- Fate of Our Mothers: The Collected Memories of an African Village Boy by Michael Oladejo Afolayan
Fate of Our Mothers: The Collected Memories of an African Village Boy is the first in a planned series of narratives of the initial two decades of the life of Michael Oladejo Afolayan, founder and lead consultant of M&P Educational Consulting International, based in Springfield, Illinois. The story begins with Afolayan’s exploits as a five-year-old, and it captures his experiences when he was in his twenties, serving as an untrained teacher at St. Peter’s Anglican School at Sabo, Ile-Ife. Untrained teachers were called pupil teachers during the British colonial educational presence in his native Nigeria, and in Ghana, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and other English-speaking former colonies.
The book begins with an eloquent dedicatory page, which pays tribute to mothers in a variety of contexts, including “Requiem of peace to all mothers, who took the journey of fame. . . . Mothers whose names will never enter the hall of shame; mothers who fulfilled their time; and willingly refused to take a dime” (p. v). Memorable is a line that Afolayan adapts from “Faith of Our Fathers,” a hymn by Frederick W. Faber (1814–63), which in Afolayan’s version ends “Faith of our mothers holding still; we will be true to thee till death” (p. vii).
The book has a preface, forty-five chapters, and a postscript. Afolayan points out in the preface how “human memory is wired to fail” and unmasks the “dangerous enemies” of what he calls true reflection: “time, space, age, the natural ego, and the need to be heard and recognized by any means necessary” (p. xi). “Any means necessary” reminds readers of Malcolm X, but Afolayan lists the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “drum major instinct,” the words that King scholars find prophetic in his preaching of his own eulogy in a sermon on February 4, 1968; he was assassinated exactly two months later—which placed a burden on the shoulders of Elijah Mays, president of Morehouse College, to give King’s eulogy at his funeral. Afolayan recalls that losing his mother felt like losing his own life: the experience was like witnessing “a part of us snatched away right in front of our eyes. Suddenly, we became vulnerable and helpless” (p. 3). As a fair-minded writer and son, he pays suitable attention to Baba Agba, the father that in Yoruba they simply called Baba. He describes Baba as being “noticeable [End Page 80] in the village, as he sat in his armchair, always surrounded by some of his eleven children” (p. 4).
Among the who’s-who of others named in Fate of Our Mothers are some of Africa’s preeminent writers. Afolayan points out that he was in school long enough to have become a strong writer, yet he adds: “I also recognized that I did not have the skills of my elder countrymen like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, and many, like my cousin, whom we all refer to as Dadi Ife. These were people who have so skillfully used their God-given talent to scribble down life’s adventurous journeys in languages their ancestors never spoke” (p. 5).
Fate of Our Mothers does not chronicle the author’s life from cradle to grave: instead, Afolayan addresses his four American-born children (all of whom are shown in beautiful photos) and offers his readers a peep into his childhood at Oke-Awo Village, which he describes as being situated in southeastern Nigeria.
Afolaya loved school. He discusses his early education with much fondness; however, as he confesses, not many students attended the village school: “In fact, I could mention every single student by name. We even had a few students from neighboring villages like Aye, Ogbagba, Yakemi, Bolajoko, and Amele” (p. 106). He studied hard and in the end earned his PhD degree. He subsequently held appointments at such prominent educational institutions as Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, the...