Elizabeth, Wife of D. O Fagunwa, Dies

Elizabeth, Wife of D. O Fagunwa, Dies

Sunday, April 8, 2018 11:04 pm

D. O Fagunwa’s wife, Elizabeth. Photo credit: Raphael James

The wife of the foremost pioneer writer, D.O. Fagunwa, Chief Mrs Elizabeth Adebanke Fagunwa, is dead. She passed on in a Lagos hospital last Saturday evening. She was 85. Her husband was the author of Ògbójú Ode Nínú Igbó Irúnmale`, (The Forest of A Thousand Daemons as translated by Professor Wole Soyinka).

Her husband died on 9 December 1963 in a river in Niger State. Mrs Fagunwa lived in Oke Igbo until her death.

In Celebrating D.O. Fagunwa: Aspects of Africa and World Literary History, a definitive book on Fagunwa, edited by Adeleke Adeeko and Akin Adesokan, Chief Elizabeth Fagunwa spoke on the true story of Fagunwa’s death which was until then shrouded in mystery and half-truth. She enjoyed tremendously the three day conference in Akure and the presentation of the book on her husband in Ibadan organised by the Fagunwa Study Group.

Below is a story about her last public outing, as published last year by TheNEWS:

In honour of D. O. Fagunwa

L-R: Femi Osofisan, Wole Soyinka, Mrs Elizabeth Fagunwa, Mimiko (standing) and other guests

Wole Soyinka (centre) unveiling Fagunwa’s book. With him are Yetunde ( right) and Adejoke (left) of Bookcraft

A book celebrating D. O Fagunwa’s achievements is presented in Ibadan

By Gbenro Adesina/Ibadan

On Thursday 27 July 2017, eminent Nigerians, scholars and students gathered at the Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, UI, to once again celebrate a prolific Yoruba writer, Daniel Oluwafemi Fagunwa. The occasion, put together by Fagunwa Study Group, FSG, in conjunction with Bookcraft, was a public presentation of a book titled, “Celebrating D.O. Fagunwa: Aspects of African and World Literary History”, edited by two scholars, Professors Adeleke Adeeko and Akin Adesokan. The book was reviewed by Dr. Ayo Adeduntan of the Institute of African Studies, UI. Speakers at the event lauded the sterling qualities of the late literary icon.

Among those in attendance were: Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State Governor (represented by his Special Adviser, Research and Documentation, Kunle Adebayo); his immediate predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; Professor Wole Soyinka; Professor Femi Osofisan; Professor Taoheed Adedoja; former Ambassador to Central African Republic, retired Colonel Rowland Omowa; Professor Dan Izevbaye of Bowen University; Professor Tunde Babawale of the University of Lagos; the Executive Editor, TheNEWS magazine, Kunle Ajibade; delegates from Adekunle Ajasin University, AAU, Akungba, led by its Vice Chancellor, Professor Igbekele Amos Ajibefun; former Vice Chancellor, Wesley University of Science and Technology, Professor Tola Badejo; Professor Gbemisola Adeoti; Professor Dele Layiwola; Professor Arinpe Adejumo; Dr. Wumi Raji; publisher/CEO, Bookcraft, Bankole Olayebi; Chief Joop Berkhout of Safari Books; delegates from Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo, led by Chairman, Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo Local Government, Dele Akinwoye and the regent of Oke-Igbo Kingdom, Folayemi Fasawe. A renowned poet, Odia Ofeimun; Dr. Ademola Araoye; Femi Odugbemi; Jahman Anikulapo; Toyin Akinosho; World Culture Ambassador, Agbaakin Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oloye Rasheed Olalekan Alabi; Dr Wale Okediran; Chief Falomo, a trustee of D.O. Fagunwa Foundation and Otunba Reuben Famuyibo were also there.

The event was spiced with cultural performance by members of Ondo State Cultural Troupe and reading of short excerpts from one of Fagunwa’s novels by Iwalewa Olorunyomi, of the Department of Classics, University of Ibadan.

Welcoming the participants, Ondo State Governor, Akeredeolu, said that there was a sense in which the significance of the event defined the challenge of nationhood, stressing, “It is quite so in the sense that a functionalist review of Fagunwa epistemology shows the ABC of nation building, particularly the individual responsibilities and collective mentality required of all the key institutions of a nation-state”.

Contextualising his discourse, Akeredolu asked, “Is this the challenge currently being faced by our country Nigeria? Yes. Are Nigeria’s problems obvious and bold enough for even the blind to see? Yes. Is redemption and rehabilitation possible to activate a rebirth? Are we doing enough service for history, justice, peace and fairness to guide our process of recovery? I doubt it. Lest we mistake the lessons from failed and dismembered nations for tales told from and about foreign lands in an imported context. I believe the recipe for our nation’s brew of self inflicted tragedy consisted in our character and uncanny ways. It is therefore in this context that I welcome and thank the Fagunwa Study Group for its great effort at activating a grounded discourse about the forms and contexts of our nation”.

Arakunrin Akeredolu averred that having read Fagunwa’s books and the Foreword by Wole Soyinka and two chapters from contributors to the book of essays, he concluded that Fagunwa’s books are metaphors for the catalepsy suffered by our nation and the context of its possible remediation. He further averred that through its various activities, FSG is channelling a path to society’s redemption and recovery. “The pastoral Fagunwa represents the originality, discretion and cultural conservatism of Ondo state people while the narrative artistry and metaphysical settings of his works are imageries conjured from the very heart of the physical expression of Fagunwa’s Oke Igbo in our Ondo state. Just as Idanre, that corrugated hill of nature’s mystery, which has inspired many creative evocations, so has Igbo Olodumare, a real and physically existing community settlement in Fagunwa’s town, evoked a title for one of his greatest works”, he stated.

Fagunwa’s book

The Chair of the occasion, Professor Ropo Sekoni who stood in for Chief Ade Ojo, hinged his speech on quotations from the book, from Femi Osofisan’s paper, Kehinde Olupona’s paper and from the Arts Council of England:

From Osofisan, “In an increasing number of homes, particularly among the intellectual and mercantile middle class, everything about our own culture is being deliberately suppressed nowadays, blacked out systematically from the children’s consciousness, including the ability to communicate in our mother tongues. … However, our governments in Nigeria have habitually, for reasons largely deriving from our colonial history, shown little interest in the area of cultural education. So, it has always been left to private organizations and individuals, especially in the artistic world, to keep raising the danger signals in this area, and to initiate programmes to salvage things”.

From Olupona, “His home place, which I referred to earlier, definitely deserves to be given a new face-lift, so that it will be preserved for generations yet unborn to recognize how much Fagunwa’s novels did in giving us a literature that can be called classic in every sense of the term”.

From England’s Arts Council—“We support the arts, museums, and libraries–from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Between 2015 and 2018, we will invest 1.1 billion pounds of public money from government and 700 million pounds from the National Lottery to help create arts and culture experiences for everyone, everywhere”.

According to Sekoni, the first two quotes from Osofisan and Olupona described the problem while the third one in the mission statement of the Arts Council of England illustrated the solution that most countries adopt to safeguard the arts and culture their talented citizens provide to enrich the humanity of their citizens through creativity in arts and culture.

Sekoni lamented that the government is not doing enough to arrest alienation of citizens from arts and culture. He said, “Let us accept that the money invested in this project is part of the home remittances from the Diaspora and be grateful that the Yoruba is lucky to have at this time a responsive Diaspora. But no country can depend eternally on home remittances to drive its cultural production. If these men and women had been born in our region during the locust years since the 1980s, it is possible that they would not have been able to speak and read Yoruba and consequently would not have known the significance of Fagunwa to the world. Government of Nigeria, particularly governments in the Yoruba region, need to get their acts together to arrest alienation of citizens from art and culture of people in the region”.

The scholar noted that there is nothing in the present system that prevents Yoruba governments from supporting the promotion of arts and culture and making sure that the students in primary schools learn Yoruba. He urged for the resurrection of the infrastructure that existed during the government of Action Group to support excellence in the arts and improve access of citizens to creative products.

He impressed it on the government of South West to invest in culture because it is the engine of development, calling the government to recoup some of the things done by Action Group Government that helped to stimulate knowledge and creativity in Yorubaland as well as calling for robust cultural administration, and qualitative education that would recognise Yoruba Language.

Among the tasks he set for the South West government are: States to set new policies about art and culture promotion; local government to play the main role in providing cultural development and to create funds for supporting cultural activities and be supported by the state; Good and conducive learning environment for the child between age five and eleven/twelve with instructions in mother tongue; public libraries; Museums; modern cultural policy to include primary and secondary education, children and youth policy, education and training, provision of support services to budding artists. According to him, the agencies for dispersal are: schools, libraries. museums, and societies/bodies.

He concluded by noting that “we may not have the resources of England, but ko to nnkan nii so nii dawun. If you don’t start, you cannot build”.

Also speaking, Tejumola Olaniyan who represented the Chair of Fagunwa Study Group, FSG, Professor Femi Taiwo, pointed out that the group is a collection of scholars and professionals with an abiding interest in the works of Fagunwa, stressing that Fagunwa and his works are the anchors of the organisation. Stating that the group aspires to offer a platform for the expansion of the study, creation and dissemination of knowledge about Yorùbá civilisation at the highest intellectual level. “Some years back, we noticed the absence of much recent original scholarship on the writings of Fagunwa, so we decided to do something about it. Our initial plan was for a special issue of a journal, but that transformed into a trail-blazing and hugely successful conference in Akure in August 2013. The book we are presenting today is the result of that conference. The FSG’s agenda to make Fagunwa the springboard for scholarly explorations in Yoruba literature, religion, philosophy, culture, and politics is just beginning. We will, in the near future, be asking you to be a part of an exciting programming in conferences, workshops, public lectures and book presentations on many aspects of Yorùbá intellectual heritage and its global reach. Let us together create a thriving, lively and stimulating tradition of Fagunwa scholarship”.

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