Culture journalist and The Guardian’s head of politics, Mr. Anote Ajeluorou, told the 85 student guests of Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and other dignitaries that his debut children’s fictional storybook, Igho Goes to Farm, was a love letter to his childhood. The event held in Lagos and Abeokuta on July 12 and 14 as part of OpenDoorSeries/Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE 2019) programmes to celebrate the iconic writer’s 85th birthday.
Ajeluorou told the youngsters at Freedom Park at a symposium exploring the “Rights, Honour, Respect, patriotism, Tolerance, and Humanism” of Soyinka that Igho Goes to Farm was a love letter he wrote to his childhood as a way of reconnecting with his younger days in the small Delta State community called Ibedeni where the story is largely set and where the author also grew up.
He described childhood as the best years of any human being, adding that how he or she was nurtured during those early years was key for the individual’s later years as an adult, enjoying parents must take care how they bring up their children. Ajeluorou said storytelling was a significant part of his childhood and Igho Goes to Farm is a result of that shared experience, especially the folktale Igho’s grandma shared with him and his cousin, Onome.
He further told the students that the title of the book was modelled after another famous childhood storybook, Eze Goes to School, written in the 1970s by Onuorah Nzekwu and Michael Crowder as a way of referencing an older literary work for youngsters. The idea, according to him, was to also draw attention to the older work (Eze Goes to School) as a complimentary reading material for young readers.
At Ijegba Forest home of the Nobel laureate, where he presented Igho Goes to Farm to the iconic writer, Ajeluorou also admonished the youngsters that they should also read Ake: The Years of Childhood, written by Wole Soyinka. He said, while Igho Goes to Farm was a fictional work, Ake was the real childhood story of Soyinka, stressing, “If you wish to understand his (Soyinka’s) background, his parents, his upbringing and formative years, you should look for Ake and read it!”
A special reprint edition of Igho Goes to Farm, facilitated by WSICE, was distributed to students from across the country who had gathered in a festive spirit to celebrate Kongi (Soyinka) at his birthday. The four-day programme is a yearly feast that celebrates Soyinka who turned 85 on July 13. Eighty-five secondary students who excelled in an essay competition gathered in Lagos, Abeokuta, and Akure to felicitate with the literary icon in a number of dazzling cultural programmes that immersed them on the life of Soyinka that span writing, teaching, performance, politics, and activism.
The 85 finalists were hosted by Professor Soyinka at his Ijegba Forest home in Abeokuta, where they engaged him in conversation, and drew from his fountain of wisdom and knowledge, with the winners receiving their awards from him. Also, a presentation of [email protected] books: Memo to our Future was made by The Guardian’s former Arts Editor and Sunday Editor, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo.
According to the author, “The book also addresses Nigerian adults on being patriotic. Why have Nigerians failed to develop the country’s tourism potential? Why do Nigerians always travel abroad for holidays? Why don’t they patronise local goods and products? Why spend scarce resources on foreign products and goods?”
…makes Nigeria Prize for Literature longlist
Meanwhile, Ajeluorou’s Igho Goes to Farm has made the longlist of the 2019 LNG Nigeria Prize of Literature, released by the Advisory Board of the NPL.The 11 books on the shortlist, in alphabetical order by title of book, are:
A Hero’s Welcome, Ndidi Enenmor
Boom, Boom, Jude Idada
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Double ‘A’ for Adventure, Anisa Daniel-Oniko
Ginika’s Adventures, Nnena Ochiche
Igho Goes to Farm, Anote Ajeluorou
Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge, Dunni Olatunde
Obioma: A Girl’s Journey to Self-Discovery, Nkiru Uzoh
She Calls Him Daddy, Oladele Medaiyese
Spurred Surprises, Lami Adejoh Opawale
The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho