It is interesting how a single event can catapult you, swing you into a hitherto unexplored territory and change your perspective about life. Better still, it can challenge your life goals, and make you see the bigger picture; a picture you never imagined. Participating and subsequently winning #WritingGamesNG 2016 did exactly that to me.
It seems unbelievable that it is just a little over a year ago that I participated in the first edition of the #WritingGamesNG. That edition that was used to commemorate the 20th year of Nigeria’s unprecedented victory in the Men’s Football event of the Olympic Games at Atlanta ’96 came at the right time for me. So much has changed about me over the course of the past year, and it seems almost like a lifetime ago. While change is a constant phenomenon, the changes in perspective I have experienced are attributable to my experiences during and after #WritingGamesNG.
The thought that occupies the mind of most National Youth Service Corps personnel is what next afterwards. Being a corps member in a remote part of Anambra State, I was not exempted from this troubling uncertainty. Ours being a country where no genuine plan is ever made to incorporate the teeming mass of graduates which our education system spits into the labour market, an average Nigerian graduate is liable to develop depression while thinking of their future. I was joining the league myself when I participated in #WritingGamesNG. However, after winning the competition, I redirected my thinking. Winning gave me a new lease of hope. I simply felt like a winner and I knew I could continue to win, even in a troubled country.
Being a struggling writer before the competition, #WritingGamesNG exposed me to writers, in Nigeria and outside. Meeting with the Goal.com Nigeria team was a special experience for me. I had the opportunity to interact with top sports writers who are always starting up critical discussions around football and its management in Nigeria. What better way to get motivated than meeting people who are concerned about the comatose state of sports in Nigeria, and fighting hard to resuscitate it.
The greatest leap, however, was travelling to Uganda. It was a place where my perspective about writing got revamped. Writing is a craft and I learnt how to weave my way around it. At the Writivism Festival in Kampala, I was able to meet writers whose books I could have only dreamt of reading. Meeting writers like Michela Wrong (author of It’s Our Turn To Eat) and Oduor Jagero (Ghosts of 1894), felt like a young footballer meeting Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for footballing tips. Above other things, I got the motivation to push on as a writer, and to use my craft to fight for a better world.
I participated in the competition partly because I was intrigued by the theme that was chosen for it, I was intrigued by the prospect of discussing sports and national development. The competition was able to begin a much-needed conversation around how far we have fallen since the Atlanta ’96 victory, and what needs to be done to pick ourselves up.
One year after the conversation started, it is still as relevant as ever. #WritingGamesNG apart from giving me the opportunity to register my voice in this conversation has also helped to redirect my thinking.
My advice to everyone looking to participate this year is to give it their best shot, do your research and find the confidence to share new ideas.
Oluwasogo Oladele, a graduate of English from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, was serving in Anambra State when he wrote his winning entry in 2016. He has been appointed Project Manager of the #WritingGamesNG 2017 where he will oversee the entry process till the end of the awards ceremony.
To enter for the 2017 #WritingGamesNG, click here to see details and eligibility.