“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” – Gustav Flaubert
In the not-so-distant past, I took a trip to the future through the pages of the Righting Our Story collection. In that future, Nigerian doctors were not leaving in their numbers; their talents and skills were being applied to serving their own people, and they were not overworked and underpaid. In that future, Nigerians had universal health coverage, patient records were digital, and emergency medical services were available, functional, and effective.
I never thought I could picture so clearly and perfectly a Nigeria where healthcare delivery was seamless, and quality was not a question of one’s socio-economic background. But, thanks to Ajibola Mikail, a talented Nigerian writer, I was able to live in the future I desired, even if for a short while. As a lover of literature, emotional transitions triggered by words are not new to me. Yet, this was different. It was about a future I have desired times without number but never had it been so clearly captured on paper.
In November 2022, the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund launched the Literary Contest. The goal of the contest was to create a vision of a healthier Nigeria through writing. Out of over 400 entries, Mikail Ajibola’s story stood out for good reasons. It was a story that inspired trust in the potential for systemic improvements in the Nigerian healthcare system.
Mikail Ajibola would go on to win the contest in the short story category and one of the perks that came with winning was a six-month internship. Ajibola has now concluded her internship and I got to chat with her about the experience. It was a short conversation, lasting just about thirty minutes, yet the impression that Ajibola had made on me lingered. It was not hard to see how a six-month stint at AriseTV Nigeria could have been so transformative.
Like every other new experience, Ajibola’s time at Arise came with its own challenges. Navigating the corporate world at a leading media house was not easy. The temptation to leave and slink back into her comfort zone came up many times, but Ajibola remained relentless in her pursuit of a valuable experience.
Ajibola speaks of her time as an intern as an experience that was “worth it”. She talks about working on reports across different sectors, covering stories, taking interviews, and expanding her worldview to include industries that she probably would not have interacted with otherwise. During her interview, Ajibola recalls going out to the field to cover stories and then writing the scripts to be delivered on screen. With the help of her supervisor, Ajibola emerged from not just as a writer whose work makes an indelible mark, but also as a budding reporter whose scripts form part of the media archives of the country.
During our conversation, Ajibola recounts meeting up with older reporters individually for a chance to work with them. For her, it was about making the most of a six-month window, without letting anything slip through, like the chance to report a story from the presidential tribunal or work with exceptional media personnel. Through her internship period, Ajibola says she was able to experience a new dimension to being a writer. A creative writer’s biggest asset is their imagination, for a reporter, this could be their greatest undoing if not properly wielded. A reporter must tell the truth as it is, and this was the hard skill Ajibola would learn, through hours of hard work and intentional learning. Ajibola wants creatives out there to always take hold of opportunities that come to them, to use their art to drive meaningful change and never give up on their art as a way to get to the future they desire. Sometimes, your art is not necessarily how you live, but how you find your way to new experiences. For Ajibola, literature was how she found her way into the media sector.
Through Ajibola’s experience, the vision takes root. A vision of systemic transformation through creative arts and individual transformation through systemic transformation. This is the future we all dream of.