Although there was heavy downpour on the day of the event, in Lagos, book lovers did not allow the rain to hinder them from attending the Committee for Relevant Art’s (CORA) monthly Book Trek, which held at Quintessence Gallery, Ikoyi.
Those in attendance included the young at heart and elderly people in their numbers, as they listened to Dr Lola Akande read from her second book, Where Are You From, and equally made reference to her first novel, What it Takes, to her teeming audience. Toyin Akinosho, an executive of CORA, explained that the idea behind the book reading was that, at any point in time, there was a book reading somewhere in Lagos. “For this part of the book value chain, there needs not to be any excuse for lack of reading among the populace,” he echoed.
He informed that CORA had a book reading every second Tuesday of the month at Patabah Book Store, Surulere, while, at Quintessence Gallery, the book reading held every third Saturday of the month.
He added, “Hopefully, there will be another book reading at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, as plans are ongoing, while the book reading for Ikeja is being finalised. There will be four book treks every month, and no Lagosian have an excuse not to join any of the book reading.”
Corroborating what Akinosho said, Jahman Anikulapo, the mastermind of CORA, added that the books to be read during the book trek usually addressed any of the challenges confronting the country. Hence, “CORA decided to select Dr Lola Akande.
He recalled that her first novel, What it Takes, examines the trials associated Nigerian scholars obtaining their PhDs in the country. He said further, “I know quite a number of people who had to withdraw from doing their PhD because of the pressure mounted on them, which made them not to be continue with their programme. “Now, the university don has written a very important book, Where Are You From, which also addresses the question of sentiment, tribalism, ethnicism in the country,” he noted.
Dr Lola Akande commended the organisers for given her the opportunity to have her book reading. She said, “This is a monumental platform, and I am privileged to honoured. I am from Kwara State, and the state has a peculiar problem in Nigeria where everything depends on where you come from. If you want to get a job or get married, you have to explain to people where you come from, which matters.
“It appears we have not been able to make any decision that is important in our national life without referring to where the individual comes from and, in my view, it is hindering our progress and development as a people and as a nation. If you come from a place like Kwara State, then, of course, you have some challenges.”
Explaining that the story didn’t have to do with her, though she hailed from Kwara State, she remarked, “What happens to Anjola, the main character in the book, could have happened to her, but I decided to focus on it, and use her own story to look at the whole country, as we see her interacting with people from different parts of the country.
“This is a novel that does not have a specific setting in terms of physical location, so the heroine travels round Nigeria to show what is really happening. It is not as that she believes that by writing this novel, she would be able to solve the Nigerian problem, but strongly believed part of solving the problem was actually discussing it.
She said, “Reading it in public domain, and we begin to ask ourselves: is this really how we want to live, and, if we are living this way, what effect is it having to use the book as a mirror to examine ourselves and relationships with other people?”
She explained further that her novel contained multiple plot lines, “There are two main plots where the heroine searches for a career, and the second major plot is about her marriage. She is looking for a job and she is also looking for true love. We are going to see how her search for these two very important things go in relation to Nigeria. There is a sub plot, which deals with youthful exuberance, showing her innocence, because the book introduces Anjola, when she is 21 years old. Therefore, almost half of the book is devoted to young people, showing how they are naïve about so many things and the most important things in their lives.
The university don read excerpts from her book on pages 146, 158 and 213, respectively.