Meet:Lawyer,writer and Social commentator Ayo Sogunro
" I am more content with having one reader whose world is changed by my words,than a hundred thousand readers who are unaffected afterwards"
This laid back but highly cerebral individual who is our Hibe exclusive guest isn’t given to frivolous or even controversial antics, yet in his quiet but deliberate introspective musings, he has been able to percolate and serve up a series of instructive and in-depth Socio Political perspectives through his literary offerings which has attracted a number of dedicated and loyal readers and followers of his works worldwide, those inspired and enlightened never mind educated by his intellectual catalogue. In our lone and overriding quest to recognise, highlight and celebrate young Nigerians who have distinguished themselves, young Nigerians who are potential or confirmed leaders of thought and intellect, we were able to seek out and convince our subject for this interview.
In this enlightening Hibe exclusive interview, we have the young but influential Nigerian Professional, who will be sharing his perspectives and views regarding a wide range of diverse subjects and issues from the mundane all the way to the salient. Kindly read the interview after this cut….
HibeOnline: Thanks for consenting to this Hibe Exclusive. Kindly state your name and what you do?
AS: Well, for those who missed the headline at the top, I’m Ayo Sogunro. I’m a lawyer by training, a writer by long practice, and a social critic by inclination.
HibeOnline: I read your book The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales, and what struck me was the thread of intellectual pragmatism and deliberate, mischievous wit running through it. The same sentiments tend to feature heavily in your tweets and articles. What informs this deep sense of pessimism, or do you just like being a devil’s advocate?
AS: “Sorry Tales” isn’t that sorry—there’s plenty of fun, if I may say so. And so, I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic. I mostly provide a balanced link between reality and legitimate expectation. For example, we have the idea of Nigeria as a great country—someone has to point out that greatness isn’t a logical expectation from the current reality. On the other hand, Nigeria is not necessarily a failed state. Balance is an important approach to socio-politics as it is in life.
For a link to Ayo Sogunro's very instructive book sorry tales click here
HibeOnline: What was your childhood like? Any funny, sad, happy embarrassing incidents that stand out?
AS: My childhood was fairly stable, particularly at home. Outside the house, I was often just the kid who read books all the time. I didn’t think it weird then but, looking back, I must have been a very odd one. I managed to avoid trouble consistently because most of my energy was directed internally. This is not to say I was brilliant academically: I was often at the bottom range of the class, particularly in secondary school. But, all in all, I would say I grew up as the average, educated, lower middle-class child.
HibeOnline: Tell us about your parents, siblings and how they impacted upon you and choice of career including general outlook on life?
AS: My parents were teachers—at a time when the profession was semi-respectable. And so I had access to more books than the average kid of the 80s. I was the first child out of four and so I quickly developed a sense of responsibility. In the early 90s we got our first PC and I also developed a flair for computer science. My dad thereafter wanted me to study engineering—but my mathematics kept on navigating a woeful track. Meanwhile, I was writing poems and flash fiction all the time. Eventually, my mum’s common sense prevailed and I went into the humanities. Studying Law in university was almost an automatic step after that.
HibeOnline: Many practitioners of the higher arts, i.e. writing, sculpture, drawing etc. have specific incidents, people or causes that inspire their works, what inspires yours? Especially your most critical work so far which I presume is your book, Sorry Tales?
AS: I won’t say I have a specific mentors except, maybe, my dad who is a good writer in his own right—no pun—and who taught me the use of English from an early age. But I have had several indirect influences, mostly from writers who have mastered the ability to mix art with social philosophy without sacrificing entertainment value: George Bernard Shaw, Wole Soyinka, Ayn Rand, and Douglas Adams. I try to write meaningfully while also giving my readers a good time.
HibeOnline: Your new book’s title is: Everything in Nigeria Is Going to Kill You. What informed the title? Is it that pessimistic streak or something more? How do you arrive at an apt title for your works?
AS: We’re back to my alleged pessimism which, again, is some sort of cheerful realism. The full quote for that title is “Everything in Nigeria is going to kill you because you don’t care”. Honestly, though, the choice of that title is for the shock value. This does not detract from the truth of the statement, however. With the exception of the Civil War, Nigeria’s fourth republic has witnessed far more immediate threats to human life and security than the other regimes. It would be unduly optimisitic to idly wait for the plot twist that would prevent the potential implosion.
As for apt titles, a writer’s necessarily got to be creative with words. Particularly in a world where reading has almost become a voluntary hobby and writers have to struggle for attention along with audio and visual celebrities.
HibeOnline: Out of all the articles you have written, which single piece would you say has impacted readers the most, and what specific incident influenced you to write it?
AS: Ah. That’s a difficult question for me to answer.
In the last three years, I’ve written over two hundred essays, articles and short pieces across different media platforms. Some of these have gone “viral” and earned me quite a lot of popularity. But such popularity has been directly proportional to their entertainment value. Other works are lesser known, but they have impacted people significantly enough for them to write to me—from as far away as India—in appreciation for accurately expressing what they felt. I think, at the end of the day, I am more content with having one reader whose world is changed by my words, than a hundred thousand readers who are unaffected afterwards.
HibeOnline: For many of us your literary side seem to have effectively subsumed your day job was this deliberate on your part or just a natural development?
AS: I can’t quite lay on finger on the changeover. My career path as swung from being a university lecturer to being a career lawyer. In any case, I had originally planned on becoming a full-time writer in my forties. I worked as a career lawyer at two of the top law firms in Lagos for some seven years until writing crept up on me. And now, at thirty, I have resigned from employment to attempt life as a career writer—and legal consultant. So, yes, you could say it was a natural development.
HibeOnline: The high point of your career as a practising lawyer and also writer and low points
AS: As a corporate service lawyer, I’ve been on many excellent transactions, a lot of which are of a confidential nature. But a significant public impact deal was my work on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s credit scheme to banks to support the aviation, electricity and small-and medium scale enterprises sectors. As a writer, I suppose my high point was the day I met with Wole Soyinka—we had a very brief exchange that I will insert in an autobiography someday. As for low moments, these are negligible. I am quite impatient with self-pity.
HibeOnline: would you say you are more fulfilled as a writer or a lawyer thus far:
AS: Both have their roles—as you may have noticed from my writings. My knowledge of law has enriched my literary skills. And my craft as a writer has influenced my legal writing.
HibeOnline: Considering the challenges of running just one business in Nigeria, let alone dual careers, how do you effectively run law and writing?
AS: That’s simple. I treat both with the seriousness they deserve. If you treat writing as a hobby, then its impact won’t likely go beyond the realm of hobbies.
HibeOnline: Let’s switch to your starkly pragmatic personae now, what are your views on youth participation in politics, what has improved and what is lacking?
AS: Our legal system sufficiently allows “youths” to participate in politics, same as everyone else. From the age of 18, you can vote in elections, and get appointed to various offices in the public service. And from the age of 30 you can contest elections to public positions. This principle applies across gender and economic status. In theory.
On the other hand, our socio-cultural values (particularly in respect of age and gender) have placed political authority in the hands of older (and rich) men. And these people are not going to give up their positions of authority voluntarily. We will have to change our socio-cultural values if we are to force that to happen. And changing our values start with social education.
HibeOnline: From my cursory social investigations, it appears lawyers and journalists are the careers that tend to get involved in partisan politics the most, will you be getting involved, perhaps, even contesting at some point?
AS: I would be happy to go into the legislature sometime in life, particularly if I find a political party I won’t be ashamed to align with, or if the proposal for independent candidacy is established.
HibeOnline: Looking at Nigeria generally if you had to pick one what would you say drives your sense of frustration even anger the most?
AS: It would probably be our lack of a coherent socio-political philosophy and historical identity.
HibeOnline: You have written books, achieved in your legal career, many will be complacent at this stage are you taking it easy now or what is next on the list of challenges?
AS: Complacent? No way. I’ve done some things in life, true, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of all I could be.
HibeOnline: your perspectives on two abstract terms “fulfilment” “Contentment”
AS: That would end up becoming a full essay if I start, so let’s skip those.
HibeOnline: Recurring misconception most people have about you?
AS: Well, because I’ve earned recognition as a social critic, folks tend to constrain my personality into a sombre, ascetic type of character. No fun at all. But people close enough to me know that I’m quite playful, in fact, 9 times out of 10.
HibeOnline: How important are the following to you: family, religion, life, achievement, and patriotism, and in what order?
AS: Those are ideas that exist on different planes, it would be wrong to compare or rank them. Achievements are a factor for life, for example. But, if you include “philosophical values”, I would start with that as everyone’s foundation for all other ideas.
HibeOnline: Any regrets wrong decisions which still haunt you?
AS: No, I don’t believe I have any regrets. I’ve lived my life, so far, with the expectation of the potential consequences of all my actions. When you understand, in advance, the outcomes of every personal action or decision, you will have little to regret.
HibeOnline: what would you say is the most impacting and enduring advice you have gotten till date and from whom?
AS: Let me see…no, there’s plenty to choose from. Again, I wouldn’t be comfortable ranking any one of them as the most impacting or the most enduring.
HibeOnline: favourite writer and literary genre?
AS: That’s an unfair question to ask any bookworm!
HibeOnline: something unique previously unknown about you could be a skill or hidden prowess, something quirky, uncommon?
AS: Well, I’m a computer geek—which isn’t saying much these days. But while in school, I repaired computers, built and sold computers, designed websites using programming language, and other diverse computer geeky things.
HibeOnline: the last spontaneous thing you did?
AS: That, I can’t remember.
HibeOnline: any guilty pleasures
AS: Well, all my pleasures are guilt free, except Candy Crush Saga—which I play on my phone with a vague sense of irresponsibility.
HibeOnline: Are you single, in a relationship, engaged, married and who is she (tell us briefly about her)
AS: I have a partner. And she is better qualified to talk about herself—and maybe about me, too!
HibeOnline: your favourite holiday destination
AS: That would be my sitting room sofa.
HibeOnline: your favourite food both African and Continental
AS: I generally eat whatever is placed before me. My gastronomic senses are not sufficiently evolved to decide on a favourite.
HibeOnline: do you have a favourite artiste both in acting and music
HibeOnline: Most embarrassing incident you have been involved in
AS: There’s some mature content involved in that. I’ll pass.
HibeOnline: any awkward situation you have found yourself?
AS: If you discount the hundreds of daily awkward situations that surface in dealing with clients in legal practice then, not really.
Hibeonline: What would you like to be remembered for?
AS: I’ll be satisfied if someone sometime remembers me as an inspiring leader, an interesting teacher and a splendid writer.
HibeOnline: Any upcoming projects your fans should be looking out for?
AS: To use the writer’s cliché, I’m working on my next book.
HibeOnline: last words and parting advice either for Nigerians generally or a particular demographic
AS: Hahaha, don’t let’s misrepresent to the Nigerian public, you know these won’t be my last words to them. They’ll have to wait until I’m dead and buried—and maybe not even then.
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