Bayo Adeola gives emphasis to value of family history in ‘The Life and Times of Imran’
A true tool for memory preservation, family memoir is a form of writing that is underdeveloped in our region of the world. Beyond the maternal and paternal grandparents, most people hardly know who their great-grandpa and grandma were.
It is wilful at times. Other times, it’s because there aren’t any family records and the conversation only involves grandpa and grandma.
However, a family memoir like The Life and Times of Imran: A Family in a Nation’s History by Bayo Adeola accomplishes much more. The purpose of it is to keep a generational tree that goes beyond the grandparents.
Driven by the need to preserve an age-old family history, Adeola underscores the importance of documentation in this publication by Lagos-based Quramo Publishing Ltd.
By preserving a family tree that spans centuries and, in the process, tracing the socio-political, cultural, religious, and economic indices that shaped this illustrious family and its interconnectedness to the larger society into which it was born, Adeola’s The Life and Times of Imran — which is actually the history of a family in the history of a nation — amazingly accomplishes what must be considered a first in the field of historical fiction.
And it is for this reason that the Nigerian-born author has called on local writers to document the country’s history so as to preserve its values for national development.
Adeola, who made the call at the launch of the indelibly rich tome, said it was important to document Nigeria’s history so as to understand current problems and proffer effective solutions.
“I’m documenting what happened so that when you want to solve the current problems, you don’t repeat something that somebody has tried and didn’t work. You don’t premise it on wrong assumptions,” he said.
The Life and Times of Imran follows the life account of Murana ‘Imran’ Adeola from childhood, through adulthood, to death. Interspersed in Yoruba history, especially those of the Egba people, the biography also talks about the richness of the Nigerian culture as mirrored by the interwoven history of the Egbas in Abeokuta, Lagos, and Ibadan.
“I want to tell them their family story. But we then found that it will tell them much more than their families. We could tell them the history of their people and we could also tell them the history of the nation,” Adeola said at the book launch.
Beginning with what almost feels like a fictional dialogue between a son and his grandmother, this 618-page tome soon takes a diversion to a family narrative. The dramatic opening of a son threatening to leave home on account of an impending imposition of two wives on his young shoulder when he could barely take care of himself with his meagre earning is aptly entertaining.
Ironically, what the young Adisa Olatunbosun Sanusi Adeola, simply known as Imran, threatens to leave home for – being saddled with two wives – would eventually be what he eagerly embraces as the years wear on.
Indeed, a man born in 1917, who also had elementary school education at Holy Trinity Primary School, Ikereku, Abeokuta, who was among the earliest to be employed in a multinational firm like John Holt and later became a banker, despite being withdrawn from attending Methodist Boys High School, Lagos, just before settling into school, lived through the upheavals of World War II and then to Nigeria’s colonial experience, to independence and lived to be almost 90 years before his passing in 2006, surely has something unique to offer and a proper subject fit for memorialisation and investigation.
Adeola creates and resolves all of the aforementioned in his epic narrative, as he backgrounds the life of his illustrious father with apt historical events even though Imran did not specifically take part in them.
Beyond documenting the family history for posterity, Adeola, in telling the story of Imran, also mirrored the clash of culture; first, between Western and African culture, and then between Imran and his generation.
“In Nigeria, we don’t even know our history. So we are really struggling not to talk about overclocking, we haven’t even explored it at all. I think we need to teach people. That is if you don’t know where you’re coming from, you’re not likely to know what direction you should be facing,” Adeola said in reference to the documentation of family history, especially among Africans, Nigerians in particular.
History, as a subject, was shockingly removed from the Nigerian school curriculum some years ago before its recent reintroduction by the Ministry of Education, even though this directive has not been fully inculcated in some states.
Commenting on the removal of history from the Nigerian school curriculum, Adeola argues that teaching the subject requires writing it first.
“To teach history, you must first, of all, write the history. If you decide that you want to teach history tomorrow, which book will you read? Where will you find it? So, in the whole spectrum of writing history, and teaching history, I have stayed at the writing-the-history end. So, I will write it whether you teach it or not, will be a policy decision. But the day you decide to teach it you will find somewhere where you will find it because if nobody writes it, the day you decide to teach it you will not have it.
“So, those who have the skill, and the responsibility to write, should write it, whether they are teaching it or not.”
In linking ‘The Life and Times of Imran’ to current challenges, Adeola said people needed to understand their history in making informed decisions about their future. Hence, he did not attempt to solve contemporary problems; rather he told the story of how Imran responded to issues relating to socio-cultural challenges. “To understand current problems, you need to know what happened,” he said.
Speaking about the generation shift as portrayed in the book, Adeola said it was not unusual for parents to choose wives for their son; something that would be unusual in today’s world. According to him, the best any parent could do now is to suggest a spouse for their children, while the choice of getting married would be taken by the children. “But my own position is that one system is not better than the other,” he said.