How Ebedi gave me opportunity to tell my story —Sesay, Sierra Leonean journalist

AMARAH Femoh Sesay is a fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency in Iseyin, Oyo State.

Sesay, despite being a Sierra Leonean, studied at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), and was a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Kano State chapter.

“It was through ANA that I got to know about Ebedi, and my experience while I was there was great.

“And after my studies in Nigeria, I returned to Sierra Leone, but I always had it at the back of my mind that I would return to Nigeria for the residency because it is so popular among Kano-based writers.

“I had indicated I would love to come to Iseyin, so I was happy when Dr Wale Okediran, the founder of Ebedi, invited me for the residency some years ago.

“I had to travel down from Sierra Leone to Iseyin for the six-week programme, and I am still grateful for that opportunity.”

On his school years in Nigeria, Sesay had his National Certificate of Education (NCE), before going on to study for a degree at BUK.

He, however, said it wasn’t because of the war in his home country that he chose to come to Nigeria for his tertiary education.

“In fact, by the time I was ready for tertiary education, the war had ended, and I even got admitted to the Fourah Bay College, which is the dream of every Sierra Leonean, but it was during this time that a scholarship was being promoted in Sierra Leone, which was like an exchange, where Nigerian students would come to Sierra Leone, while Sierra Leonean students would go to Nigeria to study.

“I was among those selected for the programme, and I came to Nigeria for an NCE first, before going on to study for a degree in English Education.

“One other thing that made it easier for me to come to Nigeria was the fact that my parents loved exploration, and they felt coming to Nigeria to study would further broaden my worldview.

“So it wasn’t difficult convincing them to allow me come to Nigeria to study; although after my studies, I returned home to Sierra Leone, where I now work as a journalist, but Nigeria has been part of me, and I come over often to visit friends and do one or two things.

“While in Ebedi, I was able to work on a memoir, as well as on some poems. I am happy that I came to Ebedi, because I was able to achieve a lot during my stay there. The environment is another factor, as the residency is so quiet, meaning it is an ideal place for writing.”

On his memoirs, Sesay is taking readers to the time of the Sierra Leonean war, when he was a refugee in neighbouring Guinea.

“The war was a harrowing experience despite the fact that I was just four years old when it broke out. I could remember my parents packing some of our belongings and just leaving. I knew something was wrong, but just couldn’t comprehend what it was.

“My father was well-to-do; he worked in the diamond mines, so he could not afford staying away for long; so anytime there was an attack around our community, we would quickly move to Guinea as refugees, and when such attacks calm down, we would return home.

“So we moved to and fro for about four times, and it was a very difficult experience for the family. I am, therefore, sharing my experience of the war in the book, and I hope people who are displaced internally in Nigeria’s North East can find it inspiring.

“My experience at the Guinean refugee camp was in two ways; generally, life as a refugee is mostly about depression, deprivation and frustration, however, because my parents were well-to-do, I found the whole experience interesting.

“I could remember playing with other kids, and doing other things kids do; I interacted with many people, and on the base of such interactions, I saw the fear in adults, frustration about the life they were living in another country.

“I know this will be the situation with people who are also displaced across Nigeria, as a result of the crisis in the North East. However, they just need to know that things would return to normal very soon,” Sesay said.

While speaking on the residency programme, the Administrative Manager, Macdell Joshua Kofi Sackey, reaffirmed the management’s commitment to sustaining the programme.

“Although we have been reaching out to corporate organisations, we hope that they will partner with us in promoting literature on the African continent.

“Ebedi is no longer a Nigerian project; for example, I am the administrative manager, and I am a Ghanaian. We have had Kenyan, Ugandan, South African, Sierra Leonean writers, among others.

“This residency is being projected across Africa, and we hope that corporate organisations will see it as an opportunity to also boost their image on the continent,” Sackey said.

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