I remember the call for the workshop. I jumped at it and was about to send my piece when I discovered a clause: it was for people of about 15-twenty-something. Well, that means I was out of the range. Age!! Grrrr!!
Well, I called Tunji Ajibade, President of ExodusForArt (E4Art) to discuss my book launch and he invited me for this. Was shocked. Didn’t even know he had anything to do with it. Well, considered not going or anything of the like. Had some issues to contend with. I am meant to launch my book on the 8th of June at the same venue and I love literature. But I have other things to attend to… Then, I heard some news: my cousin was having her baby’s naming ceremony on the very Sunday! What? Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t miss that for the world! Debate ended but on Saturday night. It was 9pm. The journey to Abuja from the wandering ground where I was started. It was an extempore decision, so that meant on that bright Sunday, I woke up and muscled by the thoughts of my smiling cousin, and took a vehicle to Abuja…
I was deeply touched by the whole event and I bring you near minute details of what I could catch. If you are busy, skim through. For me, I reflect again on it all and bless the memory of that lady. Yasmin was 25 years old and the daughter of the former Minister of the FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. She passed on in London in November, 2011. Wherever she is, may the Almighty keep her right.
THE YASMIN EL-RUFAI WORKSHOP LITERARY EVENING AND LECTURE (April 14th, 2013)
Introductions. All protocols observed…
The Chairman of the occasion, Hakeem Belo-Osagie didn’t joke about his knowledge of literature which he admitted was little. Well, actually, he did! He said when he was invited by Mrs. Hadiza Isma El-Rufai to attend the event, he thought he was meant to be one of the participants ‘Which wouldn’t have been out of place’ he joked. ‘Literature is important in our lives as it has a way of making us understand the ambiguities of life. Some touch you. [Paraphrasing now] Sometimes, it’s something simple like two lines in a poem I read: ‘I saw you on a cold winter day/and suddenly winter became summer’… Literature sometimes makes life easier. Hadiza has done well. I thank you all for attending and hope that we make this reading/lecture as simple as possible’
We laughed and at that moment, Justice Uwais came in. Nasir El-Rufai left his place at the high table for the Justice and took a plastic seat to sit at the edge of the table. Former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Chukwuemeka Chikelu was there too…
Mrs. Eugenia Abu took the stage to deliver her ‘paper.’ She had just come in from another engagement – amazing woman. Well, she spoke on the power of Literature and its impact in a nation. Literature and National Building. Mrs. Abu spoke of Literature in various dimensions: ‘as important for national pride; for healing; for entertainment; for education; for cultural integration; for respect; for love; and so much more’. ‘A nation goes to its knees when literature loses ground. Literature is about entering into other people’s cultures and letting them get into yours’ she continued. And I agreed with her totally on that, adding mentally that it gives us the chance to live lives we never really might get the opportunity to. She spoke of how she travelled with Tutuola, Russian writers and so many other people on literary roads. Not on one occasion, her mum had to go fetch her back from those lovely travels. But she grew and grow she (Mrs. Abu) did. ‘I would want to teach in future, to show that there’s a reason for finding that word at late at night. Waking up at 2:00am to put a word to paper is worth it.’ She read a poem ‘Yasmin’ in honour of the departed ‘Yasmin’ and took a bow to a standing ovation.
After the lecture, the presentation of the literary journal, ‘Abuja Review’ was done. Yasmin’s face graces the front page.
It was time for the presentation of certificates, which was done by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. He took the time to thank people for coming, joking about the number of male participants in the workshop. It supported something he read recently that in a few years, men would be extinct (Yikes!). Next, was the time for ‘Words from Yasmin’s parents’. El-Rufai made it clear that the role wasn’t for him but his very own Oga at the top, Mrs. Hadiza, to some general laughter. Immediately Mrs. Hadiza Isma El-Rufai, Yasmin’s mother took the podium, there was silence. Dressed simply in traditional Hausa attire, her face wore a soberness that more than bore the nature of the event. She read an article ‘Serendipity‘ in a voice laden with deep emotion that wasn’t totally of sadness. Yes, the tears were there and the former Minister of the FCT, Mallam El-Rufai dabbed his eyes a bit too. But it was more. There was this other thing in her voice – of a mother talking of a child not gone. Of a child in whose thoughts she still basked. And her prepared note expressed it more. IT was the high point of the evening and the true celebration of the young lady, Yasmin, departed to higher realms. She spoke of their connection and her affection for that lovely daughter of hers. Mrs. Hadiza had also written a sonnet for her daughter, which praised the soul of that young one in a joyful celebration that this daughter was all she (the mother) should rather have been. A mother’s thoughts of/to her child in various coincidences not originally sought: Serendipity.
People gave their various thoughts on Yasmin, from family to friends. They spoke of her in warm words that celebrated her more than mourn her. One might have been excused for thinking that the lady spoken about was still alive for there was a glow in the expressions of those talking. And you could just feel it that this lady must have been really special and loving. Indeed, a loving lady loved. Someone whispered by my side: ‘It’s good to have a rich father.’ I thought about this for a while. Well, no doubt. It is. More than that, it is better to live a worthy life whether of humble or great parentage for eventually it doesn’t matter which spoon we are born with. Life finds a way to pay our memory with what it deserves. If not now, later. If not here, in the here-after.
Tunji Ajibade gave the vote of thanks. The MC, poet Oke Ikeogu called for the National Anthem which we recited.
I said my hellos to several people and had some chat with Tunji and the former Minister. It was time to run and catch up with my main event. My cousin’s daughter needed a name and though I wasn’t going to name her Yasmin, I wondered what life lay ahead of that young one.