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The Path we refused to take continued

I promised to continue from where I left off last week. I am worried enough, concerned for my children and grandchildren to ask this question often. How come we are determined to be illiterates?

Let me share a couple of things here. Ask any Nigerian writer if he dares to live solely by the books he writes and he will look at you askance wondering if you had been out in the sun for too long. I asked Basorun Arogbofa that question years ago and he smiled gently at me. I scratched my head and sighed. I am a dreamer alright. Imagine wanting to live on my writings alone!. Like he said, I probably would be hungry for long periods.

How many best sellers do we have in Nigeria today? Are they celebrated, would a child recognize them? How many genres of writers do we have in the country? Do our publishers know them? Come to think of it, have you ever heard of the government making it easy for publishers printers to get good publishing paper so they can publish good attractive books? My publisher is not Nigerian, my stories are Nigerian stories. I thank him and his team for taking a chance on me and giving me a chance that the Nigerian publisher would not do because I did not have the money or connections, I wanted to be assessed right, get a good editor who will look through what I have written but will have the mentality of a good writer and not necessarily be a teacher of literature. I took my manuscript around for a long time. Yes you know why, the big Nigerian publishers asked me a few questions.
Let me state a few. One of them was if my story was political? Why?, they could be sure if it will raise enough ruckus to get the right kind of people to come to its presentation. They quickly yawned and looked the other way when I said No.

One publisher who really wanted to be helpful asked if I was sure I could get one or two state governments to have the book as a recommended school text. He looked at me hopefully asking me to check with one or two of my friends in government to tweak me as a good writer. Of course that didn’t fly anywhere because I simply didn’t have such friends who could tweak that for me.

We live in a country that simply is not interested in reading for pleasure. The writer is rarely recognized here in Nigeria. I used to be amused when I am introduced as a writer and the person simply pastes a smile, he is totally blank about what I am about. Sometimes though, the person doing the introduction gets a reaction when he /she casually says, ‘Have you ever watched I NEED TO KNOW?’, the person nods enthusiastically recalling favourite episodes, then he/she is told, Biola Olatunde wrote the series did you know that? There is shock, respect and suddenly a warm friendliness. I become amused, bored and wonder to myself. Will l ever get past being recognized as the writer of I NEED TO KNOW? It gets frustrating sometimes you know.

Reading for knowledge of other things not in our specified texts has been one of the paths we have refused to take. I think, we as a people have simply refused to take the path of seeing how reading can widen our knowledge, expands our vision and it is a sad commentary on us as a people.

I deliberately omitted the key word that Basorun put in his book. Properly Basorun stated, Nigeria: The path we refused to take. In the book per se, he talked about the politics, the missteps, restructuring and more. For me it was thus political, and my readers do know what I think of politics and politicians. Sehine Arogbofa is a writer amongst other things and thus I am more interested in the path we have refused to take as a country that do not read except we are sitting for an examination.
What we have refused to recognize however, is that we have taken a road that leads us to an ignorant understanding of the many shades and hues of thoughts that shapes our world and determines our future. So, in the sitting for the examination of life, we have refused to take the path of reading to gain knowledge or understanding of our different thoughts and shades

Until next time.

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THE PATH WE REFUSED TO TAKE

That is the title of a book presented by a literary lion recently in Akure at the Federal university of Technology Akure. The book was written by Basorun Sehinde Arogbofa. A well attended event with first firebrand governor of Osun State Chief Bisi Akande as chairman of the book presentation

No, I am not reviewing the book. It has been reviewed already by a greater personage than me. I am using the title of the book to ask myself and by extension I guess my reader a few questions. You could call this piece a lamentation and musing
Many years ago as a wide eyed secondary school student, my teachers taught me to expand my mind. We were allowed to read books. Good books, interesting books, adventure books. They moulded our minds and fired our imaginations. I cannot list all those books here now. I remember reading Enid Blyton’s FAMOUS FIVE series gave me an adventurous spirit. In a subtle way, I learnt to be very observant of the human nature, it helped me in so many ways. To this day, I panic if I don’t have anything to read. Remember that saying about the idle mind and the devil’s workshop?
Then, the government had this idea to participate in the moulding of our minds, and for some reason, reading took a downward dive, we lost interest in reading to improve our minds but to pass exams and get certificates so we can get jobs. We became educated illiterates. I have been asking that question for years. Maybe I should have titled this piece THE MURDER OF THE REAL NIGERIAN WRITER. For one it will get your attention, but I wonder if it will hold your mind.

Sehinde Arogbofa might not roar enough to make us shiver, because his brand of activism in writing is that of the mouse and the cheese. He eats away at our sleeping conscience asking us with an annoying persistence why the writer must go hungry in our beloved country. This time he tells us about the path we have refused to take. It is the third of his conversation with Nigeria.

I attended his book presentation, watched the quality of people that came and made announcements about so many copies for so much money and I sighed. Knowing the author within the limits of my assessment, I suspected he was more interested in people reading what he had to say in the book.
Later, when we asked him where we were to purchase the books, he gave a wry smile, gave me one of those looks that spoke volumes and in his usual soft voice he asked me what chances the book had of being read. He made a quiet survey of those of us seated and asked the question, ‘do Nigerians read’? The silence that followed was more than an answer
Maybe really, I should have titled the piece, HOW NIGERIAN WRITERS ARE MURDERED by the indifference of its people. I am at a loss to answer, because like Sehinde Arogbofa said, it is not always the money, but the cry deep from the heart that we may hear a response. I see a picture of a blind plodding mass determined to make money and reading only money.
The Path Nigeria refused to take could easily be changed to The books Nigerians refused to read. Remember we were told, that knowledge broadens the mind, how do we broaden a mind that reads only texts, lives 24/7 on the social media, and has very little knowledge of the world around him, even his neighbours next door? Unless of course it would bring him filthy lucre?
I am a writer and watching the presentation of the book only increased my despair about the fate of the Nigerian writer.
To be continued