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The Day ‘Lanrewaju Adepoju Visited The University Of Ibadan | J. Oluwole A. Akintayo

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December 11, 2023

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We were hopeful and we looked forward to an afternoon of knowledge impartation and cultural display by Chief ‘Lanrewaju Adepoju. We were sure he would talk to us and counsel us using ewi (Yoruba poetry). I do not recall if I missed a class to attend the special event.

In 1987, I decided to stand election as the General Secretary of the Federation of Ibadan Students’ Union (FIBSU), University of Ibadan Branch. I rallied my friends especially members of the Ibadan City Academy Old Students Association, UI Chapter and other groups I belonged to. I won the election comfortably.

Parapo organisations serve different purposes. I have observed they are stronger in institutions outside their natural environment (the locations they centre on). Some attend meetings to cure themselves of ^home sickness”, a development which is completely irrelevant in the natural environment of the parapo group.

Late Tunji Alawaye, a student from the Faculty of Education was elected as the President of FIBSU, UI Branch in 1987. He died some years ago whilst in the service of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS). May God rest his soul. The Vice President was Fadekemi Ishola, also from Faculty of Education, if I am not mistaken. FiBSU UI, provided me the opportunity to reunite with Fadekemi after some 8 to 9 years as we did not set eyes on each other after leaving primary school for different secondary schools. She was my candidate as VP.

The Executive Commitee set out to work. We engaged major stakeholders including the national body of FIBSU. Fadekemi and myself were the delegates to FIBSU National Congress held at iconic Mapo Hall, Ibadan. (Mapo Hall is proposed to be designated as a national monument by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments). The current President of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Chief Adeniyi S. Ajewole, then a law student at University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), was the National President of FIBSU at the material time. The Congress witnessed the unveiling of Iba Oluyole Statue located in front of Mapo Hall. At the event, Late Dr Busari Adebisi, described the Iba Oluyole statue as the most historically and culturally relevant statue in Ibadan!

As FIBSU UI Executive Commitee, we planned our major annual programme tagged “Ibadan Week” with Amala Day as the Grand Finale.

A Cultural Talk on Ibadan was part of the FIBSU week and we settled for Chief ‘Lanrewaju Adepoju, the Ewi exponent as the Guest Speaker. I do not recall vividly how our invitation reached Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju but he confirmed his acceptance of our invitation. The event was scheduled to hold at the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) Chamber, Kunle Adepeju Building also known as Students’ Union Building. I had become used to the SUB as a member of the SRC with its usual nocturnal meetings and as Chairman of SRC Constitution Review Committee.

We were hopeful and we looked forward to an afternoon of knowledge impartation and cultural display by Chief ‘Lanrewaju Adepoju. We were sure he would talk to us and counsel us using ewi (Yoruba poetry). I do not recall if I missed a class to attend the special event.

My President, Tunji Alawaye, was a man of great experience. I respected him for his organisational skills and his mastery of Yoruba and English languages. He was a Master of Ceremony extraordinaire! I was confident he would play host to Chief ‘Lanrewaju Adepoju using flowery Yoruba vocabularies laced with wise sayings which came to him effortlessly because of his rich cultural background and exposure. I was prepared to take my seat at the lecture to play a supportive role.

Then something unexpected happened! My President was held up by a Class commitment. I think it was a test. We had no access to GSM then. He sent a message that he couldn’t make it to SUB. I do not recall if the VP was on ground. I was agitated but I had to step into the President’s shoes. I did this with trepidation. I pitied myself clad in shirt and a pair of trousers with a long tie dangling on my neck. It was a most inappropriate dressing to wear to welcome a Cultural icon but I summoned courage as the lecture was more important than my dressing. The time to go to Kantaga Republic to adorn an appropriate wear was not there. There was no way of escape. Thank God the lecture delivered by the Alasa of Ibadan, Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju, turned out to be a successful one. The attendance was impressive. The General Secretary of UI Students’ Union, Mr Agboluaje, a fellow Katangite, also participated in the lecture. Questions were asked by participants and attended to by the erudite lecturer. The catering arrangements went well and I was relieved. This was my closest encounter with the legendary Lanrewaju Adepoju.

Growing up one became accustomed to Yoruba ewi exponents; wordsmiths with extensive mastery of Yoruba language who modified their pitch and tone whilst expressing their thoughts. Lanrewaju Adepoju has been the numero uno, a clear leader of this genre of Yoruba poetry in the past five decades. Tunbosun Oladapo and Yemi Elebuibon were leading members also. The Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service (WNBS) also assisted in projecting ewi with its early morning Ewi rendition. Yemi Elebuibon featured regularly on the station. Rediffusion service gave access to many houses to connect to the WNBS radio station after paying a monthly subscription or rental fee.

Though known primarily as an Ewi exponent, Lanrewaju Adepoju was multi-talented. He was a playwright, a writer and a dramatist. In 1975, he published a novel, Ladepo omo Adanwo, (Onibon-oje Press, Ibadan), a book that was adopted as a reading text for Teachers Grade II programme. In the late 1970s and early 80s, NTV Ibadan gave us opportunity to see the play where I think Lanrewaju Adepoju played the role of Tegbe, the servant or messenger of the Chief in the play. He published other works including Ironu Akewi.

From what I read, Lanrewaju Adepoju’s parents could not afford to send him to school but he funded his own education. That was determination. His UI lecture was delivered combining English and Yoruba. After listening to him I observed that he had become so animated and enthralled in ewi that he could not converse in ordinary Yoruba again. His ordinary conversation was poetic. He used his gift to document history and to correct the ills in the society as a social crusader. While others like D. O. Fagunwa (whose 60 years of transition was celebrated on 7 December, 2023) and J. F. Odunjo used the written words, Lanrewaju Adepoju concentrated primarily on the spoken words to reach his audience.
Today, I listened to his ewi on Igba kan o lo ile aye gbo (No season lasts forever) talking about the certainty and inevitability of death for all mortals. He took his listeners through the the lives and times of Obas, politicians and prominent persons who once played some leading roles in Nigeria. He preached morality to all and sundry.

The role of griots and remembrancers in African legal heritage is significant especially because early precedents called in aid to assist the Ova’s Court in adjudication were not in writing. In the palaces they served and still serve as intermediaries between Obas and Chiefs on the one part and the common people of the realm on the other. They also convey the wishes of the people to the rulers and a ruler who ignores their sound advice or is indifferent to the anecdotes they give does so at his own risk.

Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju was the natural choice for Ewi at the Coronation Ceremony of a new Olubadan. He discharged this role with responsibility. Everyone listened with rapt attention as his delivery would serve as homily to the new monarch and the people. He was a man imbued with uncommon courage and this he displayed when the Military ruled Nigeria.. Listening to him was learning wisdom and being entertained at the same time. His messages always leave listeners with a determination to be a better version of themselves.

Towards the end of his life, Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju became deeply religious according to the Islamic faith which he cherished. Notwithstanding this he chose his audience carefully and his poetic and moral messages still remained relevant to all irrespective of their religious persuasions.

Now that Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju has joined the long list of heroes and prominent persons which he himself chronicled in his ewi there is no doubt that the sounds of his voice already captured will continue to reverberate and pass invaluable soul-searching lessons and admonitions to not only the present generation but also coming generations for as long as we continue to preserve the Yoruba language!

We pray God to rest the soul of Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju and to comfort and strengthen his family, friends and associates.

Adieu Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju, the Aare Alasa of Ibadan!

J. Oluwole A. Akintayo teaches law at the University of Ibadan.
11 December 2023

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