Many people are still wondering how you came about putting together ten books which you are about to launch. When did this endeavour start?
You see, I dislike writing even though I’ve been doing it for decades. For example, my Prof. Brainy column in Daily Trust Saturday has been around for more than 20 years. Even though I’ve never liked writing, I kept doing it because that is a platform for teaching.
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My classroom was too limited, so writing was the only way for me to reach thousands of students. Accordingly, I’ve met many professionals (some with PhDs) who told me things like, “my father introduced Prof. Brainy column to me when I was in school.”
Encounters like this kept me going until three years ago when I clocked 40. Then I became alarmed. “You can die tomorrow! What’s your legacy?” I asked myself. It was time to get selfish and produce one’s legacies. But how should one begin?
Then I went back to the first principle. In Islam, only three things will earn you a reward after you’re dead: charitable capital projects like digging wells and planting trees; knowledge that benefits humanity, and finally, the prayers of your children.
So, I deliberately try to pursue these three in the remaining half of my life – in the process, I embraced writing. For the charitable projects, I chose tree planting. For children who will pray for me, I’ve decided to marry more wives. To share beneficial knowledge, I’ve decided to write more books.
Accordingly, at the beginning of the year 2022, I told my friends on social media that I was going to write 10 books this year. That’s how we got here. And I’m happy that a bibliophile and a philosopher king, Sen Kashim Shettima, is coming to chair the book launch.
What are the areas the books covered and how did you get the inspiration?
I have eclectic interests. That’s why I studied for many degrees in different fields. Therefore, the books cover many areas from parenting to raising a food forest. So, one is titled “$100 Food Forest” and another “Tell, Don’t Yell” which is a conversation on how to manage teenagers and young adults. We also have, “Persuasive Genius” and “One Secret of Straight-A Students.” Any student who reads this will top his class anywhere in the world. I’ve used that one technique to do the same. We have one leadership book titled “Umar’s Justice” because Umar’s life fascinates me.
In 2020, I released “The Social Science of Muhammad (SAW)” and this year, we’re publishing “Making Science of Islam”. And there’s also “How to Have Fun Memorizing the Qur’an, One Verse a Day”.
You write columns, give tutorials, mentor people and at the time do politics. How do you plan your time, including giving some to your family?
It’s engineered chaos, really. If I can’t do many things, I don’t do one thing. I read many books at the same time and write many articles at the same time. For my family, I dedicate three special times for them: dinner time, school runs and after morning prayers. Fortunately, I’ve narrowed my focus to only three things now.
At what time did you know that you will be a writer?
My father once told me that a journalist can unite a country and destroy the country. I thought that was tremendous power in one individual, so I wanted that power. Related to that, as a child I read a lot. One thing that amazed me then was how writers could write from different perspectives – especially fiction writers. It was like magic. So, I wanted to be able to do that too. Indeed, I finished my first book as a teenager and started writing letters to the editor in my teens. I have been fascinated with the craft since, even though I dislike writing. It’s too difficult. I like easy things.
Reading culture is under serious threat, how can it be revived?
That’s easy. Writers should tell more stories – whether the piece is fiction or non-fiction. Stories are relatable, so stories work and stories sell. Check any non-fiction bestseller on Amazon and you will realize that the author is a great storyteller. I agree with Alex Hormozi, the author of “$100m Offers”, who said telling stories is the best way to influence anyone. So, if we want to get our people to read, make it easy for them to do so by writing engaging stories.
Richard Thaler, Nobel laureate economist, was right when he said, “If you want people to do something, make it easy.”
You are called Prof Brainy, who gave you that name?
It will be nice to say someone gave me the name, but I gave it to my column in the Daily Trust, not myself. What influenced the name was a publication from the British Council, which had a character called Dr or Professor Grammar. At that time, I was teaching people how to develop brain power and improve memory – in other words, brainy stuff. So, the column became Prof. Brainy.
Sometimes, like during Ramadan, you task yourself to write something that will change the lives of the reader for days, how do you get the ideas?
A great writer, I think it was Steven King, once said that the best way for a writer to get ideas is for him to write a lot and read a lot. I think in the past three years, I’ve read over 600 books, some of them are summaries, and some of them are audiobooks, but they’re books. Also, if you write everything about one subject, you’ll discover that you have three more ideas to write about that thing. Usually in Ramadan, I like to write about the social science of Islam every day. Also, at the end of last year (2021), I promised readers that I would write 100 articles in 100 working days and I did. This year, I upped the challenge and wrote 60 articles in 30 days.
I like to push myself. That’s the only way I get things done. I thrive under pressure. To use the term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I’m antifragile – something that benefits from shock.
Not many people are aware that you are a gardener, you even promised to plant a certain number of trees, what is the motivation?
My father planted fruit trees in our backyard and during harvests, he shared the fruits with all the neighbours. I’ve gone a step further than my dad now. My house in Minna has a food forest, meaning you can eat something from it any day of the year.
The motivation comes from my background and the fact that I want to plant for the hereafter. These have made me the most obsessed tree planter in the world. In February this year, Professor PLO Lumumba of Kenya launched my tree-planting initiative. We plan to plant 200 million fruit trees in Nigeria. One tree per citizen, In sha Allah. Very soon, you will see our urban food forests all over Nigeria – in schools, in estates, in office buildings and so forth. We also hope that carbon emission heavy industries like construction, oil and gas and aviation will offset their emissions by sponsoring our tree planting.