June 14, 2024

Adieu, Prof. Ayo Banjo (1934 – 2024)

  • May 27, 2024
  • 4 min read
Adieu, Prof. Ayo Banjo (1934 – 2024)

By Adediran Ademiju-Bepo

HE was my vice chancellor at Matriculation in 1987. I have been made to waste three years through no faults of mine after secondary school in 1984. I first attempted the JAMB Matriculation Exam in 1985, but couldn’t make it to the then Ogun State University, Ago Iwoye, to study Law, my choice. In 1987, at my second attempt, and after God sent help, I graciously got admitted to UI, Ibadan, actually to his Department of English, but found myself in Theatre Arts after two weeks. That story is for another day.

I wasn’t present in the iconic Trenchard Hall, the ever-present venue for university functions of that nature on the day of my Matriculation, on a Friday. I was outside, looking and waiting for my eldest brother and other family members who promised they were coming. Being the first in the family to gain admission into the university, I was extremely excited. But it never happened. I had to arrange my photoshoot on Sunday, apparently, work didn’t allow him to come. Another story for another day.

I interacted with the greatest vice chancellor of all time in many other ways. In 1988, after taking part in the 40th anniversary of UI as an actor on stage in Wole Soyinka’s Opera Wonyosi, directed by the ebullient late Prof. Dapo Adelugba, we had a good handshake from Vice Chancellor Banjo. Many of us in the cast were in 200 Level and by rule, preference was given to newly-admitted and graduating students in terms of accommodation in the various Halls of Residence on campus. The rest of us had to scramble and struggle.

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Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo

But Baba Adelugba made a case for us to be ‘rewarded’ with spaces in our respective Halls. The VC did not hesitate as he gave express approval and compiled our names for onward transmission to the Hall Wardens who were academics of integrity. We were treated as the VC’s Children on receipt of the VC’s Lists by the Wardens. And we got the accommodation. But we paid the requisite Hall dues and bedspace charge then!

The other encounter was by proxy. UI was given the hosting right of the defunct Nigerian Universities Theatre Arts Festival (NUTAF) in 1991, my final year. As the Secretary of ATAS, (Association of Theatre Arts Students) in my department, I was central to the planning and hosting of the historic annual event. Adelugba then was our Dean and he was the gateway to the VC, the Chief Host through the department. He had asked me to draft the welcome address for him which I did. I recall it was on the weekend before the arrival of delegates and the opening ceremony slated for Monday.

I didn’t know what happened but the VC didn’t get to see the draft before Monday. It was at Trenchard Hall that Baba Adelugba called me and whispered to find out whether I had transmitted the draft to the Vice Chancellor! Ah, me, a small tiata rat! To go and give the giant VeeCee a draft welcome address? I replied respectfully that it was his responsibility, as I dutifully carried out mine of doing the draft. Thank heavens, the dean had it in his file and got it across to the Chief Host. When the VC was concluding the delivery of the address, he made a closing remark, inter alia: ‘I didn’t get to see a copy of this until some moments ago, may be due to the dean’s schedule. But whoever had put it together did a wonderful job and would go places.’ And he went back to his seat.

The applause that followed was thunderous! Nobody knew it was me then, but heaven knew and has hearkened to my VeeCee’s public supplication. I started practicing journalism immediately after graduation, as I had been a campus journalist while in school. And I went into writing, as NUTAF was to discover my playwriting prowess.

Adieu, Prof. Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo, CON, FNAL, NNOM, JP. The VC that signed my Certificate! May you journey home well!!

* Ademiju-Bepo teaches drama at the University of Jos, Nigeria

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