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Okeho: Clarion call to community service

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Title: Okeho in History

Author: Segun Gbadegesin

Publisher: Harvest Day Publications, Michellvill, Maryland, USA, 2017

Pages: 232

Reviewer: Jare Ajayi

 

In the Humanities, the phrase ‘the part is a mirror of the whole’ is a very popular maxim. Okeho, in very many respects mirrors what is going on in Nigeria and in many other countries in Africa. What has just been stated is not a hyperbole but a fact as would be demonstrated very shortly.

As stated in the blurb and Preface of the book under review, Okeho in History ‘was commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the relocation of Okeho back to its original site in 1917’.  Besides educating everyone about the background of the town, the underlining motive of the book is to call the attention of the indigenes to the hopes and developmental challenges of their community.

The book is divided into four parts. Part One is appropriately titled ‘In the Beginning’. Part Two contains items that deal with ‘Governance Institutions’. In Part Three, issues treated come under the collective title: ‘Religion and Spirituality’. Issues pertaining to Education are treated in Part Four while Parts Five and Six respectively deal with The Economy and Health. Communal Life makes up Part Seven.

The final part which carries the title ‘Conclusion’ discusses the various ways by which Okeho can be ‘taken to greater heights’. There are ten Appendixes.

Special pages are also devoted to Bibiliography, Picture Gallery and Index.

Let me state from the onset that the author of this book, Professor Segun Gbadegesin, although a philosopher by training and vocation, demonstrates a good knowledge of historical ethos. This should not be surprising since no one can be a good philosophy scholar without having a good knowledge of some historical figures and ideas. Beyond the call of duty as a philosophy scholar, the author is also an individual with veritable interest in historiography/history. An accomplished scholar, Prof Gbadegesin is also exemplary in community service. No wonder, he was bestowed with the title of Asiwaju of Okeholand. He has certainly been living up to the demands of this office as attested to, among others, the publication of this book.

The book appropriately opens with the location of the subject-matter: Okeho. The town is found in the heartland of the Yoruba nation. Research carried out established a notion that has always been in the public domain to wit: Okeho is an amalgamation of eleven villages. The villages voluntarily decided to come together for protection and self-survival; a very smart move indeed.

The villages that came together are Isia, Olele, Isemi, Imoba, Gbonje, Oke-Ogun, Ogan, Bode, Pamo, Alubo and Ijo.

The Baale of Ijo whose domain is more strategically located was the one that invited others at different times. For this reason, it was conceded that he assumed the overall leadership of the new settlement. Two points are important to be made at this juncture. The first is the mindset of the then Onjo – an insight into the temperament of the people of yore. For the fear of possible challenge to his leadership position, someone else might demur in having others come near him – especially equally powerful personalities. It is natural for one to want to be protective of one’s ‘privileged’ position. Thus, it was not impossible that such a fear was entertained by the then head of Ijo, Arilesire.

The second point relates to what I mentioned earlier – how Okeho mirrors Nigeria. We are aware that Nigeria is an amalgamation of several nations. But while Okeho was able to forge a town out of several hitherto separate settlements within a short time, the more the years advanced, the more Nigeria is falling apart. As stated in the Preface of the book under review, ‘in the voluntary merger and preservation of the heritage of each of the constituents, Okeho also taught us a great lesson in the management of diversity’ Page xvii.

As stated on Page 95, the economy of the community was built on communalism in which people co-operated with a view to advancing the interest of the individual and that of the community as a whole.

What kept this system thriving then was the honesty and trust that abounded. On page 101 for instance, it was stated that traders used to go to markets in many towns outside Okeho in those days. “Those who could not go gave their products to the market delegates with the confidence that their interest would be well-represented. This was the precursor to the cooperative movement of later years”. (P101).

At the beginning of this short Review, I talked about how Okeho is a microcosm of Nigeria, especially in regard to the plurality of religious faiths, historical background, politically-motivated violence as well as failure to properly exploit available potentials for the good of all. The only major area of difference between Okeho and the Nigeria nation was in how the two were respectively amalgamated and how there is no known religious-induced violence in Okeho – thank God! While the coming together of Okeho was voluntary, the coming together of Nigeria was forced. The Nigeria nation has something to learn in how Okeho elders, more than a century ago, forged unity among disparate communities. Nigeria leaders also have something to learn from how the present Okeho leadership and the elites are trying to overcome their shortcomings and build a new society that will continue to serve the best interest of its people. They are doing this by re-examining their past, learn from their mistakes and enhance their areas of strength. Nigeria should take a cue by listening to the agitators of Restructuring so that components of the country can, just as Okeho Eleven did over one hundred years ago, sit down to discuss the terms of staying together.

I like to end this Review by echoing His Royal Highness, Oba Rafiu Osuolale Mustapha Adeitan II in his Foreword to this book. He commends the book to all sons and daughters of Okeholand because “There is a wealth of information there for everyone to cherish” pxiv. Except that the book is recommended not just to indigenes of Okeholand but to all Nigerians and several others across the world due to the universal messages contained therein.

Ajayi, a poet, novelist and playwright is a journalist and social worker dedicated to community service among others. 

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Literature

The Lion And The Jewel goes on stage

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The stage is set for the Crown Troupe of Africa production of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s play The Lion And The Jewel. Produced by the Ibadan Playhouse, the performances will hold at the Amphitheatre, Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, Lagos, on Sunday March 4, 2018.

 

Set in the fictional village of Ilujinle, The Lion And The Jewel tells a griping story involving four major characters – Sidi, the village belle; Lakunle, the village school teacher with Western ideals and believe in cultures such as eating with cutlery, kissing and bogus dressing; Baroka, the ageing but nimble witted Baale (head) of Ilujinle; and Sadiku, Baroka’s senior wife and head of the harem.

 

 

As the play opens Sidi, carries her pail of water past the school where Lakunle, approaches her and chastises her for carrying her water on her head and stunting her shoulders, but she is unruffled.

 

 

Lakunle loves Sidi and wants to marry her. Sidi does not love Lakunle; she finds him and his ideas about making her a modern, Western bride strange. However, she plans to marry him if he can pay the price as the village traditions necessitate. He refuses to pay her bride-price because he considers it an archaic tradition.

 

Meanwhile, Baroka has ‘got his eyes’ on the “feisty but voluptuous” Sidi. Baroka considers Sidi another conquest but Lakunle, whose cunning reluctance (or inability) to pay Sidi’s bride price, remains an obstacle. Sidi on the other hand will ‘not give’ unconditionally.

 

All three as well as the entire village are embroiled in a game that must be won by one.

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Literature

Tribe and Prejudice: Omatseye’s musings in service of humanity

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Title: Tribe and Prejudice
Author: Sam Omatseye
Publisher: Parresia Publishers Ltd, Lagos
Year of Publication: 2017
Pages: 63
Reviewer: Tony Okuyeme

 

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” The above statement by Plato, one of the world’s best known and most widely read and studied philosophers, underscores the essence of poetry.

 

 

Sam Omatseye, award-winning Nigerian journalist, poet, novelist and playwright, in his latest collection of poems titled ‘Tribe and Prejudice’, demonstrates his commitment to the making of and desire for a better Nigeria, where though “tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”.

 

 

 

In this collection, titled ‘Tribe and Prejudice’, Omatseye takes the reader, indeed Nigerians, on a reflective journey. While the last collection, Scented Offal, looks at Nigerian history with a view to “capturing some of the essence of the conflicts, crises, and challenges of our history over the years”, in this latest collection, Tribe and Prejudice, Omatseye interrogates further the sundry ills that have plagued the nation. He wants us to look at ourselves critically and realise the kinds of social ills that have bedevilled our nation for so long.

 

He laments the tribal psychosis and ethnic rivalry pervading our society. In this 63-page book containing 30 poems, the poet reminds us, with clarity of expression and vivid imagery, that “a nation which normalises evil can never make any progress”.

 

 

This is clearly captured in the eponymous poem – the first in this collection of 30 poems – Tribe and Prejudice. In it, Omatseye looks at the metropolitan city of Lagos, home to variety of people from different tribes and culture, living together happily, united by a foreign language, which they have adopted to suit their purpose. In the words of the author, “Tribes knitted beneath a tent/All tongues tied by one thread called English…”

 

But as politics and election came, ‘things began to fall apart’, tribal and cultural differences too centre stage. For, according to the poet, “but in that poll the cosmopolis/came apart one part at a time / One pact was one pact. / The Yoruba past / I jaw past / Igbo past and so on / But past make the present tense / Yoruba of the west / Igbo of the east / Were no longer at ease / The twain met in

Lagos / Not as friends or foes but as / Foes feinting as friends. “Suddenly all our past no longer met / In the pidgin English / We no longer convene in / one tongue.”

 

 

He laments the antics of the key politicians, especially Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe, two of the prominent political leaders of Yoruba and Igbo descent respectively. In the third poem, Massacre, 1967’, the author laments the invasion of Asaba by the Nigerian Army and the massacre of unarmed people – old and young – who had come to welcome them with songs and dance for liberating them.

 

 

Again, in another poem entitled ‘The Fart of War’, the poet expresses his personal view of war. He sees war as a foolish and destructive venture, an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

 

 

The poet notes: “A war does nothing / But build up / A ruin… Cities become fragile like / Human bones / Fields once green recoil to grey…”

 

With vivid description and haunting imagery, the poet captures other areas of tribalism and its attendant prejudice which are no doubt nauseating.

 

These include the supremacy battle in Niger Delta, among the Ijaw, Urhobo, and Itsekiri, the Ife and Modakeke case in Osun that raged for years until peace returned; and the activities of the Niger Delta militants and that of the Boko Haram insurgents. They also include Strangers Invocation; ‘Indolent beauty,’ ‘Girl Bomber,’ ‘Corruption’ Almajiri, Tyranny; ‘The Sham I Am’, ‘Wretches’, ‘The Vultures’ and others.

 

 

 

The collection is not just about historical events. The poet looks at some current issues such as the Awo statue at Alausa, Lagos, the Almajiri phenomenon, and some glorious moments such as the victory in the Under 17 World Cup Final in 2015 which he also celebrates in the poem, ‘A Mexican Tear’.

 

 

In all of these in Tribe and Prejudice, Omatseye shows us, with a deep sense of patriotism, his desire for a better Nigeria. Notes the Executive Editor of TheNews/PM News, Kunle Ajibade, author of ‘Jailed for Life: A Reporter’s Prison Notes’, Omatseye’s Tribe and Prejudice is passionate honest descriptive lyrical and reflective.

 

“The arguments here are empowered with measured rhetorical flourishes.

 

We are roused to rage, shame and pity as the poet confronts us with stupidities, madness, and calamities. We are roused to joy as he celebrates with us moments of glory and triumph. We are roused to value tenderness and to love even in our castle of miseries. We are admonished to consider constantly the futility of life. The poet reaffirms his faith in the goodness that will make humankind endure.”

 

Reading this collection, you cannot but agree with Ajibade when he also notes that the poet reminds us that “a nation which normalises evil can never make any progress”. Omatseye’s Tribe and Prejudice is a must read.

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Literature

Entrepreneurship, innovation as panacea for unemployment

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Book title: How They Started: Innovative Nigerian Brands
Author: Kachi Ogbonna
Publisher: MiH Consulting Limited, Lagos
Year of publication: 2016
Pages: 252
Reviewer: Adejoro Cornelius

 

Every government in Nigeria in the past few decades have had to battle with the challenge of unemployment without much evidence of success yet. In fact it is safe to say that of all the challenges that are facing Nigeria as a country today unemployment is top on the list. Governments at various levels, private establishments as well as individuals have adopted different approaches as a remedy to this. Kachi Ogbonna’s approach is somewhat different. For him, not only is entrepreneurship the solution to unemployment, he also argues that Nigeria is the best place to start and run a successful business in the world. This, obviously, is contrary to the general opinion that businesses cannot thrive in a place like Nigeria. His book, ‘How They Started’ is therefore a detailed research which presents an empirical proof that it has been done successfully in Nigeria before and that it can be repeated even now. The author is an entrepreneurship consultant. He has established different businesses and today helps many universities to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in their students. He is also committed to helping startups grow.
The author argues that the solution to graduate unemployment in Nigeria is not rocket science. He maintains that it is first of all a matter of mindset and orientation. He maintains that if the young people can look inwards to discover the latent potentials within them and attempt to match them with the various problems they see in their surroundings with the aim of offering solutions and adding value, they would have succeeded in creating businesses with or without government’s special support.
In showing how Nigeria has always been a land of great opportunities, the author traced businesses that started as far back as the immediate post-independence era and still waxing strong today, down to those that were launched in 2012 and have grown to become multinationals in less than four years. The author’s ability to group the 25 brands featured into sectors (eight sectors in all) shows that opportunities abound in almost every sector of the Nigerian economy.
It is probably just a coincidence that this book was released at roughly the same time that Nigeria is passing through what can be described as the biggest economic decline since independence. The price of crude oil has fallen in the international market, the Nigerian currency the naira has depreciated significantly in value, investors are leaving, companies are retrenching with reckless abandon and with the obvious need to diversify the economy and also reduce importation, I am forced to say that if government and those that run our universities are serious about ending graduate unemployment then they must find a way to liaise with Nigerians in the mold of the author of this book and also adopt it as a practical entrepreneurship manual for building entrepreneurial universities.
It is difficult not to commend the author’s liberality and unbiased selection of the featured brands. However, the more he attempts to lay down the criteria for the selection the more we are forced to ask whether they are the only 25 brands that met those criteria. Yet, it is impossible for me not to recommend this book to all entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and indeed everyone that seeks to contribute in growing the nation’s economy through entrepreneurship. Let me also add that every undergraduate deserves to have a copy of this book before leaving the four walls of university.

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