By Olayinka Oyegbile
Nobody is going to give you anything. You’ve got to go out and fight for it. Nobody knows what you want except you, and nobody will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it. So don’t give up your dreams ― Barry Manilow
(Legacy on The Move, by Olu Alex Ajayi, EKUP, 2021)
Autobiographies, memoirs and personal stories written by men and women of honour are treasure troves which any reader at any time would find very useful and very rich in nuggets of wisdom. It is based on this that I usually love to read such books because we are in a world where one needs to learn from the steps of those who have passed through thickets of life and have done the world the benefits of putting their experiences down for posterity to learn from their mistakes or apply their own nuggets of wisdom to chart their own path in life.
There is however a distinction in the kind of biographies and memoirs which one needs to labour over, especially in a country like ours where men and women who had held offices now turn to vain glory writing in the name of memoirs or autobiographies to launder their already tarnished image. So, in picking such books to leaf through many readers know what to expect and that is why today many readers do not take such endeavour seriously; you waste your time reading a book which you know the author or subject of the book is miles away from what is presented. This is called hagiography!
This is not the case with Chief Alex Olu Ajayi’s A Legacy On The Move, which is a documentation of the little oak that grew years later to be an icon not only in his home State of Ekiti but around the country and the world. In writing this book, the author gives details of his background and leaves the reader not in doubt as to his ancestry. The son of a school teacher and pastor, he writes candidly about this upbringing and how the lessons he was taught by his parents have endured.
From his birth in Owo, Ondo State and his own lineage and how he was able to go to school far from home, one follows his trajectory to understand how he turned out to be what he has turned out to be today.
His student days at Igbobi College not at its present site in Yaba but in Ibadan where it was moved because of the war raging in the world then is well documented. Chief Ajayi made a point which many today have been paying lip service to: the importance of teaching and speaking our languages which are today endangered. In Nigeria of his time (1940) our languages occupied a pride of place and those grounded in their mother tongues turn out to be better in understanding other languages. Not like today when most people think versatility in English or any foreign language is a plus and better than ours. According to him, “Meanwhile, we had been grounded well in Yoruba language, our own native tongue. This is the great advantage of our own generation, which the modern ones have lost forever. Skill in one’s language fortifies one for grasping the essence of any concept. It gives a linguistic skill that would enable the speaker more ability to comprehend and enhance his skill in the knowledge of other language.” (p21). This is a truism that have been scientifically backed but which we have today consigned to the dust bin in our educational system because we all race to speak the so-called international languages.
These and other gems of wisdom and vignettes of life are what is contained in this book which a reader would find enriching to read. The writer’s experience both at home and at international level are well documented. However, the Nigerian world is today dominated by the irrelevancies that are abundant on the social media which has made illiterates of many and not able to lace their intervention online with any iota of wisdom.
His experiences at the West African Examination Council, University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo) and other organizations demonstrates what it means to be an administrator. His resumption of work at the then Unife also precipitated its own crisis in which a typist had to report to the union how he was being forced to break an intended strike because he was instructed to type a memo of a meeting which had been scheduled.
All said, it must be emphasized that Chief Alex Olu Ajayi has with his autobiography A Legacy on The Move done a great service to record keeping and banks of the country’s history by documenting his experiences both at home and abroad. He has shown what it means to be an omoluabi and how upbringing goes a long way to shape the lives of young ones. From a relatively obscure mission house boy he projected himself to the world stage through dint of hard work and studious commitment, not in the way of looking for short cuts to wealth and fame.
This is a book that one reads and you ask where did we miss it that things are today looking different and the behaviour of the young one leaves much to desire? Chief Ajayi’s tenure at WAEC and how the body was able to take over from Cambridge the examinations it was saddled with is a template for how to run an international organization without compromising standards.
A Legacy … is a book the reader would find interesting and easy to read. However, I think the publishers (printer?) Ekiti State University did a little disservice to the book. How? A book, nonetheless an autobiography like this, is supposed to have a blurb, which is a form of introduction to the book and would help a potential reader or buyer to decide whether to purchase the book or read it. In this case there is none. This is a costly oversight because it does not help a reader who does not know or perhaps has never heard of the name of the author to decide to buy or read the book. As it is, except for a devoted bibliophile or lover of biographies, the urge to buy or read the book is not there because there is no blurb to tell who the writer is. I hope this would be corrected in future reprints. Blurbs and a short bio of the author are part of what sell a book. The printing and pictures are solid and good. It is a book one would not regret investing time to read.
Title: A Legacy on The Move
Author: Alex Olu Ajayi
Publishers: EKSU Printing Press
Reviewer: Olayinka Oyegbile