Sunday, September 15, 2019 10:09 am
By Babafemi Ojudu
Our teacher is 70. Yes he is. See how time flies. So that young man of the cherubic appearance that welcomed us into Ife in 1980 is now of the clan of elders.
When a few weeks ago I got a message from Bisi, our classmate , his wife ,that we should write to celebrate our teacher, it was with surprise I received the news. I have not seen HE who introduced us to literary appreciation since he bid us bye and sent us to the world in 1984.
He was young , he was friendly , he was loved and we nicknamed him Willie Boy after a character in one of the novels he taught us.
I can relate with Mr Chima Anyadike who has transformed to Prof. Chima Anyadike. The one I still could not fathom is that our young intellectual idol with the pate that shines is now an old red cap wearing , kola breaking elder .
I remember vividly the last words that tumbled out of his mouth in a staccato when I last saw him in 1984. “Good luck, boys”.
It was in his characteristic few but profound words . That short but loaded prayer and the loads of precepts and subtle injunctions and admonitions for which his classes were known has taken us this far in the shark invested waters of our country.
I could not imagine what he looks like now.
Did age allow him retain that handsome and cherubic face? How much of the glow of his skin has the wisened years taken away? Has the sun of these many seasons darkened his skin a bit? Is his temple now grey or bald. What of that slow but measured pace of his? Has he acquired that third leg, aid of the elders , the walking stick now?
These and many more questions agitate my mind since Bisi broke the news to us that the smooth wine of our youth is 70.
Willie Boy, Bisi please let him not hear this ,never scolds , he never gets angry but uses his own character , and the many characters in the novels he taught us , the language of his body and his mien to communicate to us what is right, what is wrong , what is acceptable and what is not . He was the brother figure, where the Jeyifos, and Sekonis were the uncle figure ; and the Soyinkas and the Akinjogbins, were the father figures.
We were blessed to pass through eminent young and not so young men and women in those golden days of our lives and that of our alma mater.
If I were to choose from nature what best a totem for the man we celebrate today, I will pick a free flowing stream.
He was certainly not the ocean that could wash away its victim and bring sadness to the household . He was not a fast flowing river that washes away the sand from the roots of the three on its path until it is able to bring it down.
He was that stream that uses the obstacle on its path to produce a sonorous music calming to the afflicted and a companion of the creative spirit.
He was not of the jarring ideology ,bearing swords on behalf of either the West or the East in the divisions of that season past. He laid bare both theory as well as its representation in the creative works he opened our minds to see . He encouraged our fecund mind to decide where we want to belong or on whose side we wanted to queue.
I want to behold my teacher again and take a cupful drink from that stream , that like old wine has and gotten better with the seasons past.
Happy birthday Prof Ayandike, the man who, with others, molded me and inbued me with The Spirit of Ife.
-Senator Babafemi Ojudu is Special Adviser on Political Matters at the Presidency