By Sam Akpe
He is my neighbour. We visit each other quite often. But I have done more of the visit than him. I still recall the day I had the first telephone call from him. I was out of the city. He told me he was calling from the front of my apartment. After he mentioned his name, I froze in awe of being visited by him.
At that time, he had just moved into the building next to mine. He told me with laughter that henceforth, we were neighbours and that I wouldn’t succeed in running too far from him. His name is Nnyaknnoabasi Osso, the man who brought the first Presidential Library to Africa. Today is his birthday.
Nnyaknnoabasi has a reputation that is taller than his person. I didn’t say he is a short man. It’s just that dynamites, as the saying goes, usually come in small packs. His fame was designed on his birthday in 1971 when he got initiated into the library, knowledge and information management profession. That was the day he got a job as a kid library assistant at the University of Ibadan.
His story would have ended in that library if after his studies in the same institution, he did not meet Professor Donald Ekong, the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar. Ekong had offered him a job at the university, but God had other plans.
As Nyaknnoabasi reached Calabar the next week, to take up the job offer, he met the legendary Ray Ekpu who got him employed at the Nigerian Chronicle to start a library. Ray arranged for him to receive media library experiences in some of the best newspaper organisations in Britain and the US.
It was through Uncle Ray that Nnyaknnoabasi met the late Dele Giwa. For those who were familiar with the relationship between Ray and Dele, it would make no news that Nnyaknnoabasi ended up at Newswatch magazine, co-founded by the two journalists. Dele personally went to Calabar to seize him from the Nigerian Chronicle.
Nyaknnoabasi was already a star in the media library business before joining Newswatch, where he became a celebrity. It was at Newswatch that he wrote Nigeria’s first authentic biographical book, Newswatch’s Who’s Who in Nigeria in 1987. It was and still remains an award-winning book.
Always full of ideas, one day, through what could be described as divine arrangement, Nyaknnoabasi met with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. That marked a turning point in his life, just like his first meeting with Uncle Ray. He became Obasanjo’s researcher.
A few months later, he read an article in a foreign newspaper about America’s Presidential Libraries. Then he had a conversation on it with Obasanjo who seemed to like the idea. Nyaknnoabasi went further to do more research on it and submitted a proposal on it to the retired general, who quietly read through the proposal and put it aside.
A few years after, Obasanjo was thrown into jail by General Sani Abacha on trumped-up criminal charges bordering on coup plotting. The old general spent three years, three months and three days (3.3.3) in prison, waiting to be executed. He was miraculously released in 1998 after the death of Abacha—the year Nyaknnoabasi published a book on the writings of Dele Giwa.
Something struck Obasanjo when he came out of jail. He noticed that his papers and other valuable items had either been destroyed, stolen or misplaced. He remembered the proposal on Presidential Library and quickly sent for Nyaknnoabasi. The dream finally resuscitated.
Obasanjo’s idea was to build the structure at his Ota Farm. Nyaknnoabasi tried and finally convinced him that Presidential Libraries are usually built in the home state of the former presidents.
READ ALSO: Hilary Owamah: From Life Storms To Stardom
The following year, when Obasanjo became Nigeria’s elected president, he took Nyaknnoabasi with him to the Presidential Villa as Special Assistant on Library, Research and Documentation.
It was a vintage appointment. It gave Nyaknnoabasi the valued opportunity to tour the world for the realisation of his desire for the retired general—the building of a presidential library. But first he had to set up a State House Library at the Pilot Gate of the Villa.
Appointed as the Project Coordinator of the Presidential Library. Nyaknnoabasi had opportunities of meeting several American Presidents while working on the project, but it was Bill Clinton who practically gave him a team to work with.
Today, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library is a well-organised cultural and tourist centre, the first in Africa and one of the best in the world. It has been described as a city within a city, a pleasant gift to Africa. Nyaknnoabasi made it to happen.
In his three-volume book, My Watch: Now And Then, Obasanjo states, “I have always known that one of Nigeria’s national weaknesses is poor record keeping and inadequate attention to institutional memory…
“About mid-1980s, I started a conversation with Nyaknno Osso, a librarian by training who had worked for Newswatch magazine, on keeping what could be kept, restoring what could be restored and preserving what could be preserved.
“Some materials from the Nigerian Civil War, which were already deteriorating were microfilmed. After some lost grounds and lost opportunities, Nyaknno and I belatedly began the recovery, restoration, preservation, storage, and acquisition of other materials and records…
“The work we did before I was sent to prison remained intact. On my release from prison, I reconnected with Nyaknno to continue with our work of recovering, restoring, preserving and storing…As soon as the possibility of my venturing into politics became a reality, Nyaknno joined me.
“On my inauguration, Nyaknno was one of the first appointed as Special Assistants and remained so until the end of my second term in 2007.His assignment was simple—to continue what we have started to ensure availability of records and to promote institutional memory…”
In all, Nyaknnoabasi spent 25 years with Obasanjo since their first meeting which is aptly captured in an upcoming autobiography. As my neighbour, I have been following up on Nyaknnoabasi’s vision and mission now that he has detached himself from Obasanjo and is getting close to 70 years.
For someone who has spent 51 years as an active librarian and has been involved in research and documentation at the highest level and institutions across the world, Nyaknnoabasi has been working on a legacy project that demands national investment intervention to make it a reality. It is called BLERF—Biographical Legacy & Research Foundation (blerf.org)
This is a massive information documentation idea that started 10 years ago. It aims at publishing Nigeria’s largest Who’s Who, covering the period between from 1861 to eternity. This online publication which has kicked off gracefully, but is presently slowed down by lack of investment capital already, serves as Nigeria’s most reliable authority on biographical information on Nigerians worldwide. Access is currently free.
Biographical information is an area which individuals and governments are conscious of and should be interested in. However, many lack the passion to venture into this virgin field, which forms a core part of historical documentation as well as nation building.
In sum, the mission of BLERF is to engage in research and document Nigeria’s history by focusing on the lives of its citizens. This massive online publication is a census of Nigeria’s achievers. In April this year alone, over 50,000 persons used information from BLERF’s website. This clearly indicates the uncelebrated awareness of the project.
A few days ago, I tried to find out from Nyaknnoabasi what the next phase of the project is. He explained, “We are moving into our second decade and this presents a number of challenges. The population of the country is increasing, and every day Nigerians are excelling in many fields, and breaking records.
“There is therefore much ground to cover, research into and document, not to talk of capacity building, and the purchase of new computer systems, ideal for the storage of vast amounts of information.”
Even if he is shy of saying it out, BLERF needs money to achieve its mission for Nigeria. The money required is to sustain research costs from 1861; expand its geographical scope and institutional spread; maintain daily update of entries; keep the well-searched and research website afloat; fund necessary travels, communications, administration, power supply; and acquisition of computers with vast capacity for information storage.
In a country that values information and research, this would be an opportunity to create a legacy and sell Nigeria’s achievements and opportunities to the world. It can still be done. BLERF is an idea that must not die.
Well, today is Nyaknnoabasi’s birthday. I just felt like saying happy birthday to a man of ideas in information business.
Read more authentic news on our social media platforms
Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
By Tony Afejuku
It is time for me to wake up in the New Year in my waking mind to catch the pictures of the unseen and seen inhabitants who help to make this column the stuff of dreams. These inhabitants are my readers whose words see me any time they come to me or are called up by music of words, showers of encouragement, that help to seize and define the column.
My readers help me to see and feel the beauty and truth, ever bright, ever potent, ever lovely, in the things I set my mind to all the times it tip-toes to the rosy sky with its lure of some-thingness. I quote now select readers:
On ASUU and the “conquistadors.”
Professor Ademola Da Sylva
TA, our TA! Your resilience is amazing, your uncommon focused energy and optimism have continued, so far, to serve as essential fuel that keeps the ASUU collective struggle steadily on course, and very assuredly to the expected end. There are tricksters and there are tricksters: when a trickster-character attempts to make a society worse than he meets it, the trickster always ends up unwittingly, burning its own boat! Ditto the Speaker of HoR under reference, a chief trickster indeed, and his current ruling Party. No country’s leadership treats its academics this shabbily and disdainfully with impunity without serious short-term and long-term repercussions. Any further delay on the part of the society in taking decisive actions against these clowns and self-styled “conquistadors” could lead to a permanent and further irreparable damage to Nigerians’ warped psyche, and any meaningful development in the country. TA, the payback time is surely nigh. Cheers.
Professor Ademola Da Sylva
TA, our TA, ageless and timeless! When this current ASUU struggle shall be over, predictably victoriously, and hopefully pretty soon, either the principalities in the current government like it, or not, your adorable portrait, and name written in bold gold, shall surely adorn a conspicuous place in the nation’s Hall of Fame!; but the tricksters, interlopers, who constitute themselves, lately into a bunch of elitist-Boko Haramists, shall similarly have their names in the nation’s Hall of Shame! Kudos for an essay well thought out, and lucidly crafted! My 2 Kobo appreciation! Cheers.
Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano
Ha! Ha! Ha! You nailed the imbeciles once more. You’re quietly gathering a reputation as the Jonathan Swift of terrorist academic journalism or is it you as the columnist-academic-Professor terrorist? A student of mine said sometime ago that he would soon begin imitating your writing style. I told him in response that he should wait until he has mastered the language well enough. It’s not easy for a PG student to imitate a Professor!
Dear Mr. Afejuku, good morning. I am always eager to read your write ups. You are among the three highly rated journalists in this country. I have learnt so much from you in both content and form. I am an Associate Professor in the Arts Faculty in UNICAL. Keep feeding our brains and minds with your grip of the language, your knowledge and your expertise in journalism. God bless you immeasurably. The unfortunate thing is that you are speaking to minds that are depraved and have been inhabited by demons. Demons know nothing but wickedness and oppression. However, there’s always a day of reckoning, where the chicken will always come home to roost. Thank you profusely, Sir. Accept the expression of my esteemed regards. Have a useful and fruitful week ahead, while I await your next write up, Sir.
A Reader from the Diaspora
Good afternoon, my dear Brother. Thanks for your usually brilliant piece. It is obvious that the intent of the Buhari administration is to drop the ASUU file for its successor. Perhaps a bilateral conversion with each of the leading presidential candidates should be considered. Have a Blessed day and weekend.
Good morning, Sir. I appreciate your thoughtful article on the trickster beggars, and I love the inclusion of the allegories from the erstwhile FIFA World Cup, where professionals behaved like true professionals, upholding the integrity of the game by employing the best human and electronic resources to get the best out of the game. In our national climate, the different interest groups and personages in government and not in government, who begged ASUU to call off or suspend the strike, suddenly went mute. Even press and media personages involved in the begging charade are now fully engrossed in the flimsy stories of distraction created by the CBN sector and the Naira. The courts, which were employed by the FGN to force the lecturers to pick up their chalk by force, have ceased from advocating for the truth regarding the debilitating decay in the educational segment. A handful of those columnists, like you, who maintained a respectful distance and wrote about it truthfully, decently, genuinely, are now vindicated for writing objectively and absorbingly about the subject of begging and taking a stand. CONUA or whatever the alleged traitors of academics are called, are allowing themselves to be used to be playing a nauseating game against their mother union and colleagues.
SSANU members did not get their due for listening to the beggars. Now we are all waiting… Waiting… waiting…, while the present administration prepares for their swan song by inflicting financial pains on the populace with un-thoughtful money policies.
On Pele: World King of Football
Professor Owojecho Omoha:
Were you there at the invention moments of capture theory? You theorize the admiration of King Pele to recapture the attention of the world on coach Izilien. This vibrancy of your memory lives in poets, and only poets memorably work passionately to capture the attention of readers, the way you do, Afejuku. The year has begun with your poetry. Hold further passionate lyrics till you capture the attention of the world on Nigeria, when Coach Izilien and the rest of us shall dance gracefully turning backs on the criminals in February. This happiness makes greater sense, when you shall turn the attention of the world on Nigerians who survive the dark years in our history.
On Pele’s Warri ancestry
Professor Owojecho Omoha
A true African writer must be traditional in spite of the burden of modernity, from the ancestry, and again, back to the traditions that we know. This piece scores high on both points.
Passion and passionate passion! Now to our Waffi enclave. Pele was a Waffi Boy? This is a bad suspense and only a poet does that! I have started counting the day, to next Friday! Good morning, Sir.
Suyi Ayodele (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Nobody, I repeat, nobody can dispute those revelations. I sat in divination sessions with my late uncle. Reading this piece brought back graphic images of those times. The Ifa priest was right, is right and will eternally be right. This is one of your best I have ever read. How did we abandon that plain religion, IFA? And about your younger brother, pity that you folks did not do what Ifa prescribed. It is always like that with Ifa, the Atori Eni ti o suhan se (The repairer of humanity). I would have personally ‘bewitched’ you if you have not written this! VINTAGE AFEJUKU!!!!!
READ ALSO: Pele: Coach Izilien Revises His Memory
Professor Olu Obafemi (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
This is a very fascinating treatise, especially because of its crisscross transcendent of the abstractive ineffable to the physical/archaeological referents. The narrative’s rhetorical strategy is suspenseful with the capacity to provoke insatiable yearnings for the remit of the story. These days Africans in the Diaspora are Evoking DNA identity/Descent retrieval. Unfortunately, Pele has left.
Professor Sony Awhefeada (On Pele’s Warri Ancestry)
This is thoughtful, enriching and instructive. I wish you published this when Pele was alive he would have come home. And how is your younger brother now? I am really moved.
Nonso, Owerri resident (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Good evening, Afejuku. I am totally intrigued by your write up on Pele’s Warri ancestry. I am enchanted with the eloquence of your pen that glides through the white sheet of paper and the attendant satisfaction that gladdened my heart to have stumbled upon this great literary work. Allow me to say that the article is un-putdown-able and the accuracy of the Divine revelation of the Ifa Priest should be announced to the world. Who knows? Or may-be Pele’s offspring may be interested in knowing the tree they were carved from … Thank you for the great work.
Professor Dan Chima Amadi (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Good, good historical touch. I could not stop.
Roland Uyimulam Aleshi, from Calabar (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Greetings, Mr. Afejuku, I read your well researched write-up on Pele’s Warri ancestry. You impressed me a lot with useful information and updates on Pele’s Warri ancestry ties. Well done.
READ ALSO: On Pele’s Warri Ancestry
Professor Mabel Evwierhoma (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
I agree (from personal experience) that the art of divination is a means of finding out deep truths. We could know more, from such researches, but how can they be untainted by the factors of selectivity and monetary inducements? – May we know that which will not lead to perdition.
What do I say other than to thank my readers and readers, listed and un-listed, whose words charm me beyond any measurable afflatus? My nib gives applause to your lovely music of words – whose peroration I charm myself to let be.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
BREAKING: Gbajabiamila Threatens To Arrest Emefiele Over Old Naira Notes’ Deadline
Five days to the deadline for the old naira notes to cease being valid, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele is still in trouble over the policy.
House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila on Thursday threatened to order the arrest of Emefiele to appear before the committee investigating the old naira notes withdrawal.
Gbajabiamila said this on Thursday after the Majority Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa informed him that Emefiele and others shunned the invitation to a meeting on Wednesday.
Responding to the statement, Gbajabiamila said he would not hesitate to order the Inspector General of Police, Akali Baba to issue an arrest warrant to compel Emefiele to appear before the committee.
READ ALSO: Old Naira Notes Deadline Stays – Emefiele
Gbajabiamila added that the House ought to adjourn today to prepare for the elections, however, they will stay back to resolve the currency swap crisis.
“I will, pursuant to the authority conferred by Section 89 (1)(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Order 19 (2)(1) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, not hesitate to issue a warrant to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force to compel the attendance of the CBN or Managing Directors who fail, refuse or neglect to respond to the summons by the House of Representatives,” he said.
He also stated that Emefiele’s deadline is not consistent with section 20 of the CBN Act, noting that the banks are compelled to accept the old notes even after the expiration of the deadline.
The Presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who is believed to be The Godfather of Gbajabiamila, also spoke against the policy on Thursday during a rally.
Tinubu alleged that the policy is targeted at his presidential ambition.
Read more authentic news on our social media platforms
You don blow!
By Toyin Falola
My name is Toyin Falola, and I am an active member of the Association of Nigerian Pregnant Men (ANPM). We eat and drink every evening at our clubhouse. You can tell from the size of my stomach that I don blow. The Secretary of ANPM, a chief with a stomach twice as big as mine, don blow pass me. He is well connected that he can invite ten governors in the country to attend our annual gala. Men who don blow, as well as elegant don blow first ladies, honour us. Their drivers sit inside their cars, praying to become like us while they receive free AC to calm their bodies wey too dey hot. The Secretary and I look smallish than our Vice-President, who finds it difficult to climb into his jeep because he don blow well well.
Our President, our Oga patapata at the top, lives in affluence. I don’t know why I am afraid of him. He too get power! Plenty plenty power!! Whenever the President falls asleep, small girls steal from his wallet, and he does not even notice it. Sometimes I fear for the girls. What if one of them gets unlucky one day, and Oga wakes up to catch her in the act? But the girls seem not to send. They want a way out of their sapa situation. They steal from magas like my President, use the money to finance their japa plans, then some weeks after they get to the abroad, they post pictures on social media, and a barrage of comments follow: See as you fresh like today bread! Omo, you don blow!
If you are not a street guy like me or unfamiliar with the language of the street and slang, you might find all the slang phrases in the preceding paragraphs unusual. Communication and language are two interdependent concepts that hardly exist separately. Language is ineffective if it cannot communicate with another person. The indigenous languages of the regions that subsequently became Nigeria are very different from what the colonialists imagined them to be. The notion that Africa was a “dark continent” before European contact has been refuted and proven false by scholars and through our cultural developments even after independence. Before colonialism, Africans were not only able to communicate, but they also used complex languages to interact with one another and with events.
However, culture is not static, and one of its characteristics is the capacity to adapt to new situations and times. For context, words are borrowed from one language into another. For example, the Yoruba call onions alubosa, a Hausa word. The creation of Pidgin English, which deviates from the native English language and is increasingly common in other Anglophone-speaking West African countries, might be attributed to acculturation and the desire to improve communication and make languages simpler.
Even though the term “you don blow” is derived from the English language, it can be used in various contexts. Three words, three ideas. The pronoun “you” is used to directly address the listener or refer to individuals in general. The word “don” can be used in the present, past, or future tenses in pidgin English to replace the words “have, had, or has.” Examples are I don go (I have gone) and I don chop (I have eaten). The last word in the phrase You don blow can refer to either expanding air from one’s mouth or destruction by an explosion.
Nigeria boasts of an abundance of highly skilled and noteworthy people. The country is recognized as a talent hotspot in many spheres of human endeavour, including entertainment. Despite the challenging circumstances militating against young and brilliant individuals and inadequate leadership and infrastructure for nurturing such talents and people to develop and build the nation, Nigerian youth have been breaking through to international spotlights. These exceptional ones work as hard as they can with the limited resources at their disposal to achieve success and greatness, and when they finally do, dem don blow.
Let me further take you there. If someone says to you on the street, You don blow, it can be for various reasons. For those of us who are street kings, the first thing that will come to mind is that we have succeeded, and are now famous, trending, or the rave of the moment. This is well-versed in the entertainment field. Being famous or trending in the entertainment industry is associated with wealth and success due to the perks that come with it, such as sponsorship deals and money from social media engagements. Therefore, when an entertainer from a lowly background becomes well-known, he don blow. Olamide Adedeji, better known by his stage name “Badoo”, is a Nigerian rap artiste born and raised in Bariga, Lagos. He is just one example of a musician who has succeeded and become a global name despite coming from a lowly background. When next you see Don Jazzy, Badoo, Davido, Wizkid, and Burnaboy, greet them well well as dem don blow pass you.
Do you know some people believe you can hardly blow in the village? This is why people who live in rural or village settings find all means necessary to move to the big cities, even if they have to live in the “trenches” before they blow. The population of Nigeria’s major cities, such as Lagos, has exploded because many people, especially young Nigerians, believe that moving to an urban area is the first indication of success or achievement. Blow.
Another strategy that Nigerians believe will help them blow is to japa, our new alubarika. Due to the widespread problems affecting the country, such as unemployment, insecurity, and financial hardship, Nigeria is facing a brain drain in all sectors as young and older people emigrate. As a street person, you might think someone don blow if you hear they have relocated abroad or have gone to study abroad. Japa can make you blow, even bloat you! If you can successfully navigate the immigration process to leave the country, you’re good to go. Two months after you land in Saskatchewan or Houston, you have acquired a Highlander. Take many photos and post them on Facebook, include some Instagram videos or jump on some Tiktok trends, and you don blow!
You can blow a matter with your big mouth. This indicates that a secret has been revealed or that more people are now aware of an issue that only a few people were meant to be privy to. If such happens, it means the matter don blow. To blow in academia is to become a big brand and a well-established scholar, winning grants and carving a niche for yourself in research and other academic engagements. Professor don blow. If you become a Vice-Chancellor, you don blow pass all others! Shey VC wa kere ni!?
However, to blow in Nigeria, you need “grace”, which has been attributed to providence or blessings from God. Even if dem cut soap for you, you fit no blow if babu grace. In such a situation, keep at your hustle and be grateful for each day because, as Asake sang in “Dupe”, “cause you no get today no mean e too far” (https://youtu.be/sWj-zEuH4Lg) . Relax, you sef go soon blow, and when you do, just play over and over Kizz Daniel’s “RTID” for thanksgiving: https://youtu.be/ElgKinpsqYI.
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
Read more authentic news on our social media platforms
NEW TIMES CULTURE
BREAKING: Tribunal Sacks Adeleke, Declares Oyetola Osun Governor
Gyado, Family Need Justice – AfAW
Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Why GOFAMINT General Overseer Demoted His Deputy
BREAKING: UK Suspends Work, Study, Family Visas For Nigerians Over Ukraine War
BREAKING: First Nigerian Female Vice Chancellor Alele-Williams Is Dead
Opinion1 day ago
You don blow!
Health4 days ago
Govt Speaks On Alleged Fatal Flu From China
Interview5 days ago
Professor Peju Olayiwola In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Latest News2 days ago
Buhari Made Nephew De Facto President – Ex-Tinubu Presidential Campaign Director
Opinion1 day ago
BREAKING: Gbajabiamila Threatens To Arrest Emefiele Over Old Naira Notes’ Deadline