Campbell-Fatoki calls fictional Nigerian tale ‘authentic’
by Kara Rose
Nike Campbell-Fatoki has been writing stories since she was a little girl.
The book chronicles the journey of Amelia, the daughter of King Gbèhanzin — the last independent King of Danhomè (a kingdom in present-day Republic of Benin in Africa), as she flees to southwestern Nigeria with her brother to begin a new life. Throughout the story, Amelia experiences a tremendous amount of loss, which Campbell-Fatoki said shows how “bad things happen to good people.”
The story was inspired by a tale Campbell-Fatoki’s grandmother told her as a child in Lagos, Nigeria, about her great-great-grandmother’s experiences during the 1890s. Campbell-Fatoki’s great-grandmother passed the story down to her grandmother.
Campbell-Fatoki said the story “caught her attention” and stayed with her for many years.
“My grandmother told me about her grandmother [who] fled from war to western Nigeria and ... was the daughter of the ruling king,” Campbell-Fatoki, 36, said of her great-great-grandmother. “She had to run away to save her life.”
She said she finally decided to start researching the story about six years ago to “find out what really happened.” Though her novel is fictional, she did the necessary research for the story to be “authentic” — including the structure of the palace and the council members in the story.
While working a 9-to-5 job in the sherriff’s office in Prince George’s County and raising three children — ages 10, 7 and 2, Campbell-Fatoki would research and pen her story late into the night and in the early morning. Her husband, Babatunde Fatoki, said she has put in hours of work that just can’t be quantified.
“I know that a lot of time on the weekends, I’m the one babysitting and taking care of the kids while she’s on the laptop trying to get the book in order,” he said. “Sometimes she goes to bed around 1 a.m. in the morning just trying to write the book. She locks herself in the house.”
He said seeing his wife’s work published “means a lot” because she was able to achieve a dream she has always had by self-publishing her book though Amazon.
“She told me her passion was always to write a book and to have a book that would inspire people,” Fatoki said. “To be able to express herself through this book means a lot to the family.”
Beltsville resident Erhiuvie Abu, who originally is from Nigeria, said she has known Campbell-Fatoki for about six years. The two met at a bridal shower and spent time together because they both had three kids. She said she purchased the book at the book launch a few months back and was very impressed by her friend’s work.
“Before I read the book, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew she was a first-time author,” Abu said.
She was caught up in the culture of the book and finished it in a day and a half.
“I couldn’t put it down,” Abu said. “As soon as i read the first sentence, I had to know what happened.”
Abu said she is very proud of Campbell-Fatoki and is inspired by her ability to juggle her responsibilities and have a book published. She said she’s excited to suggest the book for her book club, which meets every three months.
“As a woman, especially in this country having kids and having a job ... just being able to juggle all of that effectively and still finding time for her to finish this book — a lot of people would’ve given up after the first year,” Abu said. “She’s persistent, and I found that very motivating.”
Campbell-Fatoki said she has begun writing her second book, which is a collection of short stories, her favorite kind of writing. While she wouldn’t say too much about the story, Campbell-Fatoki said the short stories will focus on “societal issues of our time.”
She hopes these stories will inspire others just as her ancestors’ moving stories inspired her.
“If they could become who they were with so many things going on in their lives, this book is me sending the same message out,” Campbell-Fatoki said. “It’s more than me just writing a book.”