By Ngozi Nwoke
It was a special day in every material particular, a day that reinforced the catch-them-young code.
It was the day children of Lagos State proclaimed in a loud voice that tomorrow actually belonged to them. That day, the chairman of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education (LASUBEB), Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King, renowned poet and literary critic, Prof. Niyi Osundare, Mr. Babajide Kolade-Otitoju, board member in charge of co-curricular activities, LASUBEB, Hon. Sherifat Adedoyin, head of co-curricular, LASUBEB, Princess Folashade Abass, and director, co-curricular department, LASUBEB, Mrs. Abimbola Vaughn, joined dignitaries from all walks of life for the unveiling of the book, “Eko Poems: An Anthology of Nursery Rhymes,” authored by public primary school pupils and edited by Mr. Ola Awakan, creative director of Artwax Communications, Lagos State.
The book launch also witnessed the presence of pupils from public primary schools such as Community Primary School, Adeba, Ibeju-Lekki, Ire Akare Nursery and Primary School 1, Sari Iganmu, Biney Memorial Primary School, Mushin, Orile Nursery and Primary School, Somolu Local Government Primary School, St. Mary Girls School, Lagos Island, and Tokunbo Alli Primary School, Ikeja, among others.
In his remarks, the executive chairman, LASUBEB, noted: “I am highly delighted to welcome you all to this great occasion, the launch of Eko Poems: An Anthology of Nursery Rhymes. It is remarkable to note that this great compilation of literary works was done by our pupils, for our pupils and for the generations yet unborn. I must also proudly say that this project is the first of its kind in Nigeria. This modest effort is part of the resolve of the Lagos State Government to continually foster creative thinking among pupils, by providing a platform for them to express themselves through rhymes that they can call their own. The era of having only nursery rhymes that depict foreign nuances is gradually fading, with collection of poems that challenge our children to reflect on our society, local values and character.
“It is important to note that Eko Poems is a product of thoroughly selected writings from hundreds of entries received across all public primary schools in the state. Therefore, I am elated at the final outcome, which will undoubtedly open up the minds of our young ones to literary expressions.
“I want to particularly acknowledge and commend the creative director, Artwax Communications, Mr. Ola Awakan, and his team for their immense contributions towards the success of the Eko Poems book launch as well as everyone who ensured the success of this project.
“Finally, I congratulate and acknowledge all the outstanding young poets, excellent pupils of Lagos State, who have made this historic event possible. I encourage them to continue to dream and express themselves through words. I wish them greater success.”
Osundare said: “I have had the opportunity of reading these poems, and I must say that I am most impressed to find young pupils express reality of life in writing.
“The Eko Poems book has given us a very complex image of Lagos State, the good part of it, the not-so-good, the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful.
“One fact that was repeatedly stated in the poem was the issue of diversity. It stated that Lagos State is a city for everybody. These are primary school children between nine and 15 years of age.
The most important factor in the poem is that they recognized Lagos as the commercial hub of Nigeria. Our diversity, from what the children stated, is our strength. The book also tells us that the beauty and fantasy we seek is right here with us and the creativity we want is here with us, as it lies in our talents and skills.
Also, Awakan expressed displeasure over the fact that children are not given the required platform to showcase their writing skills and express themselves in poetry, adding that children should be encouraged to utilize their talents for the development of society.
He said: “This day will go into history as one of the many efforts encouraged by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, through his agenda to support collaborations between government and stakeholders in different spheres of endeavours as a way to foster all-round development in the society.
“The journey of this noble project from conception to execution started many years ago as an undergraduate, who is endowed with ideas geared towards development. Putting together poems for young creative minds was one of the many ambitions I had. Even though I did not have the opportunity of this magnitude for proper exposure of my works, I did not relent because I promised myself that I would do all to give a voice to those teeming children and teenagers who are blessed with writing talents but do not have any medium to amplify their voices and thoughts.
“The only way to encourage these young poets further is by allowing their literary works to go farther by way of making their books available in all schools and libraries so that we can have nursery rhymes with deep connections to our value system, rather than the popular foreign poems.”
On his part, the book reviewer, Mr. Adediran Makinde, chairman, Lagos State Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, noted that the evolution of the Eko Poems was a laudable achievement for the young authors and a must-read for pupils who aspire to become great writers, while recommending it for all pupils.
“In one word, I will recommend the book for everyone, especially those in nursery and primary schools,” he said.