A bold initiative projected to have a long-lasting, global impact on the literary and cultural scene kicked off in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital recently.
The Ibadan Literary Society was literally revved into life with full endorsement by some of the leading lights of literature and the humanities at the Conference Centre of Nigeria’s Premier University, the University of Ibadan.
The occasion was chaired by a father-figure in the Nigerian literati, the longest-serving Vice-Chancellor of the host-University, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo who also chairs the Advisory Committee of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas-sponsored The Nigeria Prize for Literature.
Also, with the presence of two of Nigeria’s eminent, world-class writers, Emeritus Professor Femi Osofisan and New Orleans-based Distinguished Professor Niyi Osundare the rite of delivery of the Ibadan Literary Society was firmly secured.
The project is a brain-child of renowned culture communication consultant and activist, Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo, former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday and Dr. Sola Adeyemi, a reputable theatre expert and London-based university teacher. Mr. Dele Morakinyo, formerly the Ekiti State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), anchored the event.
As expected in a gathering of writers, critics, publishers, booksellers, arts patrons and students, the auditorium warmed up with reflections and piquant humour. It was indeed inspiring that the chairman, an Emeritus Professor, was flanked on the high-table by his own former students, Emeritus Professor Osofisan and Distinguished Professor Osundare, a sublime testimony of values and noble legacies.
Easily, the inception of the Ibadan Literary Society (ILS) could not have been marked without the evocation of such a noble antecedent as Mbari. But the journey, according to the initiator, Anikulapo, was long and passion-laden. It included some dilemmatic encounter at the corridors of power in the quest to Bring Back the Book, the offer of Residency to him severally by three departments of the University and his preference for the revival and revitalisation of the Ibadan cultural legacy through the establishment of the ILS.
Adeyemi expanded on this, “The genesis was in 2013 in an hotel at Bodija. We sat down and said the whole idea of getting the Literary Society created was due. Ibadan has always been a very progressive society. There are so many prominent writers, critics and artists in Nigeria and Africa who had their footprints in Ibadan. The establishment of the society will not only be a glowing tribute to their pioneering efforts, but an advancement on their noble vision”
He recalled that he hinted a South African friend about the ILS. Two months later, he “searched the website and found that the South Africa Literary Society was established soon after that discussion. I told Jahman that the idea had been hijacked”.
The duo could, therefore, not wait. Influential figures in the cultures sector were contacted. The poet laureate, Osundare given his consent to serve as the Chairman of the Ibadan Literary Society.
Throwing more light, Adeyemi said, “Ibadan is not just a city, but a community of people linked by markets. We want to make the Ibadan Literary Society not a micro-Mbari Club located somewhere in the city, a whole network whereby each community will host one project or the other, a gallery here, a museum there, libraries and cinemas, among others”.
So far, there are two major projects of the ILS scheduled to take off from the point of inception. They are the Ibadan Literary Festival and the Ibadan Literary Journal of which, according to the organisers, ‘the playwright, journalist and culture communicator, Ben Omowafola Tomoloju has kindly accepted to chair the First Editorial Advisory Board.’
In his opening address, the Chairman of the occasion described the ILS as a wonderful idea.He stated, “I whole-heartedly support this effort. But I think we have to be realistic. Anything that is cultural, anything that is not related to money and material reward is not easy to implement. I am, however, encouraged by the previous speakers who have expressed their determination to make this initiative succeed”.
Advising all stakeholders Emeritus Professor Banjo said, ‘We must make up our minds to do what ought to be done, for the country, in the first place, for Ibadan and for the University of Ibadan which has brought such glory to the city. We must capitalise on this and thus bring out the country from the morass in which it currently finds itself.’
In his very brief remark, the Chairman of the Ibadan Literary Society, Osundare described the initiative as “a great development indeed”.
Going down the memory lane, he said, “I remember that the first time I saw Soyinka, Okigbo, Clark and Chief Higo together was in Adamasingba Mbari. But this is not just an Mbari restricted to a corner of Ibadan. This is a much larger project”.
Some of the Special Guests at the occasion were veteran cinematographer and former Commissioner for Information and Culture in Oyo State, Alhaji Adegboyega Arulogun, book publishers Chief Ola Falore, Mr. Steve Shaba of Kraftbooks and Gbenro Adegbola of First Veritas, the Chairman of the Oyo State branch of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Solomon Igunare and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Mr. Emmanuel Abimbola.
Others are Professor and Mrs. J.K. Ladipo, poet, Anthony Ebika, Mr. Toye Arulogun, a celebrated media and culture expert, and representatives of the Vice-Chancellor of Lead City University, Ibadan. The keynote speaker was the Chairman and Managing Director of The Booksellers, the state-of-the-art bookshop in Ibadan, Mr. Kolade Mosuro.
•Ben Tomoloju is a playwright, cultural consultant and media specialist