Thursday, 24 December 2015

Mare Festival 2015… Enhancing Local Participation Of Idanre Populace

By Anote Ajeluorou

ALREADY in its seventh year and still counting, Mare Festival 2015 organised by Ondo State Government, roused up sleepy Idanre last weekend when the world converged to celebrate among the ancient town’s rocky hills and caves. It was a one-day event that packed many interesting activities together and threw Idanre into festive mood.
  Perhaps, it was Wole Soyinka’s poetry Idanre and Other Peoms published in 1967 that first gave Idanre, a town tucked away in a vintage corner of Ondo State, prominence, as rocky haven. Soyinka had visited the town and, like the hunter he is, explored the rocky hills and caves, then decided to explore the mythical Ogun through the vehicle of poetry. Since then Idanre had remained a quest in the imagination of readers who encounter Soyinka’s poetry.
  But rather than Idanre festival, or perhaps align the festival with Idanre communal traditional festival, Orosun Festival (which tells the historic exploits of Idanre founders and its existence from time immemorial) already in existence, the Olusegun Mimiko-led administration preferred Mare (meaning ‘don’t fall’) festival instead to celebrate the natural hilly rocks and caves of Idanre as a natural tourism destination. Indeed, the entire Idanre community is a time-frozen tourism haven with its dark, brooding rock mountains forming a phalanx-like shield round Idanre, further accentuated by Idanre Hills Resort in need of rehabilitation to attract tourists.
  From the early morning Marathon Race at Habitat (Owena) Idanre to the Mountain Climbing competition at Methodist High School, Idanre, the Cultural performances at Idanre Hills Resort, it was all spectacle. A raffle draw at the resort courtyard saw Idanre natives and visitors alike winning household and business items like standing fans, pressing irons, fridges, a sewing machine and the star prize of a motorbike.

IN opening the festival proper, Commissioner for Information and chairman, Local Organising Committee of the festival, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, stressed the importance of tourism in human development. He noted that it was why Governor Mimiko was investing heavily in tourism, adding that plans were underway to “turn Idanre Resort into a tourism destination; Mare has entered into international lexicon as tourism festival. Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Commission (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, has been here. I watched the mountain climbing; our own people will begin to climb mountains internationally from the experience gained here at Mare. In the coming years, our people will begin to bring laurels to Nigeria. Our golf course is ready, and by February, the Governor’s Cup will be held to attract ‘who is who’ in Nigeria to Idanre. In years to come, I see our people competing in the Marathon. Idanre is full of fun and activities that tell of our visibility, our strength and our versatility”.
  Also, newly appointed Commissioner for Special Duties, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Femi Adekanmbi, noted that under his watch, tourism development would be taken a notch higher so as to position tourism in the state for better performance as economic tool. Traditional dancers of varying hues performed to thrill dignitaries in the open court of Idanre Hills Resort.

MUSICAL Concert billed for the evening started early and had many upcoming artistes entertaining the huge crowd. The star artistes were Ara, Paul Play Dairo and 2face Idibia. Some of the younger artistes seeking to cut their teeth included Samba, choreographers, Psalm 23 and Explicit Dancers, Salome, Ondo State Cultural Band, ODD, Ojoro, Iyalode, Japh Extra, Emerald Choir and Rough Ken. Of the youngsters, Deola, an upcoming rap artiste, stood out and wooed both the audience and Governor Mimiko. Deola’s rap theatrics was stunning as he adapted to virtually every situation the master of ceremony subjected him. His fluidity, his swag and all-out delivery were spectacular. He was the only artiste Mimiko shook hands with as a mark of his staggering stage presence and rap virtuoso.
  It was only Paul Play Diaro who got Mimiko, his wife and his cabinet members to their feet to dance. And they danced. From one hit tune to another, Paul Play had the huge crowd dancing. And so from his R&B, ‘Angel of my Life’ to his remake of his father’s famous ‘Mo so rire,’ Paul Play led the groove in Idanre.
  But famously, the crown performer was 2face Idibia whom the crowd had been patiently waiting to come on stage. Ara was barely tolerated as she failed to rise to any appreciable level of performance. However, her introduction of 2face Idibia seemed a redeeming gesture, as both artistes hugged. Indeed, if anything the super stardom of 2face was well assured on the night. It was well past midnight when it finally got to his turn. But he turned the night on its head and pelted his audience with his signature hits one after the other. But it would seem the night had just begun; the large audience, made up mostly of young Idanre, didn’t seem to have enough of him. They surged through the barrier and crowded the main arena close to the stage and became one with their idol.
  Even when Governor Mimiko had had enough and wanted to have a few words before leaving, the crowd would have none of it. Energised by the crowd, 2face, too, wanted to sing on till he possibly dropped. It was clear he hadn’t had such passionate crowd in a long while by the show of love from Idanre audience.
  However, Mimiko stressed how much celebration of culture the night was and the need to appreciate tourism as a resourceful tool of economic sustainability. He restated his commitment to the development of tourism as a driver of the economy and the need to leverage on domestic tourism as an important tool of socio-economic development. Mimiko noted that with the fortunes of oil as economic resource dwindling and Nigeria’s economy on downturn, it would make economic sense to turn to tourism as a way out. He called on governments at all levels to look inwards for the economic resuscitation tourism could offer.

HOWEVER, participation of local Idanre community in Mare Festival since its inception seemed minimal. Indeed, how much indigenous content does Mare festival boasts and how is it woven into Idanre social-cultural fabric? An Idanre respondent to this poser, who craved anonymity, was unequivocal in asserting that Mare Festival is foreign to Idanre culture and people and that the entire Idanre people have remained mere spectators in a festival celebrated yearly in their town. Although he commended the spirit behind Mare, he could not but wonder why the local, age-old festival, Orosun, was not adopted instead of creating a new one that has no bearing on Idanre culture and tradition.
  As he put it, “Idanre people cannot participate in Mare because it is not their culture. The biggest problem with Mare is that Idanre community people are not carried along. They are grumbling that an outsider is operating Idanre Hills Resort right before them. They are made to pay to enter the resort that is natural to their environment. So, Mare is purely government festival since inception”.
  He sued for greater participation of Idanre people in the festival as a way of making them the people claim ownership of it, adding, “They need to allot roles to the people through Idanre traditional chief. Mare Festival is an invasion of Idanre people although it impacts them somewhat. But it should have been more like it happens in Osogbo during Osun Osogbo festival, with the local populace playing varying cultural and economic roles that benefit the local community”.
  He noted that there is a thriving local economy based on cocoa and timber and said Idanre economy was bigger than those of most Nigerian cities. He advised Governor Mimiko to merge Mare with Orosun Festival, usually celebrated in May or early June, and assured that the governor would be shocked how Idanre people would be galvanised through it, given the impetus of government, as they would truly claim it as their own and give it their all.

Dreaming A Proper Country Into Being

By Anote Ajeluorou

NIGERIA is certainly ripe for a revolution. But what kind of revolution should it be? Who spearheads the revolution that will usher the country into an era of infinite possibilities and opportunities it has missed so far since independence in 1960? These are some pertinent socio-political and economic questions a writer poses and provides answers in the quest for a new Nigeria that is the dream of a majority of the citizenry.
  But is this revolution mere utopia in the fictive imagination of its author, Mr. Anene Nwuzor? His novel, Revolution in Wazobia (Ann’s Indulgence Limited, Lagos) published in 2013 provides futuristic vision of a fictional country called Wazobia and events leading to its election in 2019. It is politics of ‘change’ envisioned long before All Progressives Congress (APC) ‘change’ mantra came into popular imagination. But Nwuzor anchors his visionary politics of change on two cardinal points – a cultural revolution championed by a woman!
  Nwuzor’s fictive country, Wazobia, is, in every respect, the Nigeria of today with all its dysfunctionality, a place where nothing works and corruption a byword for governance. Indeed, the current government looks every inch like the past administration of Goodluck Jonathan. For Nzuwor, lack of ethical values and moral turpitude are the hallmark of Wazobia’s failings. Efforts to change, as envisioned by the change agent, a woman, Andora Addoh-Ochakpam (simply known as Andora), can only come through a cultural revolution in which Wazobians must imbibe a new mindset and a new way of being from its corrupt past, a country where things are done correctly and properly.
  Having summed up all the problems besetting her country before like minds in a meeting she convenes, Andora unveils the Cultural Revolution association that will reverse the negatives her country has become infamous.
  She argues that there are no real heroes of worth for young people to emulate, as she affirms, “My dear colleagues, we are now at the real crux of our gathering here, and that is, our role in the regeneration of our very sick country. After carefully considering everything involved, including what I consider is within our ken – our understanding and ability – I think our role is to take up a crusade, a mission of Cultural Revolution in our society”.
  A university teacher, Andora embarks on a course of action that will rescue her country from the cabals that hold her hostage and put it on the path of recovery. But it is no easy task, as Andora and her soul mates come face to face with the antics of those for whom change is anathema. To further amplify her regenerative crusade of values’ reorientation in Wazobia, Andora launches a seminal book Up for Cultural Revolution in Wazobia both to raise awareness and raise funds to run her organisation.
  The central thesis of the book is “to tackle the basic issues of national values, the neglect or absence of which has left our country a sick society,” and Andora assures all, “We shall walk what we talk, to be models of our nation’s cultural values, based on patriotism and loyalty to our nation, in a transparent show of integrity, financial probity and selflessness”.
  Although premised on apolitical foundation, Andora’s Cultural Revolution couldn’t avoid joining the political fray when it seems obvious that Wazobia would slide farther into anomie if good people and organisations like Andora and her group sat back and merely watched. Gradually, the tenets of Andora’s Cultural Revolution - integrity, values and patriotism – seeped into the fabric of society – especially among the youths who seem more at the receiving end of the misrule that characterize leadership of Wazobia.

MEANWHILE, the president of the country is having serious crisis of leadership and internal rebellion in his party. He is perceived to be weak; the electoral umpire has planned to introduce an innovative nanotechnology machine that would make election rigging a thing of the past and Mr. President’s party members are up in arms against it. Rigging has been the ruling party’s byword, and members feel threatened. The electoral umpire is being hectored into giving it up, but he is adamant. Unknown to the party members, Mr. President will not seek a second term and wants to leave a legacy of a strong electoral reform which the nanotechnology machine would guarantee.
  So, although the old political rogues are against Andora and her Cultural Revolution, they fear the popularity it has begun to gain among the populace. Ten years down the line, Andora’s organisation gains immense ground and rumour of it becoming a political party sends jitters down the spines of the old politicians in the other parties. The reality of those fears becomes palpable soon enough at the launch of Andora’s New Age Democracy Party (NADP). She wins at the general elections and begins the task of engineering a new a Wazobia.
  Revolution in Wazobia plies a thin line between dredging up real-time socio-political issues plaguing Nigeria and Wazobia’s imaginary ones. The line is so thin that it a fictional rereading of what is generally known. However, Nwuzor introduces a new element into his narrative. He places a woman at the heart of the ‘change’ that seeps through Wazobia society; it somewhat echoes Achebe’s ‘mother is supreme’ maxim when mothers come to the rescue of society when men have failed irredeemably.
  The values Andora entrenches in society are those that ordinary Wazobia citizens desire, but which its high and mighty politicians reject for their personal gains. When illiterate motor park union godfathers like Chief Ononikpo support a former killer like Etoh Ikenga for political office, surely such a country is doomed. They fight dirty to retain their lavish lifestyles gained at the expense of the poor. But unwittingly, they provide a fertile soil for a revolution to happen like it does in Wazobia.
  Is such revolution in the making in Nigeria as Nwuzor’s fictive narrative forecasts? Who is Andora’s equivalent that will spearhead the needed cultural revolution? When will the electoral body be firm enough to rid the country of electoral fraud? Does Nwuzor’s fictional narration approximate Achebe’s A Man of the People that presaged change of government back in 1966, with a ballot revolution come 2019 election?
  Clearly, Nwuzor narrative threads on a thin ice in separating fiction from reality, sometimes blurred with striking resemblances too close to call. Trending on contemporary issues sometimes makes it tedious, with the faction not being too cleverly, subtly subsumed in fictive narration. For most of the time, Revolution in Wazobia reads as though one is reading the day’s newspapers headlines in today’s Nigeria. Perhaps, allegorical characterization and setting might just have served Nwuzor’s narrative much better than the linear equivalent.
  Nevertheless, Nwuzor’s Revolution in Wazobia is a fine attempt at polemical fiction that is clearly lacking in the country. It provides a fine starting point for writers to explore polemic fictional in Nigeria.

The Ajumogobias… A Memorial Concert To Remember

By Anote Ajeluorou

MANY musical concerts have been serenading all over cities across Nigeria to herald this year’s Christmas. And audiences are being enchanted by the magic of the season as they celebrate in honour of the Saviour Jesus Christ. One such yearly concert is Ajumogobia Science Foundation concert that clocked 10 and was celebrated last Tuesday at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Sadly, hints of resting the concert for logistics reasons trailed what has become a concert to look forward to in the city’s classical and Afro-centric music tradition.
  As Mr. Soboma Ajumogobia noted, the Ajumogobia clan is now so far-flung around the world that gathering them together for a yearly concert presents a peculiar challenge of its own. A sizeable number of them were absent on account of travel-related issues. Perhaps, he stated, the grandchildren will have to grow up fast to pick up the concert trail from where the pioneers are now constrained to leave it off.
  Nevertheless, this year’s concert, like the others before it, was a perfect way to get the audience in a ready mood for the Christmas. Held as a fundraiser for the Ajumogobia Science Foundation (ASF) to support the work of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) to further the vision of the late head of the Ajumogobia clan in deepening the country’s science and technological quest, the concert has been a success story since inception. And, Tuesday night was no exception to a sterling night of performances moderated by Mr. Yinka Akinkugbe, another music family.
  Kaline’s ‘Bring them home’ by Green Wood Band consisting of drums, saxophone, horn and piano kicked off the show before Dr. Emi Renner, on the grand piano with Julius Nglass on tenor, rendered ‘It Came upon a Midnight Clear’. It had Nglass’ marvelous tenor soaring deep into the night. It was also sung in remembrance of the senior Ajumogobia clan who started it all. This was followed by Yinka Akinkugbe’s rendering of ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ in a jazzy, bluesy feel reminiscent of the negro spirituals of Harlem.
  Then Feni Ajumogobia, a lawyer who came in from the U.K., took to the grand piano to perform ‘Widmung, S. 566’ by Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann. He played the piano with a warm virtuoso, with the notes rising and falling in equal cadences. He earned the admiration of the audience that warmly applauded him.
  Boluwatide Osinowo rendered ‘I look to you’ with Nimi Akinkugbe on the piano while Awune and Toki Ajumogobia did ‘Mary, Did you know’ admirably and complete with a young, female ballet dancer who wooed the audience with her elfin, thin-ice, expressive dance steps. Dolapo Akinkugbe performed ‘Prelude to C minor’ by Sergei Rachmaninoff rendered in fast-paced, light notes.
  This was followed by Soboma Ajumogobia performing ‘I’ll Make It Up As I Go’, in the accompaniment of Girls Rule Band consisting of sax, horns, drums, bass and regular guitars and piano. It was a moving performance made all the more charming by an all-female essemble. Another charming performance, ‘Christmas Medley’ by Philip Uzo on guitar and Chioma Dimiri on flute followed before the Steve Rhodes-Nash-led Orchestra led by Gloria Rhodes performed ‘I love the Lord.’ All through Merry Makers Choir was on hand and it made all the difference with its backup performance.
  But by far the most innovative of the performances was Bobby Benson’s ‘Taxi driver’ rearranged for two pianos by Seun Awoaje; it had Nimi Akinkugbe and Ibiai Ani on pianos one and two. The introduction of pianos and horns added something special to the performance and transformed the music from its regular highlife standard and gave it a jazzy, pleasing feel. Both the pianos and horns lengthened and stretched the central theme of taxi driver. A male and female ballet dancers also gave the music another, exquisite feel. The proper rearrangement of ‘Taxi driver’ gave indication of the infinite possibilities inherent in any piece of music composition if given the expert, professional touch.
  Bez’s ‘There’s a Fire’ introduced a funk-paced rhythm to the concert. It was vintage Bez on his guitar alongside a drummer that told the story of a fire that water cannot quench. His performance signaled the interval to the concert as well.

WELCOMING the audience back from the break was Tunde Sosan on the piano until ‘I’ll give Him My Heart’ performed by four children – two girls, two boys. Their story was unique and moving, as it awakened the audience members to the many ways they, too, could praise and worship God through their diverse talents. The youngest of the girls (about six years old) showed her dexterity on the piano to stun the audience; it was her way of giving praise to God until the two boys joined in, with the little one giving his heart in praise of his maker.
  A procession of other youngsters, clad in white and bearing candles, came to also lend a halloo to the performance. It was an emotional performance complete with all the innocence of children seeping through to challenge probable adult laziness. It was followed by ‘O Come, All ye faithful’ that had the audience singing along.
  With Nimi Akinkugbe on the piano, Yinka Davies took ‘O Holy Night’ to the audience and made a few members sing it, with some croaking it. It energised the audience in its sheer hilarity and novelty. Thereafter, the duo of Dein and Awuneba Ajumogobia, husband and wife, intensified the concert offering, as they sang ‘Holy is the Lamb,’ with Dein on the piano. It was sheer spectacle watching the pair perform.
  Then svelt Kaline (Akinkugbe), with her fluffy mane that framed her petite face, came from among the audience and sang ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ up to the dais. Thereafter she sat down to the piano and performed her now famous track ‘Bring them home’ in honour and solidarity with the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. With the song, she said, she wished to raise awareness about the plight of the girls to the wider world so they are not forgotten. Described as having “a fresh, bold, soulful, funky sound, she writes with purpose in the hope of empowering anyone that listens to her music,” Kaline’s music has power to move listeners to deep wells of emotions.
  With ‘Amin Jesu Olugbala’ and ‘Me, I Love My Country’ by Wole Soyinka, rendered by the Merrymaker Choir in African traditional notes. It came with youngsters also displaying various Nigerian ethnic dances. Also, the ASF divas, Yinka Davies, Faith Igwe and Kaline performed ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy’ before Kenneth Ogbeiwi did ‘Gbo Ohun,’ with the audience singing along. ‘O happy Day’ also had the audience singing along in participatory, jolly mood.
  Soboma Ajumogobia gave the vote of thanks before all the performers came on stage to perform ‘All You Need Is Love,’ as a fitting finale to an evening of enchanting performance. They then bowed out after what was, unarguably, a memorable concert that will trend for a long time.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

‘The Sixth Finger connects Africa to wider world’

By Anote Ajeluorou

ALTHOUGH it was one of the most traumatic experiences in world history, the dispersal of blacks all over the world through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade ought to have placed Africans on an evangelising mission of sorts, with African values firmly planted wherever they reside. But the reverse is, however, the case, as the stigma of second-class citizen, engendered by slave mentality, still taints the world-view of Diaspora Africans.
  But a much-travelled Nigerian author, Mr. Chux Onyenyeonwu, his debut novel, The Sixth Finger, has taken the daunting task of chronicling the slave trade experience in the lives of some individuals in an epic narrative that spans all the continents Africans are now dispersed as a result of the infamous trade. Clearly, Onyenyeonwu’s book is first of its kind in its wide-ranging setting and narrative in knitting together disparate peoples albeit from the same continent who experienced a common trauma.
  According to Onyenyeonwu, The Sixth Finger is a historical fiction he started back in 1996 and which only just came out. The length of time, he stated at an unveiling at Umutu Coffee, MM2 Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, was so he could balance the facts and fiction of the story together, as it required a lot of research. In fact, when he started writing the book, the Internet was still some years away in Nigeria. So, he patronized libraries, but the space widened when Internet arrived and facilitated his research work on the book.
  He noted, “I did a lot of research; I needed to ensure whatever I’m putting down has to be proven. I spent so much time in libraries; Internet also helped. I was concerned with doing a watertight narrative. I was fascinated by Alex Haley’s Roots’ main character, Kunta Kinte, who defied all the suffering just to cling tight to his African name.”
  Also, Onyenyeonwu said Haley’s film which he saw when he was young inspired him to write the book. He stated that the title for the book “is one those uncanny things that knitted the tale together.
  “Although the slave trade is over, the aftermath is still there. Blacks have not been fully integrated into their respective Diaspora societies in the U.S., Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere. Blacks over there still have the mental attitude of slaves; they need to free themselves mentally. The Sixth Finger covers the history of the lands blacks are domiciled”.
  Although not necessarily a spiritual book, Onyenyeonwu, who is also a pastor, said, “God was aware of the enslavement of blacks, just as He is involved in all the affairs of man. It’s by God’s hand that blacks are in Cuba, Brazil, America”.
  Onyenyeonwu is not happy with the state of affairs of the black man, even though he has contributed immensely to the development of world civilizations. He laments that blacks in the Diaspora are not accorded their rightful place as they are still put down in their host societies. Without black labour in the plantations, Onyenyeonwu said, America would not be the great country it is today. He decried modern-day slavery disguised as America visa Lottery through which blacks enslave themselves anew by working menial jobs considered too demeaning for whites.