Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ogbei avo ukoko’yogbe ereghe!

(As recalled by Anote Ajeluorou)


Omo vra nobe ravre, te’ero uvu me te’ero aso!
Kene, marie warie; uje t’edejo, Ogbei ote wo’no obi nya’eze ireghe evao obo awho igheghe. Oje’ru no, ote fi’ereghe ho evao ukoko oyegbe ulogbo o te muho enyavre be nya ze ereghe.
  No o nya tha’abo no evao edhere, ote to oria no urhe’ulogbo jo ukie fiho gbere edhere na. Ogbei oteje gwolo epano ore ro eza urhe na zre, reki yo orie epano ore rue he. Avo ukoko’oyegbe rie no okru ho’obho, ateje rova fikino obesai gadie urhe ulogbo na vre he. Oteke rova gaga. Ote gadie, ove kie avo ukoko’oyogbe rie.
  Ko’ere Ogbei avo ukoko’oyogbe rie aje rova, Ogbei no obe’nya nyai ze ereghe!
  Koyeho, omovra jo no obe ravre oye ruere Ogbei no obe rova begwolo epano orero gadie opkure fiho abobe kere orue edhere nyavre nyai ze ereghe.
  Omovra na ote nwruo’to ze ote se ogbei, no’no ko, gbove whe’obe nya kpoho no whojebe rova epano who’be ro gadie urhere na?
  Ogbei ote dime gaga, ote warie take omovra na no, ‘Ima oniovo; mebe gwolo kpoho obo’awho no iwho’ereghehe nya ze ireghe kai. Reko, okpo’ure nana ute kie gbere edhere no me nya. Ko’ure na mebe gwolo gadie fiho abo’obe re mesa nya vre’.
  Omovra na ote kie fiho oto, ote whe owhe gaga. Ute gbe Ogbei uno, no fiki em omovra na obe ro whe me owhe? Oje zunu, Omovra na ote teke Ogbei no, ‘Ko fiki eme who gbe fi ukoko’yogbe ra fiho enu’o ure na re wh o mara kake gadie ruo abo’be tao re who tete tolo ukoko’yogbe ra ha?’
  Uyo no Omovra na yo ke Ogbei ute gbei unu gaga! Ogbei, ote gine fio ukoko’yogbe na fiho enu ure na rene oye omarie otete gadie fiho abo’be rene otete tolo ukoko’yogbe rie. Onya rie ote vere gaga. Oma ote loho Ogbei gaga. Ote bo no, ‘Uzeme, owho’vo no’wo ereghe reno evao akpo na oro’ho!’
  Ete Ogbei oje siobo no ukoko’yogbe rie fiho oto, te zihe kpo, no eki ereghe no oje nya na u who’toho, keme na owho’vo no owo ereghereno orie he!

Tortoise and the Calabash of Wisdom!

(As translated by Anote Ajeluorou)


Bird that is flying by, tell your tale by noonday so I can tell mine by night! (if the tale session is by night), or
Bird that is flying by, tell your tale by night while I tell mine by noonday!
  So it was, and men, women and living beings lived together.
One day, Tortoise set out to go and sell wisdom in the land of foolishness. He filled a big calabash with wisdom and cocked it tight to go and sell; and then he started on his journey.
  After walking a while, he came upon a huge tree that fell across the path on his way to sell wisdom. Tortoise would have to climb through to go on his journey, but he could not as he clutched tightly onto his calabash of precious wisdom. He would climb and fall back flat on the same side and could not climb over. Tortoise struggled the better part of the day trying to climb the tree to get on his way to sell wisdom.
  That was the case with Tortoise and his calabash of wisdom, as he struggled to get through the tree to the other side to sell his Calabash of Wisdom!
  Then at that moment after Tortoise had struggled without success, a certain bird passing by saw him toiling to climb to the other side of the huge tree across his path with his Calabash of Wisdom to go and sell wisdom but could not.
  The bird then came down and hailed Tortoise and called out to him saying, ‘Where are you going that you are struggling to climb this tree across your path with this big calabash?’
  Tortoise heaved a sigh of frustration and said to the bird, ‘The trouble in this life, my brother. I’m on my way to the land of foolishness with this Calabash of Wisdom to go and sell wisdom to them. But this tree fell and blocked my path; so, it is this tree I am trying to climb so as to get to my destination.
  The bird fell to the ground and laughed heartily. The bird’s laughter puzzled Tortoise a great deal as he wondered at it. When he recovered from his mirth, the bird said, ‘Why not put your calabash on top of the tree and climb over first, then you can pick up your calabash and go your way!’
  The bird’s solution to Tortoise’s toiling almost all day long silenced him to the point of wonderment. Then Tortoise put his calabash on top of the tree and climbed over and picked up his calabash. It became so simple a task to him. He simply sat down, exhausted.
  He then exclaimed, ‘Indeed, there’s no single one that has all the wisdom in this world!’
  Tortoise then left his calabash of wisdom and turned round and went back home from his mission of selling wisdom in the land of foolishness even before he got there because he realised that no one has all the wisdom in the whole world!

Onosode, Aimiuwu, Others Harp On Excellence For Nigeria’s Greatness

By Anote Ajeluorou

For Nigeria to attain greatness and rise above its current challenges some of which are constitutionally enshrined such as quota system, tribe and federal character that lead to ineptitude and a myriad of other ailments, the spirit of excellence must be seen to be at work at all levels of human endeavour.
  This submission was made yesterday by two technocrats boardroom gurus, Deacon Gamaliel Onosode and Chief Lugard Aimiuwu and other motivational speakers at the Excellerate Symposium designed to enthrone the spirit of excellence in Nigeria through raising a community of excellent citizens. It was held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.
  They also submitted that tomorrow’s world belongs to those countries and individuals that have the competitive edge, which Nigeria lacks at the moment, saying Vision 2020/20 is doomed to fail since budgetary provisions do not get implemented early enough to keep up pace with developments in other parts of the world.
  Keynote speaker, Aimiuwu, stated that the country could be well-managed if Nigerians cultivated a culture of excellence to adapt to the needs of a rapidly changing world. He noted, “Nigeria recently celebrated its Golden Jubilee without much gold in the kitty… My definition of the new world order is one in which advantage belongs to the strong. The strong then use the advantage to create new strengths, to create new advantage, in the manner of a recurring decimal. In the human world, real advantage comes from creating real value. Value attracts value; rubbish attracts rubbish. Value begets value; rubbish begets rubbish.
  “In the fiercer competition of the new globalised market scenario, there is little scope for rule of thumb or ‘common sense’…, which cannot be substituted for professionalism built on skills, driven by competencies, and shaped by best philosophies, best principles, best practices and best contextual fit… Excellence cannot be conjured; it has to be achieved. Excellence is the oxygen of development. Corrupt legislators cannot compete with non-corrupt legislators”.
  Aimiuwu then went on to expand on the principles of excellence as consisting of not just being better than one’s contemporaries and predecessors but being better than oneself. He argued that God has already overstocked Nigeria with miracles, and said, “What you are is God’s gift to you; what you become is your gift to God”.
  Aimiuwu further decried the blame-game philosophy for which Nigeria’s under-development is underpinned both by its leaders and the led, and noted that there was no room for excuses in a globalised, competitive world. “The world is driven by the power of ideas, of leaders who have clear vision what to do. Nigeria’s nascent democracy as excuse for failure is parochial. We blamed the colonial masters after independence; then we blamed politicians after independence. Military after military came and blamed those before them. Now, the executive blames legislators; legislators blame the executive. Politicians blame politicians. And we all blame the constitution. Who blames self? Who is going to take responsibility for our development?
  “Excuses for failure cannot get us anywhere. We must blame ourselves for our lack. We are what we allow ourselves to be; you cannot rebrand a leprous brand. After decades of oil wealth, Nigeria sits majestically at the bottom of human development index. No one does business with an unserious people. Excellent is not a part time attribute. No one will wait for Nigeria to get it right. If Nigeria does not start competing with the rest of the world, what happened to the dinosaur will be a child’s play; it will go into extinction. Nigeria must confront its demons in all ramifications otherwise Vision 20/2020 will just be a statistical bus stop and not a destination”.
  In his opening remark chairman of the occasion, Onosode, tasked Nigeria to imbibe the culture of better time management at all times, as time was a non-renewable resource, which Nigerians waste unrelentingly that result in the loss of man hours. He singled out Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola for his spirit of excellence in service performance and charged Lagos residents to be good followers by not throwing things out of their car windows and indiscriminately cutting the roads being built, saying, “We need to be patriotic followers by following good examples”.
  XMO Global CEO and international guest at the symposium, Mr. Terry Pruett, said it would only take just a few out of the lot to make the need revolution Nigerians crave. He argued that excellence was the standard, the bar to be raised and said it was what would bring Nigeria up from the doldrums it had been immersed through inept leadership.
  He stated, “Excellence starts with expectation from oneself and from others. We have to raise our expectations. If only one per cent of people in this country say they don’t want electricity to fail, it will happen. Excellence is intentional; it’s a continuum and always in motion. Excellence is not a finished product; it’s the raising of the bar, the standard for better performance”.
  The convener of the Excellerate Symposium and CEO, Whitedove Publicity Limited, Mr. Kenneth Ebbi, stated that his goal and passion was to raise a community of excellent citizens having been sickened by the sheer ineptitude that now characterise the nation’s body politic. He said, “I believe there are still thousands of Nigerians who believe in excellence. I’m trying to bring all of these people together under one roof to be able to create a critical mass to make a change in this country. No country that is great that is not given to excellence. Change will come by a communal effort to return the culture of excellence. I’m determined to spend my last kobo to ensure this happens”.
  Other speakers and eminent guests in attendance included Ambassador Segun Olusola, Mrs. Yvonne Ebbi, Pastors John Enelamah, Poju Oyemade, Dr. Lloyds Atabansi, Ali Baba, Damilola Oluwatoyinbo, Comfort Coleman and Mrs. M.O. Odesoya.

Portal for excellent citizens berths in Nigeria

·     Mission to salvage Nigeria’s value system
·     Academy of Excellence, induction hold today

By Anote Ajeluorou

To say that Nigeria’s value system is in tatters may be an understatement. The stark reality of the assertion is visible in all spheres of life. Corruption in the body politic is rife; so much so that those saddled with responsibilities find it easier to shirk than execute them. The roads that get washed away after a few months of construction, the collapse of buildings, power failures and lack of discipline are all indicators of a warped value system.
  While a majority throws up its hands in utter despair, some optimists like Mr. Kenneth Ebbi of Whitedove Publicity Limited and Mrs. Yvonne Ebbi of The Etiquette Place refuse to join the despairing lot. For them, a difference can still made to raise a community of excellent Nigerian citizens that can redeem the country’s image and place her on a path of dignity. To achieve this, they have set a Brand or Bland initiative to advance ‘Excellence in Motion’, which will help foster positive changes amongst Nigerians willing to take a leap of faith.
  At the heart of the project is the desire to bring about a sound value system on which a solid foundation for society can be built. In a recent encounter with The Guardian, Mr. Ebbi stated, “The value system in Nigeria has gone down; excellence has been thrown away. You cannot build a society or country without value system. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan built values into their citizens.
  “It’s no longer news that excellence has been thrown away, done away with. The poor roads, collapsed buildings and poor power supply all have to do with ineptitude. It’s such a Herculian task to solve these problems because of wrong values in operation.
  “There was discipline and training required in the core professions in those days, and they were regarded as honourable. But today, you’re not honourable if you’re not a politician; if you’re not a drug or 419 kingpin. This is the challenge before us. We must bring back value system and the spirit of excellence”.
  To achieve this noble objective of redirecting the value system back to where it was amongst Nigerians, the Ebbis believe that excellence must be taught as a course for everyone to imbibe it in their system so it could be part of their lives. Ebbi noted that ‘excellence’ isn’t a happenstance, but a discipline that must be inculcated through training, mentoring and monitoring for it to have a firm root in people’s lives.
  He argued, “We believe that excellence has to be, must be taught as a course. People have to be groomed to be excellent in all they do. If your ‘now’ isn’t excellent, your ‘future’ can’t be excellent; if you’re not excellent in the ‘now’, no way can society be excellent in the ‘future’. We have as motto: ‘Raising a community of excellent citizens’.”

TO raise this community of excellent citizens, Brand or Bland is working in conjunction with Terry Pruett’s XMO Global based in Houston, Texas, U.S. to train and induct in an inaugural symposium the first batch of excellent citizens. The symposium will also have eminent Nigerian role models who will subsequently mentor member migrants to the community. Intending members of the Excellent Community will be made to imbibe certain qualities of excellence and sound value system that will be further reinforced through mentoring from role models of impeccable character.
  According to Ebbi, “People don’t just know how to live excellent lives. We’ll select role models like Deacon Gamaliel Onosode, Dr. Christopher Kolade, Onyeka Onwenu, Mike Friday (an inventor), Chief Segun Olusola, Alex Goma, Pastor John Elenamah, and Chief L.E.A. Aimiuwu for the intending members of the community to emulate. We’ll also occasionally convene a town hall meeting where younger members of the community will meet with role models in their field and learn from them sound ethics.
  “The idea is for these role models to be able to replicate themselves as much as possible so as to create a better society, with the aim of creating the critical mass of citizens that can make a difference by applying themselves to a sound value system and excellence in society”.
  At the inaugural symposium today, April 13, 2012, at Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, marketing guru, Aimiuwu will deliver the keynote on ‘Restoring the Culture of Excellence in the Business and Social Landscape’. It will be chaired by Onosode. Other contributory speakers, according to Ebbi, are Onosode, Olusola, Kolade, Pruett, Goma, Elenamah, and Pastor Poju Oyemade.
  Also at the symposium, 50 Nigerians of excellent character will be recognised to form the first batch of role models for young Nigerians. Ebbi stated the aim of recognising the 50 personalities thus: “We will be able to transform the thinking of Nigerians towards excellence in society, change the mindset of those who are willing to be changed, that can be taught, and win them towards excellence with the aim of raising a critical mass to cause a change and as a yardstick to change the perception of Nigerians”.
  Most of the training and mentoring will be done online and so virtual. Ebbi said the platform will serve as a portal that housed excellent citizens, and geared towards improving the quality of the human resource. He asserted his belief that “We can build an excellent country Nigeria, but it has to start with the individual.”
  Ebbi also stressed that the Academy of Excellence will teach competence in the workplace, branding and etiquette. He stated also that the training and level of discipline required of members of the Excellent Community would be such that employment agencies could rely on such members for employment. But he also warned that there would be Excel Police to monitor members and sanction anyone found erring and in contravention of the rigorous value system required of them.
  In stating his passion for the ‘Excellerate’ (accelerate your excellence) project, Ebbi remarked that his derived from a passion and love for his country Nigeria. He expressed, “I may not be able to save this country, but I can help a few. I’d like a few whose records are clean to come on board. I believe this nation can change. I want to mobilise people to create sustainable change. In fact, to see excellence in a country like Nigeria is a worthwhile duty!”

World Book Day… what to expect as Nigeria celebrates

By Anote Ajeluorou

APRIL 23 is both the birthday and death day of world famous British playwright of all time, William Shakespeare, and the death day of Spanish novelist Cervantes. The date is therefore set aside to honour these two great writers by promoting the book, both reading and giving it out as a gift.
  In Nigeria also World Book Day (WBD) is celebrated yearly, but with what impact. Indeed, what has been the implication of the event in the country? Can the gains of WBD be measured in Nigeria to determine its impact? What form should the celebration take? And, indeed, what needs to be done to the event felt?
  The Guardian went to town and spoke to a number of writers, book workers and enthusiasts on WBD that comes up next week Monday. Their responses are as varied, profound and illuminating as they come as they situate the problem of the book in its proper context and how it can be made a national pastime as it was in days gone by.

Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (university teacher, novelist and gender expert)

I often think that celebrating the World Book Day in Nigeria is a charade. How can you celebrate books when very few people bother to read books or have books available to them? Often a few organisations 'organise' activities to mark the day and that's the end of it! There is no follow-up. Awareness should be sustained throughout the year! Not just one day.
  What we need to do in this country is to first create awareness about the importance of books by establishing libraries in schools, communities (in rural and urban areas) and in the cities. We need to have books everywhere. When people have access to libraries in large numbers, they will develop interest in reading.
  When this happens, there will be true celebrations in different forums when the annual event comes up. Many young people in primary and secondary schools do not have access to books. The government at the federal and state levels has not done very well in the area of book provision to schools, and to pupils and students. A lot still needs to be done.
  As for celebrating the 2012 World Book Day that may not be difficult at the University of Lagos. For right now examinations are going on and there is no time for any other activity. Students are busy writing their exams; lecturers are invigilating exams and grading scripts.
  However, I hope the day will be celebrated by writers' organisations and by government agencies. Books are important. We are what we are because of the books we read, are reading and will read in the future.

Dillibe Onyeama (novelist and publisher)

DELTA Publications (Nigeria) Limited will celebrate the World Book Day this year with a cocktail party for stakeholders in the book trade, to the end of encouraging dialogue and therefrom detecting ideas and strategies for improvement in our book publishing activities. In such an atmosphere of bonhomie occasioned by a generous flow of wine and small chops, potential authors will be inspired and possibly be commissioned to write our ideas into bestsellers. The 'long grammar' of lectures and debates alone may not suffice, and may not draw the desired impressive attendance.
  The World Book Day is a good thing. It wields psychological power by virtue of being a global celebration and in that way casts an illuminating spotlight on the exigencies of developing the reading culture and the aesthetic value of books as a source of profound personal entertainment as well as education and self-development. For these reasons, the World Book Day can never be a waste of time.
  Such celebrations, by virtue of being a Western invention, should be continued forever, since you can never be sure which genius could be hooked into turning out literary classics. I believe that the flow of wine helps to relax the mind and expel stress, in the process tickling the imagination to bring out creative ideas for a good novel.

Wale Okediran (medical doctor, novelist, politician and promoter of writers)

AS a literary buff, I consider the World Book Day an event that is worth celebrating. I am therefore looking forward to it with a keen interest. However, I don’t think the celebration of the World Book Day has had much impact on the Book Industry in Nigeria because the government agencies saddled with the job of literary awareness are not serious about their work. Also, apart from some state governors who are 'Book Friendly', government does not give the expected support to literature, as is the case all over the world.
  As stated above, not much gain has accrued from the World Book Day celebrations. In order not to make the celebration another meaningless one, it is important for the government agencies involved with education and literary awareness to liaise with other NGOs and organisations involved with the book industry in order to make the event a worthwhile one this time around.
  My organisation, The Ebedi Residency Programme in Iseyin, Oyo State, will mark the event this year by showcasing the literary abilities of students from selected Secondary Schools in Iseyin. These are the students who have been tutored by the Resident Writers who have attended The Ebedi Residency Programme. The idea is to expose our young ones to the book and also use the occasion to identify and nurture literary talents among our young ones.
  This year, I expect Nigeria to continue to work on improving the still poor reading culture in the country. This it can do by using the occasion of the World Book Day to draw attention to the book by inviting policy makers and other public figures to read to children. This should then be followed up by the establishment of Reading Corners in all schools as well as stocking of Public Libraries in all the Local Government Areas in the country with books, newspapers and journals.
  The best way to bring the gains of book closer to Nigerians is through the establishment of public libraries in every LGA in the country. Where they have been established, efforts must be made to stock them with books and other reading matterials. Apart from LGAs, literary organisations, NGOs and philanthropists can also establish 'Neighbourhood Libraries' at every ward in the country. Reading sessions such as the one to be organised by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) for students should also be carried out in order to bring literary awareness to the students.

Remi Raji-Oyelade (university teacher, poet and national president, Association of Nigerian Authers)

AS President of ANA, I look forward to this year’s World Book Day with great expectation and hope that we can use the occasion to press for more support for Nigerian writing and the Nigerian author. I hope that more ideas about and around the book industry will be embraced by supporters and patrons of the arts. I hope that there will be a radical turn in government towards the book as an important decimal in national development.
  Yes, we do celebrate the book but we rarely advance the development of the facilities and faculty which make the book trade thrive in the country. I do not know or cannot say if the “celebration of the book” has been effective enough. There’s a difference actually between ceremonial celebration and dynamic, or shall I say, systemic celebration of the book as the book, the tangible repository of all our knowledge, civilisation, imagination and philosophy written at large.
  No, I won’t say it is another meaningless celebration, because we need something of a ritual, a trigger to call attention to the importance of the book. One day is set aside to commemorate the significance of the book around the world, in each country and across cultures. Incidentally, the day is marked as Book Day because it is the probable birthday of the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare (April 23, 1564). I think we need more than a day to celebrate the book, and to do so as a cultural policy is a necessary task of various institutions and organisations in this country.
  First, we plan to issue a press release to re-emphasise what has been the consistent clamour of the Nigerian author: we will be requesting governments to support the development of literacy in this country, by supporting the profession of creative writing. We will be appealing to corporate organisations to support the arts, especially the book industry including publishing and distribution of the book, and indeed the author who does the work of writing the book itself.
  And we will be charging our members to take their work seriously and explore various means of self-improvement. Beyond this, the body of writers represented all over the country, in almost all the states of the federation, will be converging in Abuja again one week after the commemoration of the World Book Day, to act further on our resolve to move from words into action. It is important to remind ourselves that the book is the greatest weapon against the ignorance of ideas; it is also the ultimate weapon against the poverty of knowledge.
  We should move from the wordage of policy to dynamic action. For instance, let the relevant arms in each state government – ministries of culture, education and information – constitute a programmatic action day with the Association of Nigerian Authors, to celebrate the book by celebrating the authors in their domain. Let the Federal Government, through its relevant agencies, follow up on the “Bring Back the Book” project of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Let corporate organisations including MNCs prove their social responsibility by their real time support for education, through support for Nigerian writing.
  There are so many ways by which the World Book Day can be made a national event that will be beneficial to a larger percentage of Nigerians. A way is through the support of book drives in primary and secondary schools: let us have book purchases and patronage of authors and sponsorship of readings in schools and public places.
  Another way is through the recognition and encouragement of readers because the book trade cannot thrive if the reader is not there. Let there be a prize on World Book Day in each of our cities to celebrate the good reader. We are not short of ideas as a people; we only lack the will or focus to do what is beneficial and lasting for the programme. This time, we in ANA have been lucky with the patronage of such a personality as Mr. Yusuf Laolu Ali (SAN) who recently awarded a grant of N3 million to the national body of writers to organise such a book drive and reading competition among selected secondary schools in 15 states of the federation. With such support and patronage, every day is bound to be a World Book Day in this country. We need more patronage to make meaning of many such ideas.

Richard Mammah (book promoter and organizer, National Literary Week)
I am really upbeat another World Book Day is here. For those of us in this 'race against time' to boost the reading culture, it sure is a helpful event. Every support, every event is needed to win the war against illiteracy, and more frighteningly, a-literacy that we are currently faced with.
  Unfortunately, there has not been much impact, largely on account of the institutional authorities leaving it to the cash-deprived book advocacy community to fly the Nigerian World Book Day flag year after year. The idea of UN-sanctioned day is to galvanize global and national and civil energies to collectively boost the day and subject. In Spain, everyone, including the king, is involved. This must be so also in Nigeria for us to get the desired impact.
  The reading climate in the country would in all probability be worse without the day, I should say. Bad as things are today, it is still a rallying platform. The gains are today however difficult to quantify first on account of a lack of statistics, but more deeply because there is little attention to it. There are, very few low profile activities and colossal public sector inertia. It is not meaningless but it truly needs help. It is really a wonder here that the Bring back the Book campaign, the National Library, Book Development Council, etc are usually absent in events to celebrate World Book day.
  Yes, we will be marking it with events in schools and bookshops in Lagos and Ibadan and a book cocktail in Enugu. Celebrities, public officials, captains of industry will participate in motivational readings to young people.
  We need every one to come on board in symbolic and practical ways, starting with the Presidency. In years past when the regions competed to grow their human capital, which books represent, there were fewer social tensions. The Western region under Awolowo gave some of us a legacy of free education and functional libraries, not militants and Boko Haram!

Dagga Tolar (poet and chairman, ANA Lagos)

LIKE every other christened celebration, this would come and go and not a single difference would the day make or impact on the state of literature and reading in the country and the reasons for this are not too far to fetch… We are too far gone and lost in our state of complete waste to bother with irrelevances like the book or the book day, when the lot of us are in a rat race to eke out a living. Those who permanently mortgage our existence most concern themselves with the ‘more important’ task of self-preservation of continuing to be managers of this rot; but not the possibility that books can make life worthwhile for all.
  First is the existing problem of awareness, which means that only very few of us are conscious of the World Book Day compared to February 14; and books are no less important than love. Indeed love can no more count itself as love without books, poems and stories. Why is it that books also don’t count as ingredient of love? Simply that the needed focus and attention has not been brought to bear on it; the economics of our existence and the policy thrust of how society is governed and run counts more and more on people not being literate.
  The system is such that the blame goes to the victims; so, for the remaining 1.3 million out of the 1.5 million who will not be offered university education in Nigeria in 2012, the fault is completely theirs and not that of society that can only offer 200,000 admissions to its prospective youth who are all eager to embrace a life and future where the book would be central in determining how they make progress into the future.
  The so call Bring the Book Back campaign has long been welcomed into the famed group of “Failed Government projects”. If you ask me it was dead on arrival, a spin-doctor’s electoral stunt to reposition Jonathan before the electorates. And yet books cannot be left to the fancy of members of the ruling elites. Such attitude rather than boost the book, does more disservice to the book; it demeans its valve.
  Indeed, what is a book (be it from the point of view of knowledge acquisition or leisure); we are looking at one of the most human and long-lasting wonders that define and help to shape up the mind with all it needs to be justifiably useful to society at large. The book is also the most nourishing and life-improving leisure one can ever engage in, with little or no documented hazard to one’s health.
  Tell me why we all should then not be seen celebrating the book; but like you know, the reverse is the case.
  The question of measuring the gains of World Book Day celebrations on the polity, can only count on the plain of individual initiatives and efforts, people who are enormously handicapped by resources; efforts like that of Gogo of Keep It Real Foundation, Koko Kilango of the Rainbow Club, Toyin Akinosho and Jahman Anikulapo of CORA, Sola A. and many individuals too numerous to mention. Indeed, writers are one league of humans that make a day like this possible. To know the pains they all go through to bring a book into being is enough to count a celebration.
  But the truth is 80 to 90 per cent of the resources of society are managed by those with little or no interest in the fate of the book, since the book plays no role whatsoever in the power game that feeds their egos and eros of private concern of continued stranglehold on power. To all of them it is therefore a meaningless celebration that can in no way impact on their power play. However for the rest of us, the future counts much on continuing with all we’ve been doing. Writers must keep writing and keep squeezing blood from stones to get the books published; they are the first reason for a day like this.
  ANA Lagos celebration for this year is anchored on kicking off the campaign for literature as a subject to be reintroduced into Junior Secondary school as opposed to the present arrangement wherein it is subsumed under English language. Our thinking is that it is a complete disservice to literature and if anything, it is the contributive factor to the waning reading culture. Added to this fact that it is shutting out so many future writers and lovers of literature to-be, who on meeting and falling in love with literature would on their own have sustained their romance with reading.
  We are hopeful that others would join this initiative of ours and in the long run we can bring about the necessary policy reversal. This is the focus of our celebration for the World Book Day 2012. 
  Well, the question of focus for Nigeria is one of coming to an understanding that our affairs are and would in no way be managed for the interest of the majority of the people as long as Neo-liberalism continues to be the policy thrust of the ruling elites. To count on private capital to drive the economy, when the country, with its own generated resources, is capable of driving all the needed development, both human and infrastructure… this for me is the only means by which our fortunes can be reversed and there and then literature and the book can hope on the necessary investment that would earn it its pride of place in the lives of all.
  There has to be political will, the need to dislodge Neo-liberalism cannot be postponed and the working masses would continue to be the loser for it if we don’t put our acts together and get organised. And, indeed, there is cause for hope going by the dress rehearsal in the January general strike and protest against the increase in the pump price of fuel from N65 to N141. If not the nightmare called Nigeria would continue, a country that reserves its enormous public funds for the primitive accumulation of its ruling elites, while they continue to scream for foreign and private funds to drive the continued under-development of the country.
  For literacy would count first as necessary and compulsory at public cost to all its citizens, then the foundation of a mass public celebration of the World Book Day would be laid. We can then flow from there to a situation where all public institutions, not just educational institutions, would mark the day with one programme or the other; books would more than ever be accessible to all, with public libraries equipped and installed in all local governments.
  Writers and authors can now qualify to robe themselves in peacock colours and wears, as they celebrate their books and themselves!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Again, injustice in the Niger Delta echoes at book roundtable in Ibadan

By Anote Ajeluorou
The popular saying, ‘Injustice to one is injustice to all’ came to the fore last week in Ibadan when literary enthusiasts gathered at the leafy, scenic Poetry Garden at Preboye’s World, adjacent University of Ibadan, Ibadan in a roundtable to discuss a slim collection of poems
Isaac Caution Preboye is a historian and a renowned businessman in Ibadan. But he recently turned his attention to poetry and the result is a slim volume he just published titled, The Green Mangrooves. It is a volume that looks back with nostalgia at the lost lush greenery of the mangrove of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. In poem after poem, Preboye in simple and sometimes prosaic lines sings of a lost paradise due to the activities of oil companies prospecting for crude oil, Nigeria’s love-hate, all important economic resource.
  Having grown up in one of the remotest villages in the region long before oil became an item, Preboye witnessed and tasted the pure haven that was once his home place, but which has now become sheer hell on earth. Already in his 70s, Preboye lamented that he could not relocate back to his village in retirement much as he would have loved to. Reason: life in his once peace, lushly green and fertile village no longer supports meaningful human life!
  Those left in his village (and such other villages scattered across the area called Niger Delta) have been reduced to mere human dregs by the polluted environment that is daily decimating lives in installment. It is for this once rich, life-supporting land of his birth that Preboye has written The Green Mangrooves as a way of drawing attention to the all familiar tragedy of Nigeria’s oil wealth.
  But Preboye has made the familiar starkly illuminating in all its hideousness and in his own special poetic idiom. Reading it in itself is a journey to the region where the reader sees, smells, tastes and partakes in the agony Preboye feels of a ruined environment feeding fat the greed of others other than the owners of the land.
  What made the small gathering moderated by notable performer, Anthony Ebika, all the more special wasn’t just the palm, coconut and mango trees that screened Poetry Garden from the sun, but the participatory manner of the event. Those present took turns to read pieces from the book and then discuss the book afterwards. Indeed, each reader (both none Niger Deltans alike) seemingly personalised the poems they read, seeing in them aspects of the problems Preboye has illuminated for the wider public to appreciate.
AUTHOR and businessman, Folu Oyeleye, was first to voice his frustration with the Nigeria system and its elite operators that have worked in concert to impoverish the majority of the people. He said Nigeria’s problem could be situated within the ambit of a class struggle, with those at the helm of affairs sharply opposed to making life livable for the masses. While holding that Preboye had a right to insist that the Niger Delta environment is much degraded and its citizens subjected to willful poverty, Oyeleye said the same was true for all other Nigerian regions with the ordinary folks and offered that suffering and poverty was widespread and universal in Nigeria.
  He admitted that while there was serious environmental problem in the Niger Delta, but blamed it on bad administrations that started from the aberration that was military rule, which has continued till the new democratic dispensation. “If we have good governance,” he stressed, “nobody will talk about injustice anywhere in Nigeria. There’s marginalization everywhere but it’s more prevalent in the Niger Delta. We should fight for human rights not regional rights. Let’s fight for good governance.”
  Oyeleye read the poem, ‘Where were you, Ilu?’
  A former editor of Nigerian Tribune, Alhaji Muda Ganiyu, traced the longstanding environmental degradation in the Niger Delta to activities of the oil companies that lacked serious government regulatory framework to call them to order and be accountable to the communities where they operate. He narrated how he and some of his colleagues were flown to places where Shell BP operated while he was editor. He recalled how much Shell frowned at the report they wrote about that trip, as it tended to paint the dire environmental situation in the region.
  Ganiyu further stated that until Nigerian people held their leaders at all levels accountable, very little would be achieved. He urged Nigerians to insist on good governance so as to right the injustices that seem prevalent in the country. He read the piece, ‘Oh Gbaramatu’.
  Actor, TV producer and activist, Felix Omuni, who is from a non-oil producing part of the Niger Delta, praised Preboye for his foresight in penning down the poems to celebrate the past beauty of a rich landscape that has been ruined with disastrous consequences for the poor inhabitants of the region.
  As part of his activism, Omuni narrated how he also visited parts of Ogoni land shortly before rights activist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered by the Gen. Sanni Abacha’s regime. He stated that what he saw made him cry for the innocent victims of the exploration greed for oil. He charged that the book be made available to every literate Nigerian, especially to those who are not from the oil-bearing region so they could see the harm of what keeps them going is causing their fellows down the south.
  He read ‘They never cared about us’.
  Wife of one of the executed Gideon Okar coupists, Mrs. Vivian Empere, now a schoolteacher in Ibadan, put the argument in perspective when she gave vivid description of how life is lived in some of the oil-bearing communities. Water, she said, was such a scarce commodity that the people have to paddle their canoes at the crack of dawn far out before they could fetch clean water to drink. Once it’s daybreak, the water would have been so disturbed it couldn’t be fetched for drinking or any other meaningful household chores.
  Empere stated that her husband died fighting for the good of the people of the Niger Delta and all such minorities, whose rights were being trampled upon in the behemoth called Nigeria.
  Others who read from The Green Mangrooves were Ayotunde Opakunbi, who read ‘Hope’; Funso Omotoso read ‘What are you thinking?’, Mercy Anthony read ‘My Mother’ and ‘Izon’ after she sang in French. The moderator, Ebika then performed the title poem, ‘The Green Mangrooves’, with the accompaniment of Izon folk song that the audience responded to.
  The poet, Preboye, said The Green Mangrooves derived from his previous historical work, The Core Delta and his attempt to compress that work in a poetic form for accessibility. Preboye said he was at pains at what needs to be done since those saddled with the management of the country have failed to care for the people in the region that produce what sustains their ostentatious lifestyles. A revolution, he argued, may just be the only weapon left for the people to redeem themselves from the horrors of official neglect.
  He voiced his anger and frustration at the absence of any ideological plank to whatever struggle that may be going on in the oil-producing region, saying even the name ‘Niger Delta’ is amorphous, an anomaly as it does not accurately describe the people!
  Preboye queried government’s Amnesty Programme, and argued that if Amnesty was designed to settle the ‘bad boys’ from fomenting trouble, what happens to the ‘good boys’, who have good education but can’t find jobs to do? “We’re condemned to death in our own land,” he stressed. “If they had a choice, they (government and oil companies) would have sent the Niger Delta people to the Sahara desert!
  “When the oil dries up, who clears the mess? That’s the point. Oil companies and government officials will all be gone when the oil dries up. Who do you hold for the mess? If the Delta dies, the whole of Nigeria dies as well. If you don’t want this, then save the Niger Delta. Like Chairman Mao’s, I hope the book will be a handbook for over 100 million Nigerian people. I can go on talking about the Niger Delta because of the pain in my heart. If we have good leaders, we won’t have the problems we’re having today!”
  Earlier, Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA) Oyo State chapter chairman, Mr. Akin Bello, spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing, and said such efforts could be “an ambassador for us in the future to makes us to see the thinking of the time”.

Lagos Black Heritage Festival… a celebration of black cultural heritage

By Anote Ajeluorou

This year’s Lagos Black Heritage Festival opened on Monday with an array of dance groups, dramatic offerings, masquerade dances, drumming and singing and a colloquium to provide intellectual vigour to a rich cultural showpiece. Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola declared the festival opened at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Lagos, on Monday.
  The festival has as theme The Black in the Mediterranean Blue as a way of connecting the continent with its Diasporic presence in the Mediterranean, especially Europe, through centuries of contact, both glorious and inglorious, and how harmony could be best forged between the two for its diverse peoples and cultures. There’s also a sizeable Mediterranean presence at this year’s presence, especially participants from Italy, Somalia, United States of America and parts of Europe
  In his brief remark, Fashola welcomed guests and participants from far and near to use the opportunity of the festival and its unique theme to showcase their diverse rich cultural heritage. He also opened Kongi Harvest’s Art Gallery dedicated to literary luminary, Prof. Wole Soyinka for his outstanding contributions to letters and world cultural productions; it will house many African artifacts and other literary works.
  The governor them went round to see the exhibition of paintings by 9-12 years old children mounted in their honour titled, The Vision of the Child, to mark the significance of the children as participants in cultural productions in a catch-them-young fashion. With a festival consultant like Prof. Wole Soyinka, for whom children remain dear, nothing less could have been expected.
  Performers and masquerades from Ekiti, Osogbo and Ogun States, Ajegunle, Badagry, Bariga, and Lagos Island entertained guests from all over the world. Stilt dancers from Lagos Island called Fame Agere Troupe also thrilled on the opening. Dancers from Osogbo, with their trade mark adire and white hand-woven attires also danced vigorously to syncopating rhythms of drummers and singers.
  From Badagry, for instance, came the famous Sato ritual drummers, who thrilled with their dexterous drumming, with sweat beads glistening from their naked torsos from the early morning sun in the open courtyard of Freedom Park. Not left out were masquerades dancers from Ekiti.
  According a Director of Culture from Ekiti State, Mr. Mike Yomi-Longe, the eclectic group of performers from the state had heeded invitation from Lagos State to be part of the LBHF celebration and to showcase Ekiti’s rich cultural heritage and market same to the entire world. In his entourage were such groupings as Imole-Oloba dancers, Ajagbo dancers, Egun-elewe and owi masquerade dancers.
  Yomi-Longe also informed that Ekiti State was planning to host the world sometime in May this year to a feast of culture tagged, Ekiti State Festival of Culture and Arts Expo, saying it has received the approval of the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

COORDINATOR of choreography for the festival, Sir Peter Badejo, was upbeat about LBHF attaining a measure of perfection each year as its keep growing on account of the learning curve it has undergone. He stated that with a consultant like Soyinka, who is noted for his brilliance, restlessness and creativity, the festival could only get better as it was a ‘celebration for the people by the people’, and explained that it was on that account that the usual boring speeches at the opening from government officials was reduced to their barest minimum.
  According to Badejo, many masquerades, plays, the colloquium, poetry, boat regatta, painting by children and many others formed part of the festival and enjoined lovers of culture to step out and partake in the cultural feast.
  Co-convener of the colloquium titled, Black Mediterranean: Afro-Italian narratives, Mr. Wale Adeniran, a former Director of the Institute of Cultural Studies of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, had stated the importance of the colloquium component of the festival to include providing understanding of the relationship that has continued to exist between Africa and the Mediterranean, especially Italy, which dates back to several centuries and how it could strengthen ties between the two regions.
  Adeniran stated, “People tend not to remember that Africa has a history of long contact with Italy or Europe in general, and even as far as the Arab world and Asia. So, it’s these various aspects that will be examined by the various experts, retracing our contacts within its proper historical contexts and letting people know that contact with the outside world did not just date back to colonialism or slave trade; that long before these two incidents, there had been contacts between Africa and the rest of the world”.
  Another co-coordinator of the colloquium, Prof. Paul Kaplan, a professor of Art History, a research fellow at Harvard University, U.S., said his work dwells on visual images of Africa in European art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period up till about 1700. Kaplan expressed his excitement at the opportunity the LBHF offered him to be in Africa for the first time even though his research interests had been on Africa of the period just described for 30 years.
  He stated, “I have studied thousands and thousands of European pictures of people of African descent; sometimes pictures of ambassadors coming from African nations; sometimes of religious figures. I’m excited to be in Africa for the first time. I study these pictures in abstract, but I’m here to witness the culture of this people I have studied this long”.
  If nothing else, Kaplan’s impression of Nigeria and Lagos in coming to LBHF is one of ambassadorial one in its positivism, as its contrast with what the West provides its citizens before they set out. What he saw of Lagos and the festival sharply contrasted with what he previously heard or was told before he set out for Nigeria, especially warnings from the U.S. government about security issues and how it seemed so laughable from what he had seen.
  Kaplan noted, “Once I arrived, what I saw is a relatively modern city. I stay in a very pleasant hotel. The traffic doesn’t seem to me any worse than in New York. So of course, you get a somewhat distorted picture from the U.S. government. But I have a sense of the cultural richness of Nigeria even before I came. And also, I was told the food would be delicious; so far it has been; and even the spices, which I like”.
  Kaplan gave a paper on the images that resulted from the visit from an ambassador from the kingdom of Congo in modern Angola to the Pope in Rome, Ambassador Antonio Manuel. Kaplan said when Manuel arrived in Rome, he was received by the Pope and Rome officials with great enthusiasm because he and the ruling family in the Congo had been converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, Kaplan remarked that as soon as Manuel arrived in Rome he died from illness he contracted after traveling four years to get to Rome.
  But his death didn’t stop his guests from celebrating him as he was honoured with a beautiful tomb in one of the major Roman churches from a marble burst representing him.
  Although there were other images of African people in Europe that predated the slave trade era, the professor of Art History said such images were very few as they evoked racist tendencies that tended to embarrass Europe.

AT the colloquium opening on Monday that was moderated both by Adeniran and Italy’s Alessandra Di Maio of University Palermo, Italy, Prof. Alessandro Portelli of the University of Rome La Sapienza, delivered a keynote on Olaudah Equiano and the Mediterranean based on his famous travel narrative, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African.
  But before Portelli’s paper, festival consultant, Soyinka, gave a perspective to the entire event, while welcoming guests to the colloquium, especially the sacrifice he had to undertake to appease the gods to ward off the rain clouds that had threatened to disrupt the tedious preparations. He gave interesting narrative of his trips and the demands of the officials of the gods and how they settled for salami, an Italian food, before they could agree to perform the rites needed to ward off the rain. However, the rains still came after the opening of the festival on Monday in the afternoon, before the colloquium opened. So, indeed the gods did accept the sacrifice, as it did not disrupt proceedings.
  Portelli, who was visiting Africa for the first time, said Equiano was one of the great men of the 18th century in his ability at capturing what the blacks thought the white to be in print as a reversal of what the whites thought blacks to be. He said it is his ability to play up this relational complex of both parties that mark out his writing. His writing thus gave voice to a silent continent that could not articulate its feelings at that point in time.
  More importantly, Portelli argued that through Equiano’s narrative of his travels both as a slave aboard British warships and later in his own travels as a businessman trying to buy his freedom from slavery, provide the impetus for the connection between Africa and the Mediterranean as he had cause to pass through the shores of Italy, Turkey, and Spain several times. Through these travels also, Portelli stated, Equiano gave his impression of the people and places along the Mediterranean coast thus providing the similarities and differences in the cultures, traditions and manners between his native Africa and his European hosts.
  According to Portelli, “White people see blacks as monsters, blacks see whites as deformed; whites call blacks ‘savages’ and Equiano writes that “the white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner”…Both blacks and whites see the other as a monster, but formulate monstrousity in different terms. The black gaze sees whites as disembodied spirits; whites, instead, see blacks as soulless bodies…
  “While Euro-America white imagination has represented itself as the only meaningful historical presence, black eyes have insisted from the beginning in looking at whiteness as absence, immaterial and ghostly emptiness…”
  Portelli described Equiano’s first encounter with the whiteman as that of astonishment and terror – terror as he saw the whiteman as a spirit capable of devouring him; and astonishment as he came to encounter mystery and magic that was Europe, even the ship that sailed in to capture them, as being radically different from Africa. Portelli said, “His adventure at sea are a passage into experience, knowledge and a degree of assimilation” into a different culture other than his own from which he was violently uprooted.
  Although he regarded himself as almost an Englishman, Equiano still saw himself as an African, and Portelli regarded Equiano as a bridge or mediator between continents as his narrative provided a means of understanding Europe and Africa at the time. Because he traveled through the Mediterranean several times, Portelli argued that Equiano saw Catholicism and Islam as middle point for his native African religion.
  For Portelli, therefore, Equiano’s narrative suggests how multiple the world is as exemplified by his encounters with the people and cultures of the Mediterranean, the plurality of people, life and religion. Significantly, Portelli also argued that Equiano’s writing helped to dispel the mistaken notion prevalent in Europe at the time that Africans were beasts not capable of rational thinking, saying there is a correlation between writing and reason, with an African like Equiano qacquiring and appropriating that craft to tell his tale. He noted that Africans not having the same writing system as Europeans didn’t mean Africans was incapable of reasoning.
  On the question whether the Equiano’s book was actually written by him or someone else, Portelli maintained that evidence abounds that suggests Equiano was the author. Soyinka also intervened by stressing that those in doubt about Equiano’s authorship of the book would do well to read Catherine Acholonu’s extensive research about Equiano’s place of origin in Igboland.
  Although the opening of the colloquium had a poor attendance, it was nonetheless an exciting presentation.

MORE papers were presented on Day 2, which was Tuesday, April 3. The evening was also the Night of Poets, with 16 Nigerian and Italian poets in performance at the open Food’s Court at Freedom Park…

An evening of Poetry at LBHF
As part of the celebration of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, poetry took its turn on Tuesday evening in A Night of Poets to honour the men and women gifted in the art of fine words. The poetic dialogue was between Nigerian and Italian poets as a way of sharing multiple experiences across the divide. It came under the thematic framework of ‘Black Mediterranean: Afro-Italian Connections’ and featured 16 Nigerian and 16 Italian poets. It held at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Lagos.
  Although the themes and sub-themes that came through included but not limited to trade, migration, religion, politics, trafficking among others; there were others like pain and anguish, joy and despair, hopes and aspirations, essentially arising from Africa’s sad encounter with those on the other side of the Mediterranean divide. But in all, the readings and performances were brimmed with all the emotions that characterise any such trans-Atlantic literary expressions.
  But to also spice up the evening, famous highlight singer and storyteller, Jimi Solanke, was on the band stand with his group. He effectively set the tone for the evening with his melodic tunes that made ace choreographer, Sir Peter Badejo, take to the floor before the show proper started to display some of his famous choreographic dance steps that earned him his Knighthood from the Queen of England. Novelist, Lola Shoneyin also could not resist Solanke either; she showed her stuff as well.
  Co-coordinator on the Nigerian side of the event, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo reminded the gathering of cultural enthusiasts of the strong connection between Africa and the Mediterranean, which Italy symbolised and how the poets would explore issues relating to that connection. Jumoke Verissimo set off the evening performances when she read ‘Size of the Mediterranean sea’ before Gimba Kakanda read his piece on visa-related problems that Africans face when applying for that item to go to Europe.
  Then Uche Peter Umez took the floor and called for one minute’s silence to remember one of the poets billed to perform on the night, but whose life was cut short in a road accident, Ify Omalicha Agwu, of the University of Ibadan. Then he read ‘Crows in flight’. Razinat T. Mohammed also read her piece.
  Then culture advocate, playwright and poet, Ben Tomoloju, took the floor and gave his well-known tune Ajakubokubo with drumming accompaniment from the band, with Adaotor supporting him. As is usual with him, Tomoloju spiced up his musical performance with poetry rendition to the admiration of the audience. He got ovation for his effort. Then Richard Ali read ‘Beneath the wind’, followed by Funmi Aluko’s reading spiced with a folk song. Chiedu Ezeani’s reading followed with a theme on exile.
  Verissimo was called up to speak about Omalicha, who recently passed on. She said Omalicha would be happy wherever she was to see the performances since that were what characterised her short life. She gave testimony of the beautiful soul that the late performer was, saying Omalicha was full of life and ideas and that she was one dancer whose memory would linger on. Segun Adefila then read Omalicha’s poem, ‘To him who will never return’, as if prophetic of her passing; it was read in accompaniment of a bamboo flute playing in the background, reminiscent of an Igbo warlord going to battle or celebrating a great achievement.
  But it wasn’t all Nigerian poets that read and performed their works. Although the Italian poets could not make it to the festival, they were amply represented. Christian Alifarah read a piece by one of the Italian poets titled, ‘Aksun’; she also read the Italian version and another poem. Co-coordinator of the poetry segment of the festival, Prof. Alessandra Di Maio, also read both in English and Italian; she got applause for her Italian version.
  Then Solanke took the floor again with his musical performance. This time, the dance-floor was packed. Prof. Femi Osofisan had as dance partner culture icon, Mrs. Emanuel Francesca. Ace actor, Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett also joined the floor. Children’s author, Ayo Olufintuade, indeed, was the first to claim the floor before others joined and sang along with Solanke. Some white ladies too could not resist having a taste of African music and dance, as they also took to the dance floor to rock with Solanke.
  After the music, Deji Toye read his ‘Cross currents’ piece before PEN Nigeria president and notable poet, Tade Ipadeola, read ‘Island Interludes’. Tolu Ogunlesi, too, read ‘A Never ending flood’ to capture the hazardous trips desperate African youths undertake to cross the Mediterranean to Europe for the proverbial Golden Fleece. Then Odia Ofeimun read ‘Travelogue’ before Shoneyin read ‘Migrants’ on behalf of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, whom she said did her great honour by asking her to read his poem.
  Di Maio then gave a vote of thanks for all who had come and to those who performed to lend credence to the cross currents of relationships between Africa and the Mediterranean, with Nigeria and Italy representing both sides of the divide. She commended the poetry project, saying how wonderful a project it was to have conceived it. She said a book of poetic offering to commemorate the evening would be published soon both in Nigeria and in Italy to further strengthen the spirit of the Black Mediterranean that the Lagos Black Heritage Festival was forging in its third edition, especially with its overall theme, ‘The Black in the Mediterranean Blue’ that had a colloquium and the night of poetry that explored the gamut of experiences on both sides of the Mediterranean.
  All the poets and co-ordinators took a group photograph, and Solanke was called upon to strike up a tune for then to dance to before the event drew to a close.

Ezeigbo, Nwagwu, Okediran… the best yet to come for Nigerian writers

By Anote Ajeluorou

The first quarter of the year just came to an end. For some Nigerian writers, the past year is yet to be properly set aside like discarded plates after a sumptuous meal, as its literary hangover still persists. Three writers state their challenges in the first quarter and prospects for the coming months for the entire literary landscape

PROF. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo teaches English at the University of Lagos. She is a gender expert, essayist, theorist and award-winning novelist and poet:
  Last year was a good year for Nigerian literature. More books came out and some debut authors also emerged. Some established writers also brought new titles – Prof. Niyi Osundare’s City Without People: The Katrina Poems, for instance. The Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by Nigeria LNG was awarded in 2011 to a winner, who became richer by $100,000. That's good for our literature and a plus for children's literature. It's hoped the 2012 edition will be equally good and that better produced and edited books will be submitted for the prize.
  Jalaa Writers' Collective stormed the publishing scene with four titles that have been well received. It is hoped other such purposeful book companies will emerge to give writers excellent opportunities to publish.
Well, I had a major 518-paged novel based on the Nigerian Civil War entitled Roses and Bullets, which has been receiving accolades both at home and abroad. It was published by Jalaa Writers’ Collective. That was a real high point for me. There are some positive reviews and the novel is already being used in some institutions.
  The low point for me so far could be the fact that I have not had time to continue writing my next work because I have been busy at work and with other non-literary projects. I need to make out time to continue to write. I almost envy people who are able to write full-time!
  Indeed, writers need to continue to write and empower themselves. As a writer, you are first and foremost your own sponsor and encourager. The donkey work must be done by you. Write well and self-edit before looking for help or submitting your work for more editing. Nigerian writers need local literary agents and good editors - this is urgent and imperative. Many young or new writers need the services of editors and literary agents. In fact, we all do.
  Well, I expect to be able to complete a new work or at least get my next work to an advanced stage before the year runs out. I hope to interact more with other writers and to make a difference in the life of a minimum of one writer. I hope to attend writers’ meetings and enjoy reading a number of books I acquired but haven’t had time to read.
  I have a number of children’s books I have nearly completed and hope will be published this year. I am writing more poetry as well. I will be speaking to students of some schools in Lagos on the subject of creative writing. And I have a number of doctoral thesis to examine as well.

DR. Wale Okediran is a medical doctor-turn-award-winning writer, who also became a legislator in Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives. He has also established a writers’ residence in hometown called Ebedi International Residency Programme, which has hosted many writers, thus giving both local and international writers opportunity to complete on-going works:
  The usual lukewarm attitude of government to literary activities is a continuing source of worry. Apart from the Niger State Government that organised a literary event, most other states, particularly the FCT, have all failed to support literature.
  Despite poor government support, many writers still publish works.
  Government, the private sector and philanthropists should be ready to give more support to literature this year. Also, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) must improve its activities this year.
  I am hopeful that things will be better this year in the literary front if writers can do more  advocacy work in the areas of fund-raising and literary awareness, especially among students and children.
  I am working on the biographies of some notable Nigerians who cut across the political and business fields. It is my hope that Nigerians will be able to learn a great deal from these personalities on how best to run the country. In addition, I hope to publish my collection of political and social short stories, Keepers of the Tribe while continuing with members of the Board of Directors of the Ebedi International Residency Programme in Iseyin, Oyo State, to provide a conducive atmosphere for writers to polish their work.
  This year by God's grace, I also hope to work with a coalition of writers, artists and musicians to resuscitate the Bill on the Endowment for the Arts and push it for passage by the National Assembly. It is my hope that this Bill, when eventually passed into law, will assist artists in their various professional callings.

PROF. Mark Nwagwu is a university scholar and teacher in the biological sciences, whose grandchild fired his passion in creative writing; he has a collection of poems and two novels to his credit:
  We should all read Prof. Osofisan’s University Lectures, The City As Muse: Ibadan and the Efflorescence of Nigerian Literature to revel in the growth of Nigerian literature at Ibadan, and the emergence of a new generation of writers, after that of the founding fathers, notably Achebe, Soyinka, Clark, and Okigbo. The new generation, at Ibadan, would have Osofisan and Osundare in the vanguard. But now Nigerian literature has grown in Lagos and overseas. Again I go to The Guardian, which in its issue of Dec. 18, 2011, published a list of the favourite books of some writers, editors and publishing professionals, and they all gave their reasons for loving those book.
  Of course, one cannot pass The Nigerian Prize for Literature won by Adeleke Adeyemi. The judges praised Adeyemi’s book for celebrating ‘ingenuity, hard-work, faith, creativity and self-reliance.’ I do not know Adeyemi but his picture speaks of a genial, kind and thoughtful person at peace with himself, and his world. There is another author, Ayodele Olofintuade, who will receive honourable mention, for her book, Eno’s Story.
  I’m happy to say I know the author (Olofintuade) and she worked on my book of poems, Helen Not-of-Troy when she was at BookBuilders, Ibadan. I owe a lot to her and I pray I get a good chance, one day, to publicly acknowledge what she has done for me, and she is an immensely pleasant person, individualistic, yes and wonderful to be with. She was there also when My Eyes Dance was published. 
  In any case, the past year has been a most glorious year for me. I now teach at Paul University, Awka, where I head a department and am struggling to give the Biological Sciences department a good head start, and to be in league with heavy-hitting biological sciences’ curricula elsewhere.
  The high points were really exhilarating, like the public presentation of my book, My Eyes Dance, in memory of our daughter, Mrs. Onyema Fern Eseka.
  My book, My Eyes Dance received favourable reviews, especially from Dr. Ayobami Kehinde, who said, “My Eyes Dance is a powerfully imagined novel that has an affinity with the cultural and ecological works of Garcia Marqez, Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe, Gabriel Okara, Wole Soyinka and the likes. In this novel, the customs and religion of an Igbo community are philosophically described with a view to creating a sense of nostalgia for a way of life that is worthy of exportation to the Western world. This novel lends itself to a bewildering amalgam of interpretive possibilities – humanism, feminism, post-colonial formalism, semiotics, onomastics, eco-criticism, psychoanalysis, existentialism, and the like.”
  I read Prof. David Okpako’s book, Kpeha’s Song with great pleasure and an engaging sense of nostalgia for a past we may never see. It is not so much that this past was glorious, for we had biting poverty and diseases to battle but it is a past in which life itself had meaning in little, ordinary things like a song, dance, the streams ivhori with its autochthonous foliage and character. We had poetry all around us and we celebrated our lives in total fusion with our environment. We were not separated from our surroundings. In fact, we basked in them and expressed ourselves in terms of their existence, the forest, moonlight, playing in the sand, in the stream, in the woods.
  A poignant moment for me was seeing Afigo Okpewho receiving the NNOM honours on behalf of her father, Prof. Isidore Okpewho, (a writer and scholar of immense proportion) who could not come. It pained me a lot that Isidore was not there himself. He is a dear friend of many years and one I’m very fond of. I pray we can see him again, soon. He gave me his book, Call Me by my Rightful Name. The man is simply an unusual, superior personality.