For His Royal Highness, Igwe Chidubem Iweka III, writing novels and kingship are two different tasks that must be fulfilled, CHUX OHAI writes
Like Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, who is the Eze of Ndikelionwu in Anambra State, Igwe Chidubem Iweka III of Obosi – in the same state – is fully involved in creative writing.
The monarch is not only enthusiastic about literary production, he has published some books and regularly attends the annual international convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors.
“I started writing when I was in Form Two in secondary school. This was in the early 1970s. I started by writing short stories,” he says, in an interview with our correspondent.
Encouraged by his teachers, he was able to sustain this passion for writing through the years. The encouragement gave him the necessary incentive to keep writing.
Apart from that, it seems that writing runs in Igwe Iweka’s family. The monarch’s grandfather was the first person to write the history of Obosi (his domain) and Igboland in 1923.
“My grandfather ordered a typewriter that printed the Igbo alphabet from England. He typed the manuscript of his book in both Igbo and English languages with this typewriter,” he adds.
The Igwe also recalls that his mother wrote poetry when he was still a youth, thus affirming that he inherited the gift of writing from both parents.
So far, he has published some novels, which some critics and reviewers have described as being generally suffused with magic and witchcraft – much like the earlier works of a writer like Dilibe Onyeama.
The author attributes this common thread that runs through most of his works, especially the two novels titled The Ancient Curse and So Bright a Darkness, to the influence of spiritual manifestations in the contemporary African society.
“Even those who profess to be Christians or Muslims are influenced by such spirituality. It is present among us and we live with it. Some of the phenomena that are deemed to be superstition may not be accepted as superstition by some of us because it is inborn. We were raised up with it and will be with us for a long time. That is why I find it fascinating.
“In the The Ancient Curse, which is my first published work, I discuss the proliferation of born-again Christian churches and the rampant spiritual fraud that it has bred in the country. Some of the people who profess to be Christians today are actually native doctors in disguise. They use this to bamboozle, defraud and confuse the masses. These are some of the things that bother me”, he says.
Unlike many writers who have had to draw inspiration from older and more established writers, Iweka says he never had any role models nor attempted to copy the style of any other writer.
To a large extent, he has managed to sustain a unique style and a narrative voice that is entirely distinct from the current stream of contemporary writing in the country out of pure concern for aesthetics rather than for commercial purposes.
“The reason is that when I set out to write I hardly think of the commercial aspect. I am usually driven by a need to deliver a message to my audience and I try to make it as interesting, suspenseful and colourful as possible,” he says.
Apart from magic, Igwe Iweka’s newest novel, So Bright a Darkness, is suffused with the themes of love, racism and culture, as well as others drawn from contemporary society. The narrative, which tells the story of a fictional Igbo community that is completely cut off from civilisation, also deals with the question of coming to terms with racism in the modern society.
Although he maintains that he has never been influenced by any foreign ideology as a writer, the Igwe is nonetheless concerned about the gradual loss of the basic components of the African culture and civilisation.
“In the process of embracing Western culture and giving up some undesirable African cultural practices, we threw away many of the good aspects of our culture. For example, in the olden days, there was not much crime because people were afraid of incurring the wrath of the deities. But, nowadays, people lie, cheat, steal and still they can get away with these because God is all-forgiving and merciful. It wasn’t like that in the olden days. This is something that I am very concerned about. It is also a major ideological influence in my writing,” he says.
Before he ascended the throne of Obosi Kingdom, the monarch was an active Nollywood practitioner. He acted in a few movies alongside some of the big names in the film industry. Aside acting, he wrote scripts for the screen and sometimes, directed and produced his own movies. But he had to give up acting because of his current status and the attendant responsibilities.
Unknown to many of his subjects, Igwe Iweka is also a musician who once worked with a major records company in the United States for a number of years.
“I am a singer, song writer and multi-instrumentalist. I play the keyboard, guitar, saxophone and percussions to boot,” he says.
He is what some people may call a bundle of talents, no doubt. But how does it feel to be a traditional ruler and writer?
“They are two different things that don’t mix. Being the king of a community that is quite populous and, to an extent, metropolitan gives me less time to write. I try to make out time to write,” Igwe Iweka says.