The Nigerian president recently appointed Tolu Ogunlesi as his special assistant on digital/new media.
In the midst of the excitement around Ogunlesi’s appointment, everyone seems to have forgotten that Ogunlesi is a fiction writer and a poet. He has come to be known for his journalism, but Ogunlesi published a collection of poetry titled Listen to the Geckos Singing from a Balcony in 2004. His novella titled Conquest and Convivality was published by Hodder and Murray in 2008. His writing alongside that of Chimamanda Adichie and Petina Gappah graced the pages of the now discontinued Farafina Magazine. He even bagged an MFA in creative writing at University of East Anglia.
Ogunlesi’s appointment makes a lot of sense. He has a huge Twitter following. This afforded him the chance to play a pivotal role in the conversations around the 2015 election. Besides, Ogunlesi has, in the past few years, distinguished himself from the radical and stringent political tone of political activists like Omojuwa. He has used his social media influence to build a politically mature and moderate brand for himself. His appointment comes at a time when President Buhari is under pressure to include youthful technocrats in his administration.
Drawing attention to the literary side of Ogunlesi’s history is important. It allows us—the African literary community—to feel invested in his success. It is also a testament to the fact that the skills acquired through fiction writing is multi-dimensional. In many African communities, fiction writing is still viewed suspiciously as a set of non-transferrable skills. What Ogunlesi’s example shows is that a professional life born in fiction writing can lead to all kinds of opportunity.
Sending good vibes Ogunlesi’s way! We wish him all the best.
Image from Tolu Ogunlesi’s facebook page.