Earlier that evening at Freedom Park, in Lagos Island, a passer-by called out excitedly to this reporter that he had read the book in her hand titled, “Route 234”. It’s a good feeling to see a growing followership for this thrilling travel writing collection by select Nigerian journalists. Later that evening, precisely last Sunday, most of the contributing authors to the book converged on the premises of the German Consulate, off Walter Carrington, Victoria Island where the French and German Consulates have scheduled to hold the book reading.
Preceded by a warm cocktail, with an assortment of finger foods to chew, the reading was a wholesome session and an opportunity to chew upon issues that are light-hearted but serious in varying dimensions. The hosts seemed very kind, even concerned about their guests’ preferences in their largely western cuisine.
The Consul-Generals for German and French Embassies, Ingo Albert and Laurent Polonceux sat with veteran journalists Sola Balogun and Ozolua Uhakheme to read some pages off the book that was published exactly one year ago, in May 2015. Compiled and edited by Pelu Awofeso, winner, CNN-Multichoice African Journalist Awards in the Tourism category, the book has enjoyed positive reviews on the web. Route 234 has basic dramatic elements of suspense, plot, humour, satire and a unifying theme of identity.
No wonder Awofeso made a declaration at the back page of the book that every reader is likely to agree to.
“Reading through the stories, I encountered every possible emotion a traveller could come face to face with in a new destination-from delight to awe to apprehension,’’ he stated. Oyefeso’s career as a travel writer began as a travel journalist with a knack for preserving cultural truths found in every destination. And like the compere, Funke Treasure-Akintoye rightly pointed out, Oyefeso has the “staying power’’. Not only did he take up the task of seeing the book published after a decade of pre-production, he ensured the book good into good hands such as those of the host Consul-Generals. Completely, driven by passion, Oyefeso was the magnet that held the other writers who inspite of their busy itinerary turned up for the reading.
Polonceux, a very animated personality, assessed the motive of the travel writers in the light of their literary documentation.
“It is not only where to go across the border; it is not just a geographical journey but also to discover other culture and to fight against extremism,’’ he said.
The contributing writers are Kole Ade-Odutola, Olumide Iyanda, Olayinka Oyegbile, Eyitayo Aloh, Molara Wood, Steve Ayorinde, Pelu Awofeso, Jahman Anikulapo, Tunde Aremu, Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Akintayo Abodunrin, Ayeni Adekunle, Funke Osae-Brown, Sola Balogun and Ozolua Uhakheme.
Stories such as Osae-Brown’s “Inside the Eiffel Tower”, and Uhakheme’s “Hitler’s House of Horrors” were read in full. Meanwhile, the reading of “The Good Samaritans of Nice” and Eyitayo Aloh’s “Literary Frankfurt” brought some laughter to the space as the writer; Balogun relived the memories of his adventurous journey to France with his wife in attendance. He inadvertently punctuated his reading with additional comments. It seemed that everyone who had read the story is curious to know if Balogun returns the money he borrowed in Nice to procured ticket after missing his flight to Lagos as the chorused question rang forth during the interactive session.
Other pieces that were read in parts include, Okon-Ekong’s “Trekking the Mambilla Plateau” which is the only story that is set in Nigeria. Inspite of his retinue of international travels, Okon-Ekong’s contribution to the book is to unearth Nigeria’s hidden treasures in the heart of Taraba State.
In concluding the session, Jahman Anikulapo expressed concern over the widespread shrinking of art and culture pages in most national newspapers. In his submission, this trend is an indicator of the place the media puts the creative sector- which is being considered as Nigeria’s next pot of gold after fallen crude oil prices.
Route 234 is a product of writings published in several national newspapers by 15 Nigerian journalists.