The poet and essayist Odia Ofeimum has agreed to deliver the keynote address at the 20th edition of the Lagos Book and Art Festival LABAF, running from November 5 to 11, 2018.
The distinguished polemicist is impressed by the theme: Renewal: A World That Works For All, which was chosen by the organisers to reset the agenda for a democracy turning 20 in eight months’ time and a country heading for its sixth, consecutive general elections.
“Renewal should also be about renewing surprises”, Mr. Ofeimum said in Lagos last week, hinting at the content of his proposed address: “Let us surprise ourselves with the value of ageless truths and programmatics.”
Ofeimum is the author of many volumes of poetry, books of political essays and on cultural politics, and the editor of two significant anthologies of Nigerian poetry. His work has been widely anthologized and translated and he has read and performed his poetry internationally.
Jahman Anikulapo, programme chair of the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), organisers of LABAF, says that the choice of Odia Ofeimum as the Festival’s keynoter was informed by the “tone” of his body of work. “He is the one Public Intellectual who has been quite consistent in advocating for a new system, new nation that will work for all in the end”. Anikulapo adds that the speech will give Mr. Ofeimum “yet another opportunity to speak to the subject that he has been very passionate about”.
LABAF was birthed in September 1999, as Nigeria returned to civil rule after 16 years of military dictatorship. Its first theme: Read to Freedom, was to call attention to literacy as a way out of mass poverty and underdevelopment. Over the years it has evolved. Now it is a comprehensive seven-day cultural picnic including readings sessions, conversations around books, art and craft displays, kiddies’ art workshops, teenagers’ reviews, book exhibitions, poetry slam, live music and dance. There are Publisher’s Forum, Writers’ workshops and Book Treks. Overall, it is a carnivalesque atmosphere created to make books look cool.
Two weeks ago, the organisers unveiled a list of some of the books to be discussed at this year’s edition, including Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore: From Third World to First, Kingsley Moghalu’s Build, Innovate and Grow: My Vision for our Country and Emerging Africa, How the Global Economy’s ‘Last Frontier’ Can Prosper and Matter, Obafemi Awolowo’s The Strategy and Tactics of the People’s Republic of Nigeria, Helen Zille’s Not Without A Fight, Chude Jideonwo’s Are We The Turning Point Generation? – Akin Mabogunje’s A Measure of Grace, Titus Okereke’s Our Fathers’ Land by – Bookcraft. Sarah Manyika’s Like a Mule Bringing Ice-Cream to the Sun, Julian Zelizer’s The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society. “This list is not exhaustive”, says Anikulapo, “there are more, to cover the seven panel conversations in the course of the Festival. People are going through the books now to come and discuss them. We are energised that Oga Odia will kickstart those conversations”.