Today in #TheLagosReview

The Passing On Of The Rare Icon Chief Olayinka Simoyan By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

It is quite common to celebrate Nigerians who are loud on noise but very shallow in sublime achievement. The Nigerians who did groundbreaking work without advertising themselves are hardly ever given pride of place after they are gone. It is incumbent on me to now give deserving highlight to a truly distinguished Nigerian, Chief Olayinka Olasehinde Simoyan, who passed away on October 29, 2019.
Chief Simoyan rose from being a farm boy to becoming a worthy diplomat and capped it all up as a banking pathfinder. He was an accomplished historian, author and columnist.
Born on February 1, 1934 in Egbe, in present-day Kogi State to Mr Angus Aremu and Madam Yeyeolu Simoyan, he served as a farm boy until the age of 14 when he began his formal primary education at SIM Central School, Egbe. He later attended Titcombe College, Egbe, for his secondary school education.
His questing drive took him to the Nigerian College of Technology in Zaria. A staunch believer in the power of education, he forged ahead to study public administration at the University of Ife then located at Ibadan.
In pursuit of the coveted Golden Fleece of his diplomatic career, he studied at Universite de Montpellier in France and the American University in Washington, DC.
The indefatigable Olayinka Simoyan then garnered a Certificate in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Studies.
It was after acquitting himself so gloriously in the Foreign Service that he trained as a banker at the BIAO Banking Training School in Paris, France.
He upped the ante by studying at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, near Jos, thus earning the distinguished designation of mni, to wit, Member of the National Institute.
Learning was for him a life-long pursuit as he later undertook postgraduate studies at the University of Ibadan and wrote a doctoral dissertation on Yagba history.
Chief Simoyan enjoyed a celebrated career of illustrious triumphs. He blazed the trail as Second Secretary at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC from 1965 to 1968.
In the African sphere, he was the Charge d’Affaires of the Nigerian Embassy in Benin Republic from 1971 to 1974.
He then moved on to Europe to serve in Austria between 1974 and 1976. Incidentally, while serving in Vienna, Austria, he doubled up as Nigeria’s alternate Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Panel and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). He was a permanent member of the Nigerian delegation to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
A multi-tasking guru from the very beginning, Chief Simoyan served as the Deputy Chief of
Protocol for the Ministry of External Affairs during the epochal 2nd Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture staged in Lagos in 1977, that is, FESTAC ’77.
For a lad who started schooling somewhat late, after being a farm boy, it’s divinely remarkable that Chief Simoyan became amongst the youngest to head a Nigerian mission abroad.
With his landmark work done in the Foreign Service, he veered into the banking industry as the Deputy General Manager of a small bank called International Bank for West Africa (IBWA) which was later known as Afribank. He in the course of time served as the Executive Director until 1986, phenomenally helping to build Afribank into the fourth largest bank in Nigeria, with branches all over the country.
The leadership and service attainments of Chief Simoyan are legion. He was appointed Bashorun (Prime Minister) of Egbe in 1977. The other traditional titles bestowed on him were Omoba ni Ketu (Prince of Ketu, Benin Republic) and Gbokunniyi (up-lifter of the people) of Okunland.
A leader steeped in culture and tradition, he was the President-General of the Teachers of Yoruba Language and Culture of Nigeria. He was an eminent member of the Nigerian Historical Society and the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
Chief Simoyan equally excelled as a member of the Bible Society of Nigeria, the Chartered Institute of Bankers (UK) and the National Geographic Society (US).
He was at various times a board member of Egbe Hospital, Titcombe College, Mushin High School, and the Nigerian Heartcare Foundation.
A gifted writer, he published historical books such as Egbe Chronicle, Egbe Notes and Oibo Egbe.
His involvement in creative writing bore rich fruits in the fictional works, namely A Life of Life and Rainbow in the Night.
His unpublished works include Humour on the World, a book on diplomatic jokes, and his autobiography Here to Stay.
He has given the world many quotes like: “No matter their place in life all persons are by nature religious.”
Chief Simoyan was quite fond of his hobbies, notably farming, and the collection of rare coins, pebbles, stamps and paintings. It was cool by him to cherish country walks. An avid lover of animals, he had multiform pets over the course of his lifetime, including a deer, a monkey, dogs and birds.
Married to Modupeola Afolabi on November 23, 1963, Chief Simoyan and his beloved wife got blessed with three daughters and three sons. The highly revered icon is survived by his children, eight grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of others to whom he was a father-figure, trusted friend and mentor.
According to his daughter Olaboludele Simoyan, author of the uniquely patriotic book, The 8th Wonder of the World –Made in Nigeria, “Papa was a man of conviction and integrity. He was committed to helping and encouraging people, a divine mandate that he fulfilled till his last day. He will be greatly missed.”
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, paid him timeless tribute thus: “Chief Olayinka Simoyan was an accomplished and patriotic civil servant. He was a gentleman, a diplomatic officer whose duty postings from Second Secretary to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (1965-68), to Charge d’Affaires to Dahomey (now Benin Republic) between 1971 and 1974 and then Charge d’Affaires to Austria between 1974 and 1976, often placed him in the brick of history. This was especially so in 1975, when I was scheduled to meet him in Vienna, Austria on a state visit after attending the Organization of African Unity (OAU) meeting in Kampala, Uganda. This was not possible because of the 1975 coup that overthrew my government while at the meeting. He was never out of his depth in whatever situation he found himself. That was a mark of greatness.”
For former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, “The late Basorun Simoyan was a quintessential diplomat who was very loyal to his profession and who also had a highly dignified life as a leader in the banking industry.”
In the riveting words of H.R.H. Oba Ayodele Irukera, the Elegbe of Egbe and Chairman, Yagba West Local Government Traditional Council, “Chief Simoyan was a very patriotic personality. He loved Egbe most passionately and contributed to its development diversely.”
Tunde Ipinmisho, a former Editor of Sunday Times where Chief Simoyan maintained a column, penned his tribute thusly: “Chief Simoyan loved Egbe like a mother loves an only child.” A remarkable column written by Chief Simoyan was the October 3, 1999 article entitled “Nigeria at 39: Remembering 1960” that painted Nigeria’s picturesque arrival at independence on October 1, 1960.
In a fitting finale, Chief Simoyan’s primary school teacher, Dr. David Ayodele Balogun, offered this lasting tribute: “Yinka was ever grateful to anyone who did him any good and would declare it publicly whenever the opportunity to do so presented itself.”
Chief Olayinka Olasehinde Simoyan lived an exemplary fulfilled life that is worthy of eternal celebration.

Yemi Alade is Out with the Video for “Shekere” featuring Angelique Kidjo

African pop diva, Yemi Alade has finally blessed us with the video of her hit single titled “Shekere“. The song which features Grammy award winner Angélique Kidjo, came as a personal request by Kidjo for Yemi Alade to revamp her classic “Wombo Lombo” and it was a big success.

“Shekere” is the sixth single off Yemi Alade’s fourth studio album “Woman of Steel“. The album features a host of international stars like Rick Ross, Angélique Kidjo, Duncan Mighty and Nollywood star Funke Akindele.

Watch the video below:

To Mark its 75th Anniversary, British Council celebrates the Nigerian Fashion Industry for Growth & Global Relevance

Over the last 10 years, Nigeria’s fashion industry has grown in reputation, size and sophistication, attracting strong global attention. This rise has been attributed to a striking patriotic move towards made and designed in Nigeria consciousness that has driven an increase in demand but also partly by unprecedented initiatives that continue to edge Nigeria into the global fashion consciousness.

Events such as ARISE Fashion Week hosted by Naomi Campbell, GTB Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion Week etc have propelled this movement through their anticipated annual runway shows and incubator-style techniques used to grow brands, designers as well as local artisans in this thriving sector. This growth has in no small way, been powered by the various initiatives and programmes by the British Council, geared at nurturing skill advancement and entrepreneurial acceleration in this most lucrative industry, contributing to the betterment of livelihood as well as national socio-economic growth. Going by GDP data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the “textile, apparel, and footwear” sector has averaged growth of 17% since 2010.

As part of the British Council’s 75th anniversary in Nigeria, they are celebrating 75 of their programme participants in the areas of their work, arts and culture, English language, education, civil society, whose lives, businesses and communities have been impacted positively following their participation.

They are saying Thanks to you, Emmanuel Okoro, a participant of the British Council’s 2017 Fashion Focus Fund accelerator programme held in association with Lagos Fashion and Design Week, brought Nigerian fashion onto the world stage when British former Prime Minister Theresa May chose one of his designs to wear on her state visit to Nigeria.

Emmanuel was delighted when May not only wore his jacket but sought to meet him personally. “I was speechless and so honoured to be in the presence of such an important world leader“.

Emmanuel Okoro made his debut on the Nigerian fashion scene at the British Council-supported Lagos Fashion Festival in 2017, and was one of the five finalists, winning $13,000, which he has reinvested in his business. “The moment I was announced the winner of the Fashion Focus Fund was a life-changing moment for me,” he says.

Fashion Focus, delivered in partnership with the Lagos Fashion and Design Week, was aimed at selecting five young Nigerian fashion entrepreneurs aged 18-35 as finalists to be taken through an academy with mentorship opportunities. It culminated in an opportunity to showcase their designs at the Lagos Fashion and Design Week, one of the biggest fashion shows in Africa.

Lagos Fashion Week is a fashion platform that drives the Nigerian and ultimately, the African fashion industry; by bringing together buyers, consumers and the media to view the current collections of designers in the fashion capital of Lagos, Nigeria.

May proudly wore an Emmanuel Okoro Emmy Kasbit Akwete print jacket during her visit to Nigeria. Nigerian fashion is growing on the world scene and has received widespread recognition over the years. Other personalities that have supported the industry include Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong’o, all of whom have been dressed by Nigerian designers.

May proudly wearing an Emmanuel Okoro Emmy Kasbit Akwete print jacket during her visit to Nigeria

According to Emmanuel Okoro, there are in fact, African men who are discerning when it comes to fashion and still want a touch of culture that defines their personality with the clothes they put on. Since he started designing in 2013, Emmy has remained consistent with the essence and goal of his brand, which is to create extremely stylish pieces while preserving culture. For him, the connection between fashion and culture is implicit. From Akwete fabric to prints and jewellery reminiscent of ancient Calabar, the multi-faceted creative is giving menswear and womenswear a much-deserved makeover with an unexpected traditional twist.

British Council is inviting past programme participants to celebrate its 75th anniversary with them by submitting stories of their experience and the impact it has had.

Visit for more information about how to participate in the 75 Stories campaign or follow on social media #ThanksToYou #75Stories #BritishCouncilAt75.

The former CEO of Exclusive Books now owns part of CNA

The new CEO – and part-owner – of the CNA chain has big plans to stock the stores with books in African languages.
Benjamin Trisk, the former CEO of Exclusive Books,worked for months on crafting an offer to buy the CNA chain from Edcon.
Edcon – owner of Edgars and Jet – has been struggling for survival, with billions in debt.
CNA has to suit the needs of the people – but in their own language, Trisk believes.
For more visit Business Insider South Africa.
The new CEO – and part-owner – of the CNA chain has big plans to stock the stores with books in African languages and make each outlet distinct.

After working for months on crafting an offer to buy the CNA chain from Edcon, Benjamin Trisk, the former CEO of Exclusive Books, finally has the deal in hand.

On Tuesday, Edcon announced that it will sell CNA to a consortium lead by Astoria Investments, an investment firm controlled by the asset manager RECM and Calibre Limited (RAC).

Last year, the group was saved from collapse by securing a R2.7 billion lifeline – a deal struck with landlords, the Public Investment Corporation, and creditors. It has already shut the loss-making Boardmans and Red Square chains.

“CNA is an important but not a strategic part of the Edcon business, as it is not focused on clothing, beauty and home categories,” Edcon CEO Grant Pattison said on Tuesday.

“I brought the (CNA) deal to Jan van Niekerk (CEO of RECM) after working on it for eighteen months,” Trisk told Business Insider SA.

The 72-year-old Trisk is investing his own money into CNA, alongside Astoria. They will be the main shareholders in CNA, and Trisk will be the new CEO of the retail chain. Trisk has brought in the former Exclusive Books general manager of procurement, Olinka Nell, to help run CNA.

Trisk has warned that some of the 167 CNA stores will have to close their doors. “But no store will be judged purely on their numbers.”

Trisk, who has an MBA from the University of Cape Town, started his career as an analyst at a stock broking firm in Johannesburg. In the late 1980s, he was appointed to manage a diverse chain of bookshops, which included the then small Exclusive Books chain.

After building it out for a number of years, he pursued other interests, but returned to Exclusives in 2013 as CEO and part-owner as part of a takeover deal. He then left the chain in 2018 again after an acrimonious fight with its board. According to reports, he was suspended by the company’s board for undisclosed reasons.

“I have a very clear vision of what I want CNA to be,” Trisk told Business Insider SA.

“It has to be the first port of call for the mother who is concerned about whether her child is coping with maths. I want it to be a store that has a sensitivity for what a young black child in grade one or two is going through.”

Trisk, who chairs the literacy NGO Nal’ibali, is passionate about books, and this will be a big focus for the new CNA.

Trisk believes that without a “reading population” South Africa won’t be economically successful, and that CNA is uniquely positioned to serve the country at a time where it needs literacy most.

CNA has to suit the needs of the people – but in their own language, he believes.

“We already have a huge reading public. But we need to give South Africans what they need. Books about Peter and Gretel in the Austrian alps are no good, they don’t work here. We have a dearth of books in the vernacular.”

Trisk says when he started an African literature section at Exclusive Books it quickly became the fastest growing genre across the store network.

While he says he would like to turn all CNA’s into the Exclusive Books in the Cavendish mall in Cape Town – his favourite book shop – this realistically won’t happen.

Instead, at the very least, he wants each CNA store to differentiate itself, with managers getting more freedom with merchandising.

“It won’t be same stuff in the same place, store after store, we want to make things interesting.”

He says that the CNA stores will feature “lots of our own of our product”.

Columbia University Launches Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter Lecture Series.

The series kicked off with a wide-ranging conversation between the legendary artist and journalism professor Jelani Cobb.

On February 4, Columbia University’s African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) Department launched the Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter Lecture Series, honoring the New York City-born rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

In an exclusive talk with students and faculty that ended with a standing ovation, Carter spoke to Jelani Cobb, Columbia’s Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, staff writer for The New Yorker, historian and author of several books, including “To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic.” The event was held at The Forum, located at Columbia’s Manhattanville campus. The program covered a number of themes in African American life and culture, including Carter’s career in music, his legacy as an artist, activism and philanthropy.

In addressing Cobb’s question about what he hoped would come from the lecture series, Carter emphasized open dialogue and real honest conversations. “We can all dazzle each other with language,” he said. But we need to “get down to the honesty of what’s happening.”

Drawing inspiration from Carter’s multimedia success, the series will spotlight public intellectuals, artists, musicians, dancers, writers and activists, as well as scholars and other noteworthy people who have made a major contribution to our understanding of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

“The Carter Lecture Series, the first named and endowed program in our Department, sits at the heart of our mission to create and sustain an intellectual community bridging scholarship, teaching and public life,” said Farah Jasmine Griffin, chair of AAADS Department and the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies. “The annual series will bring to our campus, our neighboring community and the City of New York the most innovative thinkers, activists and artists who are making outstanding contributions to our understanding of, and appreciation for, the thought, arts and social movements of the black diaspora.”

AAADS was established in 2018. But Columbia’s influence in this sphere dates back further and includes such noteworthy scholars as historian Manning Marable, pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas and Harlem literary icon Zora Neale Hurston.

“This unique lecture series, named for one of our most important and influential cultural figures, helps to establish the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department at Columbia as a major intellectual and cultural center,” added Griffin.

“It is wonderful to welcome and celebrate someone so accomplished and so inspiring to our program at Columbia University,” said Noam Gottesman, co-host of the event and Columbia University Trustee. “The Shawn ‘JAY-Z’ Carter Lecture Series will be a prominent and permanent feature of Columbia’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies and we could not be more honored.”

Chika Okeke-Agulu is Named 2020 Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

The Institute of Fine Arts is delighted to welcome Chika Okeke-Agulu as the Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor for the spring 2020 semester.

The Institute of Fine Arts is delighted to welcome Chika Okeke-Agulu as the Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor for the spring 2020 semester.

The Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professorship brings a distinguished scholar to the Institute each year to teach a course and give a series of public lectures in the area of modern and contemporary art.

The Professorship was endowed in 2006 by the late Professor Varnedoe’s friends and colleagues to honor and perpetuate his legacy of innovative teaching and to enhance the study and presentation of modern and contemporary art at the Institute.

Chika Okeke-Agulu is Professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University. His books include Yusuf Grillo: Painting. Lagos. Life (Skira Editore, 2020), Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira Editore, 2016); Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke, 2015); and (with Okwui Enwezor), Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2010). He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and maintains the blog Ọfọdunka. He has co-organized several art exhibitions, including El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale (Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2019), Who Knows Tomorrow (Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2010), 5th Gwangju Biennale (Gwangju, 2004), The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945 1994 (Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, 2001), Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1995), and the Nigerian section at the First Johannesburg Biennale, 1995.

Among Professor Okeke-Agulu’s many awards and prizes are: Honorable Mention, The Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication (triennial) Award (Arts Council of African Studies Association, 2017); The Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the most important scholarly work in African Studies published in English during the preceding year (African Studies Association, 2016); and the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (College Art Association, 2016).

Okeke-Agulu serves on the advisory boards of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre, the Tate Modern, London, and the Center for the Study of Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. He is on the executive board of Princeton in Africa, and the editorial board of African Studies Review.

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