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Literature

Still waters and vast canvas of history

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Book title: Little Birds and Ordinary People
Author: Deji Haastrup
Publishers: Bookcraft, Ibadan
Year of Publication: 2017
Pages: 406
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.

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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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Literature

TMTR Training Room launches in Lagos, holds maiden workshop

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The TMTR Training Room, a skills-based, practice-led certificate-awarding institute on Saturday commenced operations with a training programme for select journalists drawn from the print, broadcast and online platforms on Saturday, February 10, 2018. It is run by Toni Kan and Peju Akande.
The programme focused primarily on equipping the participants with tools and insights to better understand the Cybercrimes Prohibition Act 2015 and how it affects their practice especially with the imminent 2019 elections.
The institute was conceived in January 2015 with the mission to evolve a teaching culture that will help train and empower practitioners who will change the creative industry for good by upholding the highest ethical and professional standards.
The inaugural programme also focused on the Fake News phenomenon that has taken the world by storm no thanks to the democratisation of access to the internet and the rise of social media. The programme provided insights to the legal pitfalls bedevilling the modern day journalist working at a time when the internet has enabled the emergence and growth of citizen journalists.
Facilitators included Peter Okwoche of the BBC, award winning writer Kaine Agary who is also co- founder of Takkai as well as Toni Kan Onwordi, award winning writer and PR maven.
A statement from TMTR said the institute hopes to provide their students with a space for learning new and enhancing old skills.
“Using a practical case study and scenario painting approach, students will interact with practitioners from whom they will gain new insights, learn new skills and discover new tools to navigate new landscapes.”

The vision of the founders is to become the training centre of choice and a reference point for the knowledge worker in Nigeria and ultimately across the world.

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Literature

Jos Festival of Theatre: Mu’Adhin’s Call, Renovation go on stage

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The stage is set for the 11th Jos Festival of Theatre which will open in Jos, Plateau State.
The Festival of Theatre has, over the last decade, become a nurturing ground for Nigerian artists to showcase their talents and creativity through a Nigerian and international repertory. The 2018 festival under the theme “Creative expression in a time of Hope”, which opens on March 4 and end on Friday March 9, will feature exhilarating plays as well as a variety of workshops for the artistic community, Jos Repertory Theatre (JRT), the organisers of the festival stated.
According to the statement, the classes in acting, dance, basic film production, and arts management will hold during the day with the theatrical performances taking place in the evenings.
“The Jos Festival’s plays will present poignant messages concerning migrants, marriage, politics, revolt, and the abuse of power over the week of performances. The workshops will include facilitators from Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Jos.”
The 2018 edition is also showcasing the directing skills of five new directors – Osasogie Efe Guobadia, Ebuka Ifebunso, Seyi Babalola, Sunny Adahson and Akolo James Anthony who will be directing the musical Brother Joachim’s Vocation which he wrote. He previously wrote two plays, A Toast of Triumph and Late Pam which have premiered at the festival. Among the other plays that will be featured this year are two American classics, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and August Wilson’s Radio Golf. The Spanish contribution to the festival is Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna a true life story on events in the little Spanish city of Fuenteovejuna with an overbearing leader who faced revolt by the townspeople who eventually kill him on the night of a celebrated wedding in the city. The Spanish classic is being performed in English by local actors. Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge is being directed by Patrick-Jude Oteh.
Ahmed Yerima’s play on power, politics and betrayal, Mu’Adhin’s Call, will be performed alongside Sefi Atta’s Renovation which will be used to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th. Sefi Atta will make her second appearance at the festival after the premiere of her play Last Stand at the 9th Jos Festival of Theatre 2015.
The festival receives ongoing support from the U.S. Mission Nigeria in addition to an array of local and international supporters such as Grand Cereals Limited, the International Performer’s Aid Trust, and the Jos Business School.

The pre-festival play of the 2018 festival which will be performed on February 25th 2018 is August Wilson’s award winning play Fences which was the star feature at the 2017 Oscars awards. The play which deals with the domestic life of Troy Maxson, is set in 1950’s America when there was a new spirit of liberation but a liberation which makes Troy a stranger with an anger and a fear in a world that he never knew pitching him against his wife and his son whom he understands less with each passing day.

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