Monday, 30 July 2012

Lagos Black Heritage Festival… a celebration of black cultural heritage

By Anote Ajeluorou and Tony Nwanne

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.

Ofeimun…Master of poetic dance drama celebrates 62

By Anote Ajeluorou

Itoya – A Dance for Africa
  It started with A Feast of Return, where he told South Africa in new poetic dance drama. He confessed to being challenged by a South African what a bloody Nigerian knew or had to say about the rainbow nation. But his adversity had emerged from the theatre in London to mumble his apology. That poetic excursion into dance drama was in far away in London before he settled for his poetry again and forgot. Or so everyone thought.
  But it took several years later before he could settle down to another dance drama. This time, it’s Nigeria the Beautiful. Indeed, seeing all the melodrama that Nigeria has become, especially in recent years with the story of sleaze brazenly told on prime time TV, it’s a wonder such Odia Ofeimun, gadfly of the public space and social critic, could see something beautiful about he beloved country Nigeria.
  His eminent guests didn’t spare him last Friday when he celebrated on that score. Indeed, what is beautiful about Nigeria? Ofeimu had his ready answer. So, he asked rethorically, “What is good about Nigeria? It’s the variousness that we quarrel with. There must be a reason why God made us various. If we can work it out, the world will be envy us. There are very few countries in the world where people suffer and still have hope in tomorrow. There are dreams that just won’t die. That is only possible only in Nigeria”.
  It’s this capacity to see hope, light in the midst of darkness that has become the hallmark of the Nigerian writer for which Ofeimun is an embodiment. After Nigeria the Beautiful,Ofeimun’s new dance drama is the story of the origin of Africa’s problems. As literary sage, Chinua Achebe famous propounded, ‘If you don’t know where the rain started beating you, you will not know when it stopped beating you’. For Nigeria, or indeed, Africa to be the country and continent of pride, they must recognize where they are coming from, the story of the suffering and pain and blood that have become their hallmark (for Itoya means ‘I can’t tell you all the suffering I’ve been through’).
  Although only a sneak preview was put on stage as teaser, it was clear that Ofeimun has appropriated the dance drama genre for himself in his masterly evocation of grand poetic idiom, vigorous dance performance and dramatic output. With his unassuming director, Felix Okolo, it is clear the future of stage or live theatre belongs Ofeimun. Uniquely also, he does not charge fees. He manages to find a sponsor who buys his performance wholesale and throws it open to the public. Certainly, it ‘s only Ofeimun who can pull off such feat in a season of drought for the live theatre.
  And so between Nisi George and ????, the audience is made to experience the critical, turning point moment when the continent received visitors from faraway that turned the tide and changed the fate of a once happy people and exposed them to all manners of indignities ever a race could suffer for the greed of others. Now, with the African world so twisted out of joint, Ofeimun does not prescribe a romantic view of returning to past in Negritude fashion. Rather, he proposes a mastery of the invaders ways as a prelude to conquering both himself and the wider world!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Why it took 22 years to get Onwuka's Wings of the Night out

By Anote Ajeluorou

Wings of the Night is the new prose entrant into Nigeria’s literary space. Its author, Azuka Onwuka, is brimming with exciting ideas that could cause a new way of thinking and writing prose fiction. Wings of the Night was written some 22 years ago, when its author was an undergraduate at University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
  But like most authors, Onwuka took his time. Now is the time, he felt, when the idea is ripe. And come sometime in September, he will formally announce himself as a novelist quite apart from his other portfolios in the business world.
  In a brief encounter last week in Lagos, Onwuka told how he started writing Wings of the Night in 1989, and has had to rework it to a finished product only recently for publication. Now, the weight of 22 years of seeming experimentation are over, Onwuka is excited that the literary world would be the better for his creative efforts.
  Wings of the Night operates on two levels. First is the belief that everything that happens to a man is predestined, whether good or bad, particularly bad things, and that there is no armour against fate. In this work, the protagonist is set on a path that seems rto debunk the claim of just deserts to every misfortune that befalls a man.
  Also, the author examines Africa’s cultural past before colonial periods, in the mould of legendary Chinua Achebe, to try to unearth what it was to be African, and how much present generation miss in being disconnected with that glorious past. Without being a romantic, Onwuka makes the point that present generation of Africans, for being so enarmoured by everything Western, have abandoned the need to know or trace their geneology the way Western man does to unearth the beauty of the past and the place of his ancestors in it.
  So indeed, Onwuka’s Wings if the Night will force introspection on his readers for them to re-evaluate their Africanness, their roots and pay particular attention to it as a necessary handmaiden t oplaying their part in a globalised world order. The alienation that currently plagues most Africans, the author seems to be saying, can be found in the rootlessness that is so pervasive on the continent. It’s indeed a work of rethink.
  “A people need to know their geneology, their ancestry,” he noted, “for our people to find our roots as a source of rejuvenation. Only when you use what you are best at that you can be your best. It is a story that combines the old way of living with the modern one for one continuum, a linking of the past to the modern ways, for a proper synergy to be formed in our march towards the future. We should know about our past so we can project into the future. I’m, in love with Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for invoking the past to define the future.
  “I want to tell the rich history of our people, the wornderful aspects of our culture so our younger generation can understand what it was to have lived in the past”, with a view to reinventing the future for a better society.
But encapsulated in the old is a seeming new style of writing that Onwuka believes writers should pay serious attention. Onwuka, who has long had a forray in advertising, a brief stint in banking and now in image-making, stated that the chronological sequence of character development usually adopted by most writers was no longer in vogue. Instead, he argued that Nigerian writers should adopt the style of crime writers’ racing style to make “for fast-paced reading so as not to bore the readers, especially in this age of so much clutter.
  Onwuka, who was to study to become a doctor, studied English instead to the chargrin of his parents. But he has no regrets. And having traversed the world of advertising and image-making, he has returned to his first love, writing. Wings of the Night is but a first taste of his creative muse.

Others should join Okediran in promoting Nigerian literature, says Fasanmi

Stories by Anote Ajeluorou

Ebeddi International Writers Residency Programme, Iseyin, Oyo State, has continued to add immense value to the growth and sustenance of Nigerian and African literature since it opened two years ago. This self-imposed mandate was made manifest again a week ago when another three writers left the residency after weeks of stay to execute their literary projects.
  Niyi Fasanmi was one of three resident writers (the other include Kano-based Richard Ali, author of City if Memories, and editor of online magazine, Sentinel Nigeria; and Awwai Sakiwa, author of children’s book, The Story of Bayajiddah), and he commended former House of Representatives member, medical doctor and former president of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Wale Okediran, for envisioning the Ebedi Residency programme to help writers finish or perfect their craft. Fasanmi has urged that “more corporate sponsors should come in and join in the good work Dr Okediran is doing towards promoting literature in the country”.
  He got to know about the residency in “the dailies, with some newspapers having featured it for quite a while, and I tried to find out what it is all about. And when I got all the information I needed, I applied and I was selected. Actually, before I was selected, I was thinking that my age might stop them from selecting me, but I am happy I got here”.
  A mature writer of note, Fasanmi shed some light on some of his past works and ongoing ones: “My writing takes a long period of time before being published. One of my works actually took up to 20 years before it was published. However, when I started seeing reports about the residency, I just felt I should apply and spend a few weeks with fellow writers, where we can share knowledge; and I can honestly say that the experience has been worthwhile.
  “I published the book, The Flood in 2010. The writer is futuristic, and could be likened to a seer. So it was a kind of coincidence, with the devastating flood disasters that have ravaged Ibadan since last year and not that I actually planned it that way. This issue of flood is not only an Ibadan problem; so, it happens everywhere because of lack of proper channelization, which therefore, makes it difficult for water and waste to flow freely”.
  His stay at the residency has sharpened his sensibilities towards projects he has been pursuing in his Ijebu Ode hometown. According to Fasanmi, “I am clearer now on what exactly I want to do. I hope it will come out soon. Also, my coming here has clarified some of the things I was involved in in the past. I used to run a kind of resource centre in Ijebu Ode, which was targeted at the youth on development, thereby making them more focused. But now, I want to focus on books, and this residency has helped me to concretise it better”.
  Writers-in-residence at Ebedi usually encounter local students in Iseyin school and coach them on language and writing. But Fasanmi, like other writers, are appalled at how poorly English is being impacted to students in Nigerian schools. He lamented, “It is unfortunate that students don’t really understand the English language. There are many basic things they ought to have known at their level, which they don’t know. The teaching of the language is very bad in secondary schools, and students don’t even go out of their ways to learn the language; they only wait to learn from the teacher.
  “This is, however, not an Iseyin problem. The situation is almost the same in other parts of the country, although it is fairer in the big cities. However, there are many problems, which bring about this, ranging from the sociological, psychological and economic problems”.
  Also and as a way of engraving the host town of Iseyin into the hearts of the writers-in-residence, who come periodically from outside, Fasanmi advised the board of Ebedi International Writer Residence to develop a library for the resort with materials devoted to Iseyin history. In his reasoning, “Some of the writers who come here might have an idea to write something on the town, but as it is now, there is nowhere to get anything about the history of the town. Also, I would suggest that there could be a tour bus to take residents around the town. However, considering that this project is being run by an individual, this may not be a priority yet, and that is why more corporate sponsors should come in and join in the good work Dr Okediran is doing towards promoting literature in the country”.
  Other works by Fasanmi include The Story of Ajantala, Barricades, Against the Culture of Silence and The Floods.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Festival of adire in Abeokuta as curtain falls on WS78 International Cultural Exchange programme

By Anote Ajeluorou

IT was through second gate, Valley View Hall, Government House, Abeokuta. The entrance is a steep ascent up a hill. There was a festive mood on, and the gaiety among students from Ogun State secondary schools that had come to be part in the closing ceremony of the Project WS78 International Cultural Exchange programme was palpable. Those passing by could not help but notice the festival of adire on display as the students in their hundreds proudly adorned this cultural fashion item in its various colours and designs.
  The stylistic element lent to this otherwise ordinary piece of clothing, dyed in assortment of colours, as the students wore them could best be described as a traditional fashion statement. At the heart of it was an embodiment of all that Africa once stood for or indeed, should stand for, but which it has lost to a blind aping of Western style of living.
  And, as the students strutted about the vast ground of the Valley View hall and inside the hall itself, what came clear across was the economic, cultural and social loss Africa’s aping of Western civilization has cost the continent. In celebrating Prof. Wole Soyinka, whom the organisers have named the International Cultural Exchange programme after, Ogun State Government had seized on the idea of promoting the adire fabric by mandating students from the state’s schools to be so attired.
  Ogun State is home to the adire fabric, and one could easily appreciate the enormous economic enhancement it gave to the fabric makers in promoting their cultural industry and the social status it accorded the students as they prided themselves in displaying the industry and handiwork of their parents. Of course, not least were the various designers that interpreted the fabric in Western styles, usually preferred by the young ones who would want to show how modern they are!
  The fact was amplified by Senior Assistant to the governor Sen. Ibikunle Amosun on Education, Dr. Tunji Abimbola, who represented the governor at the closing ceremony. He brimmed with pride at the way the children were attired. He said he should have felt odd if he had been attired different, perhaps in a suit.
  Producer of WS78, Mrs. Lilian Amah Aluko, thanked governor Amosun for supporting the WS78 International Cultural Exchange 2012 programme. She said the topic for this year’s essay, ‘The Mind of a Patriot’ to which the 78 selected students from across the country wrote on was the “organisers’ practical way of achieving global diplomacy through cultural programming in inculcating in the minds of young Nigerians wholesome values and assessing their thoughts in these turbulent and challenging times for the nation”.
  Amah Aluko expressed satisfaction with the way the students responded to the essay competition challenge, saying it meant well for the country’s future.
  Head of jury for the essay competition, Ropo Ewenla (others included Marcel Mbamalu and Temotayo Olufinlua), said the 78 scripts from the 78 students “were laden with emotion, aspirations that led us into the minds of young people”. He expressed satisfaction with the students’ performances. He announced the winners to be Mgberiake Sopundi (15 years old) from Graceland International School, Port Harcourt, as first, while Chidinma Emmanuel (17 years old) from Unity High School, Idanre, Akure, as second. Baliya Ibrahim (16 years old) from Zamani College, Kaduna, came third. Ibrahim came first in last year’s contest.
  The three top winners, all females, went home worth N250,000, N150,000 and N100,000 cash each, with a laptop each and desktop computers each for their schools. Olowookere Ayomidipupo (16 years old) of Greater Tomorrow International College, Arogidi Akoko and Eke Ejiro Akaji (15 years old) from Becky Parker College, Akure came third and fourth respectively. They got a camera each for their effort.
  Chika and Ukachi performed excerpts from Prof. Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero and Lion and the Jewel. Meanwhile, Soyinka’s look alike, who dressed like him in an all white sttire, caused a stir among the students when he stepped into the hall and waved as he made his way to the front row!
  In responding, Abimbola expressed the governor’s happiness in supporting the WS78 project, as a way of adding value to the lives of young and aspiring Nigerians intent on paying attention to their books. He also commended the organisers of Project WS78 and the children for adorning themselves in traditional adire clothes.
  Abimbola assured of the state government’s determination to make a the difference in education in the state. He said Amosun had a passion for educating children from the state, which informed the huge money being expended to make education better in Ogun State.
  He congratulated the winners of the essay contest, but declared all the contestants as winners, whether to take prizes home or not, especially for having gone through the rigours process demanded by the competition rules. Abimbola charged the students to dream big, saying, “Do not dream little; you must dream big. Strive to be extraordinary and excel in life, in your academics. The winners have shown themselves to be extraordinary.
  “For the winners, don’t be selfish or haughty, but be humble in your success. Never give up in the face of challenges. Do not let anybody limit you; you’re the only person who can limit yourself; but define your future”.
  He pledged Ogun State’s continuing support for the International Cultural Exchange project being managed by Zmirage Multimedia Ltd.

5th Fidelity Bank writing workshop closes

By Anote Ajeluorou

After a successful 5th season of horning the writing skills of budding Nigerian writers, Fidelity Bank Plc held a closing ceremony for the 27 young writers it trained during the month of July in its Fidelity Bank Creative Writing Workshop, tagged, ‘The Write Way to Greatness’. U.S.-based Nigerian writer and teacher at Goerge Madison University, Helon Habila led two other female writers from the U.S. – Aminatta Forna and Sally Keith - in conducting the session.
  At the Ocean View Restaurant on Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, venue of the event, the bank’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi, expressed delight at the yearly training intervention his bank was making in boosting Nigerian writing through the workshop. He traced the story of the bank’s intervention to when award-winning author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, started the workshop, which he said had grown to where it was, with Habila effectively taking over and sustaining it ever since.
  Although Ihejiahi said he did not know the direction the workshop would take at inception, he nevertheless, argued that the success of the training workshop for writers was partly due to Habila, who had stayed focused on the idea. He described the three writers for this year’s workshop as a team of accomplished and dedicated writers, who had made a name for themselves in writing.
  While addressing the gathering of newly trained writers and other accomplished writers also present, the accomplished banker said writing was something he thought “You need to learn; if you don’t read enough, you’re not likely going to write well. But reading should not be about motivational books”. He assured that new ideas were being brought in to enrich the workshop and make the series more exciting, interesting and better. He noted that the compendium that came from last year’s edition had been repackaged to make it more appealing.
  This year, poetry seemed to have featured prominently unlike last year that had prose fiction, especially the short story sub-genre. Workshop participants read out their poems to delight the audience. From Tonye Willie-Pepple read ‘I may never pass this way again’, Bokuru Julius read ‘Portrait of pain’, Michaela MOye, Benedictus Nwachukwu, also read their poems, all products of the workshop.
  The workshop coaches also added spice to the evening when they, too, read excerpts from their own works. Keith read a poetic piece from her collection, Dwelling Songs while Forna read prose piece from To the Memory of Love. Forna, a Sierra Leonean, once lived in Lagos when she was just two and schooled at Corona School, before she left for the U.S. She had vague but fond memory of Lagos, and was happy to be back to give something back.
  Forna said she decided to take the workshop participants on non-fiction writing because of the growing influence of that genre of writing, and stressed that it was the main thing in Western writing and U.S., especially for memoirs, childhood writing and other writings that define society.
  Also, workshop team leader, Habila, enjoined the participants to take their training seriously, as he noted that there was no university in Nigeria offering degree programme in creative writing. The Fidelity Bank Creative Writing Workshop, he said, was therefore one way of getting skills in creative writing in the country, which they should consider a privilege.
  Nigerian writers that attended the event included Odia Ofeimun, Tade Ipadeola, Toni Kan, who partly organised, Emman Usman Shehu, Caine Prize for African Writing 2012 winner, Rotimi Babatunde, Jude Dibia, Lagos ANA chairman, Daggar Tolar, Jumoke Verissimo, Maxim Uzuato and Deji Toye and several other budding writers.

Jonathan salutes Babatunde, Rainbow Book Club at Bring Back the Book launch in Yenagoa

By Anote Ajeluorou

After a little over a year, President Goodluck Jonathan’s pet project on resuscitating the interest of Nigerians in reading books, was launched in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, in what will be a state by state launch until the president’s gospel of books is taken round the country. Last week in Yenagoa, he paid particular tribute to the efforts of Nigerian writers in championing the cause of books, especially with Mr. Rotimi Babatunde recently winning the prestigious Caine Prize. Prof. J.P Clark-Bekederemo chaired the event.
  Although state matters had prevented him from personally attending, Jonathan had nevertheless shown that the Bring Back the Book campaign wasn’t another electioneering gambit to woo Nigerian voters when he launched it two years ago in Lagos. Although it was a bit long in coming, especially after over a year, what came through at the Bayelsa launch was the steady fulfilment of Mr. President’s desire that Nigerians be made to repossess the book as essential tool for development and national pastime.
  This much he stated when the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Nwike, who represented him, said at Gloryland Cultural Centre, Yenagoa, “The initiative was conceived as a citizen’s framework after much consultation. It was in response to lingering concerns over the flagging reading culture in our country, and the general apathy to books, especially among the youth, who represent our collective futures. To arrest the slide and give a boost to our development and advancement as a nation, the flag-off witnessed a high participation of children, as our Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and I read to over 400 school children”.
  Jonathan enumerated the various programmes held so far to consolidate on the gains of the Lagos launch to include “a Book Industry Conference which took place at Eko Hotel Lagos; a University Launch, attended by over 3,000 participants at the University of Benin, Edo State, and an FCT Launch at which I was represented by the Vice President, Mr. Namadi Sambo”.
  He also stated that he had “accorded the Bring Back the Book campaign the status of a Federal Government programme facilitated through the Ministry of Education, so that we can make the necessary in-roads into schools all over the country. By so doing, we will get our pupils reading to feed their imagination, for the upliftment of the entire society. Give a child a book, and you will enable the success of a generation, as well as those to come”.
  He went on to stress the achievability of the campaign, especially with the blossoming of talented writers on the Nigerian literary scene, saying, “let me assure you that the goal of the Bring Back the Book is an achievable one. We are fortunate that we are championing books at a time when Nigerian writing is enjoying resurgence at home and on the international stage. Our writers are doing us proud.
  “There is a flowering of talent and creative expression, which can only inspire the young ones, while at the same time stimulating the production of new materials for a nation of readers to savour. A Nigerian, Rotimi Babatunde, was earlier this month announced as the winner of the 2012 edition of the Caine Prize for African Writing, making him the fourth Nigerian to win this prestigious prize in 13 years.
  “The good news doesn’t end there. The city of Port Harcourt, here in the heart of the Niger Delta, has just been declared the UNESCO World Book Capital City for 2014.  It is particularly heartening to note that Port Harcourt beat no less than Oxford, the storied centre of learning, to clinch the World Book Capital City 2014 designation. The UNESCO Selection Committee chose Port Harcourt over 10 other world cities because of the quality of the programme, for ‘its focus on youth, and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books’.
  “We shall do all we can to make Port Harcourt’s Book Year a highly successful one. The Book is coming back to Nigeria. We are the future of Books and the Book is in our future. We shall as a government support all efforts aimed at reviving reading and literacy”.
  The launch of the first Public Community Library in Yenagoa, facilitated by the Community Defence Law Foundation (CDLF) with the support of Ford Foundation had held a day earlier, and named after emeritus professor of History, Prof. E.J. Alagoa.
  Earlier, Clark-Bekederemo expressed his delight at the launch, describing it as a family occasion, with children as centre of attraction. He advised that children needed good education from their parents, adding that his own children often told him that the best gift he gave them was to have sent them to school.
  He noted, “The book the president has asked us to launch today is your best friend”. He noted that among the three choices to make in life, which included choice of partners, choice of life’s journey and choice of book, Clark-Bekederemo said, the book was the most enduring life partner from which divorce was impossible, saying, “So, treasure it, as you treasure your life’s partner. It gives you solace, solitude even in the midst of a festival, a crowd”.
  Senior Special Adviser to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas, had also enjoined the students drawn from 25 schools in Bayelsa State to utilise the opportunity of the launch to rededicate themselves to their books, saying a book reading culture was one, “that will ensure that children’s education should not be left in the hands parents alone; the sector is critical to our collective humanity, the development of our society and advancement as a people. Bring Back the book is to ensure our future and to banish ignorance for a new dawn”.
  In each student’s backpack were eight different literary books from which Douglas enjoined the students to begin building their own library “so that the era of darkness and backwardness will be banished from their lives”.
  One of J.P. Clark’s famous poems, ‘Streamside Exchange’ was read by a JSS 2 student, Dara Horsefall Ila, from an e-book version from the Prof. E.J. Alagoa Library, as a demonstration of the array of materials, including hitech-library materials, available for use. Thereafter, Bayelsa Cultural Troupe did a skit the need to start reading early in life and the multiple benefits to be derived from it. However, the skit was laden with too much pidgin stuff, especially in a programme designed to encourage students to read good materials.
  In his paper titled, ‘The Future of the Niger Delta: Hopes, Dreams and History, Prof. Alagoa said, he desired “a Niger Delta endowed with a thriving economy, within policies serving the best interests of its people; a moral society anchored in the love of truth and justice”.

THERE was also the Celebrity Reading section, with some Nollywood star actors taking the lead. Dakore Egbeson read Gabriel Okara’s poem, ‘The Call of the River Nun’, Omoni Oboli read ‘Streamside Exchange’, Desmond Elliot read Bina Nengi-Ilagha’s ‘Condolences’, while Omotola Jolade-Ekehinde read J.P. Clark’s ‘Night Rain’. Lambert Itoto’s read his ‘The Girl-child’s Desire’ piece while Nengi-Ilagha read ‘A Street Called Lonely’.
  The First Lady of Bayelsa State, Mrs. Rachel Dickson, also joined the Celebrity Readers, when she read an excerpt from Ayodele Olofintuade’s Eno’s Story to the delight of the students.
  However, performances from the star actors could best be described as average in spite of the enthusiastic reception they got from the students who idolised them in their performances on screen. Jolade-Ekehinde read ‘The Night Rain’ poorly, as she struggled with the words, and it ended up not reading like a poem at all.
  A Rev. (Dr.) Canon Steven Davies admonished the students to take their books seriously, “as books changed the world; books take you round the world, being the cheapest way to travel round the world. You should write your own stories to recreate the story of Bayelsa and Nigeria”.
  Wife of the late slain human and environmental rights activist and author, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Maria Saro-Wiwa, praised the Bring Back the Book initiative, and said her husband was a great lover of books and a voracious reader. She said the future of Nigeria would depend on how much was invested in education otherwise she would lag behind among nations that appreciate the value of books.
  She noted, “My husband was a man of ideas who wanted Nigeria to achieve her full potential. I welcome this initiative with pleasure. Saro-Wiwa would have been happy with this idea. I commend President Jonathan, who has been a supporter of Saro-Wiwa and the state governor, Seriakie Dickson.”
  Secretary to Bayelsa State Government, Prof. Edmund Allison-Oguru, who represented the state governor, Dickson, assured the students of the governor’s passion for the project, saying it was why he had made strides in the state’s educational sector. Such strides, he stated, included shifting education to the front burner by declaring a State of Emergency in Education in the state. According to him, a committee was going round the schools to determine areas where renovation and rebuilding of schools were necessary for intervention.
  School uniforms and books would be free from next season, Allison-Oguru assured, adding that N1 billion had already been set aside for scholarship and grants to Bayelsa State post-graduate students to further develop the human capital needs of the state, and “as a way of bringing back the book culture in the state, and as a way of bringing back the culture of meritocracy and standards”.
  A lover of books and a businessman, who appreciates the President’s Bring Back the Book initiative, Alhaji Musa Bello, donated 50 computers to schools and Non-governmental Organisations in the state as a way of boosting Mr. President’s book initiative.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Adieu! As Olusola goes home today

By Anote Ajeluorou

Today, after lying-in-state at Iperu-Remo, and a special farewell performance by Akesan (Iperu) Club 1954 members, Amb Segun Olusola will finally be laid to rest after a week of activities organised by the art community to celebrate the culture icon. The rites of passage for the late culture icon began on Monday at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Although the planned carnival procession from the late sage’s residence in Surulere did not hold, a mini carnival of sorts was held within the vicinity of the theatre edifice, with the National Troupe of Nigeria making the most of what ordinarily ought to have been a grand event.
  Many elderly people in the culture and arts scene had come to pay last homage to the veteran broadcaster and culture patriarch who transited into ancestry last June 21 at the ripe age of 77. But they waited a long while before things could shape up as organisers were slow to put things right. In attendance were Oba Gbenga Sonuga, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, Larry Williams, Ben Tomoloju, Fatai Rolling Dollars, Frank Okonta, Chief Eddie Ugbomah, Omooba Adedoyin Shyllon, Kolade Oshinowo, Kunle Bamtefa, Mufu Onifade, Orits Williki and Mayo Ayilaran.
  Dejumo Lewis, Demas Nwoko, Prof. Tunde Babawale, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, Chike Ofili, Daggar Tolar, Segun Sofowote and his wife were among the other culture personalities that graced the Culture Panorama event organised by one of the transition committees. It was well after mid-day before activities began proper on Monday on the grass lawn in front of Entrance D of the theatre. The elders took shade under the dogonyaro tree from the sun and watched the dances and sparse performances.
  School children from Ajegunle flagged it off when they performed ‘I have not died’, to signify the seeming immortality of the late culture sage. ‘I have not died’, they said, seemingly echoing Olusola in their various renditions, “if you embody the things I lived for, if you carry out my life’s work.” The elders clapped for the ingenuity in the simple words of the young ones in stressing that Olusola lives on in the minds and souls of all those who admire him if only they could carry out his life’s work and even surpass them.
  National Troupe of Nigeria surpassed itself in putting life to activities in their performances. Young, hiphop musicians also joined in honouring Olusola with their performances as well. Finally, all the elders on hand took to the open stage to dance to a Yoruba highlife tune from the 70s, which further added colour and life to a programme that had been bogged down by inept planning.

FINALLY, the celebration train moved to the Banquet Hall of the theatre. On the foyer, an exhibition had been mounted to showcase various artistic offerings by Nigerian artists, including local fabrics and books. The art works came from the National Council for Arts and Culture. There was the traditional Mat Carpet reception for the dignitaries to represent ancient rites for the late pan-Africanist. A delegation from Pan-African Diaspora and Jah People Cultural Embassy from Benin Republic, self-repatriated Africans from the Caribbean, the Jah Evejah couple and their son, were also part of the celebration of Olusola, whom the couple regarded as a great Pan-Africanist. It was total representation of the life of Olusola, whose work spanned various segments of the arts.
  Eminent art collector, Shyllon, was chairman of event at the Banquet Hall while Bamtefa and Yemi Sodimu were comperes that added comic twist to the evening. But there wasn’t any protocol of speeches, only performances from various groups. First to mount the stage was Funmi Odusolu, who performed a long poem that sang the praises of Olusola in its call-and-response format that involved drumming and singing from the band.
  Thereafter, Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture took to the stage with a special ritual song and performance, Ogiri’aparo, a dirge of transition in the order of Osun worshippers, all of them clad in ritual white as they gently eased the late ambassador from the realm of the living to that of ancestors. It was a riveting sight, with the solemn drumming and singing, befitting the passage of an old man of Olusola’s stature.
  Then it was time for a royal performance from the Fadesewa of Simawa, Sagamu, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, who was a former director at Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture. His was a tribute that recounted what Olusola was in his many roles to the various people and organisations he touched and blessed with his wealth of experience and fatherly wisdom. Read in a poetic format, he composed a response and drumming pattern to the stanzas he called out. He was applauded for his royal effort.
  Then the cast of Village Headmaster was called on stage. Twelve of the surviving members showed up to the admiration of the audience, with Lewis (Kabiyesi) leading the pack. A Village Headmaster Day to honour Olusola, they said, was in the offing, and asked everyone to look out for it.
  Queen Sheeba from Ibadan, who sang soulfully in Yoruba, was among the other performers of the night that honoured Olusola in the weeklong cultural package for his transition.
  Indeed, it had been a grand farewell to a grand culture icon, who has gone to take his deserved rest!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Political associates hail Gbajabiamila at 50, book launch

  • Tinubu, Fashola demand amendment of Electoral Act
  • Tambuwal only good thing in PDP –el-Rufai
  • I did not give money to be elected Speaker -Tambuwal

By Anote Ajeluorou and Gbenga Salau

Last week, friends and political associates gathered to launch the book, Fearless: The Emergence of a Virile and Formidable Opposition Leader – The Political Memoirs of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, written by former legislator, Dr. Wale Okediran. They all gathered to honour a sterling legislator, who also turned 50. The occasion enabled those who had gathered to voice their views on their expectations of what a virile legislature should be in strengthening democracy, especially when it comes from the camp of the opposition.
  From the various views by the political heavy-weights in attendance on Gbajabiamila’s legislative output so far, there appears to be hope for Nigeria’s democracy. Gbajabiamila’s performance, even from those on a different political divide in the Federal House of Representatives, sees a beacon of hope in the man in spite of seeming sordid stories of corruption from the same house.
  The banquet hall of City Hall, Lagos Island, Lagos, where the book launch took place, was filled to capacity with political bigwigs who had come to identify with the man, whose motion to summon President Goodluck Jonathan to the floor of the House to explain efforts being made to curtail the Boko Haram menace, has elicited widespread controversy. Chairman of the event and former Federal Commissioner of Works, Alhaji Femi Ukunu, traced Femi’s courage to his grandfather, whom he said was a missionary and co-founder of the Ansar Udeen Islamic Society of Nigeria.
  He stated, “I see Femi as a beacon, as a ray of light. Femi rejected the national honour offered to him because he said he was still serving, especially as a Minority Leader in the House”. “We need young men and women like him as visionary leaders, who are desirous of seeing what they can give to this country and not what they can get.”
  National leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Gbajabiamila’s political godfather, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, also praised both the House of Representatives and Gbajabiamila. He asked the House to remain focused on its oversight functions of sanitising Nigeria. On Gbajabiamila, he said, “It wasn’t easy to find a brilliant and articulate mind that would represent the party well but we eventually found that in Femi. We found qualities of leadership in him. In him we found our tomorrow today.
  “When we were trying to help his political aspiration, it was a bit difficult because there were many young, qualified people but he has not let anyone down. This is what we owe the nation; to develop consistent, loyal, dedicated and committed minds serving Nigeria. Democracy is about making strategic alliances. Femi is a shining example of what the young should emulate and if you are committed and dedicated, this is what you will reap. This is the third running of Femi in the House and some people question that. But what is the reward of commitment? We need sharp minds like Femi’s to change Nigeria”.
  Tinubu said Gbajabiamila rejected the national honour offered him so as not to be compromised in serving the nation.
  Ogun State Governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun also commended Gbajabiamila’s legislative hard work saying he epitomised all that was good in the National Assembly. He asked him to keep up the good work and recommit himself to his work of making a better Nigeria.
  Former NDDC chairman, Timi Alaibe also joined in celebrating Gbajabiamila as a successful legislator, whose bipartisan approach to politicking has drawn widespread commendation. He tasked other political leaders across Nigeria to also see it as their duty to go beyond partisan politics as a matter of deliberate policy so as to foster the unity of Nigeria.
  Former FCT Minister, Malam el-Rufai brought messages from Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) leader, Gen. Mahammadu Buhari and the party in congratulating Gbajabiamila for his work as a legislator of uncommon genius. Although el-Rufai said he and Gbajabiamila didn’t get on well at first since Gbajabiamila perceived him as Olusegun Obasanjo’s boy, but said when they got to know themselves ona close range, they soon became friends. He assured, “Femi cares about Nigeria; he cares a lot about doing the right thing. He is courageous to the point of being reckless”. He however took a swipe at the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) saying that there is very little good left in the PDP.
  The CPC stalwart said the only good thing left in the ruling PDP was the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who was also present at the launching. This drew wide applause from the distinguished audience. “As our country faces its most difficult social and political challenges, all eyes are on the Speaker and Femi,” he intoned. “You have a duty to save this country from the crisis it is in.”
  Banking guru and politician, Mr. Fola Adeola, State of Osun Deputy Governor, Chief (Mrs.) Grace Titi Alaoye-Tomori also celebrated Gbajabiamila with warm words.
  Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola called Gbajabiamila a worthy representative his own constituency. He represents Surulere Federal II Constituency from where Fashola comes from. He described the book, Fearless: The Emergence of a Virile and Formidable Opposition Leader – The Political Memoirs of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as a worthy literary piece that would “fill a huge vacuum in our political history. Femi has some of the qualities inherent in great leaders; he is filled with intellect, research and integrity. His peerage honour has been great, signifying that he is a great man. Femi has followed the great tradition of intellect and superiority of ideas that Obafemi Awolowo cultivated and demonstrated in is lifetime”.
  On his part, Speaker Tambuwal said, “Gbajabiamila was a committed and tenacious legislator; he holds his ground on the strength of his convictions. He has deep passion for Nigeria. He has no sentiments about political party or origin”.
  Tambuwal used the occasion to clear the air on the issue of offering money to Gbajabiamila to facilitate his election as Speaker. He said such claim as contained in the book was false.
  Angela Aneke represented the chief launcher and banking guru, Mr. Tony Elumelu. She also extolled the virtues of Gbajabiamila and asked him never to give up on his lofty political ideals.
  The author, Okediran, said it was tasking writing the book, as the subject was sometimes difficult to track down. But he praised his subject’s mother and women’s political leader, Alhaja Latifa Gbajabiamila, for breathing life into the entire book through her vibrant interviews. Okediran, who was former president, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), used the opportunity to task Nigerian political leaders to write their own stories, saying, “Nigerian political leaders owe Nigerians a debt of writing down something for future generations.
  “This work should serve as a challenge to other leaders to leave behind them a legacy for coming generations”.
  On his part, Gbajabiamila said it felt good to be 50, saying there was a lot more to be done in repositioning the country. He said, “I’ve learnt so much in politics – about loyalty, treachery”. He maintained that opposition in a democratic setting like Nigeria would be better served if all opposition parties teamed up to give the ruling party a run for its money, as had been the case since his emergence as Minority Leader of the House, when he brought everybody under one umbrella.
  “It’s only when the other parties come together as a single opposition that we can succeed like the election of Tambuwal as Speaker,” he said. He stated that the book was undiluted and uncensored as every original material in it had remained intact, including what some had referred to as unpleasant.

HOWEVER, the 180 days for the hearing of an election petition and 60 days for its appeal contained in the Electoral Act drew criticisms from Tinubu, Fashola and Gbajabiamila, as they condemned it as unconstitutional. Gbajabiamila described it as being similar to the legal terms, Ouster Clause, that should have no place in a democratic set up. Fashola and Tinubu task Gbajabiamila and his colleagues in the House to amend it forthwith.
  Chairman, Human Rights Commssion, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, reviewed the book, with the title, ‘Beyond POlitcs: Civic Memory in Times of Trouble’. He stated, “There are some things in every country that should be beyond partisan politics. One is the health of its institutions in general, including especially its police, judiciary, public service and Parliament. Another is the existence and sustenance of an opposition to channel and provide democratic alternatives. The third is a civic memory to inform the choices that citizens must make in determining who earns their trust and mandate to govern. The fourth is a supply line for the renewal of its leadership across generations and over time. The fifth, relevant here only by induction and a consequence of the existence of the other four, is national productivity and the health of the private sector.
  Fearless… is a remarkable story that melds all these into a strong narrative told at a time when the country needs to hear it. In so doing, it holds out a tantalizingly hopeful promise that a government of the people, for the people and by the people may yet have a future in Nigeria. It must be clarified early on that “Virile”… is an allusion to the effect of his work and ideas”.
  Other dignitaries present at the book launch included ACN chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Chief Segun Awolowo, Dr. Adeleye Ipaye, who represented State of Osun governor, Rauf Aregbesola, Oba M.O. Hamzat, Hon. Leo Ogo, Sen. Ganiyu Solomon and a host of others.