April 15, 2024

A generation’s swelling im(mortality): An appreciation to Ibadan’s THE SEVEN…

  • February 16, 2024
  • 4 min read
A generation’s swelling im(mortality): An appreciation to Ibadan’s THE SEVEN…

By Chiedu Ezeanah

HERE are seven friends and contemporaries who were not content with just being literary scholars those heady years, but they also exercised their innate gifts to be exemplary, imaginative and creative beings.

In poetry, drama, whimsical essays, mostly.

The arrival of my contemporaries at the University of Ibadan’s famous Faculty of Arts In the early and mid-1980s was propitious indeed.

We met the immediate Inheritors of the Boon that the first and the very best (Yes o), generation of Nigerian writers and scholar-critics who were so happy to mingle with us unreservedly and were eager to impart all those “Ancient Secrets” from the grove to our inquisitive younger minds.

I am speaking on behalf of myself.

Thanks to you all, especially THE SEVEN I am about to mention here whom I have known closely and interacted with personally.

They were/are elder brothers and friends and mentors more than being just our lecture-room teachers.

Only three of them taught me in the classroom ambience: Harry Garuba, Emevwo Biakolo (both of them in the English Department) and Dipo Irele (Philosophy)…

Of course, great teachers should cultivate the friendship of their Students and protégés.

They were/are all that and more.

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Prof. Emevwo Biakolo

Thank you Jide Ogungbade, poet, playwright and theatre director, who left first (August 21,1952 – 2019). He was called Papa Jyde by his close friends, associates and admirers.

Thank you Harry Garuba. You followed after your great friend about a year later (April 8, 1958 – February 28, 2020). You were fondly called Harry Gee by your friends.

Thank you Emevwo Biakolo. I do not believe you guys are taking turns to exit from our world, but you are the latest of THE SEVEN to say goodbye (February 8, 2024). We called you Biaks.

Ben Tomoloju, we thank you. Thanks for still being with us. I remember your dramatic performance of greetings with your friends. We call you Ben Tee. Thanks for still being very much around…

Ekwuazi Hyginus. We thank you. Can I even remember calling you by any fond name? It’s great to still have the occasional phone conversations with you over sundry issues About the word and the world. Great that you are not about to leave the word or the world anytime soon…

Thanks Dipo Irele, The postmodernist/postcolonial philosopher who is the younger brother of the famous, now late inimitable polyglot (he could read, write and speak not less than five European languages), critic of literature and culture who is also a postmodernist/postcolonialist theorist as well. We called him by his first name: Dipo.

Incidentally, I spoke with him on phone just about a week ago. Not really shocked that I could not find a single photograph of him anywhere on the Internet. He doesn’t even have one on his Facebook profile page. That’s our ebullient Dipo who I must say perhaps overdoes this habit of keeping the mystery of the Man of Eclectic Ideas to the extreme.

Thanks Pius Omole. I believe the oldest of THE SEVEN who still comports himself like a member of GenZ. His background In Spanish language, high literature and culture cum popular culture made a real difference to our formative years. His Bohemian outlook belies his depth in and flair for all things literary across Africa and globally. I can justly accuse him of introducing me to the genius art of Sylvia Plath, now one of my favourites of all time. Predictably, Pius never minded being called by his first name: Pius.

They were all in the Arts for the love of the Arts, which sounds hackneyed now. Some of us were infected positively by this pious passion what we would sspire to outperform, not just THE SEVEN but the Literary Ancestors who came before them.

What has happened since my contemporaries left Africa’s PREMIER UNIVERSITY, famously called UI, that produced Chinua Achebe, JP Clark Bekederemo, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo and the others of Nigeria’s First Literary Generation as we now characterise it?

Responding to this is for another day.

Is there something mythical about the Numeral Seven(7)? Glad that our story was not inspired by this Mythical Number. It was real. It is still very real. even though I must admit that this is already assuming the dimensions of the mythological. I congratulate THE SEVEN for their inspiring accomplishments that will remain remembered forever.

I thank each of THE SEVEN for being my avuncular Elder Brothers and great friends…

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