By Yinka Olatunbosun
When the news filtered in that a young medical doctor, Dr. Adetola Rachael Adeyeye, had won the maiden Feature Article Writing Competition, it was quite a surprise, given the margin that lies between the practice of medicine and the literary world. The competition was initiated in February 2016 by Oando Marketing Plc for good reasons. First, to meet the need for developing literary skills while enhancing human capital development. Secondly, it is to fire up the reading culture in Nigeria. Unlike many competitions organised by corporate organisations, this literary contest was open to all Oando Marketing PLC’s employees and followers on its online platforms and had 135 entries in all.
With the theme, “Sustainable Solutions to tackling Climate Change in developing countries,” contestants were tasked on writing a strong and factual feature story that is compelling enough to be read. Anyway, young Dr. Adeyeye won.
As she was waiting to pick up her cheque for the prize money worth N400,000 at the Oando Marketing Plc office in Apapa last week, this reporter met her for the first time. Unassuming, she sat on a couch at the waiting lounge in one of the top floors of the sprawling building tucked inside Marine Beach. Could it be she knew she would win? Her story is simple and believable. She just came out of the bathroom, picked up my phone one day and saw the tweet @oandomarketing announcing her name as the winner of the competition. She was completely elated.
“In a way I was expecting it’’, she began. “But for me, it was beyond winning the prize. I participated in this because I discovered that even though I have been hearing about climate change; my knowledge about it was shallow. I wanted to use the competition to boost that knowledge. I saw the advert on Facebook. I started researching almost immediately. I got a lot of articles online.’’
Writing is her pastime just as table tennis. Unlike the game, she couldn’t be swayed by the direction of the ball when it comes to writing. She takes it head-on, right from her days at the primary school. Back then, she participated in the literary activities, debating and writing. Then she had a very diligent teacher who would proof-read her contributions for the literary and debating society.
“She would edit it and add some flesh to it,’’ she recalled. “That was the basis for me. Personally, I have wanted to study law because I thought I was eloquent and I could write. I later fell in love with Science courses much more than I was in love with art courses. I did my S.S.C.E and the result was very brilliant. I was counseled by my father who thought I should study medicine. But my desire then was food technology. My father thought I would be wasting the result if I didn’t study medicine. I knew it was very competitive so I was reluctant at first. But I passed the UME at the first sitting. When I got into medical school, it was really fun. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.’’
From politics to health, Dr. Adeyeye reads a variety of books. And she avidly feeds on motivational books especially when they are easy reads. Authors such as Ben Carson and Bishop David Oyedepo appeal to her naturally. Although the prize money is relatively small when compared to what is obtainable in music and other creative contests, she has a huge plan for the money for which she is very thankful, in the face of close competitors. She commended the organisers for instituting the literary prize to reward young writers.
“I am a Christian so the first thing I will do is to pay my tithe. I am thinking of pursuing my Masters’ degree in Emergency Management so I will add to the money and study it. I think the prize money for subsequent editions should be reviewed upwards. If you are encouraging young ones to become more intellectually active, you have to make it look rewarding. People go into modeling, singing, and get paid per hour. The average Nigerian child would want to model rather than do something that saps so much of your intellect. That extends to tertiary institutions. You find people graduating with first class honours. And all they get is the handshake from the VC. Nobody even knows or recognizes your four or five years of hard work,’’ she observed.
Born in 1990, Adeyeye finished her MBBS in 2014 at 24. She has the benefit of the youthful vigour to do more for herself and the literary world. She promised to give professional writing a thought in the future, following the success story of her 3-paged award-winning feature. Her writing style, as she suggested, would remain simple.
“What interests me more is the way a literary piece is written. I like simple writing. I don’t think we all have to study a particular course for us to tap knowledge from the written material. If I write on health, I will make sure that it is what everyone can relate to. That is why I am inspired by the authors I had mentioned earlier. I tried to do the same with my feature article. I broke it down. I didn’t use high flown language that you have to check the dictionary to find the meaning. When it comes to climate change, everybody needs to be aware,’’ she said.
On her personal findings during research, it was discovered that climate change is the greatest and most universal threat to human existence. She lamented over the sheer ignorance of many who have perpetually carried out deforestation and other anti-green climate activities.
A third of four children, Dr. Adeyeye was raised by a mother who is a vice principal at a secondary school in Lagos while her father retired as a telecommunications engineer. After completing her primary school education at the Blessed Children Nursery and Primary School and proceeded to St. Saviours High School, Lagos. At 17, she gained admission into the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin in Kwara State. Whilst counting her blessings, she acknowledged the role of her parents in her life.
“I owe a lot of what I am today to the way I was raised. I was raised in an environment filled with warmth and love. I have parents who believe in me and who encourage me to be the best I can. I have siblings who are always challenging me. Significantly, the way I was raised contributed largely to the way I am. I wouldn’t say I had a regimented lifestyle. I will only say I have a controlled lifestyle. To a large extent, I was still able to make my own decisions but I always know that I am accountable to my parents. They were always on the look-out for us. My mother, being a teacher, would close from work at 3p.m. and most of the time, my mother would be waiting for me at home. So I knew that there was no way I could run around with friends to do some other things. That in way was restrictive but it was necessary. I have friends that liked readin . I have very few friends. I read when I am tired and bored. I relax with books or writing. The nature of my job makes me see a lot of challenging things but when I want to get away from that world, I read,’’ she said.
Juggling medicine and writing can be stiff and she knew that. Even as a medical student, her schedule was loaded with reading. Once, she had read for 18 hours in one day. Now as a practicing doctor, she could be on-call even when she really should be off-duty. Hence, she lets out the steam with writing for relaxation, but she desires more formal training in it. But on a parting note, she advised young writers to get a grip on the mastery of the language.
“My advice to younger folks is that don’t make the English on social media the English you speak or write. Most of the time, the use of English on social media is wrong. Most people don’t even know how to write in full anymore. The only thing they know is how to abbreviate. I think the quality of English on social media and the amount of time that young people spend on these platforms can in a way lead to high failure rate. The last exam, the WAEC was so bad that the senate had to sit on it. The social media itself is not bad but the English on social media is quite bad. The social media is a very strong weapon for advocacy at the moment but I want to advise young people to go back to the text book and learn the write way of speaking or writing,’’ she said.
Extending the time line for the study of medicine is not an idea she is comfortable with. She thought the ratio of patients to doctors is already high. And so, if it takes a longer time for medical students to graduate, it is likely that fewer students will study medicine and that means with time, there will be fewer doctors in Nigeria. But for now, the literary world can be certain of a fact: she is an addition to the list of young and promising writers.