Book title: Little Birds and Ordinary People
Author: Deji Haastrup
Publishers: Bookcraft, Ibadan
Year of Publication: 2017
Reviewer: Tade Ipadeola
Recent Nigerian memoirs that aren’t at the same time hackneyed hagiographies are very hard to come by indeed. The pleasure of encountering Little Birds and Ordinary People, a work straddling the nexus between the written meditation and the compte rendu was therefore a welcome relief from the monuments of literary dross littering the landscape. There is a high-mindedness to this book which separates it from the muster of tired resolve to ‘write a book’ at the end of active careers – the apparent motivation for most of these other painful texts in the market.
There is, also, a certain grit to the telling of this fardel of many stories that gives fresh perspectives to the reader regarding the intractable problems of Nigeria, the Niger Delta and the oil and gas industry. Many of the accounts, for those who have known Nigeria long enough, provide cues and clues to the massive jigsaw puzzle that is the political economy of Africa’s most populous country.
For this reader, it was a view from the boiler room, a tour through the steam and grime that propels the ship of state. The pace of the writing is leisurely – though the book itself touches on the most serious of subjects. This is a book to take with you to the bank of a placid lake or a gentle running stream, a book to read in the early morning sun or in the cool of the evening under an umbrella or a shade tree.
This is a book to read against a backdrop of birdsong and not the busy twittering (of the electronic variety) and hum offices. It is tempting to say this book is a temptation to the bourgeois repose in reading, but, it is also clear that the mind that wrote the book isn’t of the materialistic bent. Yet there is tenderness to the telling of Mr. Haastrup’s stories, a degree of emotional intelligence necessary to get through to an audience in two minds about what the oil and gas industry has done in Nigeria. This is strength of the book but also a weakness.
At times, the work reads like an audi alteram partem brief for the demonized oil and gas industry. A compromise this reviewer worked out is to see this book as an oriel into realities we may not ordinarily access except through specialist documents of no aesthetic value whatsoever.
The main strength of the book, in my view, is the vast canvass of history it erects and the complex nature of the society it portrays. Artists say it all boils down to perspective. From the plastic arts to the literary arts, the inherent value in the work is in its power to persuade the audience to see things from new points of view.
Yet this book works as mimesis as well, the language is beautiful and efficient, and most importantly, it rings true. It may not so ring to the African born in the eighties and afterwards, who have only know the chaos and the brutish (in overall abundance) when it comes to Nigeria.
Haastrup doesn’t so much conjure as he resurrects a Nigeria that was, at some earlier point in the 20th century, a place for all peoples, a veritable melting pot, a balanced mix of the rustic and the urbane. That Nigeria, that Ibadan, was the place that led other places in terms of cultural output, announcing the pioneering talents of J.P Clark, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Den- nis Brutus, Duro Ladipo, Demas Nwoko and Es’kia Mphahlele among others, to the world. Like his grandfather before him, the author eventually chooses the urbane. It may be argued that the Ibadan which provided the ambience for the author’s formative years cannot be properly defined as a village.
However, considering that Ibadan is roughly the same age as Toronto, for instance, it isn’t so far-fetched to argue, as the author does, that the densely populated conurbation keeps a leg in the past as it does a leg in the present. Little Birds and Ordinary People goes further than the past and present, venturing and even stravaging, into the future. With very deft shifting of the gears, the author even convinces the reader to see the journey not in linear terms but as a gyre.
This, in my opinion, is when the author is at his most mystical and African. The great thing, though, is the conviction in the writing that the journey can be improved, that the cycle isn’t a closed one, that there can be what the Japanese call Kaizen. Away from the preoccupation with work and career, the book, dedicated to the memory of the author’s brother, Adesina Haastrup, works at an even deeper emotional substratum as a memorial and as a celebration of life and not of loss.
They say we are truly gone when the last human mentions our name. Deji Haastrup has erected a more lasting monument than marble to his late brother in this regard, this book will be read as long as humankind is literate.
It is an impetus that works through the warp and woof of the writing, transmuting into the author’s hope and vision for country and continent. We have come so far as individuals, as siblings, as families, moieties, clans, nations and as continent but always we have a choice to make.
We can choose better for self and community. Without fishing for a hook, the account in Little Birds and Ordinary People finds one nonetheless in its deliberately understated case for the better half of humankind, the women. I’m tempted to read women into the Ordinary People in the title of the book. Through most of human history the women have borne the brunt and the species as a whole as suffered for the obtuse choice by men in the status quo.
I personally wish the author wasn’t as sophisticated in his arguments for womankind in this book although I’m persuaded that close readers will see very clearly what the mind at work is about. History shouldn’t be read as his story alone, the author seems to argue, it is her story as well.
The hand that rocks the cradle, we know, rules the world. A way to imagine what the author envisions is to put the tableaux of the entire saga of the Niger Delta against the backdrop of a better educated, better respected and better rewarded working women. The world would be a better place.
The task is to move beyond potential into actuality.
Values, morality as panacea for unity, development
Title: Music of the Muezzin
Author: R. Adebayo Lawal
Year of Publication: 2014
Reviewer: Mahfouz A. Adedimeji
Against the sorry state of our world that has lost its moorings, resulting in the Hobbesian conception of life as being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” Adebayo Lawal in his second collection of poems, Music of the Muezzin, offers us a way out of the miasma. Through a blending of soulful sounds, delicious lines of pure poetry that offer us sense from the pervading nonsense beclouding our global horizons, the poet draws our attention to the need to uphold morality and promote character in our lives.
Basically, Music of the Muezzin is a collection of 38 poems divided into six unequal parts: “Pro-Song: Symphony of the Lonesome Lark”, “Invocation: the Cock’s Mystical Music,” “Smiles of Sorrow,” “Exhortation: Cryptic Clauses of Counsel”, “The Snail’s Courage” and “Epi-Songs: True Time is but Timelessness”. As common to most works of poetry, the themes are as diverse as the poems artistically woven in the compelling collection, but one thesis that reverberates across the work is the need for values and morality in our society. This the author does by distilling messages that tantalize or religious, moral, cultural and ethical sensibilities.
The first poem in the collection is the “eponymous” poem (i.e. the poem that gives the collection its title) where the poet explains the impact of the muezzin’s call to prayer on him. The rationale for putting the poem first is most likely informed by the fact that when a baby is born in Islam, the first thing he hears is the adhan or call to prayer. We then have the poet’s interpretation of the magnificence of His Creator, Whose majesty he celebrates in “The paradox of your presence” (p.12).
However, the first two parts are not about Islam and faith alone. There is a striking poem, “Lines for a don”, dedicated to his teacher, Prof. David William, with which the poet decries the decline in the academics, which is of interest to every lecturer or don. In his usual inter-lock of sense with sound, a major stylistic feature of the collection, our poet takes a swipe at academic shoddiness and intellectual laziness, a cankerworm that seems to have seeped, or sneaked like a thief in the night, into our ivory towers. The sense is compelling in describing various types of dons in lovely lines and repetitive sonority before upholding the standard as symbolised by the teacher: “There are dunces / And there are dons. / Dons by distinction, / Dons by connection / Dons by compassion / Dons by constipation. / The mafia don, / Done by cruel connection, / Is the Don Juan / Thriving on a code of terror.” … (p.20)
There are interesting poems in Part Three, which begins with “The multinational tycoon’s theory”, a witty and humorless poem that ascribes the black man’s tragedy to the accident of creation. He lampoons the archetypal politician in our era of politics without principle describing him in powerful imagery using the bat metaphor: “Bird by day/ Rat by night/ The bat vies with the vulture/ And races with the rodent.” (p.25).
In “Damsel of the ivory tower” (p.31) and “City damsel” (p.32), Lawal has urgent and pungent messages for the students who waste their present and future on illicit sexual adventures.
For the latter poem (i.e. “City damsel”) that exploits the computer imagery, the warning to men is that the city damsel is not more than a lovely laptop with a caveat: when you “insert a randy flash-drive / You end up with a vicious virus” (p.31).
The third part under consideration contains the longest poem in the collection, “Smiles of sorrow” (p.34), which drives home the need for character and morality in our society.
In Parts Four and Five, the author offers antidotes to our troubled and troubling times while canvassing the virtues of love (i.e. “True love”(p.38); “We are all one” (p.39)) reason (“Who are you? (p.40); “Rat race or human race? (p.41)), religious tolerance and righteousness (i.e. “The cannibals” (p.42), “The bubble shall burst” (p.48), “Blessed are they” (p.52)) and other poems of similar thematic concerns. There are also well-crafted poems in this section like “Ilorin” (p.45) which offers a food-for-thought that everyone would like to relish and “In the long run” (p.47) which gives poetic expression to the maxim, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Generally, this collection is “larger than its frame” in terms of the profundity of the timeless messages that make good sense for our troubled season in a world that is going amok. It is a call to action to eschew what is morally bad, religiously sinful and ethically repugnant in our day-to-day interactions.
Sam Dede supports PHLS Poetry Slam
The PHLS Poetry Slam has received a major boost from acclaimed and award-winning actor, Dr. Sam Dede, with the institution of the Sam Dede Prize for Best Spoken Word Artist.
Dede made the announcement in Port Harcourt when he spoke with the Resident Poet of the Port Harcourt Literary Society, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi. He commended the Society for energizing literature in Port Harcourt.
“What you guys are doing is quite remarkable and deserves the support of every well-meaning artist and sponsor of the arts,” Dede said.
The actor, whose inspiring performance in Isakaba earned him Africa’s top acting honours, stated that the Prize comes with cash and a plaque.
The Sam Dede Prize is in addition to the N100,000 already set aside by the Society for the winner of the PHLS Poetry Slam. Other prizes are N75,000 for first runner-up and N50,000 for the second runner-up. A fourth prize of N25,000 will go to the best Spoken Word poet from one of the secondary schools which have benefited from the Society’s monthly PHLS Literature for Teens programme.
The PHLS Poetry Slam, already described as Nigeria’s biggest Poetry Slam, will be judged by award-winning poets, Efe Paul Azino, Andrew Patience, Obii Ifejika and Graciano Enwerem.
Bwl agency awarded best public relation in Western Africa at Sabre awards
Agency, founded by 30-year-old Ronke BamIsedun have surfaced as winners of The Gold SABRE Award for Public Relations campaigns in
Western Africa and have been awarded two certificates of excellence in two categories.
They were also shortlisted alongside some of the largest brands and agencies in the world for The Platinum SABRE Award for Best in show, the highest category of the award.
BWL is a strategic brand development company composed of a team of young, hard-working, bold communication consultants who build brands and help them deliver compelling campaigns that cut through the noise. An exclusive affiliate of top global communications
Their unique disruptive campaign for Jameson Connects Nigeria secured them The Gold SABRE Awards and The Platinum SABRE Award shortlist, whilst the fun curiosity led FOLLOW THE SWIFT campaign for Martell Cognac earned them certificates of excellence in the practice area categories: Marketing to consumers (new product) and Food and beverage.
The SABRE (Superior Achievement in Branding, Reputation & Engagement) Awards is the world’s biggest Public Relations Awards Program, dedicated to benchmarking the best PR work from across the globe. The award ceremony took place on Thursday, May 10 th in Gaborone, Botswana. The gala dinner was part of the African Public Relations Association’s annual conference.
Present to receive the award and certificates of Excellence at the gala dinner, was Ronke Bamisedun Founder of BWL and a member of the elite 2018 class of Forbes 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa under 30 says “We are ecstatic and humbled with our Gold SABRE Award and Excellence Certificates.
This amazing accomplishment has been a great positive reinforcement for my team and I, further emphasizing BWL as a company, albeit small, that can transcend borders, disciplines and compete with the largest PR firms in the world”.
BWL have also been shortlisted as finalists for the Upcoming SABRE EMEA, nominated for The Gold SABRE AWARD under the geographical category of Africa. The 2018 EMEA SABRE Awards shortlist was selected from over 2,500 global entries. The competition recognizes “Superior Achievement in Branding, Reputation and Engagement”.
The winner of this award will be announced on Saturday May 23 rd at the annual awards dinner in Amsterdam.
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