By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
With a vast number of African octogenarians regarded as repositories of the African cultures, history and values, the challenge has been how to extract or ‘download’ and document the wealth of their experiences and knowledge before they passed on.
The reason for that challenge is that many of those culture-loaded octogenarians are not literate, and those who could read and write lack the required discipline and skill to document for us and for posterity the ‘goods’ they carry within.
Fortunately for us that challenge does not exist in the case of the octogenarian, Olola Olabode Ogunlana. He has by himself, ‘downloaded’ and documented for us the wealth of experiences he carries and by that has granted us access to the treasures which lie within him.
Recently, friends, family and business associates of Olola Olabode Ogunlana gathered at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, for the formal presentation and launch of the book, Out of the black pot & The selected tales authored by Olola Olabode Ogunlana.
Making his speech at the event, the author said: “Considering the nature and significance of the two books to be presented and formally launched today, it is particularly gratifying that the occasion is graced by her natural rulers, the custodians of Yoruba culture, to which enough attention had not been given in recent years… I am guided by a nursery rhyme I learnt in 1938 at St. Paul’s Breadfruits Primary School, Lagos which made a deep impression on me. It runs thus:
Good, better, best.
May I never rest
Until my good is better
And my better is best
Olabode Ogunlana said it was upon the principle embedded in the above rhyme that inspired him to build the SCIB Insurance. He said he grew up in the midst of Moslems and Christians who lived harmoniously and were helpful to one another.
“In retrospect, I think that spirit promoted the wellbeing of all which made possible the emergence of a strong middle class on which Nigeria was built. I have no doubt that the spirit of togetherness was the catalyst. This goes to show that religion, an important part of culture, is the mainstay of society.
Ogunlana in his speech made forays into the degenerated music culture of contemporary Nigeria. “The advent of party politics in the mid 1950s bequeathed Nigeria with different types of music. The initial melodious harmony followed by loud drumbeat was later escalated to the cacophony of the present day of which many Nigerians are unwilling and unable to dance.
This led to a situation in which Nigerians are no longer their brothers keepers; where the spirit of cooperation has gone askew; where only a privileged few are able to take and grasp all they desire without let or hindrance, rather than to give and nurture…to the advantage of the vast majority.”
These, the author said, led to the destruction of the middle class. The life of togetherness was destroyed and everything degenerated into a state of decadence. With all these, he said, a totally disillusioned octogenarian like him went back into memory lane recalling two icons of the Christian religion: Prophet Josiah Ositelu, Primate and founder of the Church of the Lord, Aladura worldwide; and the Right Reverend Runsewe Kale, one time Principal of CMS Grammar school, Lagos and later the Anglican Bishop of Lagos.
“May the Almighty Father in His mercy, give Nigeria many more such spiritual giants to assist in turning this nation around for the better. I am almost certain that these two icons of the church will be turning in their graves to see what Nigeria of 1938 has metamorphosed into in the year 2018. In the course of my ruminations over the issues now confronting Nigeria, I recall what the writer, Spinoza said and I quote him:
For myself, I am certain that the good of human life cannot lie in the possession of things which one man to possess is for the rest to lose, but rather, a thing which all can possess alike, and where one man’s wealth promotes his neighbor’s .
“This is the mindset Nigeria urgently needs to address the backsliding which led to the godlessness of today,” Ogunlana continued. “Hence I decided to put pen to paper. The result is two books: Out of the black pot and Selected Tales. The former is a study of comparative religion. The later dwells on Yoruba culture and language. The two books in-between them are wakeup calls to arouse us as individuals and as a nation from our deep slumber.”
He quoted a poem on page 75 of Out of the black pot which also appeared on page 313 of The selected Tales:
We came into the world with nothing
We shall leave it with nothing
Let’s try to keep the world unspoiled
Use it with others in love and unity
Pass it to other not only good but better…
The poem, he said, is a submission of the theme of the two books.
The books were reviewed by Professor Afolabi Olumide and Professor Olukunle Iyanda. Chief Ajibola Ogunshola and the royal fathers unveiled the books while Sir Remi Omotoso presented and coordinated the launch. Mr. Fola Adeola and High Chief Akin Disu launched Out of the black pot while Mr. Oye Hassan-Odukale and Mr. Sola Tinubu launched The Selected Tales. The musical performance and entertainment was supplied live by Chief Muraina Oyelami interwoven with traditional the ‘ewi’ poetry and modern spoken word poetry.
Olola Olabode Ogunlana was born on June 29, 1932 in Ogere – Remo, Ogun State. He attended the Methodist Boy’s High School, Lagos; Marylebone College of Commerce, London; and The Chartered Insurance Institute of London. He also studied at Henley Management College and obtained MBA from Brunel University. After his retirement, he studied at the University of Buckingham, from where he obtained a B.A. Hons and M.A. English Literature. He was a founding member of the Insurance Institute of Nigeria and one time President. He later served as the first Nigerian Managing Director of National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON).