Abu Siddik interviews Kamarudeen Mustapha

Kamarudeen Mustapha

Abu Siddik in Discussion with Kamarudeen Mustapha

Abu Siddik: Tell me about your childhood, family and share some your eccentricities as a writer as well as a teacher.

Kamarudeen Mustapha:  I grew up in Iwo, a town in the present Osun State in South Western part of Nigeria. My father was Prince Akibu Mustapha and my mother is Madam Rafatu Arike. I lived mostly with my grandmother and grandfather,Prince Mustapha Dankeketa, who was the Moluberin of Iwo at the time till the age of twelve. I went to District Council Primary School, Oke Ola, Iwo, where I was known as Kamoru Akibu. My first taste of literary works were the adventure stories of the eminent Yoruba writer D. O Fagunwa. The books belonged to my father butI appropriated them for mine. They fired my first urge to write. I also fell in love with the literatures of Jehovah Witnesses, especially issues of their 'Awake' and 'Watchtower' publications in Yoruba Language. The Awake in particular opened up for me a vista of exotic world which amazed and fired my imagination. It brought about my first spell of eccentricity. I began to speculate'creatively' that my ancestors were ancient Idumeans. I wrote some imaginary stories of my assumed ancestors' journey to Africa and I even began to formulate what I called the Iduan Language with its own alphabets. I totally believed in my own creation that there was a time I tried to sell the story to a grand uncle who wondered what madness was eating me. The stories of Idumea and Costomaslis, another imaginary settlement of mine near Iwo from where I said my imaginary ancestors came to Iwo formed the bulk of my first writing activities. As a teacher, I have been teaching English language and Literature in English with passion in many secondary schools in Oyo State, Nigeria. I have succeeded in making writers and literary enthusiasts out of  many of my students and colleagues.

Abu Siddik
Abu Siddik:  Why do you write, Mr. Mustapha Kamarudeen?

Kamarudeen Mustapha: I think my reasons change periodically. There was a time I wrote merely because it delighted me to write, and reading stories was like attaining grail to me. There was also a time I write, very early in my life, when the types of treatment the black man received from the Europeans and American slave holders  appalled me and made me want to take a revenge. My writing then were anti- Occidental. There was also a time the apartheid system in South Africa was my concern and things I wrote at that stage were anti apartheid. Then many times I felt like pummeling the ruling elites in my country for their numerous shortcomings and the way they have trampled on our rights and opportunities. Now I think I write to record my contemporary societies in all facets for readers of now and posterity. History records only the physical, the facades; only literature could record the mental and the psychology, the inner workings of man, the real man. I think this is my concern now as a writer. I have this feeling that some strange offspring of modern man in faraway future would be keen and delighted to read of our present frets and cares. Our cultural things. Our emotions.Our escapades. Our struggles. I want to write for them.

Abu Siddik:  The writer dramatizes the story by showing and not telling. What’s your view?

Kamarudeen Mustapha: Storytellers tell stories, the artists in them embellish them. One of the way to embellish is to show. To show is to adorn, to make what you write more interesting and arresting, more vivid and dramatic. To tell without showing would be a boring reading experience. It would be like reading a mere trite. But then, to show without telling on the other hand will as well make the fiction boring as it would be too voluminous and too complex. I believe a reasonable admixture of the two will give the best result. So one should tell when the story needs being told and one should show when showing is the appropriate option.

Abu Siddik: How do you craft a story with a theme? And should the theme be implied or explicit?
Kamarudeen Mustapha:  When a story occurs to me, I just want to write. I want to write the best way I could, I think less of the theme then.Whatever theme emerges is less my concern. I love to write of man in his society. I don't go out hunting for themes. I don't like theme driven narratives.  I see the process as fraud. So I think my themes are implicit. However, there were times it occurred to me that a certain theme had taken prominence in a fiction work I was working on; I went all out then to make such theme explicit by writing dialogues or actions that concretized it. However, I don't believe in building my stories on the need to focus on a particular theme. Perhaps, there were times I did that, in younger days when I was bent on taking revenge for sundry ills meted to black man, for sundry irresponsibilities of our leaders. Now that I only want to write human stories, I believe it will stall the flow of the narrative and make the plot clumsy. I just want to record man literarily in all his glory and folly. Premeditated theme is not the drive, but the story itself. And every story, every deed of man has a message. Therefore a theme.

Abu Siddik:  What makes you write? Or where do you find triggers for your stories and poems?

Kamarudeen Mustapha:  The man and his daily cares, struggles and conquests. The man in his society. Man reaching out to man in his diverse means and manifestations. They inspire me. Literature is no literature without man in ambit of his society. Literature is essentially of man by man and for man.

Abu Siddik: Is message important for a story? What do you think?

Kamarudeen Mustapha:  Every action or even inaction bears a message to the readers. Since stories are made up of actions which culminate in a story line, every story definitely bears certain messages. Life experiences are acquired through particular learning outcomes, learning outcomes are messages to students. Culmination of various receptions of messages give us the experiences to live our lives. When you react to a story in any sort of manner, then you have been impacted. Any form of impact a story makes on the reader, be it entertainment, enlightenment, morals, or any form of emotion is a sort of message. A story is no story when it sends no signal or message to its readers.
Abu Siddik:  Please share for the readers some of the techniques you use in your fiction.

Kamarudeen Mustapha: I try to make my stories as simple as I could. I love flowing narrative. There are often instances of Yoruba and Hausa expressions in my stories, especially when they are cultural things. I also love to describe things. I make use of flashback; it is opportunity to provide reasons for some actions and situations. I make use of epiphany, especially in my short stories. It brings that climax of unexpectedness and surprise realizations. In my poetry, I made use of alliteration and assonance. I love using pun and allusion, especially biblical and historical ones.

Abu Siddik: Why do you think stories need to be told?

Kamarudeen Mustapha: Stories are reconstructions of human experiences and aspirations from the perspective of an artist who is gifted with such abilities to understand man, his environments and those issues that concern him from divergent standing points. Therefore stories are reenactments of our lives. It makes us see our follies without being overtly  bitter about it. It makes us to realize how we react to issue with overblown emotions, and afford us the opportunities to appraise our actions. When we appraise the characters in our stories, we are definitely appraising some aspects of ourselves, for man is basically the same except for those subtle idiosyncrasies. A story enriches man with the vast treasury of knowledge of man. Therefore, stories need to be told for every story read is an added experience to the reader and even the writer himself, and it definitely bears a message or two to the inner man ensconced in him.

Abu Siddik: Please mention two or three writers who had a major influence on your writing?

Kamarudeen Mustapha:  I have definitely been influenced by legions of writers of diverse genres dead and living. But since the questionmandates me to mention only three, the first card goes to the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa thiong'o, I love his simplicity, his logic. His Weep not Child was the first literary novel I read and understood. The second goes to Niyi Osundare, the Nigerian poet whose diction is ever so fresh, so metaphorically correct and precise for whatever topic he writes about, while the third goes to Abubakar Adam Ibrahim whose short fictions are so compelling that I was compelled by them to come back to short fiction which I abandoned more than a decade ago.

Abu Siddik:  Have you ever faced what we call Writer’s Block?

Kamarudeen Mustapha:  A Writer's Block is a situation when ideas dry up in one's head and the flowing of words cease. I face this situation many times and I have discovered that the best way is to fight through it is by continuing writing. The Writer's block makes the prospective literary work a stillborn forever or else the writer knows how to tackle it by calling its bluff. What you write during the spell of the writer's block might not be any masterpiece, but you can always come back to subtract and add things. Remember to fight writer's block by writing on. Write anything, write something, just don't put down your pen, the muse may be nearby to arrest it for you.
Abu Siddik: Any advice for aspiring writers?

Kamarudeen Mustapha: I have discovered that successful writing is not something you do halfway. It is something that takes the whole of you and the whole of your time. Therefore to succeed in writing you need such a burning passion. And when you write don't write for money. Write for mere love of it, write to reach out to people. Understand that you can't get your story to the best it could be with a draft or two, write and rewrite and rewrite until your draft becomes a gem. The writing journey is like space travel, it has no limit or bounds, but there are also lot of prospects, opportunities and pleasant surprises.Be ready to walk it to wherever it leads you, and constantly, and forever.You will arrive at some pleasant Eldorado. 

Setu, October 2019


  1. Brother, I am more than happy to read your mind's inimitable workings which you have expressed in your unique, unparalleled style. Kudos friend!

  2. You are welcome brother. Your questions are such that dig into me and force the essence out of me. If there is anything worthy in my response, your questions make it.

  3. I appreciate the genius minds lingering out here, you're both intellectuals and attracted my attention as an upcoming poet. Stay blessed you all.

    1. Thanks Poet Regnard Bishoza. I appreciate your presence and comments.


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