Wole Adedoyin is the president of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW), which organises the annual Fagunwa Day Celebration. In this interview with Adewale Oshodi, the literary enthusiast speaks on the forthcoming edition of the celebration of the literary exploits of the late Yoruba indigenous writer, D. O. Fagunwa, as well as the need for Yoruba parents to pass the language to the coming generation. Excerpts:
This year’s edition of the Fagunwa Day will be coming up next month, how prepared are you now for the event?
We are fully prepared for the event, which will be coming up on March 25, 2017, at the school premises of Immanuel College, Ibadan. We have notified participating schools and individuals. The event promises to showcase arts exhibition, knowledge of Yoruba culture among our youths, readings from the five books of D.O. Fagunwa, paper presentations, as well as presentation of awards to outstanding schools and individuals that have contributed greatly to the growth and development of Yoruba Language and literature.
The forthcoming event will be the sixth edition; have you been able to achieve your objectives of coming up with the Fagunwa Day in the last five years?
I want to say that since we started the Fagunwa Day celebration, we have published not less than 40 students who write in the Yoruba Language through our electronic publishing platform. Apart from that, we have been able to create a platform where students read the five works of the late Yoruba literary genius. This platform eventually gave birth to the Fagunwa Literary Society, an initiative commited to reading and promoting the five works of Fagunwa.
Also we have featured great Yoruba literary personalities like Professor Akinwumi Isola, Professor Bayo Adebowale, Professor Dotun Ogundeji, Chief Tubosun Oladapo, as well as the late poet, Chief Supo Kosemani, among others.. We have developed a correspondence course aimed at testing the abilities and knowledge of the students that have read at least a work of the author.
Now, how will you access the promotion of the Yoruba language through the Fagunwa Day event?
Presently, our governments are paying lips service when it comes to the issue of promoting our local languages. Today, you will hear them say they would do this, but implementing the promise is always a big problem. I want to urge the governors of the South West states to give more attention to the promotion of the Yoruba Language. It is so unfortunate that some schools, particularly the private ones, no longer take Yoruba subject serious. It is high time something was done about this. We need to pass on our culture to the coming generation.
In fact, with what we are doing, we ought to have been given the necessary support from all quarters, but this is not the case. Both the government and corporate organisations are not forthcoming in supporting us. That, therefore, tells you how much they value our tradition. It is only the goodwill of publishing and media firms that we are enjoying.
Apart from the event, in what other ways have you been promoting Fagunwa’s works?
We have really achieved a lot in this area. Apart from the correspondence course, we are also working on developing a database of Yoruba writers across the Yoruba speaking states. Presently we are developing graphical charts and posters of some eminent Yoruba writers. For example, many only hear the names of great Yoruba writers like J.F. Odunjo, Olabimtan Afolabi, Akinwumi Isola, Adebayo Faleti, but can’t pin a face to the names, so we are coming up with the posters soon, which will be distributed across the South Western states of the country. However, there is little we can do, particularly with little support. It is, therefore, important for the governors of the South West states to also wake up from their slumber and support the revival of the Yoruba Language. Our children are no longer speaking the language. Parents should also know that when their children cannot speak their mother tongue, then they have lost their culture and history; nothing stops a child from learning English and Yoruba languages. In fact, linguists have said that a child can learn up to five languages at a time, so why are we relegating Yoruba to the background? Through the Fagunwa Day celebration, we are working towards making Yoruba the envy of other languages.