By Japhet Alakam
In what appeared to be a drift from the old order of celebrating people only when they are dead, the gathering of who is who in the art and culture industry and the lots of striking testimonials from culture workers about Toyin Akinoshoâ€™s love and passions for culture and culture promotion spoke volumes of the level of satisfying services that he has rendered to the culture clime.
The occasion was one of the programmes of eventÂ marking the 50th birthday anniversary of Arts activist, scientist, journalist , culture advocate, Secretary of Committee of Relevant Arts,CORA, the convener of the quarterly Art Stampede, Mr. Toyin Akinosho whose birthday comes up this month.
Following the attainment of this golden moment, the art community which was thrilled by Akinoshoâ€™s wonderful contributions to the development of art in the country in the last two decades decided to roll out drums, last week atÂ Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos to etch in the communal consciousness the undeniable contributions of this cultural iconoclast.
The well attended event brought together members of the literary community, captains of industry, culture advocates, friends and colleagues of this art ambassador.
Among notable personalities at the event were art patron and print maker, Dr Bruce Onabrakpeya, Eddie Aderinokun, AGAN President, Chief Frank Okonta, Tunde Kelani, Odia Ofeimun, Ben Tomoloju, Mobolaji Adenubi, Joke Jacobs, ArnoldÂ Â and Pemela Udoka and Femi Ogunronbi among others
The unique event which was moderated by Rap artist, Rop Ewenla kicked off some hours behind schedule with a poetry performance titled, Tortoise by the duo of Akem Lasisi and Edaoto. The duo of performers in their own special way of poetic renderingÂ introduced another dimension of poetry reading and appreciation to the audience.
The occasionÂ was unique in many senses in thatÂ Mr Toyin Akinosho a regular late comer to events was at the venue hours before the kick-off time and also for the other reason that the occasion made a historic record by becoming the first of its kind of birthday celebrations, wherebyÂ the birthday cake was cut few days before the actual date of celebration.
Toyin was joined in the cutting of the cake by elder art patrons and culture enthusiasts includingÂ Bruce Onobrakpeya, Frank Okonta, Joke Jacobs and Tunde Kelani among others. Thereafter, the business of the day took off with four individuals who had known the celebrant talking about him from different angles.
From the CORA quarter, the first President of CORA, Yomi Layinka recounted how he met Toyin at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and how he mistook him and his activities as a non serious fellow.
According to Layinka, he had to swallow his own ignorance, when Akinosho on relocating to Lagos continued to engage his activities with more and more deeply felt interest and commitments.
But unknowingly when he read articles written by one Akinosho in the Democrat he fell in love with it and when he joined, The Guardian he still followed him, but never knew he was that same man he avoided until Toyin was introduced to him and he came to understand why he was always hanging around cultural events.
Finally, he told the audience how Toyin came to him and told him of the need to form an arts advocacy and he conceded not knowing that Toyin had prepared everything and that was how the first meeting was held in front of his motherâ€™s house at Festac in 1991 and CORA was formed. For notable film maker, Tunde Kelani ,who described Toyin as a special breed, he also reminisced about how he used to hang around during the CORA meeting because of the palm wine that is served after the meetings.
He however confessed that he was surprised at Akinoshoâ€™s boldness energy and devotion to the cause of whatever he believes inÂ arts or other cultural advocacies. According to Kelani â€œ I have always associated him with arts and journalism. I â€˜ve listened to his discussions and analysis, and he puts much intellectual bent to his arguments.â€
He also recounted how he partnered with CORA on an open film project and how he gained a lot from that experience. He concluded by saying that Toyin is a special breed and somebody that puts all to whatever he does and prayed that Providence provides more of him for humanity.
Biola Oni, a staff of multinational Oil Company, where Akinosho worked for over two decades before retiring to what he loves most- Arts said that;â€ Toyin is a gentleman, a wonderful person and a phenomenon who touched people in many ways.â€ According to him, Toyin was an asset for Chevron; and during his services to the company, he inspired and mentored many people.
Describing him as a tireless energy that contributed immensely to the growth of Chevron, he however revealed that Akinoshoâ€™s early retirement was a big loss to the company. According Oni,â€Â because of Akinoshoâ€™s passionÂ for art every resources he gets he channelsÂ toÂ arts.â€
He therefore challenged Toyin to publish his own book as he has been reading that of others for long. For Seyi Fadahunsi, another close friend and school mate, Toyin is a special person, very selfless, a poor rich man and though, a Geo- scientist, he represents some of the few peoples that bridged the gap between the art and science.
After all these Mr Akinisho was invited to respond to the remarks, in his usual way instead of making a response, rather opened a book in his hand and read an excerpts from Tricia Nwaubaniâ€™s latest book, I do not come to you by chance and advised all to read the book and know what it is all about.
In the discussion session that followed, four panelists-author and social critic Mr Odia Ofeimun, Journalist and film maker Ben Tomoloju, Mrs Omolara Woods of The Next and Chuka Nnabuife, Art Editor of Compass Newspaper deliberated on the theme, Art Journalism and Art Advocacy in the Last Two Decades in Nigeria.
Mr Layiwola Adeniji a former journalist and now a staff of Chevron moderated the session. In the discussion, they deliberated on several efforts put in place to make sure that arts and culture do not die in the country. They also suggested possible ways by which the business of arts can grow.