Interview with activist, author, poet Moses Uyang
“To all young people I say, the world wants to listen to you! If you do not speak up, no one may know what you want.”
Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
I am Moses A. Uyang, and I am a Nigerian who belongs to the world. Throughout the years, I have given myself to development/humanitarian causes. As a creative writer and a humanitarian, I promote Human Rights and promote peace and development.
I was a participant at the 2021 virtual United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum A Decade of Action: Building a Resilient Recovery from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pandemic. I also had the chance to give suggestions on ways to build a sustainable Africa by 2030.
Tell us a little about your background?
As a little boy, the first voluminous book I read from cover to cover was from my late father, who in my dialect (Bete) I called ‘Apa’. He had a very thick novel that gave some amazing accounts about World War II. I read it for days and at my own pace. This influenced my reading habit and my desire to contribute to a better and peaceful world.
I have a degree in Education (English and Literature in English), a Diploma in Religious Studies, and a Diploma in French Language. I also have a collection of poems published online.
My first book, The Trek (2016), highlights typical city life challenges for a young Nigerian child and the slow-paced development that often hunts both the old and young alike. My second book, The Nation Builders at 60: A Compendium of 60 Nation Builders at 60 (co-edited) (2020). This co-edited book documents sixty eminent Nigerians’ lives and development impacts who turned 60-years as Nigeria celebrated her 60th year of independence in 2020. My upcoming third book is strong advocacy against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation.
In March 2021, during the London School of Economics and Political Science Africa Summit: The Global Crisis As A Catalyst for Change, my poem, Legacies of Inequalities which promotes gender equality and human rights, especially during the era of COVID-19, was accepted and presented to a global audience during the virtual Summit.
What inspires you to write poetry?
Writing poetry is a tool for promoting social change and arresting or annihilating societal ills. Words are the most affordable messengers of peace or destruction.
Words are magic. They can start a war as much as they can end a war. They can make you smile and can make you cry. They can give you a wife or a husband and can take them away from you.
I became very conscious of the power of poetry during my university days (special thanks to all my lecturers). In short, the thought of making my society sane and habitable has been my inspiration.
What has been the most significant moment in your journey so far?
Every moment counts for me. I do not take anything for granted; people or events, positives or negatives. I learn and grow from my mistakes, and I celebrate and improve on my successes.
How did you become a voice for racism, gender equality and activism?
My voice is yet to get to the level that I envisage. However, I am pleased that the little steps I am taking are very meaningful ones.
I am concerned about society and humanity. This is fundamental for me because no matter who I am, where I live, how much I have, I will always feel the serenity of a peaceful society or the pinch of a calamitous one.
A wealthy person cannot claim they are fulfilled and safe when they must go around with security details, even sometimes down to the washroom.
Also, the poor person cannot claim they are free because they can move around without security details, yet poverty daily steals the existence and life of a poor person. So, I like to lead people to realise that we can feed the good in our society and starve the bad to an inactive state.
For instance, if you are racist, you are simply a part of those dragging humanity backwards. You may only need to be shown love and see how love has no colour or tribe.
Also, one who sees no harm in practising female genital mutilation only needs to be reminded how customs and traditions cannot be greater than respect for human lives. Why should a traditional belief freely transfer deadly diseases to their women? We can do better as humans.
Are there any particular developments you hope to see? If so, what are they?
Absolutely! I want to invite leaders worldwide to come together in honesty and with the interest of their citizens to map out relevant and effective strategies to cripple the evil of terrorism. Many lives have been wasted for nothing. Women, children and the elderly are often the sad victims of terror activities. This is even worse in many yet-to-be-developed nations across continents.
I would also like to see development in creating job opportunities for young people or enabling environments where these young minds can put their creativity to productive use. The absence of these are contributing factors to the spread of crime in society.
Additionally, there is the need to keep on updating our education systems. Many things taught these days in schools are obsolete and irrelevant to our current realities nationally or internationally.
Those in the education system must be adequately cared for and rewarded. I can argue that many great nations and leaders are products of great learnings. The different problems around the world are all interconnected.
When a body’s vital organ is dysfunctional, the whole body suffers; the same applies to our different countries. We must act with a sense of urgency!
I see it as shameful if many cultures worldwide still look at women and girls with a misguided sense of cultural pomposity.
I hope to see that every society abolishes all practices that have long subjected women and girls to pain, ridicule, and background.
Finally, I try to be abreast with the various development activities of UN agencies and some other world leaders.
I must say congratulations for the passion and commitment to make the world habitable.
I am convinced that it is a mark of honour when every successful agency or government around the world helps in carrying along with other nations still lagging. Collaboration is key in our world today.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I have a budding project aimed towards eliminating female genital mutilation by 2030. I am discussing this with an organisation, and I hope to work together on this soon. I will be taking up a role with an organisation that addresses the interplay of culture and gender on the development of society.
How can young people become more involved with social change?
To become more involved with social change, we as young people must first get involved in developing individual positive characters.
As the Latin saying goes, “Nemo dat quod non habet” meaning “you cannot give what you don’t have”. We can also seek opportunities to volunteer.
No matter the little effort put in rendering voluntary services, it is always of great value. We don’t want to live in a world where we want to get but are not ready to give.
Another suggestion would be, getting a mentor for yourself. There are many knowledgeable persons with barrels of worthy experiences to share. They should be sought out.
There is also the need to collaborate within ourselves and share ideas with like-minded young persons.
With the wide range of modern technologies, young people are responsible for learning and using their knowledge to transform their society from analogue to digital.
Every society must allow its young citizens to participate in governance.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in sharing their youth voice?
I had the opportunity to coordinate peace advocacy workshops for at least 90 men and women in three Northern States of Nigeria.
Almost all of these people were senior, old enough to be my parents, but they were more than ready to listen and follow me. Many of them are people with great experiences, but they were willing to get new ideas and make them theirs.
To all young people I say, the world wants to listen to you! If you do not speak up, no one may know what you want.
The Yorubas of Nigeria have a proverb which I will say here in English. It goes: ‘A closed mouth is a closed destiny’. So, speak with freedom but must always be responsible with your words.
Interview with activist, author, poet Moses Uyang