|Professor Oluwaniyi Osundare|
A survey of Nigeria's major newspapers last Sunday would reveal a complete blackout. Not even a quarter - let alone full - page advert featured to trumpet a major landmark. Save for a short tribute by President Mohammadu Buhari.
Yet, it was the 70th birthday of one of Nigeria's finest poets ever, a master prose stylist, an original thinker and, above all, a moral titan.
Well, that should be expected in a land riven by philistinism. He is not to be counted among the tribe of politicians that can hardly boast any principle. Neither is he one of your wealthy tycoons with no identifiable business address, nor the false prophets in garish cassocks. Professor Oluwaniyi Osundare operates at a much higher intellectual and ethical frequency.
Indeed, what sets the Ekiti-born bard apart is not so much the gift of a unique facility that spews lyrical lines effortlessly - that prodigious power that infuses words with life and tweaks same to evoke the deepest meaning possible. (By the way, just anyone with writing talents can scribble anything.)
Rather, what distinguishes Prof Osundare from the rest is a sky-high moral capital, a fierce refusal to be purchased or captured, in an environment where intellectual promiscuity has quite become fashionable.
|President Muhammadu Buhari...Honors Osundare's birthday with a tribute|
He flourishes in the tradition set by Professor Wole Soyinka.
Other than poetry, he has also been involved with Nigeria in the last four decades as a public intellectual. Whereas many have lost their innocence along the way in cavort with power, he remains uncorrupted and incorruptible.
Two years ago, he was named winner of the coveted National Merit Award. Soon came the gossip that the trophy might begin to becloud his critical lens, muffle his trenchant voice, to the pleasure of the already fawning Goodluck Jonathan who had the statutory privilege of physically presenting him the prize in Abuja. That, as against spitting fire of old, the "people's poet" might soon begin to "lick ice cream" like many others.
|The Author, Louis Odion....Holds Prof Osundare in very high esteem|
It was a defiant Osundare who fired back a bazooka: “Nobody is keeping me quiet!”
Speaking at a lecture organized in his honour in Ibadan, he clarified: "Nigerian government didn’t give me award; it’s the NNMA committee that recommended me; it’s a peer-review award. We were many academics on the list before I was chosen. This is the only award regiment in Nigeria that I recognize.
"We must learn to celebrate the best in us. This is a beautiful country. We must not judge Nigeria by the thieves in Aso Rock and in the government houses in the states. There’s so much beauty in Nigeria.
|Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan honored Prof Osundare with the Nigeria National Merit Award|
"We have a country to build, not a ragtag assemblage that we have now. It’s we that have to build it, not Indians or Americans. Don’t give up hope; don’t despair. It used to be said, ‘As long as there‘s life, there’s hope’, but for us, it should be ‘As long as there is hope, there’s life in this country!’”
Many happy returns of the day, Prof.