by Eketi Edima Ette
Interview on BBC.
My name is Adam Greene and this is Focus on Africa, on the BBC world service. Today, we have as our guest, Eketi Edima Ette from Nigeria. Eketi is an author, a blogger, farmer, business woman and philanthropist. She’s the CEO of For the Love of Words Inc. and COO of My Papa Farms Ltd. She’s also a Mandela Washington Fellow and a UNICEF Ambassador.
ADAM GREEN: “Eketi—I hope I got the pronunciation correctly—”
EKETI: (laughs) “Yes, you did. Carry on.”
ADAM GREEN: “Alright. So, Eketi, you’ve got quite an impressive resume, if I may call it that. You’re obviously a very multi-talented woman and have accomplished so much at such a young age. Tell us how you got to this moment.”
EKETI: “Thank you, Adam. Where do I begin?
I grew up on a 15-acre estate that has a printing press, a bakery, a soap-making factory, an oil press, a huge poultry, fishery and piggery. Agriculture was my first love.
I loved the fruit trees and viewed them as my friends. I enjoyed tilling the ground and planting. I loved to watch the maize sprouts poking their green heads from the tilled earth. I adored the mango trees and always waited in anticipation of the fruiting season. We also grew yams, cocoyams, cassava and all sorts of vegetables too. I loved feeding the chickens and I really enjoyed the catfish and tilapia.”
ADAM GREEN: (laughs) “I can imagine that. It does sound like it was a very big enterprise. This was owned by your parents?”
EKETI: “Yes, it was big and it was run by my father, although my grandfather started it. My mother ran the bakery and the oil press. We produced palm oil and coconut oil for sale.
The printing press, was my second love.
Every week, as a child, I went there under the guise of seeing my father and drinking from the big bottles of Fanta he always kept for us in his fridge. But what I really went there for, was to smell the books. That smell of new print, is something that is coded into my blood. I absolutely adore the smell of new books.
My love for words led me here, to where I am today. From the moment I could write, which was the age of five, my mother put a pencil in my hand. I loved listening to stories, and so naturally, I gravitated towards that. I listened to stories told by my grandparents and maids. But my father was my favourite storyteller. Because his stories were different from the folktales I often heard; they were life experiences he’d had and very funny.
I have a very active imagination, and those stories spurred it into action. So, I began to write my own stories. Then my father encouraged me to publish them. When a few friends suggested the same thing, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do so, so I got published.
ADAM GREENE: “Interesting. Your first book, Compound Matters, was self-published and a really big hit. It became a #1 New York Bestseller and an Amazon bestseller in its first week in the market. What prompted your decision to self-publish?
EKETI: “Funny story. It wasn’t a decision I made per se, but one that I was forced into. I’d sent my manuscripts to several publishers and all I got were rejection letters. I gave up, but my family, especially my father, strongly disagreed with that decision (chuckles).
Just to get them off my back, I decided to self-publish. A friend actually helped me put it on Amazon and sent it a few people. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I learnt that it had made the bestsellers list on the New York Times and on Amazon. My friend called me a week after what I thought was a very successful book launch, and said there was something she wanted to show me. She sounded terribly excited. When she came over and showed me the stats on Amazon, I was…. I can’t describe it. The feeling was incredible.”
ADAM GREENE: “Kudos to your family and friends. Now, tell us about being a UNICEF ambassador, your volunteer work and what birthed the idea for your soup kitchens. How did that happen?”
EKETI: “Ready for another long story?”
ADAM GREEN: (chuckles) “I’m sure our viewers and readers won’t mind.”
EKETI: “Okay. I had an idea in 2010, when……”
This is Emeka Adewale and you’re welcome to Punch Entertainment Live. As usual, today’s interview will be available on our website and our newspaper, Tuesday Punch Newspaper. Our guest for today is a very talented young lady, Eketi Edima Ette. She’s one of us, a Nigerian, who is breaking barriers in all walks of life. Eketi is an author, a blogger, farmer, business woman and philanthropist. She’s the CEO of For the Love of Words Inc. and COO of My Papa Farms Ltd. She’s also a Mandela Washington Fellow and a UNICEF Ambassador.
EMEKA ADEWALE: “Welcome to the studio, Eketi.”
EKETI: “Thank you, Yemi.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: “So, tell us about yourself.”
EKETI: “I thought you already did that in the introduction. There’s very little more to add.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: “Okay. You’re a very successful woman. Just last month, you were ranked among the top ten African millionaires. As a woman, we know that it couldn’t have been easy. How have you been able to balance work and family?”
EKETI: “It’s not been easy, as you said, but the Lord has been my strength. Before I got married, my career came first. Even when my husband and I were still dating, I told him that my career was my first child and would always come first. After I got married, I said this in an interview on NTA.
Nigerians on Twitter and Instagram called me all sorts of names and told me my husband and children came first. From their helpful abuse, I was able to reset myself to factory settings. Now, I put my family first. If I have an important meeting and my child needs me, I cancel it. Last month, I even cancelled a meeting with Kofi Annan and Ban Ki Moon, because my son had malaria.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: “That’s incredible. Nigerians are caring people.
Your books, Compound Matters and Tell This Story the Naija Way are New York Times and Amazon Bestsellers. Can you briefly tell us about that?”
EKETI: “I’d already written the two books since 2010. Just to get my family and friends them off my back, I decided to publish them. A friend helped me put it on Amazon and sent it a few people. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I learnt that it had made the bestsellers list on the New York Times and on Amazon. I really thank God for his mercies. He alone made it possible.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: “It must have felt really great. When you travelled to the U.S. to receive the Golden Quill award, how did you cope? As I recall, your family couldn’t come along.”
EKETI: “It was really tough. I wanted them to be by my side, but that wasn’t possible. The devil caused someone in the U.S. Embassy not to properly file their visa papers. So, they missed it. But at last, God win.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: “As a successful woman, how do you make your marriage work?”
EKETI: “It’s easy, because my husband is my best friend. I tell him everything—we have no secrets. I always make sure that I cook all his food, no matter which country I’m in. Last month, I had to be in Brazil for a book festival and in the U.K for my sister’s graduation. So, I booked my flights ahead of time on both days, so I could fly in and make his breakfasts. I also prepared stew and three different soups and stored it in the freezers.
I make sure that my maid never serves him. Busy as I am, I still wash his underwear and clothes. I kneel to serve his food and call him My King. There are no third parties in our marriage. Even when he does something stupid, I obey him, because he’s the head of our home. My husband even used to say that I am humble and submissive to a fault.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: “Indeed, you are a beacon of womanhood to our young girls of today, who are being deceived by standards set on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.”
EKETI: “Thank you.”
EMEKA ADEWALE: As a successful business tycoon, we know it’s not possible to be with your husband all the time. A few weeks ago, he was caught with a girl who turned out to be your personal assistant. How did you deal with that?”
EKETI: “Hmmm… I was very angry and I posted a rant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But once again, my fans came to my rescue. They really helped me. They abused me and called me names. They let me understand that all men cheat and that men are polygamous in nature.
They made me to understand that I shouldn’t have travelled for work in the first place and that I was wrong to deny him of sex and to say that I won’t sleep with him until he got tested for STDs. They told me he was my husband, had paid my bride price and I shouldn’t deny him, else he would go outside and another woman would pack into my home.
So, I prayed. I watched War Room, fasted and prayed. I also repented from travelling and fired that husband snatcher. I also went on briefessentials.com and bought all manner of sexy lingerie. When I got back home, I submitted myself to him. I gave him all the available styles, from snake-in-the-monkey-shadow, to wheelbarrow styles. We worked it out. To God be the glory.
EMEKA ADEWALE: “You’re indeed a virtuous woman. What’s your last words to businesswomen like you out there, who want to be successful in life?”
EKETI: “Women, please, learn from me. Be careful whom you hire as a personal assistant, because these single women are prowling, ready to take your man at the slightest chance. We know that men are polygamous in nature and cannot see a naked woman without catching feelings. So, please, protect your man. Stop travelling. Stay successful.”