Writing for Toni Kan Onwordi, is not a passing fancy or a hobby, it is the very life itself ! Popularly known as Toni Kan, he is arguably one of Nigeria’s foremost writers. Cerebral and always ready to push back the frontiers of ignorance, the author of Nights of a Creaking Bed
-a collection of short stories – is also a man of many parts. His career has spanned banking, Telecoms and Journalism. Currently managing partner Radi8 and publisher of Sabinews, Toni speaks candidly here about media, writing and the new Group Managing Director of NNPC Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.
Can anyone survive as a writer in Nigeria?
TK: Absolutely, you just need to create value for the gift you have. We need to begin to project ourselves not as poor writers but as professionals engaged in a vocation that requires a certain set of skills and talent. The era of writing for free should end. Writers also have to realise that that novel or book of poems is just a starting point. There are corporates and individuals and magazines even willing to pay top dollar for good quality writing. We must look for them. That is the way to throw off the limiting toga of ‘poor writer.’
What is your new novel about?
TK: It is about Lagos as a carnivorous city that corrupts and then swallows you whole. A criminal is missing and his lecturer brother has come to look for him in Lagos. The story is about his descent into something he finds hard to recognize.
When will it be finished ?
TK: It is finished. It should be out next year God willing.
The new GMD was your publisher in Hints, do you think he can reform NNPC?
TK: Yes. He is experienced, cerebral, and adequately qualified for the job. He also has a president who is in support of reform. It will be hard for Ibe Kachikwu to fail at this task.
Why did you establish Sabinews ?
TK: I set up sabinews.com with my partner, Peju Akande because we wanted a website that was wholesome, ethical and not run-of-the-mill. Most websites were celebrity obsessed, entertainment focused and gossip driven. There was no analysis or perspective. We wanted to change the narrative in the digital publishing ecosystem. We wanted a newsite that was also big on opinion and analysis and fresh perspectives.
Do you think the print media will become extinct ? TK :I don’t think so. So long as people like my father and those like him exist, the print will exist side by side with the digital even though the digital will trump print.
Is the knowledge economy the future?
TK: The knowledge economy is expanding and will continue to especially as media continues to converge and the ubiquity of mobile devices remains on the high.
What is your advice for new writers?
TK:Read, read and then write and once you start writing, don’t stop.