By Braide Damiete
“EKO Peoms strikes the reader as the product of a valuable initiative, the kind that is most likely to spread to other states in Nigeria.” This was how legendary poet and dramatist, Professor Niyi Osundare, couched his endorsement for Eko Poems, an anthology of nursery rhymes written by public primary school pupils in Lagos State and edited by playwright, poet and TV personality, Ola Awakan.
Osundare claimed via a virtual broadcast that he was both impressed and inspired to find young people commenting on Lagos in those various ways, “It has given us a complex image of Lagos: The good part of it, not so good, beautiful, not so beautiful. But one thing keeps coming back: the issue of diversity, which Lagos is for everybody and for all of us.”
Osundare, who has publish four books on poetry for young children, said that it was important their theme ‘Lagos’ espoused the importance of diversity, especially at this time in the history of Nigeria, “Our politicians have a lot to learn from these little ones and by their names, one knows that they represent the diversity that characterizes Nigeria.”
He said what initiatives, like Eko Poems: An anthology of Nursery Rhymes, was teaching us was actually how to wedge some kind of cultural war without fighting, adding that it was one of the ways we could free our children from the tyranny of foreign rythmes and culture.
The anthology, which presents Lagos in the words of some of its youngest inhabitants, was launched recently by Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, in collaboration with ArtsWax Communication, at LASUBEB hall, Maryland Lagos.
Chairman of the Board, Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King, said he was delighted that the compilation of the literary work was done “by our pupils, for our pupils and for generations yet unborn.”
He discribed the project as the first of its kind in Nigeria, noting that the modest effort was 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 could call their own.
“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 at the maiden edition of the Primary Schools Poetry Festival held last year. Therefore, I am elated at the final outcome, which will undoubtedly open up the minds of our young ones to literary expressions,” he revealed.
Chairman, Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioner, Lagos State Chapter l, Makinde Adeniran, who reviewed the book, said, “Nigeria is at a crossroads where all hands including our teenagers, must be on deck hence Eko Poems: An anthology of nursery rhymes becomes important and worth critical assessment.”
He challenged government to continue to provide full support system for these young ones by availing them opportunities of artistic creativity as a measure of assessing the growth of governance in the state, adding that, after all, they were not politically motivated or political enemies but an imagination of the innocent ones in sheer piece where the heart imagines a new reality.
On the making of the book and its essence, Ola Awakan said. “The pupils through the poems have sent a message to powers that be how they feel and what they desire for Lagos.