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‘Igho Goes to Farm is love letter to my childhood’

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Ajeluorou presents a copy of his book to Soyinka

The Guardian’s head of politics, Mr. Anote Ajeluorou, told the 85 student-guests of Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and other dignitaries that his debut children’s fictional storybook, Igho Goes to Farm, is a love letter to his childhood.

The event held in Lagos and Abeokuta on July 12 and 14 as part of OpenDoorSeries/Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE 2019) programmes to celebrate the venerable writer’s 85th birthday.

Ajeluorou told the youngsters last Friday at Freedom Park at a symposium exploring the ‘Rights, Honour, Respect, patriotism, Tolerance, and Humanism’ of Soyinka that Igho Goes to Farm is a love letter he wrote to his childhood as a way of reconnecting with his younger days in the small Delta State community called Ibedeni where the story is largely set and where the author also grew up.

He said childhood is the best years of any human being and how he or she is nurtured during those early years is key for the individual’s later years as an adult, noting that parents must take care how they bring up their children. Ajeluorou said storytelling was a significant part of his childhood and Igho Goes to Farm is a result of that shared experience, especially the folktale Igho’s grandma shared with him and his cousin, Onome.

He further told the students that the title of the book is modeled after another famous childhood storybook, Eze Goes to School, written in the 1970s by Onuorah Nzekwu and Michael Crowder as a way of referencing an older literary work for youngsters. The idea, according to him, is to also draw attention to the older work (Eze Goes to School) as a complimentary reading material for young readers. At Ijegba Forest home of the Nobel laureate, where he presented Igho Goes to Farm to the iconic writer, Ajeluorou also admonished the youngsters that they should also read Ake: The Years of Childhood, written by Wole Soyinka. He said while Igho Goes to Farm is a fictional work, Ake is the real childhood story of Soyinka, saying, “If you wish to understand his (Soyinka’s) background, his parents, his upbringing and formative years, you should look for Ake and read it!”

A special reprint edition of Igho Goes to Farm, facilitated by WSICE, was distributed to students from across the country who had gathered in a festive spirit to celebrate Kongi (Soyinka) at his birthday. The four-day programme is a yearly feast that celebrates Soyinka’s ideal. Eighty-five secondary students who excelled in an essay competition gathered in Lagos, Abeokuta, and Akure to felicitate with the literary icon in a number of dazzling cultural programmes that immersed them on the life of Soyinka that span writing, teaching, performance, politics, and activism.

The 85 finalists were hosted by Professor Soyinka at his Ijegba Forest home in Abeokuta, where they engaged him in conversation, and drew from his fountain of wisdom and knowledge, with the winners receiving their awards from him. Also, a presentation of WSICE@10 books: Memo to our Future was made by former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo.

Earlier, Ajeluorou had expressed delight at his participation at the cultural feast to celebrate a longstanding mentor and present his book to youngsters for whom his book specially designed.

He also expressed gratitude to the entire Zmirage Multimedia Ltd crew, particularly its CEO, Alhaji Teju Kareem, and programme consultant and fAnikulapo, for the collaboration and opportunity to speak on writing and why his book is an important companion to the youngsters who easily get distracted in an age of social media.

“OpenDoorSeries/WSICE is a huge platform to present an important small book like Igho Goes to Farm,” Ajeluorou had said. “The young ones are very impressionable and they need to be guided so they don’t stumble. Igho Goes to Farm speaks to their concerns and how to help them navigate some of the modern distractions that can derail them from getting the best from their educational quest, particularly smart phones and social media.

“The book also addresses Nigerian adults on being patriotic. Why have Nigerians failed to develop the country’s tourism potential? Why do Nigerians always travel abroad for holidays? Why don’t they patronise local goods and products? Why spend scarce resources on foreign products and goods? These are some of the concerns Igho Goes to Farm tries to address in a subtle way as the youngster lead character is shipped off to the village to spend his long holiday because he fails to perform well in his schoolwork while his siblings go to Disneyland in America.”

Drama performances were among the exciting programmes the 85 students participated in during WSICE 2019.


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