‘A healthy imagination births creativity in a child. A child who is exposed to regular storytelling will not find it difficult to create his/her own story. ‘-Tobechukwu Uche-Onwubiko.
We have the singular honour of sharing some moments with a mother, wife, author and businesswoman, Tobechukwu Uche-Onwubiko. A voracious reader whose love for reading took another dimension during her undergraduate days as student of Literature, University of Benin. Her eyes were opened to African literature when she read Africa’s literary icon, Chinua Achebe’s book of all time, Things Fall Apart. Tobechukwu is the Proprietor of Leaders Book Club, a book club for children. Her vision is to build a sound reading culture in children.
Oludare Sorunke, publisher, BLACKWASH shares his encounter with Tobechukwu Uche-Onwubiko
How many books have you authored and which was the most demanding?
I have authored two books: The Unknown Path and Other Stories; a collection of short stories for children and Under the Shadow; a novel released in March 2022. The Unknown Path and Other Stories was published in 2020. Both books were published by D.P.I Services.
Under The Shadow was more demanding because it is a novel for young adults and adults. It is more detailed as I wanted the reader to picture every scene without difficulty. I also had to describe most of the events to make it relatable.
Tell us about your children book, The Unknown Path and Other Stories.
The Unknown Path and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that details some of the challenges children experience and how they can overcome them. It reveals what they risk in their curiosity, the consequences of jealousy, the effects of bullying and cautions against stubbornness.
What inspired Under The Shadow and how long did it take you to write the book?
I was compelled to write Under The Shadow when I saw how societal pressure and tradition has limited the potentials of many promising Nigerian women. I came across women who used to be confident and full of life suddenly became voiceless and docile. I have seen life ebb out of several women. I have also seen women who became depressed and despondent because they felt society has cast a ceiling over them.
God created man in His image, but man has made his fellow man to think like an ant.
This is the time women should come forward and be counted. From the petty trader hawking wares by the road side to the boardroom guru managing a multibillion naira conglomerate, the roles of women should be appreciated. Women should not feel miserable or inadequate anywhere they find themselves. .
I want to see courageous and independent women pushing boundaries. I want to see them pursue their dreams and live their lives to the fullest. I believe a woman can be a Governor or President in Nigeria, if Margaret Thatcher could be Prime Minister in Great Britain. I want to see many Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Samia Suluhu Hassan.
It took me about two years to complete the novel. I started writing during the COVID lockdown in 2020. The book took longer to complete because I was nursing a baby and had to attend to my children who were schooling from home.
Your characters in Under The Shadow look like real life everyday people. How did you weave the stories together?
The stories in the book are relatable. We are all connected one way or another. Our connection may not necessarily be through blood ties but through experience. What one person is going through may have been experienced by another person in the past. Also, the African society is a community, where a child is brought up by kinsmen. What affects one today may affect another tomorrow, hence the need for us to look out for one another. It is this knowledge that helps me weave the stories of my characters. I want the reader to read the novel and be able to relate with the story. As if he or she knows the characters personally.
What specific themes do Under The Shadow seek to address?
Under the Shadow addresses issues that are germaine to the family and society. Some of which include culture, family, parenting, love, self-worth and finance.
Tell us about the reception and how many copies you have sold.
The reception was overwhelming. I felt like a bestselling author signing autographs in some copies. Under the Shadow was launched on 12 March 2022 in Lekki, Lagos. We had a review of the novel by four reviewers who are professionals in their fields and parents as well. We had over 150 guests at the book launch. Over 300 copies have been sold.
After Under The Shadow, what next?
This is just the beginning. I’m working on another novel. With God’s help, it will be published in due time. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
In recent times, parents have ‘contracted’ their roles to caregivers, neighbours and relatives. They are busy pursuing the good life at the expense of raising responsible children. What effects do this have on the child?
I’m sorry, there’s no straight forward answer to this question. We have seen children who were raised by nannies or relatives and turned out well and we have also seen children raised by doting parents and still turned out irresponsible.
However, parents who relegate but do not abdicate responsibilities have higher chances of seeing their child grow into a responsible adult. The society is highly demanding and parents need to work to make a living. In picking caregivers, parents should ensure that they are responsible and share the values they hold dear so that these values can be impacted on the child. Above all, pray and be present as much as possible.
What roles do money and sex play in relationships?
Money and sex are important in marriage. Again, I will refer to my handbook, the Bible. Adam was busy before God sent him Eve, a helpmate. Finance and financial independence should be approached with wisdom in marriage.
Sex in marriage, take note of my ‘in marriage,’ should be for bonding, openness, companionship and procreation.
So you do not subscribe to sex before marriage. Is that not old fashion?
I do not subscribe to sex before marriage. It is not old fashion for me. A lot of young people will be able to make the right decision in choosing a spouse if premarital sex is not involved. Also, it is against my belief as a Christian. That is my opinion.
Often times, people come into relationships with ‘baggage’, but refuse to address their insecurities, making problems to fester. Can you talk about this?
In the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible, when God created Adam and Eve, they were both naked and not ashamed. As soon as they sinned, they sewed figs to cover up their nakedness. Some people feel ashamed to show their insecurities or baggage because they do not want to be seen as weak or flawed.
Everyone wants to be seen as perfect but the truth is, none of us is perfect. I dealt with the dangers of covering up our insecurities or hiding our baggage in my novel. If you cannot let your spouse know what others cannot know, then you shouldn’t be in the relationship in the first place. You should be able to be ‘naked’ in your relationship; that is, open to your partner and not be ashamed. This is not for the person with insecurities alone, but with the person that has to deal with the insecurities as well.
Now, people have been treated badly by their partners because they showed their insecurities and baggage, and I must say that it is bad. Understanding that we are not perfect should give room for others to be imperfect. That way, people will not be ashamed to let their spouse or partners see their fears or flaws and a lot of issues will be avoided as time goes on.
How do parents address deviant behaviour in children?
Pray about it, don’t stop talking to the child and look for external support that will positively help the child change. A school of thought encourages deterrence, or punishment, which provides a negative consequence to a particular deviant action to discourage a child from deviant behaviour.
Foluke N. Bolu-steve and Mary O. Esere in their book; Strategies for managing deviant behaviour among in-school adolescents
as expressed by secondary school counsellors in Kwara State, Nigeria, states; Since most of the causes of deviant act are traced to schools, home, peer influence to mention but a few, there is need for parents and school administrators to work hand-in-hand to keep students behaviour under effective check
Tell us about the causes and signs of bullying in children and how do we address it?
Permit me to summarize the answers. Though, this is a topic for wider discussion, permit me to summarize below.
Causes of bullying in children can be:
*If a child experiences violence at home.
*Need for attention.
*Trying to deal with complicated situations
Signs of Bullying in Children:
*Fear of going to school or joining school events.
*Anxiety, nervousness or reacts when provoked.
*Keeping few friends or not wanting to have friends.
*Avoiding social gathering.
*Losing personal belongings.
*Becoming unusually secretive.
*Low academic performance.
Addressing the issue of bullying as a parent/adult:
*Listen to the child openly and calmly.
*Give the child assurance.
*Talk to the child’s teacher or school.
*Take the minutest complaint from the child seriously. This builds trust.
*Build a support system for the child.
*In the case where your child is the bully; check yourself to ensure you are showing the right attitude, communicate with the child, give the child an opportunity to mind his/her ways.
The World Culture Score index has rated Nigeria as one of the countries in the world with the lowest reading culture. Do you think Nigerian children read? How do we reawaken reading culture among children?
Most Nigerian children do not read and most of them do not enjoy reading. Children are being distracted by television and social media There are many shows on the television these days and at the press of a button, children will rather watch TV or browse what is trending on social media than read. We can reawaken the reading culture in our children by;
*Reading as adults: Children learn by watching what adults do.
*Limit screen time and inculcate the culture of reading in your homes.
*Be willing to hear them tell you about the book they read. This will engender bonding time and help them remember what they read.
*You can register them in a book club. Children enjoy reading with their peers. I run a book club, so I am speaking from experience.
How do we catch up with you and get your books?
My social media handles are @tobeuche on Instagram and @Tobechukwu Uche-Onwubiko on Facebook.
My novel, Under The Shadow is available on Amazon Kindle. For the e-copy and on Amazon bookstore for the paperback. It is also available on Okadabooks. You can also click the link in my bio to order any of my books on my Instagram handle .