In 2017, Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso became a major talking point in Nigerian literature as his reissued literary works made it to the UBEC (Universal Basic Education) reading list, and were circulated in twenty-one states across the federation for use by students in Nigerian schools. Since then, curiosity has been set apace what constitutes the selling point of this silent writer. The answer is farfetched: Alagbaoso is gradually fitting into the shoes of Cyprian Ekwensi.
In generational classification, late Ekwensi could be located in the first generation Nigerian writers, which included greats like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Chukwuemeka Ike, Maebel Segun, to mention a few, though Ekwensi started writing before most of them. On the other hand, Jerry Alagbaoso is a third generation Nigerian writer, also a contemporary scribbler still in active service of weaving words and creating characters.
A look at the oeuvres of the two writers show that some of their works pander to young people’s interest, which is why they are fancied by Nigerian students and the reading public. While Ekwensi’s writings are mostly novels, novellas, short stories and children’s books, Alagbaoso’s writings are mostly plays and prose fiction.
Ekwensi’s works include When Love Whispers, An African Night’s Entertainment, The Boa Suitor, The Leopard’s Claw, People of the City, The Drummer Boy, The Passport of Mallam Illia, Jagua Nana, Burning Grass, Beautiful Feathers, Rainmakers, Iska, Lokotown, Restless City and Christmas, Divided we Stand, Motherless Baby, Jagua Nana’s Daughter, Behind the Convent Wall, The Great Elephant Bird, Gone to Mecca, Masquerade Time, and Cash and Delivery.
On his part, Alagbaoso has published the novella, Officers and Men, and the plays, Tony Wants to Marry, Specks in Our Eyes, Sorters and Sortees, Ina-Aga, Armchair Parents, The First Day, Mine: An Enduring Heart, Nkem: Obi Na Ali, Signs and Wonders, Oh1 My Rolls Royce, The First Lady, His Excellency and the Siren, and Honourable Gentlemen. But, recently, Alagbaoso collected all his published plays in three volumes with the exception of the masterpiece, Tony Wants to Marry.
Writing for children and young adults, it must be noted, is one of the most difficult things to do as a writer, which is why even the most accomplished of writers globally rarely venture into this creative enterprise. It requires special skills, such as creating a construct, bearing in mind the writer’s cultural responsibility, capable of appealing to their imaginations. Both entertainment and didactic values are fused into one. Even when human foibles are dramatised for the young readers, as these writers do, the essence is to fashion out a heuristic template.