Accra, Ghana, October 15, 2020//-Yidana Sulemana Mohammed Awal, who writes with the pseudonym Waterz Yidana is a young Ghanaian writer whose books are making waves in Ivy League universities in the United States (U.S), United Kingdom, and other parts of the globe.
For instance, his second play titled- ‘Madman and the Drunkards’, the satirical comedy is in the libraries of Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford and many others.
Mr Yidana didn’t lobby or do anything to get it there. He rather chalked this feat through hard work and his voracious desire to produce good materials for the reading public.
When African Eye Report sat down with Mr Yidana in an interview, he said: “To go global, is to have good content. Your writings must address world issues, not just your village or country”.
He added that he would be very accomplished if in three years, the Government or other big examination bodies adopt books published by Makola Books Limited.
What it means is that we would gain a wider readership. The goal is to make Makola Books Limited one of the leading publishing companies in Africa, Mr Yidana added.
Mr Yidana started writing at the age of 19. He previously wanted to become a musician so he wrote songs and raps and even had one of them recorded with a neighbourhood friend.
He later gave up on music and switched into writing. He started by writing short stories and playscripts. One of Ghana’s music legends Mac Tontoh of Osibisa fame fell in love with Mr Yidana’s ability to write and always invited him to his house for conversations anytime he was in Ghana.
He linked Mr Yidana with the Daily Guide newspaper where they published two of his articles. His first major story he wrote was with a friend which they never published.
He later wrote his first play, ‘The Mango Seed’ in 2007 and it was published in 2013. In 2015, a Theatre Arts student of the University of Ghana directed this play as his project work.
In 2016, ‘Madman and the Drunkards’ together with “The Poetry, Letters & Short Stories of Waterz Yidana’ were also written and published.
Mr Yidana dedicated ‘Madman and the Drunkards’ to his son Mankudivi. This book got so much good and critical reviews and Social Media attention that it became an instant hit.
The Ghana Education Service approved and recommended it for schools. It won the Efo Kodjo Mawugbe’s Prize for Drama in 2017 in Ghana.
In 2019, University of Ghana requested to use it as a subject text for graduate students and for stage performance which was granted.
“I needed a publisher to publish me and I could hardly get one, so I created a publishing company called Makola Books Limited”.
He writes for The Mirror and Junior Graphic, both newspapers are published by the Graphic Communications Group Limited.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Makola Books Limited, a publishing company based in Accra, which he uses to publish his works and the works of other writers in Ghana and the rest of Africa.
Why he became a writer
Mr Yidana became a writer because he likes to express himself. He likes to share knowledge. And writing is one of the mediums that gives one the opportunity to reach a large audience or to communicate your ideas to your immediate community or even the nation at large, according to him.
He continued: “Writing made me conscious of who I am and through writing, I know I can project my society in a positive light. I can correct it. I can warn. I can inform society. I can educate. I can entertain”.
I can even criticise and do many other things that would provoke or prevent change”.
Mr Yidana revealed that he didn’t set out to be a writer but it just happened along the way, saying: “I was interested in music when I was in high school.
I wrote songs and rap and performed them on stage during entertainment. But I soon realised after high school that music wasn’t going to help me, so I found solace in writing”.
Both have overlapping similarities anyway. But it must be my constant search for knowledge that has brought me this far.
I don’t really see myself as an entrepreneur like that. I think I’m just engaged more in writing; and unfortunately, one has to sell it”.
It is very difficult. I think it is pretty much difficult to achieve greatness. Because one has to constantly think. You must think of what to write, not just writing anything, but what will stand the test of time.
And to sell an idea is not an easy thing to do. You must first of all believe in your idea, and then try to make others believe in it too. It is not an easy journey at all, but it is doable, he said.
Supporting the creative industry
In a bid to support the country’s struggling creative industry, Mr Yidana who is also a graduate of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) established the Makola Books Limited.
“I want to support other upcoming writers who may not have the means to support themselves. It’s a kind of social entrepreneurship thing that I’m doing”, he explained.
So whatever profit that I make from my writing, I try to use some of it to help the less privileged and vulnerable in our society”.
He noted that many of the youth are over reliant on the government, hence the massive unemployment in the country. So creating his company will inspire other young people to create jobs for themselves and not to rely on others for employment.
“Growing up was a rollercoaster kind of thing for me. I’m from a humble background. My dad was a cook and my mum a business person.
But unfortunately for me, my dad passed away four months to my tenth birthday. Things quickly changed and we had to get used to the absence of my dad”, Mr Yidana told African Eye Report.
Things weren’t too bad because the family was very supportive. I, at least, got the basic things of life, including education. I had others in the family to look up to and I didn’t take my future for granted”.
Legacy and inspiration
Mr Yidana who stands for many things, especially truth and justice wants to be a voice for the voiceless. In his words: “My life should be helpful to humanity. My writings should inspire posterity to do great things in the world”.
Advice to young writers
He used the opportunity to advise young writers to read more and write more, stressing that they shouldn’t always wait for inspiration before they write.
They should believe in themselves and know that art is highly subjective and prone to criticism. They should follow the passion and learn from those who suffered the shocks of oppression, to pave the way for us to have the freedom to write, Mr Yidana emphasized.
Advice to the youth
“I’ll like to encourage the youth to read widely. They shouldn’t just read for exams sake. Reading is the foundation of all learning and if we want to develop, we must read and know what we are doing.
And again, it is difficult for people to deceive you if you’ve read widely. I would like to thank you for granting me this interview”.
He is writing his next play which is based on the life story of one of Africa’s great leaders Thomas Sankara. Waterz Yidana has said that the life of Thomas Sankara, a late former President of Burkina Faso is worthy of emulation, therefore his next book is solely to promote the ideals of this selfless and brave leader.
After completing secondary school-Walewale Secondary Technical School TECH), he continued to Accra College of Education where he trained as a teacher. He proceeded to University of Cape Coast where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.
Mr Yidana has met with almost all the legendary writers from Ghana and the rest of West Africa including Wole Soyinka who he considers his mentor. He has many celebrity friends and professors.
Interests and TV shows
Yidana is much interested in plays, poetry, essays and activism. He makes very good use of social media, especially Facebook where he writes almost on a daily basis.
He has been on JoyNews TV for an interview, Citi FM, Radio XYZ, GTV and other media platforms to talk about his books and writings. He is a member of the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW).
He has received many awards including Forty Under 40 Awards.
Mr Yidana who comes from a modest family in the Northern Region of Ghana is one of the young Ghanaian writers to watch out for.
By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report