On Wednesday, July 13, the literary icon fondly called Kongi by some of his admirers added another feather to his age, bringing his number of years on earth to seventy-seven.
Given the achievements of this Nigeria’s arch-bard which have, over the years, opened up fresh vistas and challenges for the emergent generation of poets, novelists and playwrights to nurture their truly daring and adventurous creative spirit, our Arts & Literary Editor, Boye Salau, as a mark of respect, takes a creative look at some of the works and attributes that have made Professor Wole Soyinka an eponymous phenomenon in the world today.
As a writer rightly observed sometimes ago, every epoch in the history of mankind throws up its super human beings that society would look up to and continue to ask questions about what substance they are made of.
Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka belongs to this specie of mankind. He is one of the greatest gifts of mother nature to Nigeria, and by extension, Africa.
In the literary world for example, Soyinka is a quintessential enigma and intellectual giant whose contributions to the three genre ofliterature: Poetry, Prose and Drama are legendary. He set out to be a literary giant since 19 years, an age many people would consider unripe, even in these modern times, for anybody to be a phenomenon, more especially in the difficult world of arts and literature. But for the essential Soyinka, no age is too tender to accomplish a brilliant feat. It is therefore not surprising that Soyinika at age 19 set out to be an iconoclast, a poet, novelist, playwright and essayist who is gifted with a better understanding and use of English Language than most English men.
During Soyinka’s appearance before the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, better known as Oputa Panel, a man who was watching the proceedings once remarked: “This man, Soyinka don dey mad.”
When asked why he a made such a filthy remark about the Nobel Laureate, the man said that despite being an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) holder, he could not understand what Soyinka was saying before the panel as his choice of word dumb-founded him.
Soyinka’s unparalleled, unique contribution to literary world was handsomely rewarded in 1986 with the prestigious Nobel prize for literature, making him the first Africa to win that noble award.
Today, Soyinka is probably Africa’s foremost playwright whose polymatic literary accomplishments have earned Nigeria and Africa as a whole a shining image. He is no doubt an eponymous literary icon and inspirational idol to young writers who always look up to his artistic contents and ingenious use of words. Almost every young writer of this generation is anxious to be infected by Soyinkaism.
As far back as 1974, a writer, Oyin Ogunba, asserted that “… Soyinka is becoming too large …” Some of Soyinka’s contemporaries in the world of literature have even described the Nobel Laureate as the most significant literary artist of contemporary Africa.
If members of his cast could cast Soyinka in that superlative frame and paint him in that glossy picture, how else would the ordinary people examine Wole Soyinka other than to regard him, by all human standard, as Africa’s biggest masquerade and a literary Cappo Di Tutti Capi the captain of captains.
Born in Ake, Abeokuta, Ogun State on July 13, 1934, Soyinka’s interest in arts and literature manifested early when, as a pupil of St Peters School, Ake, Abeokuta, he perfectly acted the role of a magician in a drama presented during one of the school’s prize-giving day ceremonies.
At the then University College, Ibadan where he studied English, History and Greek, Soyinka demonstrated his versatility in all the three genres of literature- Poem, Prose and Drama. He had his first poem published in the University Voice, the official newsletter of the students union, while his first short story, Madam Etinne’s Establishment, was published in the Leeds University, United Kingdom Magazine, the Gryphon in 1957.
In 1960, he formed a drama group, The 1960 Masks which acted as a catalyst to Soyinka’s theatre activities. His play, A Dance of the Forests, won the first prize for the independence playwriting contest.
Soyinka’s literary works excite a historical and philosophical sociology. The volume of his creative writings is intimidating such that the job of an all-embracing examination, as Tunde Okoli puts it, is better left in the hands of encyclopedic writers.
Indeed, some of Soyinka’s novels such as Ake: The Years Of Childhood which records his childhood years, The Man Died which provides an insight into his prison experience and The Interpreters which presents a daring mixture of a stream of consciousness and his condensed metaphysical genius bear eloquent testimonies to this assertion.
In the area of arts, Soyinka started experimenting his artistic prowess at age 19 with Camwood on Leaves, a play which serves as the springboard for his literary career and which 31 years later, earned him the Africa’s first Nobel prize for literature and launched him to national and international limelight.
The Lion and The Jewel written in 1963 is another popular and essential play. Having been consistently used in the school curriculum, the book has been a must read for every secondary school student. Others include The Trials of Brother Jero (1994), a light-hearted satire that captures the activities and excess of phoney beach prophets; Madmen and Specialists (1970) which captures and reflects on the horrors of the three-year Nigerian civil war, otherwise known as the Biafran war, Kongi’s Harvest, A Play of Giants and King Baabu which are all reflections of dictatorship in Africa, and by extension, in the world.
In the same vein, Soyinka shows copious mastery of poetry. In this genre of literature, it is difficult to account for the number of poems written by him. The popular ones, however, are Idanre, the first of his poetry collections, Ogun Abibiman, A shuttle in the crypt, Requiem and a host of others.
Soyinka’s sterling profile however, goes beyond the shore of arts and literature. He is also a revolutionary tiger whose poetry, prose, drama and essays serve as medication to a nation suffering from institutional amnesia. As Samuel Ajayi, a journalist put it sometimes ago, Soyinka is a nemesis to dictators in need of physicians to cure them of a positional disease that makes Nigerian leaders forget that there is always a tomorrow.
Therefore, for such a formidable wordsmith, irresistible critic and illustrious son of Nigeria who has continued to use his creative works, intellectual prowess and his pro-democracy activism to serve humanity, transform his society and restore glory to his fatherland, one cannot but salute professor Soyinka who, two days ago, added another feather to his gerontocratic age.
Title: Beyond Expectations
Author: Reward Akwu
Publisher: Ollybell Printing Resources, Port Harcourt
Reviewer: Boye Salau
Whatever instigated Reward Akwu to engage in literary prose writing cannot, with the extreme form of clarity, be dismissed as inconsequential. Like every other journalists, Akwu is one man whose profession and the hurricane of economic survival in Nigeria would hardly permit to venture into a literary expedition.
What then is the driving force? Could it be his personal childhood experience, or the chequered experience of someone dear to him? Certainly, it could not have been his own memorabilia. The author of Beyond Expectation is still one of millions of Nigerians yearning for better life. Otherwise, he would not have remained in the hollow of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation as a Chief Correspondent till now.
Whatever the reasons are, one is not in doubt that the various chequered experiences of life’s discomfiting paradoxes are the afflatus that make the zephr of history a reality.
In a country where many people are not sure of the next meal, Beyond Expectations clearly captures the reality of hailing from poor background.
The book is somewhat nostalgic about the fate of an average Nigerian man in the village and relieves the heart of the common man with the age long cliché: when there is life, there is hope.
The theme of the book can be located in the fortune of many people who rose from the creek and bottomless pit of life to stardom. The Abiolas, Jonathans, Amaechis fall in this category.
Written in simple narrative form with sublime simplicity, devoid of nebulous words and oratorical fancy, the 136 page novel thematises the pains and hopelessness of a brilliant secondary school boy whose intoxicating puissance and gluttonous appetite for sexual love with his classmate and child of an unforgiving gladiator with huge lubris, became his albatross. It is equivalent of the story of Adam who was sent out of the Garden of Eden for his inability to resist the apple in Eve.
How Chinedu came out of his quandary is what readers of Beyond Expectations should find out themselves.
As expected of a book that has its anthropology in local setting, communal love, family and filial affection are persuasive in this literary enterprise. The author proves that in a society where family bond is in short supply and where the only thing the rich harbours for the poor is hatred, the milk of kindness still flows in some peoples’ vein.
At the same time, the book inveighs the age – long conundrum of ersatz social class and unintentionally illustrates the yawning hiatus that exists between the Teflon rulers and the hoipolloi.
Akwu’s good understanding of the village life and his ability to capture the life and time of the ordinary people in graphic details further enriches the delivery of the book. Though sometimes too elaborate in details, the author succeeds in sending his message to the readers by employing simple diction and local parlance where necessary.
Unlike many books that are often built on hyperbole and far-fetched imagery, Beyond Expectations is convincingly obsessed with imageries that are deeply affecting and the realities of life that are both alluring and perplexing. By my assessment, the book is a fascinating nugget that addresses itself to all classes, age and gender.
Very well as the author tries to make the book flow from page to page, the book could not resist the temptation of unnecessary details, repetition and avoidable typographical errors.
Again, the book is most deficient, or better still not sufficient in suspense. A better application of literary suspense with regards to what befall Chinedu at last would have made the book more intriguing and interesting.
These few ‘slips of the pen’ can, however, be excused being Reward’s first literary expedition in the world of literature.
Without obsessive sense of sheer criticism, Beyond Expectations lives up to its name. It is sufficient for what it is meant to achieve, namely to fortify the forlorn hope, to encourage the poor not to be deterred by their poor background, while at the same time reminding the rich that no condition is permanent in life.
And until one reads the book from page to page, and from chapter to chapter, one may not be able to appreciate well the intrigue and metaphor of this heart-throbbing reality woven as fiction.
The Uncommon Truth
Contrary to what you think or what you have been told, you are wiser, better and smarter than what you think you are. You are more powerful than you may ever imagine. Inside you dwells the very power, wisdom or intelligence that controls this very world. Thus, the answer to all your problems and challenges is, and always will be within you. It’s in you! In reality, you can never be helpless in this world, and the reason is very simple: “The help is in you, the only true and lasting help.”
We live in a world where people offer us advice, even before we ask for it. There is nothing wrong with that, but the only problem is that most people are failures, and without direction. They are still trying to figure out how to get their own lives together. How can they tell you how to fish when they don’t even know the path to the river? What does that tell you? Be careful whose advice you act upon. The good news, though, is that all the wisdom and direction you need in life is within you. Success, greatness, wealth and happiness are not found outside you, they are resident in you. The day you become conscious of that truth will mark the beginning of your freedom, for then you will be free from the manipulation of others. Therefore, I wish that you may come to that point in your life where you know beyond doubt that your wealth and riches are not in the hands of any person, company or organisation, but in you. When that consciousness is established in you, then shall you come to terms with this powerful truth: “There is no future in any job, the future is in you; there is no future in any country, the future lies in you” That which you seek “without,” can only be found “within.”
The only secret capable of freeing you from the manipulation of others, and the frustration caused by adverse circumstances lies within you.
You were created to be self-reliant, and to decide your own destiny. Embrace that truth. Never let anyone control or manipulate your destiny. You must believe in yourself, trust yourself, think for yourself and act for yourself. Remember, no one can ever let you down or frustrate you if you are not leaning on them. No one can control your life selfishly if you are not seeking for their approval, and you are not intimidated by their disapproval. And no one can hurt your feeling, make you feel angry or disappointed if you are not depending on them for your help, success and satisfaction.
Self-reliance is a necessity should you desire to live a happy and successful life. But self-reliance is only possible when you become conscious of the fact that everything you need for your success and happiness is within you.
Nwibeke, an inspirational writer lives in Port Harcourt.
Title: TRAILING NEW TRACKS,
Author: JULIET MINIMAH, PORT HARCOURT:
Publisher: HELPMATE CONSULT LIMITED, 2011.
No of Pages 48pp
Reviewer: TELLE DANDESON AYASUK
AFRICAN CENTRE FOR EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT, PORT HARCOURT
Writing in The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown stated that “men. go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they deserve”. Probably driven by similar opinion, Juliet Minimah has confronted the age-long limitations that generations of potentially great men and women have placed on themselves dying unsung with loads of untapped mental, physical and even spiritual resources. Lots of work has been done in books, journals, documentaries, public lectures, seminars, media events, movies, music, etc to motivate people to achieve by giving expression to their God-given talents and abilities. Yet far too little success has been recorded as many still pine away with inconceivable endowments.
Trailing New Tracks is a motivational piece of work aimed at reawakening millions of people world-wide, who have lost the confidence in brining their natural endowments to fruition. It is a call to action in which the author challenges everyone in this situation to “break new grounds, chart new frontiers and see yourself as a trail blazer”. Juliet Minimah sees this as one certain way to address “the various social, economic and political ills that confront the world today”.
In Trailing New Tracks, the author explores the theme of Regeneration and Attainment Through Conscious Effort. She sees hope in a world hampered by crises of all kinds, shapes and magnitudes. She attempts to re-engineer attitude through uprightness, conscious effort and the exercise of self-will. In her views, “the adversities of life teach us more lessons than the prosperities of life”.
Minimah attempts, in this work, to communicate with her audience through an elevated art form. The sub genre of philosophy is by no means the easiest way to communicate any message. Credit must be given to this author for her boldness, audacity and fearlessness.
The author employs simple, persuasive and concise language to motivate with ease. She uses the first-person point of view to break down barriers between her and her audience. Mention must be made of the rich use of biblical allusion.
Minimah obviously writes to a youthful audience but recommends (in chapter 7) the same sense of activity and attainment to every age. Also, she writes to a universal audience.
Trailing New Tracks is a motivational piece of art written in a forty-eight page volume in which the author attempts to inspire action towards achievement in a world where confidence and determination are almost completely eroded. The work may be divided into three main parts.
Chapters 1 to 5 persuade the reader to develop a good mind-set devoid of greed and selfishness. The fifth chapter attempts to inspire confidence.
The next two chapters inspire the reader to dream big and be visionary. They emphasize the importance of good company in the realization of good dreams and visions.
In the last twelve chapters, the author canvasses action through uprightness and focus. She warns against the evil of procrastination and fear. She urges the reader to set a pattern for himself and society, take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves and get some extra knowledge and information. She charges the reader to rise above limitations, find hope and the will to achieve and be a problem-solver, a Trail Blazer.
Like every other work of art, there are a few weaknesses which this reviewer must not fail to point out in this work. For space and time, we shall take just three of them.
For a philosophical work, Trailing New Tracks is rather too small in volume and lacks the depth to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other philosophical works in world -class libraries in Nigeria and universally.
It is the view of this reviewer that the author should have localized her audience and injected aspects of our cultural, social and philosophical ethos which would have made this work more relevant to the African, or indeed, Nigerian reader.
This reviewer also identifies a few grammatical and semantic inconsistencies which could be attributed to the now-popular (printer’s devil.” Particularly, the expression: “Trail New Blaze” (in the introduction) should actually read “Blaze New Trail(s)” (brackets mine) as obtained in the first paragraph of chapter 18.
Juliet Minimah’s Trailing New Tracks is without doubt a great attempt by a young African woman at reaching out to young people and even the older ones to dig deep into their mind and realize the potential hidden there. She challenges them using achievers like Barrack Obama of the United States of America, the first black president of the world’s most powerful nation, and even our own Pat Utomi, who became Presidential Adviser at twenty -seven years of age, to inspire this and other generations to rise to their talents and make new and amazing contributions to their society.
To the extent that Minimah has effectively communicated to her audience, inspiring every reader, irrespective of age and class, I consider Trailing New Tracks as a monumental success and recommend it as a must-read for everyone who aspires for unparalleled greatness.
Title: ORDEALS OF A BABY MOTHER
Author: JULIET MINIMAH, PORT HARCOURT:
Publisher: SUNNY ALADE PRINTING PRODUCTION
No of Pages 46pp
Reviewer: THANKGOD EMEKA EGBUCHU (JP)
PRINCIPAL ASSISTANT REGISTRAR,
RIVERS STATE UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE
May I inform the esteem audience here today, that I am here to appraise the monumental work done by Miss Minimah Ishmeal Juliet, titled “Ordeals of A baby Mother”.
As we all are aware and I know that Minimah Ishmeal Juliet hails from the Ancient City of Opobo in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State. Born in the family of Mr. & Mrs. Ishmeal Minimah. Being the first and only female daughter of six children of the parents, graduated from the University of Port Harcourt with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political and Administrative Studies.
As a template to all her growing contemporaries of the female folk in Nigeria, Minimah Juliet, had additional colour on her academic pursuit by possessing a Diploma in law from the Rivers State College of Arts and Science and a proficiency certificate in management from the Nigerian Institute of Management.
Miss Minimah Juliet seem little but mighty and mature intellectually in the field of academic spectrum.
In her book, “Ordeals of a Baby Mother” chapters I to 5 deals with convincing themes, which delved into “Who is a baby mother, Is motherhood a curse, why rejection and ageing forcefully rather than gracefully”, serves as an eye opener which creates awareness needed by mothers and baby mothers across the country over motherhood.
Similarly, chapter six to the last, deals with implications of early motherhood, More advantages for unequal opportunities, Refuse to be a school dropout, Being a baby mother turns you into one true life stories and a word of note, serves to show positive measures a baby mother should take to avoid being victim of the circumstance.
Minimah Ishmeal Juliet was very careful in choosing her words to convey the intended action in the book which all levels of individuals can understand easily to read.
The sequence of the chapters flows naturally to the sense of would-be readers of the book. This has demonstrated maturity of articulation of words by the author.
However, we must expect as a matter of fact that the production of this book may experience minor errors, which she accept entirely all the faults to herself but form the basis for her further encouragement to produce the best in her life.
Lastly, in my opinion, the book, “ORDEALS OF A BABY MOTHER” has served the purpose for what it was addressed.
I strongly recommend the book to all ages of womanhood to read, especially students in secondary schools and higher institutions across the country.
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