Abraham Oshoko, author and illustrator of the June 12 graphic novels talks about his newest addition to the June 12 series – June 12, 1993: Annulment and also what it means to be a graphic novelist.
1. What did you find most challenging in writing June 12: Annulment?
The research…piecing together all the details from numerous sources.
2. Was June 12: Annulment easier to write than the first June 12?
Yes and No. Yes because I have researched and done something like this before (even though there were differences in conceptualisation) and no because the style of this new volume is different from the initial one.
Let me explain. The first book (being the first one), shifted between prose and reportage. It was like that because it was my first time and the amount of information gathered during the research work was so staggering that it was difficult to decide how much information should come in and how it should be presented. Should it be prose, documentary, poetry, comedy or tragicomedy?
However, for this new book, I settled for prose. I thought; why not tell the story from the perspective of each of the players? Also, why not turn the players themselves into actual characters so that even though the story is non-fiction, it could be told in a way that will be appealing and yet intriguing to the reader without compromising the truth?
So you have a story that takes us into the reasoning of Sani Abacha on why he really believed it was his ‘turn’ to be head of state; or why IBB felt he had no choice but to go along with the annulment or why MKO stood his ground that he won an election and therefore he has to rule etc.
3. How did you conduct your research?
By gathering books, journals and articles written by all sides of the controversy. So there were books written by people close to Babangida, MKO, reports of eyewitness meetings with Abacha, Shonekan and so on. There were also personal interviews from most of the leading figures of that era.
After this, the facts have to be cross checked with other research materials.
It was records from news magazines like Tell, The News, Newswatch, African Concord etc. that strengthened the chronological order in the graphic novel.
4. Why did the June 12 elections stand out for you, after all there were other elections that were sabotaged in one way or the other?
It was the first time in Nigerian history as a nation that an election was held that was free and fair and free of electoral violence and malpractice. This is also the view of all the members of the Nigerian Electoral Monitoring Group and all the international observers from several foreign countries. So it was a monumental event that should be recorded properly.
5. Did you feel that you were objective when writing June 12?
Yes. The goal was to avoid writing propaganda and faithfully chronicle the Nigerian history so that posterity would have an accurate history as much as possible. MKO Abiola was not spared in the book. People who were close to him spoke freely of his shortcomings as a person and as a leader; events surrounding him were depicted the way they actually happened. Babangida was not spared either but he wasn’t also unduly victimized. The truth was told according to what really happened by piecing together all parts of the puzzle and fitting them together to give us the whole picture.
6. What message would you like your readers to take from June 12: Annulment?
We need to be highly informed about our past and soberly draw lessons from it as we decide where we intend to go as a nation and as individuals from henceforth.
7. Do you write the story first and then draw the graphics or do the graphics come first for you?
Of course I have to write first. After researching different materials, collation is done and then plot is built after which I write the script. It is after this that the process of illustrating begins.
8. What would you say were the differences between a graphic novel and a comic?
Apart from the volume (comics are regularly 22 to 25 pages; in other words, a single graphic novel chapter), graphic novels are more mature. Comics may be for children but graphic novels (being actually novels but in illustrated format) definitely have a wider appeal.
9. Your portrayal of Babangida and the complexities of his position is really in-depth. Would you say he is the main character of June 12?
I wouldn’t say he is the main character as there are three main characters – Abiola, Babangida and Abacha and there are several supporting characters like Shehu Yar’Adua, General Obasanjo, Ernest Shonekan, Omo Omoruyi, Beko Ransome Kuti on the side of the activists and so on.
10. What would your advice to other writers and graphic designers be?
Keep at it. You learn to write or draw by actually doing it. Also, take some time off to study and enjoy the works of other gifted minds!
Finally, “There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding.”
JUNE 12 1993: ANNULMENT is the second in this multi-volume series by Abraham Oshoko. The book can be pre-ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling +2348077364217 or tweeting at us: @farafinabooks
Upon release, JUNE 12, 1993: THE ANNULMENT will be available in all major bookstores across the country.