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    How I earned double degree with one Govt scholarship- Mendez

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    How I earned double degree with one Govt scholarship- Mendez

    Renowned philosopher Alfred Lord Tennyson once said that  “ the heights which great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upwards in the night”. Indeed, the above lines captures the story of Isaac Miebi Mendez, an ijaw young man who was sent abroad on federal government scholarship to study Marine Engineering but ended up graduating with two degrees. One in Marine Engineering and the other in Creative writing from two  universities in Asia and Europe and today is celebrated globally as a renowned writer and poet.

    Born on 2nd July, 1995 in Kpakiama, Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State, he is an emerging and promising writer residing in Liverpool, the United Kingdom.

    Mendez had his primary and secondary education at Sonicity Ahoada Universal Schools, Rivers State and Ayakpo Comprehensive College Bayelsa State respectively. He studied at the Lyceum of the Philippines University where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering in 2016. He later proceeded to John Moores Liverpool University in the United Kingdom due to his love for writing and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing with honours in 2021.

    His love for the country and the need for improvement kept the fire in him burning. He sees himself as a Pro-African because he seeks to maintain respect for the continent and a proper representation of its people. He has great love for prose and activism and has written quite a number of works that can be found online on Chapbook called “We are not Small Pieces – African Politics by Atmostterrific. He has also been involved in two Writing on the Wall (WOW) projects “Different Voices Shared Lives’ and What’s Your Story?”, respectively with works featured in two anthologies. He was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2022 competition and also features in the price anthology. He spoke to Obinna Nwachukwu in Abuja on his life, academics and career. Excerpts:

     You read marine engineering but abandoned it for creative writing. Why?

    I did not abandon marine engineering because it was a three- year programme we did in Lyceum of the Philippines University after which we were expected to return to Nigeria and do one year internship on board a ship. The entire programee was sponsored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) but when we got back to Nigeria from Philippines nothing happened. Some of us waited for four to five years before doing the internship. During that time, my brother who also was on the NIMASA scholarship but in the United Kingdom had a baby and I went to UK to see him and his family and to participate in his graduation ceremony, all of which  took place same period.  While I was there, he suggested I should transfer to  John Moores Liverpool University in the UK and complete my programme there.  This I tried to do, but the University in Philippines refused to transfer me, hence the authorities of John Moores University, UK advised me to start afresh. Rather than continue with marine engineering I choose to do something else. I studied Creative Writing in John Moores University Liverpool and graduated in 2021. That was how I switched courses. After my graduation, NIMASA called me to complete the marine engineering programme by doing the one year internship on board a ship.  But then COVID set in and I had to complete the creative course online while I later completed the marine engineering course  and today, I have two degrees      

    After the 12 months internship, I went back to Liverpool for my graduation from John Moores University. While there, I spent extra 5 months after graduation during which period, I got involved in a writing organization called “Writing on the Wall”. The government of Liverpool is involved in their activities. The organization publishes an anthology called “Different Voices Shade Lives “. I  was also  involved with another  group called “Frontline Workers” which is about the COVID 19 experiences . The former is already published while the later will be published in January 2023. Another project I was involved in was the Mandela 8 project which we taught in classes and was involved in their workshops. After completing  these projects, I returned to Nigeria in preparation to go to Philippines to collect my degree certificate.

    So what informed your love for poetry and activism?

    When I first started, I thought I would be a poet but I eventually got involved in prose writing and later entered into competitions while I was on board the ship. One of the competitions I entered was The Atmostterrific Magazine . Following the ENDSARs protest in Nigeria , I wrote a poem called 2010-20. That poem was selected to feature in their online chapter. So I see that as part of my activism and I’m telling my stories for people to see

    Were you involved in the ENDSARs protest?

    In Nigeria, I was not but in Liverpool I was involved in the protest.  I was moved by the plight of Nigerian youths and the torture a close friend of mine had with the Nigerian police before the mass protest.  In the UK we organized protests in Manchester Liverpool in support of the ENDSARS protest in Nigeria

    Which of the poems earned you the nomination for Poetry prize?

    It is “I am not my father’s son”. It’s a poem about father and son relationship mixed with folklore. In this father, son, dynamics, the son is been domestically abused because the father is paranoid and he blames the mother of the boy ( his wife) for being responsible for his condition. He thinks people are out for his life. In the poem, there is a line that says “I look for a corner in this house where I can hide my body in the same way my father hides his love because in the morning, my father will march on my spine because he has been fighting with demons all his life, he has spent his lifetime fighting demons and I’m the last man standing but my mother begs me to forgive him still he blames her for his condition”. At the end of the poem you discover there is a sort of madness that comes in almost as if something else is involved. It’s a three piece poem. The Theme of the competition was “ Life on the Line” so I decided to give them something in line with the theme

    What is the message in the poem?

    The message is on domestic violence and torture which many people go through especially in Africa but nobody talks about it. The fact is that many people go through mental health problems but nobody knows and those that know hardly talk about it. The message in the poem is aimed at discouraging domestic violence and encouraging family cohesion, love and peace

    Going forward,  between marine engineering and  creative writing which one would you choose?

    I was thinking of doing masters  degree in Creative writing-Advanced poetry and prose. But my father suggests I should continue with marine engineering. So, if I get Visa I will go for it, but if not, I will stay back. But my focus is to be a marine engineer and creative writer

    With experiences outside Nigeria, what would you say about creative writing in Africa?

    Africans are very creative, very imaginative and very innovative. Talents abound everywhere and I’m proud to be a creative writer and a celebrated poet which is my life ambition but I don’t intend to limit myself to just one genre of literature. I’m inspired by Professor Wole Soyinka and would wish to be like him one day. I am working on publishing a book on my experiences on the sea.

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