What Prof. Soyinka told me in Ijegba forest ~ Mujahyd Ameen Lilo, Winner of 2019 WSICE Essay contest

Conversation with Mujahyd Ameen Lilo: Winner, Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Project Essay Competition 2019.


Hello Mujahyd, thank you so much for agreeing to chat with me. Can you tell me a little more about yourself.
I’m Mujahyd Ameen Lilo. I was born in Kano in 2003. I am currently an SS2 student of Sunshine International College, Kano. I am an Art Student and I wish to study English and literary Studies at University level. I started writing in my Junior Secondary School years.

I remember first seeing you at the BUK Writers forum here in Kano, I at once assumed you were an undergraduate. How did you find your way there?
I’m someone who loves to attend literary gatherings. So, the first thing I did after joining ANA Kano, was to ask one of the writers about other literary gatherings in Kano. That was how I got to know the BUK Creative Writers Forum.

How did you get to ANA?
Before I joined ANA, I read their anthologies. I saw the Chairman’s number, Mallam Zaharaddeen Kallah. I contacted him, I wanted to be published in their anthologies. He said I had to register with the association and attend their monthly readings. I was happy, because I didn’t know there were readings like that in Kano. I attended my first reading with them in 2017. After that, I have been a regular. I even read lots of my poems and stories there.

Perhaps someday you will take me with you.
Hahaha.Yes Please.

What do you write mainly? Poetry? Prose? Play? Essays?
I write all. People know me for my poems, but it is prose I think I love writing. The whole thing feels like how Prof. Wole Soyinka would write a novel. Something accidental. I have always wanted to write poems, but as time went by, I wrote more poems.  And now, I am like Oliver Twist, I want more poems to my name.

Lucky you! I think poetry has found you and there’s nothing you can do but write. And speaking of Prof. Soyinka, you met him recently! Can you tell me what you met him for?
Yes, I did. I met him in his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State. I read him a poem. I calligraphed the poem and presented it to him. And can you believe he said “nice poem” to me?  And then he shook me and said “congratulations” to me when he gave me my trophy as the winner of the WSICE Essay Competition. Pardon me for not starting from the beginning.

Hahaha. That is very fine. But let’s take it one step at a time. The Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Essay Competition, how did you find out about it?
I learnt about this competition from a good friend, Adamu Usman Garko. He was there last year and even published his travelogue on  The Arts-Muse Fair. He saw to it that our school was invited, he is a young man with a pure heart who cares about my dreams. May Allah always be with him.

That is very wonderful. We all need people like him in our lives.
So, the invitation letter was sent to my school. And my school submitted my essay.

Then what happened?
Some weeks later, a qualification letter arrived. Later on, they sent the flight ticket and I began preparing for the journey.

Was that your first time on a plane?
Yes! It was exciting and scary hahaha. And like a dream, it was magical.

You went alone?
Yes. From Mallam Aminu Kano Airport straight to Murtala Muhammad.

That must have been really scary.
It was. But I was given a number to call upon arrival. I called the number and he arrived thirty minutes later.

So, from the airport, where did you head to?
We went to an office in Maryland. There, we met the organizers, we also met the North Coordinator and another participant from Gombe. Later that evening, a luxury bus took us to the airport to get other participants, and then drove us to Ogun. We were then registered in a hotel and given tags. We were told to always wear the tags.

And this was your first time in Ogun State?
Yes. It was my first time in the Western part of Nigeria.

Did you notice any difference in the environment? What stood out for you?
Having read a lot about Lagos in Nigerian fiction, I have always wanted to be in Lagos. It was raining when I got to Lagos and when I left Lagos. I know it is a fine city but, I expected to pass through some slums, to see the area boys. But we didn’t. I witnessed the traffic though. Wallahi, it crawls! So many cars! And the landscape is richer, greener.

The landscape in Ogun abi?

So, what happened after the tags?
We were given food and then shown to our rooms. We were instructed to wake up by six, and to wear our uniforms.

Oh, you had to wear your uniforms?
Yes. So, the next day we wore our uniforms. But it was just to write the essays. After that, we changed to clothes of our choice and left for Ijegba forest to the Professors’ house.

Aha, now tell me everything about Ijegba forest.
The forest had a gate. On the gate, Prof had signs to discourage trespassers. There was one with something like, “Trespassing cattle will be hanged” I can’t remember the exact words. Another one was something like, “vehicles will be roasted” hahaha.

A narrow path led to the clearing where the Professors’ house stood. It was kind of an old-fashioned house, but attractive. We didn’t approach the house though, we took another path to the venue. There was a beautiful birthday cake at the venue. We took seats. Across the venue was a bridge over a river. There were canoes in the river. The bridge leads to bamboo houses. They were so beautiful. We were allowed into the houses, they had beautiful beds and paintings. I think I saw what looked like a transformer and that would make sense because there was electricity. But the forest was really big, you know, because it is a forest. I saw a particularly large anthill. The largest I have ever seen.

Now, I am officially wishing I saw these things you saw…
Oh, and there was a man who drove in while the program was going on. The MC told him that cars weren’t allowed. Professor Wole Soyinka does not like cars in his house.

Wow, No cars from anybody at all?
Not even the governor. No cars. And no National Anthem too. But you are free to sing the Ogun National Anthem.

Well I will, if you teach me.

You can’t sing it, can you?
Only the Ogun Students could sing it so well.

What else did you do, aside avoiding the Ogun song?
Hahaha. We explored. We cut the cake. There was a spelling bee, reading competition, poetry readings, traditional snack exhibition and a quiz.

Did you participate in any?
I couldn’t participate in poetry because it was more like a spoken word competition. You have to perform the poem, and I am not good at that. But I was in the quiz, the bee and the food exhibition.

I am interested in learning about that food exhibition. You know I love food. What food did you exhibit?
I displayed Kilishi. I told them the nutritional benefits, and how to make it. There were judges to taste and score each snack that was displayed. I even have a picture of myself explaining how Kilishi is made.

That is a lovely picture. I like that you wore your caftan too. Tell me, did they enjoy our Kilishi?
Thank you. They really loved it. I even told them it was a royal food o. Hahaha.

Okay, before I start craving Kilishi, let’s talk about how you felt when you were called to receive the award. What were you feeling at the time?
When I was called for the award, I was like, Älhamdulillah”. And then Prof congratulated me and handed me my trophy. I cannot explain it.

I heard his palms are like that of a baby’s’
By Allah, it is true. But it was before the award presentation that I presented my poem to him. I was told to read to him. He seemed happy. One girl gave him a copy of her poetry book.

I am so glad you enjoyed this trip. How long were you gone for?
I was gone from the 12th to the 16th July.

What about your parents? They must be really proud of you.
I am so glad they allowed me go. They prayed for me and they are very proud of me. They are still celebrating.

Awwn! May Allah bless your parents.

I want you to summarize what your essay was about. Can you do that for me?
I basically talked about the present-day Nigerian society. I called on the children to forgive the sins of their fathers and not grow into adults who would want to cause more harm to the society. We are the future, and we need to do things differently.

Thank you so much Mujahyd. I am so glad you agreed to chat with me, and I wish you the very best ahead.
Thank you so much too. Maybe one day I will be able to interview people like this too.

Oh, I know one day you will do more. I’ll see you at the next BUK Creative Writers Forums’ reading In Sha Allah. Anything else you want to add?
Nothing. I am just going to keep dreaming, keep reading, keep writing and keep praying.

Wonderful plan. Thank you Mujahyd.
My pleasure.


  1. Thanks for the mention Mujahyd Ameen Lilo. I am very much glad that I contributed and paved way toward making this success story. Fulfilling a promise is one of things that can make one calm and comfortable, and I am so much proud and elated now I can be calm and feel comfortable since I made it. Keep reading, keep exploring, keep writing. There are many more opportunities to share with you.

  2. I've seen the news about Mujahyd on Facebook through my Northern friends' posts. Immediately, Adamu Usman Garko came to my mind. Coincidentally, he mentioned him in this interview. I love you guyz. I'm glad you discovered your gifts on time and I wish you all the best in this journey.

    And, I enjoy your interview.

  3. Wow! I wishes you best in life endeavour mujahid

  4. Adamu usman Garko is a very good person..i am so much happy for you all. all the best i always pray.

  5. Khairat Abubakar31 July 2019 at 13:14

    Mujahid so impressive, although you forgot some things we actually did like Sunday's party, friends you made and the cultural stuff. I'm kidding �� you know
    Keep up the good work "Dan Kano".

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  7. Great!! It is a privilege to have a fellow like mujahyd, who will with no doubt construct a better world with an ordinary pen from a mighty man. Your words and writings have been worth savouring and I crave impatiently to meet a hero like you.I'm Ayomide.

  8. Masha Allah.I wishing you best of luck in your whole life!.

  9. I'M Cousin brother of Writer Yusuf Ahmad Bello.I wishes you the best always!.


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