Sunday Afolayan, Taiwo and his Naughty Friends, Treasure Publications Services, Owo, 2018, pp. 54
Traditionally, African societies thrived on oral traditional folktale. It had been the first school of the child, a natural and consistent method used to instill morals and values. However, modernity has since eaten away the fabric of this tool, leaving it thread bare thin like an erosion piece of land.
No longer do the young ones know what it is like to sit under a tree with a story teller under a moonlit sky and, thus, they grow into adults who only want for fast paced victories, modernised strategies and schemes without the moral backbone of discipline applicable where necessary. Worthy of note is that the tales told by our forefathers and mothers were rich in character building of the child regardless of whether the subjects of the tales were humans or not.
Though Jimi Solanke the famed NTA storyteller, still has some zeal left in him with available airtime, the audience sadly is not much of a thing. This is the African reality in the 21stcentury, that once commanded rapt attention from the old and young has now become an oversight and distasteful.
Hopefully, some have realised this shortcoming and have stepped in to salvage the ruins of the storytelling ship. The likes of Dr Bukar Usman founded the Pan Nigerian Folktale Research Project aimed at collecting folktales from communities across Nigeria for the purpose of preservation and to sustain the moral and communal effort of raising upright wards.
It is, therefore, no surprise that Gabriel Sunday Afolayan, currently researching a PhD at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Rufus, Giwa Polytechnic. Owo, Ondo State, has traced his steps back to the times of the beginning to release a treasure Children Literature Series, Taiwo and his Naughty Friends.
The cover illustration brings back nostalgic scenes from the Tales by Moonlight Series –gathering of children at the foot of a story teller, listening eagerly with individual attention. Meanwhile, the title gives away much of the story but good enough to gain attention of the children. The story teller in a Jeje, who is introduced as a retired school teacher loved by all. He telling stories to the children under the big mango tree in front of his house. He tells the story of Taiwo and Kehinde whom their parents warned not to go anywhere near River Rama. Taiwo disobeys when he begins to follow bad company in school and ends up paying dearly for it.
As with folktales, there is a poem to sing in a repeat form or sing along which clearly serves to include listeners as participants and not only listeners. The diction is simple with short sentences for easy reading. The chapters, too, are not winding, which makes the read a good paced and not tiring.
With this book, Afolayan seems to have plugged into traditional storytelling, albeit hard copy, once again, reminding us that we need to keep the fire burning by all means. His story is entertaining, educative and revives the essence of moral sophistry in younger ones.
The tale emphasises obedience, trustworthiness, honesty, bravery and piousness. Every parent, teacher or guardian should endeavor to get a copy for the children they love, after all, the efforts that produced this piece is borne of sacrifice to –to revive a dying age-long tradition.