Saturday, 21 November 2009

Books can indeed make you rich... say panelists at Lagos Book & Art Festival’s colloquium

By Anote Ajeluorou
THE Lagos Book and Art Festival ran on a bright note at the open courtyard of the Aina Onabolu Building, National Gallery Art (NGA), National Theatre annex between November 13 and 15, 2009.
Organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), the book and art festival presented opportunity for motivational speakers to tackle the nagging issue of whether reading a book could really make anybody rich.
Ogbo Awoke Ogbo, a motivational speaker and author of Financial Freedom argued rather convincingly that books could make anyone “wealthy as they give you access and open doors for you to be wealthy”.
Ogbo, who left a lucrative career a at teh Shell company to take up writing and public speaking, pointed out that financial freedom did not necessarily mean just having loads of money. He said such primitive accumulation could actually be a problem if it did not give fulfillment or enable you live your God-given life.
“An understanding of what you are here on earth to do is what gives you true financial freedom,” he said.
Ibadan-based publisher and writer, Mr. Modupe Oduyoye, remarked that the discussion on wealth had been broadened to greatness. He asserted that a person needed to have made money before showing people what wealth really is; otherwise it would sound like sour grapes for him to pontificate. He said the books being discussed were “telling young Nigerians how to make money, to get above the minimum level of poverty and begging friends and family for money”.
Mr. Bayo Akinpelu, who had been manager with Chevron spoke about the immense opportunities youths could access if they were to read a book like The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, an American writer. Akinpelu emphasised the beauty of the internet and how the book simplified its potentials, which anyone from any part of the world could apply to improve his life and create wealth in his or her community. He, however, bemoaned the infrastructural decay in Nigeria as a disincentive to anyone willing to apply ideas in the web.
“But where is the infrastructural backbone for our youth?” he asked. “How can our youth tap into such opportunities? Our environment must play its role. You only need your imagination to be able to make fortunes from the web.”
“Poverty is an effect,” Akinpelu declared. “What is the cause of poverty? People are still fixated on the environment, the constraints. We can determine the effect by working on the cause. True, we have an environment issue to deal with but we must rise above it. The problem is not the environment but us; there is also the faulty belief system plaguing many people. We must work on the cause to produce the kind of effect we want.”
The managing director of Cashcow Microfinace bank, Pastor Wale Adeduro said he wrote his book Billionaires Go to School because he “believes everybody was created a billionaire; it was why God created man and charged him to have dominion over everything on the earth and to fill it”. He pointed out that he considered Onyeka Nwelue, a young author of The Abyssinian Boy (Dada Books) at 21 and student of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka as “a wealthy man for writing the book and for discovering himself, for finding his vision and mission in life” and going ahead to act on it.
Adeduro said money is a reward for the value you give. So, it depends on how you structure your life. “Reading is important but you must learn to apply it.”
In the words of Dagga Tola, poet, activist and Lagos ANA chairman, “Reading a nation of poverty shouldn’t just be an individual thing but that of a collective one else let’s do away with society, with our government.”

...And decoding city of Lagos

A DISCUSSION on the city of Lagos and how it has impacted on the works of certain creative writers, also held in the course of the three-day book and art feast.
Eghosa Imasuen (To St. Patrick), Odia Ofeimun (The Poet Lied and Lagos of the Poets), and Teju Cole (Everyday for the Thief) were the authors lined up for the conversation.
Many expected the dialogue to dwell on how the city has influenced the writers’ creative endeavours. Instead, Lagos as a city (or the cityness of Lagos) and how it has fed on the rustic imagination of the newcomer from the hinterland was what came through. It was from this awesome nature of the city, the spectre of the city too big to grasp, that many of the writers found their imagination.
Eghosa and Igoni Barrett (From Caves of Rotten Teeth), for instance, ran back from Lagos after their first encounter with the monstrosity that the city offered them. It was after this initial shock that they sat back to create images of the city that never sleeps. While Barrett created a dark canvass of the city (the familiarity of which can be seen from newspaper headlines daily), Eghosa embarked on an unusual journey of dreaming into being a utopian city that might have been or could still be if only we are ready to trade off what we now know of Lagos or Nigeria.
For Ofeimun, who decided to be a poet from start, the city of Lagos “is a city unkind to things of the mind” but added that any writer worth his salt “can create for himself a place where he can colonise”. And, indeed, writers have fairly been colonising the city in their writings, offering a slice of the city’s socio-cultural landscape to their readers.
“As a young poet, I wanted to affect the way I see the world through the symbols writers use,” Ofeimun said. “The Literature about cities is very dynamic. If there were no cities, the written word would not have found centrality in the world. The same moulds that constitute a city make the work of Literature, whether drama or poem. In the village everybody knows everybody; it has its own ethics. In the city, it’s a different morality and law, different people. Lagos is a busybody city based on the morality courtiers.
“But we no longer have city dreamers like Lagos was before because of visionless politicians, who destroyed the foundational fabric. We used to have a train running from Apapa to Ikeja and back taking raw materials and finished goods back and forth. I read on a train, sitting by a window, to obtain my early certificate.
“Writers need to dream their cities of the imagination into being. The writer as a dreamer cannot afford to sit-done-look otherwise he joins the side of the politicians in destroying the city. Imasuen is the only one telling us about the city of the imagination, for redefining the city. Yes, Literature makes things happen. If we throw our dream city in the face of the people in such a way that the city builders can’t look away from it, we will get the kind of city we want.”
New York based Nigerian writer, Cole said his novella Everyday for the Thief was a Lagos book. He admitted that he was a writer of the city as his next novel was about New York City, where he resides. He said a city was “a place where people from different places encounter each other, sometimes violently. A book is an archive of sensation. Some see my book as my journal of Lagos but it isn’t. It’s a fictional account although intentionally narrow, an aspect of the Lagos story I felt wasn’t being told. Nothing ever represents the totality of the whole”.
Cole stated that several people, especially foreigners see his book as a negative view of Lagos. For them, he has very little to say. He acknowledged that Lagosians have, however, received it warmly as they related well to the incidents created in it. For such readers, Cole said, the book created particular sets of responses. “Nigerians are tickled by it,” he said.

...Something for the young ones and everybody

The Festival also has a robust programme for children in the Green Festival, which for three days attracted well over 2000 children from about 10 scholls from all over Lagos. they had opportunity to participate in reading sessions, book discussions, craft making as well as interracted with notable authors and mentors such as the TV personalisty, Eugenia Abu, who flew in from Abuja; Eghosa Imasuen from Nsukka; Jumoke Verissimo and others.
There was also book and art displays including the four-man show, Closures and Enclosures -- a conceptual art display.

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