Promoting books written in indigenous languages has economic values – Lagada-Abayomi
The dream of Mr. Olanrewaju Abayomi-Lagada, a Yoruba language expert and culture enthusiast, was to become a political scientist. But he will later study Yoruba linguistics and literature. The quintessential writer and serial biographer, Lagada-Abayomi, has since bent to conquer, producing several books in his beloved language, Yoruba. He speaks with Oladipupo Awojobi. Excerpts…
You are a writer and you work with Voice of Nigeria (VON), how do you combine the two?
Yes, I am a Yoruba language broadcaster. I am even the head of the Yoruba department of Voice of Nigeria (VON), an international radio station owned by the federal government. I am also a writer. I wrote about 16 books, even in Yoruba. I am a promoter of Yoruba culture and a resource person for many institutes such as the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) located in Lagos State with headquarters in Abuja. I am a professional translator and also a professional communicator and researcher in communication for development. In 2020, I won an International Research Leadership Award from RULA Award in India in honor of the research I did for my Masters in Mass Communication on Communication for Development.
How do you find inspiration for the books?
There are two things involved when you talk about writing. The first is talent and the second is knowledge. I said that someone told me in the dream not to quit the class and that he had a better future for me. God then crowned my efforts. I had thought about what I could do and started with Yoruba poems which were unpublished at the time. When I was in college, we had a magazine called “The Gong,” I was one of the contributors. It was for students and I used to write Yoruba poems as part of my essay for them. I started writing for the magazine when I was at level 200 and continued until I graduated. This is how the inspiration came that I could write in the Yoruba language. I read a lot of books and my plan was to be a lecturer, but God knows everything. I finished my first degree then went for my masters. I started writing books in 2002, when I was working as a teacher. The foreword to my first literature which I started writing in 2002 was written by the former Director General of the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA), Dr. Oluseyi Temowo. He was so impressed with the book and it was very large. The book was essentially HIV/AIDS awareness incorporated into morality. I saw a lot of people write and felt like I could do it too. My role models include Oladejo Okediji, Afolabi Olabintan, DO Fagunwa, Professor Akinwunmi Ishola and many more like that. I was able to meet Akinwunmi Ishola and I felt that I should be able to write like him and this inspiration came to me seriously. He came to the University of Ibadan, where I was doing my MA in Yoruba Language and Literature to see some of his colleagues. Due to this strong interest, I then went to Shogunle School of Creative Writing, Lagos to improve my creative writing skills. I was well looked after and read a lot of books, including international books. I wrote prose, poems, plays, radio plays and others. My first prose is “Igba To De” (Time and Tide), an HIV/AIDS awareness. I wrote short novels and long prose. My prose includes ‘Igberaga Nii Siwaju Iparun’, ‘Igbeyin Alaigboran’, ‘Igbeyin Oremeji’, ‘Ayoka ati Igi Iroko’, ‘Oba Alaigboran’, ‘Ogboju Ode ati Omo Kiniun’, and others. On theatre, I wrote “Eto Won Ni”, it’s about women and feminism, it was adapted for radio drama, likewise, “Atanda Alaaanu” and The Doubting Tom, an awareness skit on COVID-19. I wrote biographies such as “Awolowo Akikanju Asiwaju (AAA)”, “Oba Adesoji Aderemi, Akikanju Ooni Ile-Ife, and some that were dedicated to other past heroes.
Those on the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Ooni Adesoji Aderemi were about their lives, how did you get the documents?
The beauty of biography is that it involves research. I did a lot of research in these books because they deal with their biographies. Y ou need to know why they have become someone people care about and everything about them. There must be lessons for this generation in their history. They are our heroes and we need to know our past leaders and heroes. Much research has been conducted on the life and death of the hero, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to bring out the literary work. I visited many people and institutions to collect adequate information about his personality and other related documents.
How do we promote our indigenous languages and get our children to read them?
There are many ways to solve the problem. We talk about reading culture in general and then about reading Yoruba books. The problem starts from the houses, you hardly see people communicating with their children in the Yoruba language, especially in a city like Lagos. Moreover, the government does not promote the language. Take the example of the Lagos State House of Assembly, they only speak the Yoruba language on Thursdays. Most of their discussions are in English, even on the day reserved for the Yoruba language. We need to correct this and promote the language. Parents and governments should look into this. You all speak English today because the English made it more important. We need to develop policies to promote our indigenous languages. It’s what you blow in the trumpet that will come out. Many students cannot write in Yoruba language because they are not taught. If we make it important, students will speak it, read it, and write it. There is a lack of political will on the part of the government. The language has great economic potential. You see people buying books written in English because they can read it. But for a language you can’t read, how can you buy a book written in that language?