By Tony Iyare
I was in the habit of sharing deep thoughts, banters, wisecracks and graffiti about happenings in our dear country with Tunde Fatunde, who betrayed no inkling that he was nursing a terminal ailment.
On Sunday, January 16th, I sent him news on the appointment of Ebenezer Obadare, prominent Nigerian Journalist and Professor of Political Science, as a member of Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), the top US Think Tank. The following day, Monday, January 17th, we shared the excitement of the Garden Radio that allows you to listen to any radio anywhere in the world.
Almost every other day, we exchanged mind boggling posts about developments in Nigeria, sometimes hallucinating whether we are still part of the comity of nations. We chewed about the good the bad and the ugly. And usually we got so engrossed in this conversation that we hardly bothered to ask after each other’s welfare.
To compound it, the traffic gridlock on the Badagry road corridor made it easier to pick a pin from a haystack than to continue my normal routine of visiting friends and family members and other fun places in that axis for many years now. I was so scared about unsavory tales of residents and commuters spending endless hours on the shredded Lagos-Badagry road that passes as a semblance of an International gateway that I simply kept off to retain my sanity. I’m still reeling from the about six hour trip I last made from my abode in New Okooba to attend a conference in Badagry in early 2018. That journey should have taken just one hour when the road was good and commuting was blissful.
When I eventually summoned the courage to visit Fatunde’s former Agbara Estate home during Christmas of 2020, we had so much to talk about. But I gleaned he was greatly tickled by my discourse on the herbal drugs I got from the Lagos office of Pax Herbal Clinic and Laboratories, Ewu, Edo State, to stave off COVID-19. I later gave him the contact of Rev Fr Anselm Adodo, the founder and director of the Centre if he needed some remedies. Even at that, I really didn’t get the picture that he was sitting on thorns with a failing health.
When he regaled me about the new property he bought as a retiring home in a new estate in Badagry, I promised him that it would rekindle my escapades to the historic town. “You can be sure that I’ll be one of your regular guests” to which he sighed approvingly.
I was therefore shocked to my marrows and greatly shattered to learn from Abdul Oroh’s Facebook wall that my long time associate, friend and comrade, Tunde Fatunde, a professor of Francophone and Literary Studies, had kicked the bucket on the evening of Thursday, January 27th, which coincided with the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, after a protracted battle with prostrate cancer.
One of mankind’s most profound philosophers, Thomas Aquinas in his treatise on “Death And The Separated Soul,” posited that “a separated soul is not a human being; the human being ceases to exist at death, and will come back into existence only with the resurrection of the body.” While asking Fatunde to extend our felicitations to all our departed comrades including Festus Iyayi, his soulmate and twin brother, we look forward to exchanging pleasantries on the resurrection morning.
Our paths crossed 40 years ago when I started interacting with the revolutionary group in Benin City from my base at Ife Varsity. As budding scholars, he and Iyayi who were like Siamese twins, had already etched themselves in the brewing radical politics on the campus of the University of Benin as Secretary and Chairman respectively of the local branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Fatunde who did his PhD in France and Iyayi who had done his in the UK, after earlier studies in the defunct Soviet Union, struck a chord. They were like the snail and its shell. Their offices were also within earshot in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences although their disciplines were far apart. Their literary predilection further cemented their relationship.
Chris Theodoropulous, a former Greek radical student actist, who was head hunted along with others from Ife to incubate the Law Faculty at Uniben by Prof Itse Sagay and Prof David Aihe, had provided the link to other members of the radical movement in Benin which had given life to so many other groups. In fact his on Uwasota was the gathering spot. I really do not wish to give too much away from the impending memoirs and biographical works of an acclaimed arrowhead of the movement, Jonathan Ihonde which are nearing completion. But the movement in a dialectical connection with town and gown, was in synch with the working class, the studentry, the intelligentsia and civil society. It was therefore not an accident that apart from the Bendel axis providing the bulk of leaders who ran the Labour unions for many years, the movement also emerged as favored hosts for many gatherings of left elements across the country.
Just like Iyayi, his brother by another mother, Fatunde was warm, lively, ever chatty and was disposed to sharing everything he had. Unlike those who merely mouth the phrase, he was a great example of humanism. I was really not surprised when I learnt he has donated the new property consisting of two wings of two bedroom apartments, which he moved to days before his retirement in December 2021, from the Lagos State University (LASU) to the French Village, located just within shouting distance in Badagry. In a request that many may consider strange to this clime, Fatunde also left words that his body be cremated. Perhaps that may make it possible for those who desire some slice of the ashes for memorial purposes to do so. It also means that those who wish to pay their last respect and render nunc dimittis, the prayer of Simeon in Luke 2:29–32, used as a canticle, will have to assemble at the crematorium.
Born in Makurdi, capital of Benue State, on December 11, 1951, Fatunde, Author, Writer, Dramatist and University Teacher, attended St Paul’s Primary School, Gbongan, Osun State between 1956-62. He later attended Anglican Grammar School, Gbongan from 1963 to 67 and the famous Aiyetoro Comprehensive High School, 1968-69. He also attended L’lnstitute DeTouraine, Tours, France, 1971-72; University of Ibadan, 1971-75; Universite deBordeauz III. Bordeaux, France 1972-77; Universite deBordeau 111, Bordeaux, France, 1977-80.
Fatunde bagged a B. A. (Ibadan) in French in 1975, M. A. (France) in African Literature 1977 and Ph.D (France) in Carribbean Literaure 1980. He also earned the Premier et Deuxieme Degré in Etudes de langue francaise French Studies (France) in 1972 and a Diploma in Creative Writing (USA) in 1991.
He was appointed Lecturer 1, University of Benin in 1983. A Special Correspondent of The Guardian Newspapers in 1984, he later became Director, Lagos and Western Zone, Sunray Newspapers 1992- 93. He also worked as Nigerian Correspondent, Africa Numero Un; Nigerian Correspondent, Le JoumaiduSoir, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Nigerian Correspondent, Afrique Economic, Pan African magazine and also Correspondent, Vatican Radio, English Service. Until his retirement from LASU, he was Head of Department of Foreign Languages.
Married in 1982 to Oluyemisi Jokotade Olaopa, a Gynecologist and former Oyo State Commissioner for Health, with whom they have two children, his literary works are listed in the Marxist and African Literature, African World Press, New Jersey, U.S.A. They include “More Oil Boom”, “Blood and Sweat”, 1985; “No Food, No Country”, 1986, “Oga Na Tief man”, “Water no get Enemy”, “Punish Conductor, Free Driver”, “Henry of Bede”, 1992 and “Broken Calabash” 2002. His numerous articles are published in several reputable books and journals.
His Research Focus & Specialization which is still in progress, is on Islam in Francophone Literatures. They are
(a) Africanisation of Islam in Ahmadu Kourouma’s novels.
(b) From Islam to Pan Africanism in Cheikh Hamadou
Research Publications and Books:
Articles that have already appeared in Learned Journals include:
1. Tunde Fatunde, “Calixthe Beyala Rebels Against Female Oppression” in African Literature Today, James Currey Limited, United Kingdom (2004): 69-76.
2. Tunde Fatunde, “V.S. Naipaul in Africa: A Colonialist Creative Writer”. SAIWA (a journal) published by the Department of Literature in English, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, (1998): 53:65.
3. Tunde Fatunde and Festus Iyayi, “Literature, Class Struggle and National Liberation in Nigeria: An Introduction”. CASIL-Calabar Studies in Languages, a journal published by the department of Languages and Linguistics, University of Calabar, Nigeria, Vol. 8, No.2 (1988): 99-111.
4. Tunde Fatunde, “Two African Writers on Corruption”. New Beacon Review, London, United Kingdom, Vol. 1, No.1 (1995): 53-65
Chapters in Books:
1. Patrick Idoye & Tunde Fatunde, “Popular Theatre in Nigeria”, in
I.T.K. Egunu: African Perspective in World Culture. (Vivian and Vivian Publishers, Onisha, Nigeria), 1988: 161-186.
2. Tunde Fatunde, “African Pedagogy in Osahon’s Stories for children”, in: Chidi Ikonne, Emelia Oko, Peter Onwudinjo: Children
and Literature in Africa. (Heinemann Educational Books, Lagos, Nigeria), 1992: 159-173.
3. Tunde Fatunde, “Amilcar Cabral et les Problèmes de Culture en Afrique”, in: Femi Osofisan, Nicole Medjigbodo, Sam Asein, G.G. Darah: 200 Ecrivains Africains à Lagos. (Editions, Nouvelles Du Sud, Paris, France), 1993: 200-210.
4. Tunde Fatunde”Approche Multidisciplinaire des études de la litérature….” In M.A. Johnson: A Manual of for Postgraduate Students. Published by Department of Modern Languages, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos, Nigeria. 1995: 90-100.
5. Tunde Fatunde, “African Pedagogy in Emecheta’s Fiction for Children and Adolescents”, in Marie Umeh: Emerging Perspectives on Buchi Emecheta. (Africa World Press, USA), 1996: 407-409.
6. Tunde Fatunde, “Conflicting Social Values in Buchi Emecheta’s Naira Power and a Kind of Marriage”, in Marie Umeh: Emerging Perspectives on Buchi Emecheta. (Africa World Press, USA), 1996: 433-443.
7. Tunde Fatunde, “Evolution du théâtre nigérian d’expression pidgin-English”, in G. de Villers: Phénomenes informels et dynamiques culturelles en Afrique. (Editions l’Harmattan, Paris, France), 1996: 242-245.
8. Tunde Fatunde, “Images of Working People in Two African Novels: Ouologuem and Iyayi”, in Christopher Wise: Yambo Ouologuem: Post Colonial Writer, Islamic Militant. (Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, United Kingdom), 1999: 39-46.
9. Tunde Fatunde, “Personality Cult, in Richard’s Une Peine a Vivre and William Sassine’s Le Jeune Homme de Sable”, in Sam Ade-Ojo and Olusola Oke: Themes in African Literature in French. (Spectrum Books, Ibadan, Nigeria), 2000: 153-167.
(1) Tunde Fatunde, No More Oil Boom and other plays …(Bookcraft,
Ibadan, Nigeria), 2006. (421 pages). This Volume contains six plays staged in several Nigerian universities and the Nigeria Inter University Centre, Badagry, Lagos. These plays are:
(i) Blood and Sweat: 18th November, 1983 (ii) No More Oil Boom: 10th April, 1984 (iii) No Food, No Country: 8th May, 1985 (iv) Oga Na Tief Man: 4th May, 1986
(v) Water No Enemy: 21st April, 1988
(vi) Shattered Calabash: 25th July, 2005 (This play originally written in French with the title La Calebasse Cassée, was translated to English by Jamary Molumeli, a Lecturer in the Department of French at the National University of Lesotho. And was published as a textbook by the Institute of Southern African Studies, Lesotho, South Africa, 25th July, 2005).
(2) Tunde Fatunde, La Calebasse Cassée (Bookcarft, Ibadan, Nigeria), 2002.
These plays listed above are being used as texts in the department of Languages and Linguistics in Nigerian, Southern African and American universities. They have been chosen as the basis of dissertations by undergraduate and postgraduate students in these
They have also been discussed at learned conferences in Nigerian and abroad as new writings in Africa. However, they have formed themes of chapters in books written by university colleagues, to wit: Taiwo, Oloruntoba-Oju. “Pidgin in Nigeria Drama”, In: Language and Style in Nigeria Drama and Theatre. (Ben-El Books, Ibadan), 1982: 132-151.
Some of these plays have been reviewed in World Literature Review ( a quarterly literary journal of the University of Oklahoma), Autumn issue of 1986. Also in ; Chris Dunton, “Olu Obafemi and Tunde Fatunde, Make Man Talk True”. In: Nigerian Drama in English since 1970. (Hans Zell, London), 1992: 109-127.
(1) Tunde Fatunde, “Women Dey Suffer”. OKIKE: African Journal of
Creative Writing, Published by University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. No. 27/28, March 1988: 95-98.
(2) Tunde Fatunde, “Bad Bele Too Much”. Anthill Annual Review,
(Journal), No.1. March 1988: 25.
(1) Tunde Fatunde, “Henry of Bede”, in: Sunday Adagboyin: Frontiers:
Nigerian Short Stories (Kraft Books, Ibadan, Nigeria). 1992: 118-127.
2. Review of Tunde Fatunde’s academic publications and creative writings on the Internet.