere to be found today. These things are fleeting. But when you think of people whose names have lived beyond them, they may not have been the richest, but they gave the most value. This is where critical thinking comes in. When you teach your children and put them in a position where they are critical thinkers, they will be able to look at situations and judge for themselves.