OLUTAYO IRANTIOLA, HIS GRANDPA'S TRUMPETER
At 28, Olutayo Irantiola has already added his name to Nigeria's list of literary contributors through his work, Thought Patterns (Fusion of Ages). That should be something that gives him joy all the time.
Well, it actually does for at least two great reasons. One, the anthology of his poems, Yoruba folklore and even English proverbs stands as evidence of his mastery of both the English language (Olutayo holds a B.A. in English from the University of Ilorin) and his native Yoruba.
While still serving as a National Youth Service Corps member in Borno State, Olutayo called up his creative mien, successfully doing a transliteration of Yoruba songs, proverbs, slang and wise sayings into English and vice versa. His, goal, he explains, is to ensure proper understanding of these invaluable literary expressions by which people can base their life and have a glorious stay on earth.
Then, the fact that he could also get the anthology published under the auspices of the reputable Centre of Black and African Arts and Civilisation also makes the young author glory in his wonderful accomplishment.
'My book, Thought Patterns,' he explains, 'is a bridge. I used Yoruba proverbs, sayings, slang; wrote them in English and Yoruba languages.
Now, that's quite distinct. It's not what you usually find around. And what happened, it's because I understand those two languages. If you don't understand English and Yoruba so well, you can't process it in English, and if you don't understand English, you can't process it in Yoruba. If a proverb comes to me in Yoruba language, I process it in English, if it comes to me in English, I process it in Yoruba. 'It is an anthology of many parts, talking about what is expected in society, talking about who the people, the characters in the society are.'
Yet, that is just one of the literary genres that distinguish Olutayo from the crowd of Nigeria's literary tribe. He says he is a multi-facet person. Another of such part of him, he says, is that which is sold to biography writing. And his greatest tool in this endeavour, he reveals, is his inquisitive nature.
That nature that pushed him to query why a man who has contributed to the development of his society, people and the service of God should not be honoured by documenting his legacy in a book - a good book - to inspire others to live for society and serve their Maker with all diligence. That man happened to be Revd. John Adegoke Okesiji, J.P., a retired Baptist pastor and Olutayo's own maternal grandfather.
But rather than blood relationship, it was Pa Okesiji's exemplary lifestyle that swayed Olutayo to pursue the project of penning the reverend gentleman's biography. And this feat, he says, is what has made his joy really full. A man with great passion for God, Revd. Okesiji worked hard to plant a lot of churches to spread the Gospel. He did not only succeed in building pastoriums and churches in most of the areas where his work took him, especially while he was the pastor of First Baptist Church Okelerin, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, he also ensured that he was a positive influence in the life of many who came across him.
And as he moved on with the work of God, he ensured that he was not only accountable to Heaven, but also to man. This is the part of his grandfather's that so much interests Olutayo as one who both observed him at close quarters and lived with him in his (Olutayo's) formative years. And he knew that as a minister of God, his grandpa would not be inclined to blow his own trumpet. Pa Okesiji is much more ready to regard his numerous achievements with ecclesiastical quietude.
But Olutayo sees it another way. While he agrees that achievements should not be issues for self-praise and self-glorification, he insists that justice can only be done to the old man and society if his achievements are kept alive through ages - even when Pa Adesiji will have returned to the bosom of his Creator.
He tells the story of his effort: 'I grew up with him. I spent the first few years of my life with him, and after a while, I critically examined his life as a person, because he happens to be my role model. One day I just woke up and I said, 'With my creative writing ability, I want to investigate your life, are you interested?' And he said, 'Yes, go ahead.' And that was how I started working on his biography in 2006.
'The heroic act I took from him is the ability to be patient; he's a very patient man. He does not contend and he's very contented. He doesn't struggle for anything. Everything that God has given him, he's happy with it. You don't have any allegation of maybe saying he misappropriated funds or anything, no. And what helped me much more is his ability to keep records. Even as a churchman, he was able to keep receipts of church property and his own property. And when he was retiring, he was able to separate both.'
The years he spent growing up with Pa. Okesiji, Olutayo maintains, have taught him that wisdom resides with the aged. His words: 'I found one thing in life: The easiest way to breaking through is living with old people, I must tell you. The old people, as it were, you can learn from their life experiences and use that to straighten your own path. You gain experience faster than your age mates…
I even encourage parents to allow their children to be closer to their grandparents, because life is rotating - their own grandchildren would be able to learn from their own experience and as such life continues and experience gets better by the day. My grandfather will say that I know him much more than his own children. Why? Because I happen to be inquisitive; I would ask him all sorts of questions.'
He has a message for the youths. He puts it this way: 'Youths who don't read biographies are missing a lot of things. As it were, biographies chronicle the heroic acts and deeds of people. If you want to be a hero, you also have to read about heroes.' Titled: True Calling: The Life and Times of Revd. John Adegoke Okesiji, JP, Olutayo says he was inspired to name the 215-page biography by his grandpa's love for a particular Yoruba song of appreciation to God.
'There is a particular song he sings. The transliteration of the song is: 'I thank the Lord, the call He called me is a pleasant call',' he recounts. Challenging as the project was, Olutayo says he had to endure the harrowing four years he spent writing the book, because he was convinced that eventually it would grant Pa. Okesiji the opportunity of living forever and benefit society.
He is also full of joy that his grandpa is pleased with his effort to immortalise him through the book which foreword was written by Oyo State Governor, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, who was incidentally baptised by Revd. Okesiji. 'He (Pa Okesiji) feels so accomplished, because he has added much more value to life. That means he's going to live forever. Books don't die. And what make books not to die? It is the value that they contribute to the society', Olutayo says.
Having accomplished the biography task, Olutayo is looking ahead to a new call, a call to literary glorification.
He gives a hint: 'I am a multi-facet person. I want to ensure that my name is also on the literary landscape of Nigeria and that my name is also known as an author of significance.'