It was an exciting, entertaining and educative moment for book lovers who thronged Quintessence Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos, for the sixth edition of the monthly booktrek of Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) recently.
In his opening statements, Dele Farotimi, author of Do Not Die in Their War, said his book was not an invitation to cowardice, rather an invitation to discern exactly what would justify laying one’s life down your life. “Don’t pick their battles; pick your own battles. Find that thing that defines your life in its achievement that you are willing to have your own life taken,” he said.
Secretary General, Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA), Toyin Akinosho, told the gathering that the reading was established to encourage reading “at a time we want people to trek to a place to pick a book to read, just as reading helps people to live a better life.”
He added, “Just as you have an idea that you can walk up to various places to attend art exhibitions or watch drama performances, likewise, we want CORA to do same with books, too.”
The author commended the audience for attending his book reading, despite having many contending issues to attend to. He also explained the genesis of the book, “When I started writing this book, I was having a much more different book in mind as I was going to write a long winding narrative of what has gone wrong with Nigeria.
“I found out that each of the things I wrote was thematically linked or related. They were not coming as a continuous flow, but it was one issue outside the other, because Nigeria is more or less like a man who is leprous. Every part of a laborious man stinks –he has sores everywhere you touch –so it is necessarily always sore. Every encounter with the Nigerian system stinks and, after a while, I found that every engagement also demanded some form of therapeutic steam-letting.
“So, my writings became a place where I just allow myself to let off some steam so that I do not find myself perhaps exploding or imploding myself. Hence, I started writing more as form of escape, looking for an avenue from where to just let things out without losing my mind completely. So, I went to IITA with the express intention of writing. But, then, the experience in that IITA led to further pains and other thoughts and things began to come.
“The experience that I am going through is like when you shake a bottle vigorously and open it, the first thing that happens is explosion. I write from my steam of consciousness, when something slaps me in the face, I begin to write. Every last word or chapters in my book is political in nature. What you thought was me all over the place was me actually seeking to express the many emotions that I was feeling.”
He recalled that he took his reading culture from Abadina Primary School, Ibadan. “I am not sure there is any primary school in Nigeria today that has the kind of resource persons and materials that we had in those days. From there, I went to Filleti Grammar School, Ibadan, which goes to show people and anyone that loves reading that when I went to school in this same country. It didn’t matter where you went to school but there was qualitative education.
“The kind of education that I got from that rural school, my daughter, who recently graduated from one of the private schools in Lagos, didn’t get the kind of education that I got that when I was in primary school and it was free.
“When I went to school, I didn’t buy books, and it was in this same Nigeria, where teachers from India, Pakistan and Ghana came to teach pupils in rural areas. It didn’t matter whether one’s father was a poor man or the mother unlettered, but we all aspired to become great in life.”
In choosing the title of the book, Do Not Die in Their War, the writer remarked there were many wars being fought daily in the streets in Nigeria but those initiating them, rather, use people as pawns to fight their wars; hence “the people who suffer the casualty are those who are young and the idealists, who rarely look beyond the surface before they queue behind the causes.”
He went on to read excerpts from the book: pages 214, 259, 265 and 267. The reading was compered by Francis Awuche.