Sunday, 17 September 2017

Igbobi Boy: The Sweet Bitter Tales Of A Young Old Man

A review of Adebayo Lamikanra’s “Igbobi Boy” by ‘Joba Ojelabi

Having had firsthand experience on the effects that good aesthetics can have on the human mind, I tend to often find the maxim; “Do not judge a book by its cover” quite controversial. For indeed, as much as a substance’s exterior is not always a precise expression of its interior, I believe that the packaging of a thing, to some extent, defines the value of such substance. Such that before any critical appraisal, the metaphorical cover of a book offers a potential reader some privilege of a preliminary assessment because eventually, the cover is part of the book! And more importantly, it is the part that carries the burden of first interaction with potential readers, bringing to mind the brother expression of first impressions and their comparative lifespan in the mind of readers.  This, coupled with the fact that I have had the privilege of stopping by Adebayo Lamikanra’s office a number of times, is perhaps why I find the cover of the enlightening memoir of the Professor of Pharmaceutics not as arousing.

It does not take too much time with “Lamikay”, as Professor Lamikanra is more fondly called, to learn of his fascination with the arts; both visual and virtual. His office, apart from the several expressions of visual art present, is littered with sheets of abstract sketches by the Professor himself. It is on this basis that a person aware of this fact about Lamikay, such as myself, might demand more from the book cover of Igbobi Boy; which, as at the time of this review, is a simple silhouette of a school boy carrying the blue and yellow colours of Igbobi College; the Alma mata of Lamikanra. Personally, I have a soft spot for covers which, in their attempt to express the theme of the book and in obedience to the sacred laws of design functionality and aesthetics, are laced with some with some elements of mystery and simplicity. What says mystery better than abstract art?     
A bite into the less colourful pages of the book, however, might leave a reader a little more interested than its blue and yellow covers as Lamikay describes his experience at Igbobi College in very specific and quite fascinating detail. Beginning from his admission into the legendary college, Professor Lamikanra describes people, places and events with such precision that makes it hard to believe that the memories are from over forty years ago; leaving any reader familiar with the author pondering on how young the old man really is. Lamikanra, in the first few chapters after his interesting admission into Igbobi College, describes the age-old college. And indeed, he does so with such detail and affection that should leave any person in the current Nigerian educational system with a bitter sweet aftertaste.        
In the course of book, Lamikay describes many of the events that would go on to influence his personality. Starting with his immense affection for the college; which it would seem the college herself instills in her sons, discipline, leadership, a passion for excellence amongst other things, the author would even describe traits that were not directly instilled by the college: A good example being his mother’s well delivered offhand speech, which at the time was merely a source of pride for the author but would eventually become a strong influencing factor in his method of presentation in subsequent years; a method which has interestingly become characteristic of a number of lecturers of Pharmaceutical Microbiology in the Department of Pharmaceutics of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife to state but a few secondary influences.

Lamikanra, apart from the walls of Igbobi College, also describes fondly a number of people met either at or through Igbobi College. Some of these persons, the Professor would later come across in later years under different circumstances.

Igbobi Boy is a description of golden years, not just for the boy currently living in an old man but for a nation presently in the shadow of herself. Lamikanra reminds us of an almost forgotten period in Nigerian history through his affectionate and passionate narration of his formative years. For those of us that were not around in the sixties, Igbobi Boy might come off as a fairy tale, especially considering the current realities of the Nigerian state but for those that were around, Igbobi Boy is the kind of book that brings back some fond memories especially for other alumni of the institution. Although the book does contain some typographical blots, looking at its cover once again, Igbobi Boy might actually just be a good reason to not judge a book by its cover.             
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