Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Eghosa Imasuen named Kachifo’s COO

By Anote Ajeluorou

In a move widely seen in the literary circle to be radical and refreshing and a break from the norm, innovative publishing outfit, Kachifo Limited, owners Farafina imprint has announced Benin City-based medical doctor and author, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). The announcement was made by his predecessor, Yona Oyegiun-Masade, who will now be Managing Editor.
  There was a certain buzz of excitement about two weeks ago when Emasuen first made the announcement to a group of literary enthusiasts at Freedom Park, Lagos at a Champagne Party in memory of late Chinua Achebe. Ever playful and jovial, Imasuen had said medicine no longer paid and he was moving onto something more exciting and, rewarding, too. Oyegun-Masade’s announcement this week is final confirmation that Emasuen would have to relocate to Lagos for his new job, a city he frequents with keen regularity for his literary interests.
  Imasuen was born on May 19, 1976, and grew up in Warri. He has had his short fiction published in online magazines, and has written articles for Farafina magazine. His first novel, To Saint Patrick, an alternate history, murder mystery about Nigeria's civil war, was published by Farafina in 2008 to critical acclaim.
  He was a member of the ‘9 Writers 4 Cities Book Tour’ that was concluded in early June 2009; it was a book tour that gave Nigeria’s literary space a huge boost, as it eventually saw the emergence of other book-stimulating events.
A medical doctor, Imasuen graduated from the University of Benin, Benin City in 1999 – and has lived in Benin City with his wife and twin sons.
His second novel, Fine Boys, a story chronicling the voices of Nigeria's post-Biafra generation, is now available internationally on Amazon Kindle and in local bookshelves.
  So, what would Imaseun’s new portfolio bring to the table of Nigeria’s book lovers? No doubt, he has distinguished himself as a writer of promise on the local turf, especially in an age when Farafina and other local, innovative publishing players overtly only take on published authors from outside Nigerian shores. He proved to be the exception to that infamous rule when Farafina accepted to published To Saint Patrick in 2008, although it was a poorly edited book.
  Indeed, a myriad of problems beset the publishing industry, especially fiction publishing where Farafina has made a name for itself. Would Imaseun look the way of local writers and give them opportunity the way he had it? In era of new media and ebook (Fine Boys first appeared in Kindle edition), what new frontier would Imasuen take Farafina? Also, Farafina was not always in major book exhibition and festival grounds.
  Importantly, how available would Farafina books be in the few bookshops across Nigeria? His first novel, To Saint Patrick long ran of circulation and no new copies were printed. While Imasuen and Farafina probably felt happy that the first print run ran out, a measure of complacency set to create a gap in circulation. Presumably, pirates might have moved in to fill the gap if the novel had been a school text, luckily or unluckily, it was not.
  So, while congratulating Imasuen, he should be aware that he has his job cut out for him in towing the towering path of Christopher Okigbo, as author and book administrator, as pathfinder!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Achebe… Champagne libation for Africa’s literary ancestor

By Anote Ajeluorou

When promoters of Moet and Chandon Champagne decided to make a toast to the extraordinary life of Chinua Achebe at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos last Thursday, little did they know what harvest the largely young audience would have for the late literary icon. Although Achebe’s soul mate Prof. Wole Soyinka turned up, the late start of event robbed the audience of his magisterial presence. But this didn’t dampen the sheer enthusiasm to relive the life of the man who gave the continent a literary voice. Tolu Ogunlesi curated the event.
  Indeed, rather than the proposed ‘toast’ as stated in the proceedings, Deji Toye’s déjà vu suggestion of ‘libation’ elicited sighs of instant approval from everyone, as Ogunlesi stumbled over which was the proper way to proceed. A libation was the only thing that could appropriately fit the moving spirit of the continent’s literary age, a man who just became an ancestor. And so glasses of Moet and Chandon Chanpagne were lifted up and clinked after generous drops had been tipped to the marble floor in honour of a worthy ancestor. But this was after almost everyone had had his say on what the Achebe phenomenon really was, and will continue to be as a guiding light and legacy to a continent’s writing.
  Indeed, it isn’t always that such high-end product as Moet and Chandon Champagne to hobnob with writers or even celebrate them, but Achebe was such high-end personality that drew an audience that filled the Kongi Harvest Hall. Also, it was the first literary event held in honour of Achebe in Lagos since he died last April.
  First, Ogunlesi pointed out the sheer symbolism of Achebe being celebrated at an old Majesty’s former prison (now remodled Freedom Park) on a day Nelson Mandela turned 95, a man who spent a better part of his life in an imperialist’s prison. In opening the celebration, arts enthusiast Mr. Toyin Akinosho said Achebe was the man who built the local content in Nigerian, nay African literature, (not unlike the Petroleum Industry Bill - PIB – Akinosho, an oil man, is the publisher of Oil and Gas magazine).
  He went on to give background to the emergence of Achebe and how his famous Things Fall Apart (TFA) manuscript made its uneventful journey from Lagos to London and was almost lost in the hands of the typewriters who found it odd that an African upstart could arrogate to himself the whiteman’s craft of writing a novel. Akinosho read excerpts from James Curry’s Africa Writes Back. TFA manuscript probably made the most convoluted journey a manuscript ever made to come into world acclaim! It wasn’t until a professor of Economics at London School of Economics gave it a seven-letter word endorsement that it saw the light of the day, when he said: This is the best novel after the war!
  Those were the magic words that brought TFA into being. From that point onward, Achebe’s personal chi said an affirmation and his eagle took a flight. Achebe soon became editorial adviser to Heinemann publishers, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  Maxim Uzoatu (author of God of Poetry) regaled the audience with details of his trip from Lagos to Ogidi for Achebe’s burial and how the man’s personality elicited arguments from among the town’s folks who he really was, whether he was Pete Edochie or Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart, the NTA 1980s drama series or just another politician. With massive billboards and huge posters adorning every conspicuous space in town and the invasion of thousands more, with two presidents in attendance, Achebe was mythologised in his native birthplace. In sum, most people in Ogidi didn’t Achebe, Uzoatu stated.
  Uzoatu, who had the rare privilege of interviewing Achebe years back, described him as an organised person, who took his writing seriously from start, adding, “Some of us lack the courage of conviction, but Achebe was a man of his own. Even when Europeans said the novel is dead, Achebe will say, ‘no; we haven’t written our own yet; we haven’t told our story yet’. The proverbs, the idioms are commonplace but the way he deployed them made a difference.
  “The initial efforts of Achebe, Soyinka, Ammos Tutuola made them pathfinders. We should return to the original African story. That’s the legend of Achebe!”
  Like Ogunlesi, who first proposed the seemingly unthinkable, the ‘what if’ Things Fall Apart had not been written or the manuscript got lost from Lagos to London, Toye further extended that improbability of TFA getting lost or not having been written and the probable fate African literature. For Toye, Achebe, too, fell under the spell of this improbability, when he said in his usual humility that another person could have written TFA if he hadn’t written.
  However, Toye would not be seduced by such reasoning even as it came from the revered ancestor himself while he lived. For him and many others, it could only have been Achebe who could have pulled off such literary magic and no one else, saying, “What if? What if the manuscript had been lost? Achebe had said if he hadn’t written TFA, somebody else would have written it, which isn’t very true.
  “He was a product of his era. The era itself produced the writing. It was a gate-keeping era in which the architecture, historiography, musicology, visual arts and literary art were wrested from European hegemony and stranglehold”.
  Eghosa Imasuen (author of To Saint Patrick and Fine Boys) said his first encounter with Achebe was A Man of the People, a novel he described as being ridiculously funny. He noted that as a writer was someone that might be considered being a witness to history, it became something he yearned for, especially from his reading of A Man of the People. Also for Ralph Tathagarta, Achebe was a revolutionary who put up a fight just like his famous hero, Okonkwo in TFA, a man who stood in defence of what was his even when it appeared indefensible!
  A white member of the audience praised the historicity in Achebe’s books as it helped him in understanding his identity, noting that Achebe’s writing helps in “understanding the history of our fathers and that we have obligation to our place in history and the choices that we make”.

ALSO, former editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo expressed sadness over how Achebe’s last book There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra sparked off much heated debate and vilification of the man even from unenlightened quarters and those who hadn’t even read the book joined the fray. He said it was sad “the way we reduced Achebe to our ethnic narrowness. The way we represented him wasn’t how he was. Achebe represented our own collective imagination. The way we interpreted him was not how he set out to be. Many of us, especially journalists, are just reductionists. Let’s restore Achebe to that status he really was. He wasn’t in enmity with Soyinka or Clark. Achebe gave every African a voice”.
  Anikulapo narrated an encounter with Achebe after his debilitating accident. The iconic writer was returning home and at the Lagos airport during the Chief Ojo Maduekwe’s era as Minister of Culture and Tourism, and there was the usual oversight and no armchair had been provided. Achebe had to ride on the back of a woman to be ferried from the tarmac to a waiting car! At that time also, overzealous journalists had whipped up so much dust about his quarrel with late Cyprian Ekwensi.
  Later when he (Anikulapo and one other journalist) arrived Achebe’s Sheraton Hotel suite, in came Ekwensi; they almost wished the ground would open and swallow them (journalists) up at the camaraderie of the two elders who were believed to be at loggerheads with each other.
  For Anikulapo, that momentous occasion provided a lesson in humility and how larger than life personages are reduced to the ethnic or other narrowness of those regarding them from their narrow perch.
  Poet and teacher, Aj Daggar Tolar said the literary community usually commits sin against acknowledged ancestor of African literature in the wrong perception of his treatment of women in his novels. With the character of Ekwuefi, Tolar said, women had an assured place in traditional African society and that Achebe should be commended for placing women in such high priestly office.
  And like Okonkwo, who played the oppositional role in standing alone in TFA till the very end, Tolar said Achebe also stood alone to the very last as a strong oppositional figure in the battle to rescue the sinking soul of his country from the cabal that hold it hostage.
  “The life of Achebe and how he died raise some fundamental questions of nationhood,” Tolar said. “He had principles that are entirely missing in today’s Nigeria and that’s where we’re where we are today.”
  A violinist from Crown Troupe of Africa very movingly serenaded the audience with a classic tune from NTA dramatised Things Fall Apart.
  Also, Lola Shoneyin (author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives and organiser of Ake Arts and Book Festival) stated that the worst thing to say about Achebe would be that he didn’t win the Nobel Prize for Literature, saying, “He shouldn’t be reduced to that level”. Shoneyin said Achebe awakened in her the issue of her true identity, especially when she was a student in England at the age of six, when she didn’t quite know the implication of race. However, after reading Achebe, it reinforced her identity and she began to discern the racist insults flung at her and her having to fling them back at her tormentors with equal vehemence.
  The evening ended with the libation, which was enthusiastically embraced by all.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Izon pays tribute to Jim Rex Lawson in hot single

By Anote Ajeluorou

The revolution in Nigerian music is heavily rooted in America-influenced hiphop styles that manage to retain a certain local flavour through the use of local languages and nuances. It’s this cross-over influence that has endeared it to many so much so that nightclubs and the airwaves are saturated with it. Which is good, as it delivers great entertainment value, with its attendant reduction of foreign music influence.
  Now, the duo of two brothers, Michael and James Osehan, known as Izon, are redefining the cross-cultural currents in Nigeria’s music. In what they call ‘trado-contemporary’ music, they have done a remix of ‘Iworiwo’, the music of highlife master, Jim Rex Lawson, also of Izon or Ijaw extraction, like the two brothers, which is in a singles. The video has also been made, with Akin Alabi as producer.
  In a recent chat, the two brothers, who could be mistaken for twins, said remixing Lawson’s track ‘Iworiwo’ was their own way of paying tribute iconic Ijaw musician who loomed large during their growing up years as their father always woke them up every morning with his music. It, therefore, made huge impression on the young minds and that remixing it was partly to ensure its iconic status and to say that traditional ways of life should be given a place of pride among youths.
  According to them, “Our music is a fusion of traditional and contemporary – trado-contemporary music. In the music as we have rendered it, there is fusion of English, Yoruba and Ijaw languages. While growing up as kids, our dad used to wake us up with Lawson’s music every morning. So, this is a flashback to those good old days we hear so much about”.
  Izon is not new to the music scene. They had their first outing in 1999, as ‘School Boys’ trio, with a song, ‘Edeise’, which means ‘most cherished, love for a woman’; for them women made enormous contributions to the world and that they needed to be praised for that. Christian Dior was marketer and promoter at the time. They also used to perform at DTD Lekki Sunsplash.
  However, they could not sustain the tempo because of what they regarded as poor management, which they said “did allow them to explore back then. The challenge was not being able to go back to the studio. But the passion persisted in us. We started performing early; we did a song about Ajegunle. But like we said, we had terrible loopholes in terms of management. Now, we’re back to restructure our style”.
  Michael and James described life back in the slums of Ajegunle as “‘tedious’ but ‘interesting’ growing up in the ghetto; but we couldn’t beat them so we fled from it but the ghetto experience was pleasurable to us. If you could cope in Ajegunle, then you can cope anywhere else. But it can suck you up if you have no proper parenting”.
  The duo had also had a spell in movies; they featured in Silver Spoon and described it as a brilliant experience
  Their manager, Shodayo Olorunsogo, is passionate about the Afro-centric approach his artists, Izon, have taken to music, noting, “We want to revive the real Nigerian music; we’re looking back at our own roots. As much as we’re enriching global culture, we want to reaffirm the real culture of Nigeria through the music we play.
  Olorunsogo said Izon’s remaking of Lawson’s Iworiwo was going back to the roots, adding, “People do music to make money, but we want our music to be evergreen. We don’t want it to fade away so easily. We’re doing music for music sake but with the hope that we will also reap from it. That is why we’re doing music in the trado-contemporary way – highlife”.
  The duo also has a socially-conscious mindset that yearns to reach out to socially-disadvantaged persons in society. According to them, “Our plan is to reach the needy in society, those who are homeless. Most of our concerts will be charity-based so we can help the needy, the less privileged in society”.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Soyinka… Jewel of a Lion at 79

By Anote Ajeluorou

THE first black Africa's first Nobel laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, will tomorrow clock 79. Indeed, the drums will be rolled out in celebration of a man who continues to loom large in the life of his native country, Nigeria. Unfortunately, just as in previous years, Soyinka will not be part of any of the celebrations lined up for him. In fact, he has kept a low profile on the occasion of his birthday in the last 10 years.
  Soyinka will do the same this year even as the Teju Kareem-led Zmirage's Open Door Series Project WS, a platform for International Cultural Exchange, will celebrate the man tomorrow. The theme chosen for this year's cultural exchange is, ‘Memoirs of our Future'. Soyinka obviously casts a long shadow on his country's future, just as he has been an active participant in its convoluted history since independence. He embodies all that Nigeria aspires towards, but which she falls dismally short.
  But Soyinka and many others like him in whom the patriotic zeal burns bright will not accept Nigeria's failure. Nigeria should not have been a failure if the voice of this inimitable Nigerian had been hearkened to way back in 1960, at the dawn of what has now become a nightmare for a nation that promised so much but delivered so little 52 years on. It was in 1960, at that landmark event of independence euphoria that Soyinka's prophetic vision, which also became the hallmark of his other ilk, Chinua Achebe, first came to light when he crafted the famously prophetic play, A Dance of the Forests.
  Like Achebe, Soyinka had been a student all through the London conferences that eventually led to independence from colonial rule. They were witnesses to the process that would soon lead to their country's freedom from British rule. As some of the first young men and women to attain the elusive university degree on home soil at the first Ivory Tower, University College, Ibadan, they were at vintage point and saw what ordinary Nigerians did not see. And so armed with a keen creative vision, they foresaw what was in store for their nation that was in the process of coming into being; they urged certain sacrifices to be performed. But no one heeded.
  Soyinka and his fellow literary high priests did not hide their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich; rather, they stuck their heads out and spoke out although to a deafened citizenry, a citizenry that was largely illiterate and gullible and unschooled in the ways the modern world works. Just like Achebe's novel, A Man of the People was to show some six years later in noting the anti-people's stance of the ruling elite and the consequent military revolution that followed to topple the first civilian government, Soyinka's dark and stark play, A Dance of the Forests was an augury of what was to come, the rudderless leadership the country would consistently have. It presages a country set on a wrong course; 52 years on, Nigeria has yet to come to the right road it should take.
  As one commentator said of A Dance of the Forests, "The play was written by Wole Soyinka to celebrate Nigeria's independence in October 1960. The Gathering of the Tribes referred to in the play is, therefore, the new Nigerian polity. The Tribes' celebration is, however, dented by the fact that (i) the commissioned totem, which was supposed to represent the spirit of the gathering, turns out to be a sacrilegious epitome of evil and (ii) the representatives of the ‘proud' ancestral past turn out to be victims of past despotism and violence crying for justice. Their presence causes a play-within-a-play, depicting past evil, to be enacted. The work (A Dance of the Forests) ends in a spate of negative prophetic utterances and a climactic failure to lead a half-child (abiku) to safety. The play, therefore, aims at countering the (now) unfounded euphoria of the independence days. Why celebrate the birth of an abiku? But, like the officials in the play, the Nigerian officials in charge of the independence celebrations rejected the play."
  Indeed, that part of independence celebration where the play was to be staged was aborted. Nigerian officials, ever self-righteous, refused to accommodate the play. It cut too keenly to the heart of the matter, which was their ineptitude to steer a buoyant country that carried the hopes and aspirations of millions of Africans both on the continent and in the Diaspora. They could not allow a university upstart to upset their apple cart. But their zealousness could not avert the doom and gloom Soyinka's play predicted. It took barely four years in 1964 before the seams began to come apart, with the election fraud in the Western Region's House of Parliament that soon snowballed into great conflagration whose fire could not be quenched until 1970 when the Nigerian Civil war ended, with millions of lives lost and an opportunity of building a healthy nation gone with the wind.
  Soyinka would be imprisoned for two excruciating years while the war raged for attempting to persuade both sides to consider the option of peaceful settlement. The cryptic novel, The Man Died is the product of that prison experience. Ever since Soyinka has crusaded for a better society built on a true democratic foundation. He and others in National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) fought the military to a stand still until 1999 when the junta relinquished power to civilians in what Soyinka and many others have called a quasi-democracy, a democracy that is yet to properly address the yearnings of millions of Nigerians who merely standby and watch, with corruption at its most profligate state. Distinguished Professor of English at New Orleans, U.S., Niyi Osundare has described the corruption in the country as the ‘Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!'

HOWEVER, while Soyinka continues to decry Nigeria's inability to fully transit to meaningful democracy; while he continues to call for a national conference with the peoples of Nigeria coming together to decide their future and the enthronement of fiscal federalism and other healthy parameters that guarantee equal social, economic and political rights to all citizens, the Nobel laureate has found passion in his first love, promotion of Yoruba, nay African, indigenous culture.
  As he turns 79, Nigeria's jewel of a lion though still fiery in the need to exorcise the demons that have continued to strangulate Nigeria's political space, he continues to push for cultural reformation and restoration. Only recently he came out with an African religious manifesto, which he urges all of humankind to adopt. In his new book, Harmattan Haze in an African Spring, the literary giant postulates that since the two biggest world religions - Christianity and Islam - have been the biggest promoters of violence for several centuries, it was time the world looked the way of African religions in which he grew up, which he avowed have never caused a brother to be set up against brother in cowardly defence!
  For Soyinka, the legitimacy of any religion stands to be questioned when it becomes an agency of violence against fellow man in some abstract defence of its essence. No African religion or god or their priests for that matter, he argues, ever ask their adherents to fight on their behalf like the promoters of Christianity and Islam religions unabashedly do. Herein should the world learn from the religious harmony Africa's religions promote to diffuse needless tensions the destructive agencies of the two foreign religions foisted on Africa.
  Also, as chairman of Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, Osogbo, established in honour of German scholar, Ulli Beier, to promote indigenous culture and their expressions, Soyinka has been consciously promoting the rich culture of his Yoruba people all over the world. The Osun Osogbo Grove that Beier's wife,  Suzanne  Wenger, gave international status also falls into this sphere. He intends to fetch the Osun water and take it to Yorubas in the Diaspora like Brazil, Cuba and other Latin American countries with significant Yoruba presence to carry further the healing and restorative powers of Osun Osogbo.
  Like an elder who will not allow the goat to suffer parturition pains in tethers, first class literary high priest and avatar, Soyinka is beginning to feel the burden of old age and the need to come home and assume his position in providing cultural, religious and traditional direction for his many children at home and abroad. This is a sacred duty he owes his many grandchildren and others who must sit at the feet of the grand old man and learn a thing or two about how the world works.
 And, Kongi will not flinch from his ascribed role!

PERHAPS to cap Soyinka's celebration at 79, we shall drink from the fine wine Osundare has brewed to toast the man, when he says, "Wole Soyinka at 79? The inimitable dramatist himself must be surprised at the longevity which fate has so generously placed on his plate; for hardly any other Nigerian writer of note has run a greater political risk than he has done, nor constituted a serial persona non grata to successive Nigerian governments, military or civil.
  "He survived General Gowon's gulag and was magnanimous enough to accept the ex-military ruler's 'bygone is bygone' after the cessation of hostilities. He outsmarted General Sani Abacha's hired assassins and lived to pen a 'beatified' epitaph for the goggled murderer. General Ibrahim Babangida taught him never to dine with the devil without a very, very long spoon. Some Nigerians are still wondering who that 'masked gunman' is/was, who held up a radio station in an effort to embarrass a satanically oppressive Premier.
  "And this political activism is matched by an equally impressive literary and professional achievement. For the past 50 years or so, there has been no silence in Soyinka's house of words/ideas. Those who expected a lull after the 1986 Nobel glory have only found a writer still setting forth at dawn, his temperament primed at the rising sun.
  "It is absolutely impossible not to marvel at the staying power of this Long-Distance Runner; this zestful wine which mellows into grace every passing year.     
  "So Happy Birthday, Akoni. Here's 79 cheers to the Lion who deserves his Jewel!"


The work (A Dance of the Forests) ends in a spate of negative prophetic utterances and a climactic failure to lead a half-child (abiku) to safety. The play, therefore, aims at countering the (now) unfounded euphoria of the independence days. Why celebrate the birth of an abiku? But, like the officials in the play, the Nigerian officials in charge of the independence celebrations rejected the play

For Aluu 4, other mob victims, Don’t Walk Away campaign gets underway

By Anote Ajeluorou

Loved ones of students of University of Port Harcourt (otherwise known as the Aluu 4) that were murdered by a mindless mob in Aluu community, Rivers State, victims of 2011 election violence in parts of the North and other similar victims of mob attacks all over the country may now find a platform to take action. While efforts are ongoing to redress these brutal murders, a lot more could still be done to prevent future occurrences by concerned citizens through a campaign just launched in Lagos.
  Known as Don’t Walk Away, which is also the title of a short docu-film on a similar brutal mob attack on a 12-year old boy eight years ago in Lagos, the campaigners seek to galvanise action amongst citizenry on the need to take action in a mob situation to avert the needless death of innocent Nigerians. The campaign is built around the Abimbola Ogunsanya-made docu-film, a former NTA staff, who has gone on to make other sterling documentaries.
  Importantly, ‘Don’t walk Away’ campaign is predicated on the famous saying, ‘Evil triumphs when good people do nothing’ to redeem social malaise. Those averse to such evil are urged to make a pledge to do something positive when they see evil on rampage, such as the horror of the Aluu 4!
  And at Unity Centre, Isaac John Street, Ikeja GRA, last week, organisers unveiled the docu-film Don’t Walk Away and launched the campaign to raise awareness given the disturbing trend that condemns a section of society to the bestial age when man’s inhumanity to man assumes a frightening dimension.
  Eight years ago, Ogunsanya ran into a mob baying for the blood of 12-year Samuel while returning from work. Samuel, a street beggar, had been accused of stealing a baby and the angry mob wanted his blood even when it could not trust the source of the alarm that said he stole a baby. That an accusation had been made was enough for the mob to have Samuel’s head on a platter. This is in spite of Samuel’s eloquent protestations to the contrary; no one was ready to listen to his story of innocence.
  Ogunsanya went to work and interviewed Samuel while he was in the mercy of the mob. A man in the mob crying for the boy’s blood didn’t know who raised the baby-stealing alarm; all he, and the others, wanted was to have Samuel pay for his crime! Fearful for her own life and her other children, even Samuel’s mother denied ever knowing him; Samuel was from a broken home. A motor tyre was strung around Samuel’s slim body, doused with petrol and set alight. Samuel writhed and convulsed just as the mob cheered on until he succumbed to death.
  According to the organisers of the campaign, “What has made an impression on ‘Don’t Walk Away’ supporters such as Afrobeat maestro, Femi Kuti is not so much the horror of Samuel’s ghastly death, as the extraordinary dignity of the little boy who managed to tell his life story in a two-minute interview while surrounded by a mob baying for his blood.  His articulate account of how he found himself begging on the streets of Lagos shows him to have been both intelligent and almost certainly innocent of the crime of ‘baby-stealing’ for which he was killed.
  “When members of the mob were interviewed before the murder, they were unable to give specifics of what Samuel was accused of. One commented that “They said he wanted to kidnap a child at a school” and was unable to say exactly where. The fact that he knew nothing about the accusation did not stop him being a main perpetrator of the crime, pouring petrol onto Samuel before he was ignited.
  “Samuel’s story is a vivid example of the gross injustice and horrific cruelty of mob killing. ‘Don’t Walk Away’ campaigners hope it will touch the hearts of millions when it is released on the Internet. The campaign leaders believe this will launch a national debate on mob violence – or ‘jungle justice’ – and how people can be motivated to intervene and prevent future lynching”.
  In the discussion the disquieting docu-film generated in shocked audience, Senator Oluremi Tinubu in her keynote address commended ‘Don’t walk Away’ campaigners for bringing the vexed issue of mob justice to national discourse, saying she identified with it and would make efforts to highlight in the upper legislature. She noted, “I heard about the utterly despicable violence that caused the untimely death of Aluu 4 in Port Harcourt last year when a petition was brought to the Senate by a parent of one of the victims. Such despicable acts of violence is a reflection of the deep rot in society…
  “It’s equally grievous that spectacles of mob action or jungle justice have provided a source of entertainment to many who stand by and sometimes record such atrocities without attempting to rescue the victims. We all have critical roles to play in sensitising the populace towards effecting a change of attitude to mob action”.
  Tinubu called on individuals in such situations to promptly report mob actions to the police before they escalate so as to save lives.
  Maker of the docu-film, Ogunsanya said he didn’t savour the experience of watching a poor die in the hands of a mob, but that he was one man against a mob, and very little he could have done to save Samuel. He added that he could have been joined with the boy for the stakes. He also noted that Samuel’s mother denied him by her instinct for survival because she could also have been killed as well as part of a baby-stealing ring.
  While local TV stations and film festivals refused to accept the film, Ogunsanya said it was adjudged the Most Compassionate film by Qatar Film Festival, just as Al Jazeera cable TV was ready to offer him huge sums to have unfettered right to it. But Ogunsanya said he refused to sell it, noting that he made the film to bring about a change in attitude. He noted that selling the film would have pitch Nigeria against the world, as he was sure Al Jazeera would have presented Nigeria as a nation of bestial beings from the film’s expose, adding, “The film is about making a change, not about the bestiality of Nigeria, as against the world”.
  Secretary to Surulere Local Government Area, Rev. Funmi Braithwaite, who represented Tinubu, said she had averted a similar mob action in Badagry years ago when she created a scene that eventually attracted the police a few metres away. She noted, “So, don’t walk away from such mob justice. If you walk away, your conscience will condemn you for life for not preserving the life of a fellow man”.
  Publisher of Brand IQ, Mr. Ntia Nsukuma described Ogunsanya as a hero for having the courage to film Samuel’s pathetic story for posterity, pointing out that Samuel did not die in vain. Nsukuma said the story of child witches in parts of Nigeria was another example of mob action, which he noted stemmed from a culture of impunity and a threat to security in society, which he said must be curtailed.
  Nsukuma queried, “Do we have laws against mob action? How can we get government to compensate victims? Let’s continue to push to rid the nation of mob action; it’s a threat to security. It’s a culture of impunity that the perpetrators can get away with their act each time it happens”.
  Organisers of ‘Don’t walk Away’ campaign are looking to get Nigerians sign up against mob action by visiting the website www.dontwalkaway.org.ng first to view Samuel’s video and sign up. They aim to get legislation against the barbaric act and redirect such mob into civilized conduct.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

In This Book, You’ll See The Child That’s Still In Me, Says Jimi Solanke

By Anote Ajeluorou

Jimi Solanke is a master in the folklore genre and has spent the past 50 years telling African stories to children. He draws significantly from African oral tradition, and has used the didactic morals in these tales to nurture generations of young ones to appreciate Africa’s core values. Now, he has taken his oral tales to another level, with the publication of a book, Ancient and Modern Tales.
  In this narrative, the great grandpa storyteller tells of how he would christen his new book at his 71st birthday on Thursday this week, noting, “Those of us in the area of children entertainment, we often go into their realm and usually draw from our own experience things that will be total for them. There are people who do that from all over the world, people from America, in Disneyland created Micky Mouse. Till date some of our children are used to who Micky Mouse is.
  “In my book Ancient and Modern Tales, the tales themselves provide guidance for the artworks, which are from the colours of newspapers use; no brush or oil was used but through innovativeness we create some things that I had imbibed as a child – some masquerades that waited for us at the river we normally go to collect water in my hometown, some characters that were used to frighten us as little children, some cultural entities that I grew up with. So, these artworks are fused in a seamless manner. That’s why I call the book ancient and modern; I related some modern frequencies to some of the characters that are very modern, all embedded in the tales. And it has been finished as a book over a year ago, but somehow I’ve been busy. But then I said out of 365 days a year, what are you busy doing? I now said use that your birth to christen, like a child naming ceremony, for this book.
  “And I’m asking these people who are my bankers and those who put up adverts to come be part of it. But I know it’s not soccer, it’s not hiphop, it’s not golf, but it’s something more realistic than all these things I’ve mentioned because when you’ve lived a life more than 70, and you’re still proud of whatever profession you’ve been doing, all these extensions, this kind of book, the kind of album that have been coming out, they are all extension to the profession. In the book you’ll see my involvement with dramatic arts because some of those because of those I created are very dramatic; you’ll find some dramatic figurations in the writings.
  “And you’ll see me and you’ll see the child that’s still inherent in me!”
  At 71, when many would have long forgotten about their childhood, Solanke says he just couldn’t. But he also says what children these days have lost in not being able to listen to grandpas and grandmas tell culturally-stimulating folktales like the ones he tells, they have gained by being exposed to IT, video games and computers. So, he asserts, “Culturally, they have lost the aspect of intense rhythm and rhyme of our culture. But on the other hand, they have gained IT and 36 hours of music in one small pallet they call memory card, a small digital gadget, something you can mistake for sweet but it’s not sweet.
  “Also, they now have games; I’m telling you it’s in this manner that these people created games from the other parts of the world. Those games, the characters that you see in them are just created to excite children. They are animative movements made to whip questions from the minds of children because as I’ve been able to work with children for over 50 years now, I noticed that they are very honest. They are honest in blanket of integrity, ready to absorb a lot of education that is offered them.
  “So, children are I have been friends now for a long time. They call me great grandpa because some people I have interacted with have now become grandfathers and it’s very interesting. And because when you’re in this area, a lot of things can make you special because of your interest. I say something everyday; that ambition can make you into something but desire can do something else for you.
  “In all my work, I did what I do not because of money or recognition. Before we started doing it on WNTV/WNBS in Ibadan, artists of those days were doing it because they loved doing it, and because of local popularity and familiar appreciation among those around them. What we were doing then kept us unlike today when we do it because we want to make money.
  “So, we were desirous of it; that’s the reason why personally, even when I’m 80 or 90, I’ll still be working with children”.
  The master storyteller is alarmed that what we are loosing in terms of culture, is being gained by outsiders, and that a time is coming when it would be exported back for us to buy. His book, he posits, is a possible means of stemming that ugly tide, adding, “There are comics being done here. But what we’re loosing on this side, some people are gaining on their own side. We are as Africans have looked down too much on our cultural heritage; we have looked down so much on it. We’ve got to a point where we’ve learnt from different cultures and imbibed them, raised them higher than our own original attitudes of being. There is a great personality in one of the newspapers. These are people, artists who can do great things. But when you take them to people who have just sponsored hiphop productions to the tune of millions of naira, they don’t show interest. Whereas, foreigners will soon be coming to teach us our culture; foreigners will come here to teach us our culture!”
  He explained further, “A lot of people traveling out and coming back tell us many things. My wife just came back from Cuba and said the impact Cuban House of Culture made on her was so huge. Their traditional Nigerian, African culture orientation, practices in their shrines left her dumbfounded because of what she saw. These things we’re gladly throwing away in the name of foreign religion - usually Christianity and Islam - Cubans and other Diaspora Africans have gathered them and given them their rightful place, place of pride. And they were telling my wife and others, ‘look, your blood is in us; your blood is in us.  Can you dance to bata? Can you dance to dundun drums?!’ And they played them the way they know it.
  “And my wife and the others were all surprised. And they were dressed in the old ritual regalia. My wife said it reminded her of one iya osun in Badagry, who knew nothing more than osun worship in those days; that person in Cuba was dressed like that Badagry woman of old. That’s the way I mean it by saying foreigners will come here to teach us our culture in years to come. These things we’re throwing away are the things people outside are studying very seriously, deeply, like the Yoruba language and culture, just like Hausa, Igbo and many other African languages and cultures. They are being taught in different universities in America and South America. Whereas, we’re abhorring the fact that our languages be taught to our children because we want our children to understand how to speak good English! But the children end up speaking the wrong type of English”.

UNLIKE most culture producers and promoters who believe that savaging culture resides solely with government, Solanke provides a better argument. According to him, “What culture promoters like me should do we’re still doing and earning accolades for being able to continue doing them – we’re still researching, still raking up information in different poetic lyrics, in drama; yes, we’re still doing it. But everything cannot depend on government alone.
  “There is only one ministry of culture and tourism, but they have no money for everything in culture promotion. Take for instance, Nigeria’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. If you look through that ministry, you’ll see different parastatals or smaller units – National Theatre, Centre for Black African Arts and Culture, National Gallery of Arts; under tourism, there are also different units. If you count them they are up to 13 or more under one ministry. Which one then should be responsible for language promotion? Which among them is that one that is doing the job of cultural reorientation? Which one?
  “So, there must be that political will, total interest from government to say that our culture must be prime in our agenda, then they will get people who will sponsor it. They all have their ready-made curriculum; they all have their ready-made approach to how to run their programmes in their different parastatals. They run them this year; they will run them next year and so on without producing any result in anything concrete.
  “We cannot then say government can or should do it. Now, let me tell you something about our multinational money-gobbling organisations. They have their jobs to do in the country in their areas of operation. Are they doing it? No! They are doing much less or nothing when it comes to cultural interest. Let me tell you, in England, they spend billions of pounds in sustaining not only the British culture, but some other cultures that are domiciled in Britain. I’ve had friends who had thousands and millions of pounds in grants to come and document something here in Nigeria and we worked together on those projects. Now, they took those documents away and kept them over there; we can’t have access to them.
  “So like I said, they will come back and reach us our culture and we’ll pay heavily. Such are the importance of multinationals in other parts of the world. Even in America, I earned $10,000 just to be telling stories to their children and to teach them how to build African huts from mud and clay; we go and collect grass and make some other African artefacts. What have we done here? We’re so self-oriented. Even if the money is put out, it will be chopped by those in charge!”
  He also understands the prevailing apathy in government circles and the ambivalence of the nation’s motion picture sector and what it keeps unleashing on society. As he states, “Not many people are concerned because they have equated our culture with rituals and voodoo and killings and demonism like it’s being portrayed in Nollywood films…
  “Yes, it is, even to the extent that it frightens many of these people. In their minds, when you talk about culture, the next things is, the man will die! Or how he will use his wife or son for money ritual; they have forgotten that traditional culture is very far apart from such rituals. Traditional culture and religion are not as bastardized as what is being portrayed in these films!
  “They are all in this same bracket; the noise has been going before the advent of Nollywood, as far back as 1968 and 1971, the noise that government should back culture in all forms. Do those in government know anything! Let them go to Mbare in Enugu; let them go to some other places, the shrine in Ede. Now, let me take another example; when the white men came and showed them that Osun Osogbo is a very important deity, that’s when government came into it and began to promote it. That’s a strong example for you. So, we are trying to say that a lot of our cultural expansions will be developed by outsiders and then government will take interest. Nollywood is not our only cultural expression; no!”
  This Thursday  at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Solanke will launch the book. He explains what it is intended to achieve and those who will attend, noting, “There are things in it that are written for the ordinary man. I don’t have a Ph.D or degree, but I only attended the School of Drama in 1963 at University of Ibadan and became a performer. And since then I have been able to practicalise every aspect of my study; that’s why I sing, I dance even at 71 and people will clap. I have trained professionals, who work with me and I take them to the areas where we do research. When we talk about kurekure in those days as children, everybody will run back it was believed to be always lurking at the back of the school at night, and waiting to catch anybody that strays.
  “There were so many stories; stories about ogomugomu and many others. This is just the first edition. We want the information to reach everybody about the cultural things around us by people who are working in that area so that ordinary people can have access and have something to gain from it.
  “So, I’ve invited three of Her Excellencies (wives of Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti States); there will also be Chief (Mrs.) Maiden Ibru, Erelu Abiola Dosumu and Auty Franscesca Emmanuel all leading the pack. We’re talking about children here and a book about children and a book with a foreword written by Professor Wole Soyinka. So, when you call baba, he might not have the time, but when you call madam, they know it’s a bigger arena for them. Normally, you don’t talk about father and children; rather, you talk about women and children. That is the whole idea; it’s a children’s book; it’s a mothers’ thing!”

Ben Nwabueze… The Life And Times Of A Great Statesman


By Anote Ajeluorou

Nigeria is dire need of role models. From the political, economic, academic to other fields of endeavour, Nigeria as a nation has recorded more failures and disappointment than the optimism and fervour that heralded her independence from colonial rule. Ironically, the failure and disappointment largely stemmed from the actions or inactions of men saddled with steering the ship of state.
  Yet in this failure of a nation is the personal example of successful achievement of certain men and women such that they are unarguably the models society needs to chart a path to a bright future yet again. One such men in Nigeria’s public space whose life is a shining example to many is the erudite scholar, legal luminary, politician, writer and community leader, Prof. Ben Nwabueze. He hails from Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.
  Now in his 80s, Nwabueze’s life and works, which he has just published as Ben Nwabueze: His Life, Works and Times – An Autobiography (Volumes 1 & 2; Gold Press Limited, Ibadan; 2012) span the decisive generation that has shaped modern Nigeria. He was among the privileged few that took advantage of one shinning light of colonialism – EDUCATION – and exploited its merits to the fullest. Nwabueze has since been part of the shaping that a new nation just emerging from foreign domination needs to survive in a modern, dynamic world that is ever changing.
  His academic, scholarly works in law have served as foundational materials for legal education in the country and beyond. Nwabueze is a holdhold name in the legal field and has been an outstanding personality in the country in various fields.
  Nwabueze’s autobiography is a compelling story of a man who rose from the grips of poverty just like many Nigerians, nay Africans and steadily climbed the ladder of success from sheer hard work and exceptional brilliance as a young boy in his native Atani village school. Indeed, Nwabueze’s books read as counterpoise materials to the great many fictional works of great literary figures. The first volume particularly provides counterpart reading material to such works as Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God and other such works that describe typical village life as it was lived before and during colonial rule in parts of Africa. It renders faithfully the economic, social, political, religious, moral and legal systems and practices as they originally were practised and their subsequent erosion by western lifestyles through colonialism and Christianity.
  Nothing escapes Nwabueze’s lens, having himself lived through it in his boyhood years and tasted its many sides and actively engaged in its happy and sometimes not so happy aspects. In all this, the legal giant regrets the erosion of many good sides of the original lifestyles of Africa as symbolised by practices in his Atani community. Also, his western lifestyle has also sensitised him enough to some unsavoury aspects of those African practices that need to make way for new, better ones that promote human happiness and unity. In his native Atani, for instance, Nwabueze has worked tirelessly to ease the negating impact of the osu caste system to be mitigated and for such individuals to be integrated into the community fully as co-equals.

HAVING dispensed with the formative years of his life in Atani, Onitsha, Enugu and leaving for London to study law at University of London and obtaining a doctoral degree and consequently teaching and legal practice in volume one; having laid the foundation for some of the beliefs and ideas and personalities that shaped his life, Nwabueze turns his attention to the later part of his life.
  In volume two, Nwabueze turns his gaze on the activities, organisations and vocations that later shaped his lifelong engagements, particularly his foray into public life in his patriotic zeal to serve Nigeria and make a better place for all Nigerians, especially the poor masses.
  From volume one, he recalls how he became involved in Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, a socio-cultural group set up in 1976 to engage a victorious Nigerian to its responsibility to a defeated Igbo nation just emerged from a horrendous civil war, with signs of marginalization already beginning to rear its ugly head. He was its secretary-general for several years thus its spokesperson. By so doing, he help in raising the profile of all marginalised people in the country to agitating for their rights to be accorded equal opportunities in all spheres of life. But Nwabueze wasn’t just a champion of a marginalised Ndi Igbi, his kith and kin across the Niger; he felt the leadership gulf in the political space and how less and less it served ordinary Nigerians and the need to fight it through both constitutional and advocacy means.
  In this wise, he and some like-minded, respected individuals formed The Patriots. As he put it, “…I have been chairman of an organisation of eminent Nigerians called The Patriots, an organisation recognised and respected throughout the country as a patriotic organisation, which makes me a leading patriot. Nigeria, as the object of my patriotic and nationalistic feelings, was not just an idea existing in the mind or in the imagination”.
  But he is quick to argue that as patriotic as he considers himself, Nigeria is yet to emerge as the desired nation, with its inability to fashion a viable system of political co-existence that best addresses its multi-ethnic groupings and bring them into harmony, like true federalism, a system he has consistently advocated. He thus asserts, “Ardent Nigerian patriot and nationalist that I am, and much as I frequently desire it, I never entertained the illusion that Nigeria is a nation. For, it is not – not yet. Nigeria is a state, not a nation”.
  This realisation has formed a large part of his advocacy for constitutional democracy and social justice to be entrenched in the Nigerian polity. With a deep grasp of the subject matter from his training in law, Nwabueze came to view constitutional democracy “as the best form of government for humankind, which went hand-in-hand with the passion for the customs and traditions of my beloved hometown, Atani”. The passion also led to the writing of three defining volumes, Constitutionalism (1973), Presidentialism (1974) and Judicialism (1977).
  But he is mindful that constitutional democracy alone is not enough to drive society forward, as has often been the sad case with many African countries that lay pretence to it. Social justice is its necessary counterpoint that must also be pursued with equal vigour as the means to provide comfortable living conditions for the generality of the masses to elevate them from suffering. It’s for this reason, he says, “Advocacy for justice and amelioration of the condition of the under-privileged members of society became yet another passion of my life and, as in the case of constitutional democracy, I seized every opportunity, spared no efforts, and employed every platform and every avenue available to me in the form of public lectures, writings to propagate it”.
  Nwabueze leaves nothing out in his explosive autobiography. And he pulls several punches in the process on which many Nigerians would take him on. He relates his troubled eight months’ tenure as Education Secretary and the crises that beset the education sector at the time, the many strikes and how he was able to manage them.
  This was also the time he served under Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, a man he has painted a portrait in his book. But Nwabueze does so after a caveat, when he says, “An important point of which anyone writing IBB must first put into account is that he was victim of a system of absolute power, and that anyone else in such a position of absolute power would also be prune, to a greater or lesser extent, to its evils influences and allurements. No one in the whole history of humankind has been known to be above the allurements of absolute power, and few are known to give up so willingly”.
  While not entirely exonerating the aberration that military rule was and its principal actors of which Babangida was one, Nwabueze would rather berate Nigerians for allowing themselves to be so ruled for such a long period, with the civil populace not being able to challenge it. He goes on to admonish, “Such power in the hands of one individual is most awesome indeed. I, myself as Secretary for Education and Youth Development, had experienced its alluring and seductive influence. It’s power that should never be entrusted to one man or a junta of men”.
  Chapter 9 of volume two of Ben Nwabueze… would excite many readers, as it paints the picture of Babangida, with its enigmatic question, ‘What kind of man is he?’ Many will be amused by Nwabueze’s portraiture of Babangida, just as others will be outraged by it though insider view it may seem, as perhaps a sort of indulgence for the man under whom he served for eight months. Indeed, it just might not dispel what most Nigerians already take for granted and therefore in stark contrast to Nwabueze’s portraiture of the man who held the nation in the jugular for eight long years. This chapter echoes Tony Momoh’s book, Prince of the Niger that dressed Babangida in saintly robes. It just might ring false to many ordinary Nigerians that suffered eight years of the man’s misrule that plunged the nation into economic hell.
  Nwabueze describes him as “Easy. Nice and down-to-earth, he is so delightfully chatty without being talkative, and puts everyone around him completely at ease… For the whole period of my tenure, I experienced nothing of the Machiavellianism; nothing of the Maradona-like skill in dribbling people to achieve his ends; nothing of the smooth manipulator of men and events; nothing of the crafty, unreliable, ever-weening autocrat interfering in, and directing, all affairs of state from his office or bedroom. He might well be crafty. How else really could he have survived in that office for eight long years amid all the tumults of social and political discord?”

NEVERTHELESS, Nwabueze’s autobiography is indeed a treasure in the rereading of Nigeria’s historical evolution. Having been born at a time of political ferment and when colonialism was at its last gasp and taken advantage of the privileges of formal education to heart, Nwabueze’s life story runs parallel to his country’s. He has also been part of shaping his country’s socio-political fortunes. Ben Nwabueze… is certainly a great read not just because of what he has written about but also his style, which stems from a cultivated mind, a man exposed early to the joys of reading the greats that shaped world events.
  So that his literary skill makes the two volumes a joyful exercise in tracing the trajectory of a great Nigerian mind, starting from his small, narrow world of Atani village to the great stage of a London University and his having to straddle a vast socio-political space in the affairs of his country Nigeria. This book is commended to every reader desirous of glimpsing a great mind and a country in a flux!

Nigeria is a bookless country, says Emenanjo

By Anote Ajeluorou

“NIGERIA is a chronically bookless country and most Nigerians are neither great lovers, great buyers, avid readers, nor fanatical users of books!” That was the stark verdict of a linguist and African Languages expert regarding the fate of the book among Nigerians last week in Ibadan.
  It was at the yearly Authors’ Forum organised by University Press Plc to examine the state of books, reading and literacy in the country.
  Dignitaries at the event were U.S.-based distinguished Professor of English at New Orleans University, Niyi Osundare, former chairman, National University Commission, Prof. Peter Okebukola, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo and Akin Bello.
With the theme, How Safe Is the Book Today?, Prof. Emmanuel Nolue Emenanjo walked the path other intellectual greats like Niyi Osundare, Peter Okebukola and others had taken in lending their intellectual strength to synergies designed to stimulate awareness about the dying book culture in the land. With statistics, facts and empirical evidences drawn from within and outside the country, Emenanjo made the staggering verdict of ill-health of book industry in Nigeria.
Emenanjo further stated in his diagnosis of the health of the book in the country, “Nigeria produces less than one percent of her actual book needs, which should now stand at some 199.76 million books per year. This calculation is based on a modest estimate of 4 – 6 books per child in primary school, for 20.4 million pupils; eight books per student in the secondary school, for 6.4 million students; and eight books per student for close to one million students in tertiary education…
  “Nigerians have the lowest rate of paper consumption in the world with only 3 kilos of printed materials per person, per year as against South Africa, with 100 kilos; Europeans with 250 kilos; Americans with 270 kilos; and Japanese with 300 kilos”.
  Another staggering statistics reeled off by Emenanjo is the library per population ratio, which was even more frightening. He noted that the ratio for America stands at 1: 17,000; Japan 1: 47,000; Germany 1: 60,000, with Nigeria standing at 1: 1,350,000! This height of booklessness in Nigerian society is record-breaking, indeed.

Grammar versus literature
The discourse later dovetailed to complement the argument that the literature or literary works (books written in any language – poetry, prose/novels/short stories, drama) constitute the workshop on which that language is tested, trusted, used and perfected by its users.
  Indeed, learning the bare grammar of a language without studying the literature written in that language usually produces poor result for that language usage and its users. Emenanjo reaffirmed this sobering thought in his submission when he faulted the educational policies that separated the three big Nigerian languages from their literatures for students.
  Expectedly, students opted for the local languages and shunned taking the literature subject in them. The result? Emenanjo averred. “The experiment in Nigeria languages killed books in the creative genres, and literature in Nigerian languages. Yet, it is literature, not grammar, which establishes and sustains literacy, the book culture and the socio-linguistic vitality of human language. Thus, when that innovation or policy was in operation, all the major languages through formal education and textbooks, produced 1,075,325 people who were functionally illiterate and only 6,336 who were functionally literate… And so the book suffered and continues to suffer in creative literature and literary studies. And so, literacy will continue to have a field day and the book will continue to be endangered.”
  Also, Emenanjo said aliteracy was another impediment to the growth of the book culture in the country, which he said was even more pernicious for the development of the book. He bemoaned the pervasive indifference many Nigerians exhibit to reading, writing and numeracy, adding, “Aliterate people have no business with buying, reading and promoting books for themselves, their children, their wards and their community!”
  Emenanjo also pointed out poverty, film (Nollywood) and social media as other great impediments for the growth of book among young people. However, the professor submitted that the book would not die given the ability of man’s creations to adapt, especially with the emergence of ebooks and other digital formats.
  Also, he lamented President Goodluck Jonathan’s inability to make good his intention for the book, as encapsulated in his campaign Bring Back the Book, which he said though “the name of the campaign has some rhyme and rhythm about it, the reason behind it is still to be known. Instead, it’s Nollywood that appears to count more in the non-verbal communication of our president.”
  Reaffirming the seeming immortality of the book across time, Emenanjo declared the book, “An engine of change, the window on the world and the lighthouse in the sea of time, the book will continue to remain a telescope because through it we can look at the distant stars and speculate about life. It will remain a never-ending film, which the entire human pageant and, indeed, civilization passes in review. It is the only time machine that can recreate the events of the past, capture the totality of the present and open up vistas to the future. For without the book, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled and thought and speculation at a standstill.”
  By way of recommendation, Emenanjo stressed strengthening the educational system, longevity of educational policies, programmes and practices and making literature in English and in Nigerian languages compulsory in the entire formal school system including tertiary institutions and instituting a national book policy.

EARLIER, chairman of University Press Plc, Dr. Lalekan Are said as “authors who are knowledge providers, we are attitude and character molders. We build the intellect and shape the consciousness of the people and populace. This role has become exceedingly germane, considering the serious challenges that face Nigeria”.
  Are noted that as part of University Press Plc’s CSR, it donated books worth N5 million to secondary schools in Oyo State and would establish Readers Club in each school starting next year. Organising a quiz and essay contests in schools, he said, were also in the offing.
  The Managing Director, Mr. Samuel Kolawole raised alarm of activities of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in asking publishers to vet the books they bring into the country. Kolawole said such directive from SON was wrong and unconstitutional and well outside its mandate. He called on relevant authorities to call SON to order, as such anti-book directive was capable of violating UN’s free movement of books charter.

The book is an engine of change, the window on the world and the lighthouse in the sea of time, the book will continue to remain a telescope because through it we can look at the distant stars and speculate about life. It will remain a never-ending film, which the entire human pageant and, indeed, civilization passes in review. It is the only time machine that can recreate the events of the past, capture the totality of the present and open up vistas to the future. For without the book, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled and thought and speculation at a standstill.