(OSAN JA, ORUN D’OPA: AYO AKINWALE LO!)
By Folorunso Fatai Adisa
When Mahfouz Adedimeji in one of his pieces titled ‘Abdul Hafeez Adedimeji: A life of learning quoted Vicki Corona that , “Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” He must have had Professor Ayobami Akinwale on his mind. Prof Akinwale’s life was dedicated to an active service to humanity. A life well-spent.
Professor Ayo Akinwale was a thrilling thespian, a veteran Movie Producer, an Academics, a laureate of the African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) and one of the best directors of his time.
As a professor of theatre and proficient actor, he had a magnificent Yoruba accent which was on the same wavelength with his impeccable spoken and written English. He featured in a number of movies such as; Sango, Ladepo Omo Adanwo, Clash of the Gods, Iranse Aje, Eti Keta etc.
One cannot but love Professor Ayo Akinwale’s craft, his deft delivery on stage, his impressive command of the rich repertoire of Yoruba wise sayings and proverbs, his carriage and brilliant erudition as a thespian amongst other magnetic qualities he had.
I had known prof since I was in 100level, 2015. However, I was introduced to him when I was in 400level, 2019. On one sunny noon, Prof AbdulRasheed Adeoye, the current Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UNILORIN saw me on the corridor of the Faculty and he held my hand and remarked, “Aare, jeki a jo de odo ogami”. We got to his office, he introduced me to Prof and we all discussed at length. He regaled us with a lot of didactic stories and we heartily laughed.
When the Department of Performing Arts was having its National Conference, it was Prof Akinwale who ordered that I should sit among those prominent professors of Performing Arts such as Prof. Ahmed Yerima amongst others who graced the conference. He noted, “A president represents his people everywhere. As the first student in the Faculty, you should be on the high table too”. And we all laughed. AMIABILITY.
When Prof Adeoye was having his inaugural lecture towards the end of last year, I didn’t have the idea that I would see Prof Akinwale for the last time that night. I was at the cocktail party when Prof Ojuade sighted me and remarked, “Hadji Fatai, come let me introduce you to our fathers”. It was Prof Akinwale and Prof Olu Obafemi. No sooner had Prof Obafemi jokingly said, “FASA the troublesome boy” than Prof Akinwale interjected, “ I know him very well, he’s a good boy”. It was a night of a thousand laughs.
Prof Akinwale wrote many books and articles on Theatre Arts in Nigeria. Some of his publications include; “From Compound Space, to the Living Stage” Nigerian Theatre Journal. Vol. 2, No. 1. (1998); “Theatre and Democracy in Nigeria” Nigerian Theatre Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1, “Nigerian Playright”; Zulu Sofola (2005); “The Nigerian Theatre and Economic Viability”. Arts Administration in Contemporary Nigeria; The Nigeria Broadcaster” Media Nigeria; “The Theatre and Nigeria’s New Democratic Environment: A Sociological Overview”, and many more.
Importantly, the reality of life is that: days and nights alternate. We live, we die. When all is said and done, we appreciate that everyday, death fires its arrows. Whoever escapes the arrow today will surely be hit another day, one way or another.We would not be here forever.
Professor Ayobami Akinwale led a productively great life. The words of Ian Lancaster Fleming— an English author, journalist and naval intelligence officer who is best known for his James Bond series of spy novels— “Death is forever. But so are diamonds” are both apt and soothing here. Death has claimed Prof’s life. But Prof, to us, is a diamond. He would forever be in our memories. May God forgive him of his iniquities and grant him a beautiful repose.
The man, Professor Ayobami Akinwale
He was born in Ibadan and attended Methodist High School and, according to a Dawn Commission publication, the University of Ibadan before commencing academic work as a lecturer at the Polytechnic Ibadan. He was the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Culture of University of Ilorin, as reflected in a story, Lecturers as Nollywood Stars, published by modernghana.com. He was also the chairman of Oyo State Council for Arts and Culture. He was a judge on several cultural festivals across Nigeria. He began his acting career in the 1970s featuring in television and drama productions. He won the Best Indigenous actor award at the 4th Africa Movie Academy Awards.
-Folorunso Fatai Adisa, former President, Faculty of Arts Students’ Association, UNILORIN.