I swaggered into the hall, bright eyed and eager for the commencement of the third day of the Joyous Innovations Sixty-Seven Book Fair to commence. The hostess, Dr. Oladeji Adenike swiftly took the opening prayers, as the scheduled time for commencement of the program had passed by some minutes. Soft music filtered briefly from the speakers before the next point of call for the program. There was a continuation of the book reading of the novel ‘Acres of Diamonds’. Okeowo Pelumi represented Oroki Middle School and did quite well with fluency of reading and pronunciation. Other schools present were Deeper Life High School and Laro Government Middle School. Selected judges corrected the representatives of all three schools on the need to further improve on their pronunciation, but the general verdict was one of commendation for the readers.
There’s something about testimonies that gladden the heart. Maybe it’s the resilience that it showcases, or maybe it’s the general feel-good factor it brings, you know, facing a seemingly insurmountable problem, and then, somehow, finding a way to scale it. This was the case for Mr. Owolabi Oluwatobi Hassan, fondly known by his peers as Tobest. As he walked toward the podium, one could see the self-assurance he possessed. I was intrigued, and listened with rapt attention as he picked up the microphone and started speaking.
According to him, he was born into a family of a man who had four wives and a whooping twenty-one children, of which he was a modest number twenty. He narrated about how tough life was growing up, and all that came to a head when he couldn’t cope in school and consequently became a secondary school dropout. Be that as it may, he wasn’t deterred in his pursuit of greatness and he continued persevering and trying to make a way for himself. Commendable doggedness. He decided to pick up a skill, and barbing was the one he chose. And finally, luck smiled on him, as he met the co-facilitator of Joyous Innovations Sixty-Seven, Engr. Oriyomi Oladeji. They got talking one day when Engr. Oladeji went to cut his hair at Mr. Owolabi’s shop, and he was encouraged to go back to school. Nowadays, the same Tobi Hassan that dropped out of secondary school is now a finalist at the National Open University of Nigeria. At this point, the hostess quickly announced about the skill acquisition arm of Joyous Innovations Sixty-Seven. Mr. Owolabi, or Tobest, was clapped off the podium and several looks of admiration were sent his way for his determination and never-give-up attitude.
After the emotionally uplifting talk, a certain Jide Badmus mounted the podium. An engineer by trade and a poet by design, he talked about his passion for poetry, and the predictable questions he usually got as to what an engineer was doing writing poems. He advised the audience to always read, no matter what field they were in. Sound advice if you ask me. He also talked about his latest poetry collection titled ‘Scripture’. The collection was rooted firmly in the belief that understanding self was key to understanding God. He spoke with an innate sort of grace that seemed to hold one spellbound.
Anyone ever heard of Heart Rose novel series? Yeah? If you haven’t, you’ve been dulling yourself, I kid you not. A certain Esther Adekoya writes the novels, and they are simply wonderful to read, especially since they grip one’s emotions and never let go till the last page. You really need to get one and read. Seriously.
The book fair was lucky to host the wonderful author behind the stories, Esther Adekoya, ably represented by the beautiful Miriam Oyeniyi. She gave a brief exposition on Heart Rose Series titles like Fragrance of Roses, Isabella’s Testimony (another testimony. See?), Strange Affection, etc. She also spoke on the need to have more people reading, as reading sharpened the mind and exercised one’s brain ‘muscles’.
After the exposition, pictures were taken and several wonderful smiles were captured by the lens of the camera, to be preserved forever in print. Pictures don’t change, the people inside of them do, and a couple of years down the line when the participants of the book fair flipped back the years with the pictures they took, they can be grateful that they attended such an impactful event and see how far they’ve come.
She carried herself with a sense of grace and elegance that would have a ballerina red with jealousy. She spoke with fluent ease, pausing when she felt the need to and gesticulating to drive home her point. Which was actually good, as she made a lot of them. I can see the wheels turning in your head as you wonder just who it is I’m talking, er, sorry, writing about. Well, she’s Mrs. Dennis Elsie. She gave a presentation on the topic ‘Why do we read?’
She spoke on the importance of books and how much we needed them, both to gain knowledge and for pure reading pleasure. She recounted a tale from her childhood, one in which she stole her dad’s book to read. That was how much she desired to read and gain knowledge, even as a young girl. She stated decisively that ‘to read is to lead’, and though I’ve heard that said severally, I was inclined to take it seriously this time, simply because of the sheer force of the conviction with which she spoke. Yes, she was that good.
So many have lost the knowledge of their mother tongue, and according to Papa Akinlade Aderemi, it was simply tragic. He spoke with the wisdom and sheer experience of a man who had seen a lot. He spoke on the need to retain the knowledge of our mother tongue, noting that countries like China; their mother tongue was still their primary means of communication.
When the hostess announced that it was time for the closing prayer, I groaned a bit. I’d grown used to attending the fair and being amongst like-minded people, and I was going to miss that. But I left with a consolation that had gained a lot from the fair.
Joyous Innovations Sixty-Seven Book Fair 2019 was well and truly wonderful. We look forward to 2020, by God’s grace.