Sunday, June 9, 2019 2:05 pm
The public presentation of a book titled, “Tales of a Troubadour”, written by a former member of the House of Representatives, Dr Wale Okediran, held on Thursday June 6, 2019 at the IACD Library, Jericho, Ibadan. Okediran, a University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife trained medical doctor turned politician and astute writer, who hails from Iseyin town in Oke-Ogun Area of Oyo State, Nigeria, is also a former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA.
The programme, spiced with a drama presentation, had in attendance people from all walks of life including the writer’s family and friends, associates, politicians, head of parastatals, royal fathers and top government functionaries. Among them were: a Playwright, Professor Femi Osofisan, a Nigerian foremost Physician, Emeritus Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe, Professor Chima Ayandike, Professor Yahaya Kuta, Chief Medical Director, CMD, University College Hospital, UCH, Professor Jesse Abiodun Otegbeye, Prof. Adebayo Lamikanra and his wife, Hannah, Prof. Oluyemisi Bamgbose, SAN, Professor Olajide Ajayi, Professor Adelola Adeloye and Professor Jide Owoeye.
Others are: former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Chief Iyiola Oyedokun, Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Bamidele Oleyelogunnijesu, Chairman, Oyo State Chapter of Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, President of the Nigerian Folklore Society, Dr Bukar Usman represented by Muhammed Bello. The Executive Editor, The News Magazine, Mr Kunle Ajibade, Mr and Mrs Segun Ahmadu, Mrs. Helen Akinseye, DCN Tunji Adepoju, Olugbon of Orile Igbon, Oba Francis Olusola Alao, Hon Yinka Obasa, Mr Titilola Famubode, Mr Steve Shaba, Archbishop of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Lawrence Ayo Ladigbolu, Chairman of Mosuro Booksellers, Dr Kolade Mosuro former Oyo State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Adebayo Ojo and Oyo State Chairman of ANA, Funso Omotosho.
In his remark, Okediran, who noted that the theme of his creative works is derived from his environment, stated that his new book centres on his travelling experience. He said that the book has 28 chapters, with a chapter devoted to a country, adding that the thematic preoccupations of his books are the socio-political and economic situation of the country he is writing about. “The message in the Tale is that human beings are the same anywhere. Whatever problem you are going through, is temporal. Whatever problem that a nation is going through could be found in other countries, at times it may even be worse than the problem being experienced in your country. Nigeria is not as bad as we portray it”, he added.
Okediran encouraged every person to write books saying, “There is a book in every person. The work of writers never ends. There is market for every genre. It was when I started writing that I know there is a market for travelogue. Those that want to retire should start writing their memoirs and autobiography”.
Reviewing the 286 page and 28 chapter book, Professor Mabel Itohanosa Erioyunvwen Evwierhoma from the University of Abuja, whose review is titled, “Tales of a Troubadour: Decades of Deliberate ‘Journey About’ on Air, Rail, Road and Sea”, says by now, it is clear to all that Okediran is a plier of many trades, and has become master of them all. “He is a physician, politician, novelist of deep insight and of course a biographer. In all these, he has shown the path of diligent pursuit and attainment of dreams. Many people know him as a son of Ebedi in his display of mutual social responsibility to his constituency of writers by the location of the Ebedi Writers Resort funded by him in Ebedi/Iseyin, his town of birth”, she said.
Evwierhoma noted that, in the book, the author referred to himself as ‘a recorder of men and events’ and the reader encounters him as such due to the travelogue’s presentation of certain iconic ideas, people, especially writers and politicians, memorable places as well as their historicity. She said, “I noted a few concepts surrounding them like travel as a means of education, history and culture, travel as a facilitator of knowledge about people and places, as a reflection of personal and national politics and observing people and their roles in, and contributions to society. Furthermore, the book marks out effect of travel on family and friendship, how travels affirm the self, and the travelogue as a showcase of national literature, and the possibilities of travel as pain”.
On travel as a means and best form of education, she expatiated that the author helped the reader to form ideas on local and global issues and shape the opinion of the reader by teaching him about the lands of voyage in the stories of his sojourn across sundry lands. She said that the author encountered and described people in a manner that they could as well be characters in any fiction, even as the text is a non-fiction adding, “The local name for items of people’s material culture could be learnt from the book, even mores and norms concerning marriage, and cross cultural appreciation of culinary expertise, nuptial rites, and agitation for states creation, ethnic bias, and the Nigerian National Anthem, among others. The author says: “For someone visiting Ibibio land for the first time, this kind of sharp ethnic polarity in tastes and customs was a good education for me”.
According to her, the travelogue encapsulates history and culture: the ways of life of people, be they nationals and non-nationals are freely reflected in Tales, especially local politics, food, diplomatic and intercultural relations. “Other examples are allusion to python worship, the Chinese fortune cookie, history of lands, and World War I and II, all aptly referenced in his book”, she said. Pointing out that a travel journal becomes compiled tales that emanate into a travelogue which further facilitates knowledge about people and places, Evwierhoma said that apart from places visited in Nigeria, the reader travels with the author to Liberia, Zimbabwe, where one learnt about racial segregation and press censorship.
The don argued that Nigeria could be compared with other countries of the world like Gambia, Russia, United States of America, Tanzania, especially Dar es Salam, and semi-autonomous Zanzibar, submitting that a comparison of the local and international travel experiences prove Nigeria to be a slow starter in providing destination satisfaction to travellers. Giving reasons for her position, the reviewer noted that the sights that people may travel to see from within and outside Nigeria and thereby generate, increase and multiply income, remain under-tapped, reasoning that the tales may prod Nigeria’s Ministries of Interior and Culture to take proactive and not reactive action in this regard. “More importantly, the prospects of the military and civilian citizens of Nigeria in active service should be profiled for assessment. Why were our soldiers not catered for in Liberia? Why were their infractions not dealt with? How can Nigeria repair the huge infrastructure deficit it currently faces? Is it possible for Nigeria to speed up development and bridge its development gap in Africa and beyond?”, she queried.
The reviewer pointed out that the reflection of personal and national politics as a means of judging today for a better tomorrow comes out clearly in the book, revealing that the tales manifested the politics in places visited more than two decades ago and disclosed the mutations that they underwent or are currently undergoing. Stressing that some of the experiences could never be the same again as the countries have since undergone political, social, economic and other forms of change, she said, “Russia and Tanzania are certainly good examples of such change. Here, the economic hegemony of the whites over the indigenous Zimbabweans is a case in point. Again, his two visits to Liberia evince political leadership after recovery from internecine war and the ravages of Ebola. The political and economic turn-around of Tanzania under President Magufuli, is used to propagate accountability sanitation, and health in African politics. The questions from readers after every reading from “Tenants of the House” by the author, especially in America, are pointers to the international interest in Nigeria’s local politics”.
“For example, when he is asked “Can Corruption be tamed in Nigeria?” What is the government doing about the ‘Boko Haram’ problem? He only offers meek responses perhaps because he is no longer in active governance. The political slant of the travelogue is depicted in the author’s assessment of world politics and governance, the functional institutions in UK, USA, Russia, vis-a-vis his analysis of the two visits to Aso Rock as a legislator to further screen leadership in Nigeria tells us that the governance deficit in the country is one that needs to be rejigged and reworked for the future of the country called Nigeria”, she explained.
The book, according to the reviewer relive the writer’s visits to eight countries in Africa, Europe and America, and his passage to Nigerian cities like Yenagoa, Yola, Sokoto, Abeokuta, Kano, Uyo, Akwanga, and Kaduna. “For a young writer, or anyone with the intention to venture into writing, the book creates the need to observe people and their roles or contributions to society. Akintayo Abod in a review of Tales of a Troubadour dwells on the political, educational, tourist and health contributions of local and international travel, especially domestic tourism in the author’s homeland. Wither Nigeria’s tourist sites? With Okediran’s popularization of this genre, hopefully we shall experience an increase in the writing and publication of travelogues in Nigeria”, she stated.
The reviewer queried why most of the experiences of the places the writer chronicled were pleasant, pondered about why the usual demeaning attention Nigerians receive at international ports of entry into other countries is not written about as well as why the author did not speak about the slums of Europe the way the lens of foreign journalists capture the slums of Africa. “Tales reflects the feat of the author in highlighting environmental planning and sanitation in other climes, as acts or resources not common in Africa. When shall amenities like water, power and other infrastructure be provided without struggle?, she demanded.
Arguing that travelogue is a showcase of national literature, the reviewer pointed out that against all odds in Nigeria, Okediran keeps faith that Nigeria “was still workable”, noting that a reflection of this is in his prayer for better facilities in Nigeria when he compares the shuttle bus abroad and the ones in Nigeria. She noted that Okediran as a sociological and traveller’s writer, through the text, promotes the human essence, inter-racial appreciation, the re-jig of Nigerian politics, and inspires the reader.
Speaking earlier, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo State, described Okediran as a fecund, multi-talented, sportsman, politician, literary activist, uncommon lawmaker, quiet, humane, gentle and honest, who represents the golden era when aspirations for development in the country were anchored on a utilitarian philosophy. He said, “Not a few persons have wondered aloud why a successful medical practitioner has also been able to make a remarkable in-road to a seemingly different field of knowledge… Amazement at consistency in the activities of this person is not only about the knowledge of the facts of formal training as a medical doctor and vocation as a lover of the arts. The ease with which Okediran switches from one engaging endeavor to another equally and, sometimes, more exacting activity, underscores brilliance, focus and conviction. His unassuming disposition is disarming; his resilience more potent and effective than the vacuous effusions of pretenders. This writer, Dr. Wale Okediran, takes after the enviable traditions of the masters in literature”.
Akeredolu also described Okediran as an exceptional personality in whose presence one feels an overwhelming power of silence, pointing out that in him Arts is complete. “We can only appeal to him and all those with his level of consciousness to continue to ruminate, deeply, on how best to resolve the present conundrum which ensures the proliferation of educational institutions which continue to compound the challenge of capacity. Many of our graduates are illiterates”, he added.
The governor wondered how it was convenient for the medical and paramedical individuals to veer into arts and still become successful. Citing Okediran, Cyprian Ekwensi and David Diop, as successful in arts, He said, “The presence of these scientists in the field of arts should arouse curiosity as regards the relationship between literature and medicine”.
Other writers, Akeredolu pointed out, who have shaped the world, Nigeria in particular are Professor Chinua Achebe and Professor Wole Soyinka saying, “The literary ferment of Ibadan bequeathed to the world imperishable monuments made possible by the nature of the system of training and the environment permissive of adventurous spirit”.
Describing Soyinka as a living legend, human encyclopaedia and Okediran’s mentor, Akeredolu stated, “All these writers share some attributes out of which versatility and brilliance stand out. Conviction and courage, the twin pillars, fillips which propel action to achieve results, would appear necessary in this bid to employ words and imageries to deliver severe punches on the prodigal and recalcitrant. But this world, deplorable, is fast receding as literacy takes the back seat in the national order priorities. The society which produced Achebe, Ekwensi, Okara, Soyinka and others was complacent. It had the opportunity to shape a new world, weaned off colonial nuggets for real development. It was the inheritor of the colonial legacy of education for the sustenance of the oppressive and exploitative structure. Literacy was perceived by the majority of the people as a philosophy to sustain the system of stratification. Alienation was real”.
Akeredolu berated the type of education inherited from the colonial master stating, “The functionality of the educational system inherited was highly restrictive. It was meant to produce local elites in the best tradition of the colonisers with detached aspirations from the realities on ground. The elites had everything; social mobility was assured. Ability to deploy the colonial language, proficiency and effectively, became an index of knowledge and sophistication. No real contributions to national development could be measured from the progressive replacement of the colonial administrators with the black elites. Two societies survived colonialism. The first was exclusive class of the elites which displayed an arrogant sense of entitlement for being able to speak English and, in certain instances, for having visited or studied in white man’s land. This was enough for the expectation of reverent treatment from their compatriots. The other, in this highly fractured society, belonged to the mass of the people, largely illiterate and unskilled. This vast repository of brawn as meant to serve the tiny enclaves of the privileged class”.
He continued, “Success became measured with the quality of certification process through which a person had been through. A four-week programme in Europe catapulted, instantly, a person to the middle class which was in the main unproductive and parasitic. Achebe, Soyinka and a few others were prescient. They employed literature as a medium to forewarn a society trapped in obsolescence, having suffered structural dislocation. They abandoned the pen and took practical steps to address the fundamental questions of nationhood. The tragic consequences of what many termed misadventure are still with us now. My generation inherited the educational system with the capacity to replicate the feats recorded under colonialism. The curricula were still designed to produce black white experts who would sustain and maintain the colonial legacy. The inherited structures ensured that Africans became administrators. All the institutions established during this period functioned according to the original. The exit of the colonial administrators and experts soon exposed the vulnerability of the postcolonial states in terms of indigenous capacity to sustain the legacy. We still grapple with existential issues till date”.
Akeredolu emphatically stated that Nigerians must show gratitude to those who have kept the agitation for a new society which must, necessarily, emerge from the ashes of the dying one, stressing that men and women of immense talents abound in the polity but the problem is how to harness the plenitude of raw talents for the development of the Nigerian society.
The erudite lawyer turned politician, who condemned the attitude of some Nigerian who believe that the education of their children should be fully catered for by the government called on the parents to be responsible to their children. According to him, it is the responsibility of parents to train their children and not shirk in their Godly and statutory responsibility to their children. “Many people today believe that government should do everything for their children. They believe that the government must buy books, clothe, and feed their children from primary school to tertiary institution. That is not possible”, Akeredolu added.
The governor stated that the South West, through the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN, is working towards ensuring that books that are culturally imbued are available to the students, stressing that generation before now are not involving in social vices like “Yahoo Yahoo”, because they are culturally conscious and sensitive.
While encouraging revitalization of reading culture in Nigeria, he urged Okediran to see writing as a divine calling, stressing that it is better to be churning books into the society than joining politics. He urged him to be more focused on further establishing himself as a writer than a politician.
In his welcome address, Publisher and Chairman of Literamed Publications Nigeria Limited, Otunba Olayinka Lawal-Solarin, who noted that he was proud to be associated with Okediran affirmed that Okediran is becoming a notable writer of nonfiction books. He said, “He was a former President of Association of Nigeria Authors, ANA. He wrote Tenants of the House which I understand is being made into a film, and lately, he wrote the biographies of two former governors: Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State”.
Having pioneered and maintained a publishing company for 50 years, Lawal-Solarin painted a picture of happenings in the book industry, noting that the book industry in Nigeria is not thriving today for so many reasons, “but mainly due to government policies”. “We have had National Book Policies since 1990, 1999, 2004 and 2006. The preamble of the National Book Policy referred to the National Book Policy, which envisaged the integration of the individual into a sound and effective citizen through the educational opportunities within and outside the school system. It had recognized that there was an acute shortage of locally produced books and therefore it had become necessary that government took a bold step to: increase production of textbooks to which the target figure of five textbooks per pupil; motivate indigenous authors in writing textbooks that portray cultural milieu and encourage local book production and authorship”, he said.
He noted that the implantation of all the aspects of the book policy enumerated would have tremendous impact on the development of the book industry as well as having a salutary effect on the educational development in Nigeria. He pointed out that there are at least 25 million children registered for the Universal Basic Education, UBE, and at about 10 million children out of school. “Even if we are to produce five textbooks per pupil that portray the Nigerian cultural milieu; that will translate to about 125 million books to be purchased and distributed by the government with our “free” educational programme and at current price of at least N360, It will translate to about N45billion”.
He concluded, “It has just been announced that MTN alone has a turnover in 2019 N1trillion, that is about one-eighth of our national budget and N45billion for five essential books is only about 4.5 per cent of N1trillion. We have 167 million telecommunications subscribers that is about 83 per cent of our population, which means that literally everybody has a mobile phone, including the grandmother in the village and the motor park tout. If government invests in infrastructure and instructional materials in schools, it shows clearly from the analysis above that parents can at least buy books for their children and what is more, these children are not government children but belong to their parents who invest in their education and are likely to want them to succeed. Moreover, this will contribute to our Gross Domestic Product, GDP, create employment, improve investment in the print industry and finally, authors; publishers; printers; book sellers; and the country will benefit immensely”.