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‘I’m an iconoclast, I don’t do things like others’

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Adedina

Very near the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AACOED), Otto/Ijanikin, bridge, some metres away from Federal Government College, sits the office of Dr. Femi Adedina, but this afternoon, he drove down about to keep this appointment in spot outside the school.

Recently, he turned 60, and as part of activities celebrating his birthday, he launched seven books.

An act that was synonymous with his personality.

The books are, Mama’s Tales of Love, Time and Tide, The Communicaque and Highway to Nothing.

Other are Notes of a Migrant (A memoir) and Learn to Communicate Volume I and II.

Adedina says: “I’m an iconoclast. I don’t do things like others. I was initially working towards producing 10 books, but financial factor, logistics and time frame could not make that feasible; yet I wanted to publish something of standard.

So, publishing seven books at a time was like telling the people – ‘here is a writer’.”

The gifted writer burst on to the literary scene in the early 80s with his dramatic pieces that kept AACOED environment busy.

In fact, the scholar deployed his academic and intellectual work to ensure that the Department of Theatre Arts was created in AACOED.

Seated in the vast room, which seemed a reception, with sunlight streaming through the window, he exuded confidence.

“It feels good to be 60,” he quipped.

The atmosphere was calm, and the only noise was the buzz from whirring generator nearby.

His phone rang, as he spoke. He stood up and smiled.

“Everything is just falling in place,” he laughed out.

He looked through the window to see the other side of the road.

“Nigeria needs to be put in order,” he pointed out. “People should shun exhibited apathy to the political process.”

“Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) will solve our problem, because the aggregate of voters are the people below.

If you look into the elections of the country from the 90s; the social economy of the majority, who have been voting, are below the middle class of the country.

The most educated section of our nation doesn’t vote at all, but they are the most critical,” Adedina said, warmly.

He believes that these are the people who have a lot to lose if the country does not work.

“If we have their votes, there would be a huge change in political setting. These are the people that the politician can’t bribe with stipends and bags of rice.

Thank God the Supreme Court has said that civil servants can now join political parties and it is a very beautiful thing.

Yes! Civil servants can be corrupt and biased, but let them be in the parties and have avenue to bear their grudges.

These are the people who could easily mount pressure on their local governments’ shortcomings; why the roads are not good, why the tap is not running, instead of us finding personal solution, we need to think of communal solution.

I am not saying we should be radical in our ways; rather we should change things with our votes.

It is the power we have. Some people have it because they need it for other means of identification. No! The PVC is for us to vote, it is for us to tell politicians that we have had enough from them.”

“Sorry, I went political,” he said, apologetically.

Adedina, who likened Nigeria to a ‘living fiction’, explained that his narrative generally provides ample inspiration for writers.

Ijanikin offered the creative space within which his talent flourished. Apart from developing the theatre arts department, he deployed evocative imagery to underline the scope of his creative credo.

“I wrote The Communicaque during the (Sanni) Abacha’s administration and it nearly put me in trouble. Going through it now, I realised all that I put in the book are still happening.”

A fit of laughter filled the air, when he said, “nothing has changed.” For him, Nigerians are still in what the late Ras Kimon termed being ‘Under Pressure’.

The dark complexioned artist and teacher-of-teachers, who is dressed in adire, a fabric that lends gravitas to his maverick life, said, “I would have been wasted during the years of Abacha, but a God-sent security agent warned me to desist from writing provocative literature.”

Born of an Ijebu and Ibadan parentage on February 13, 1958, in Ibadan, he had his elementary and post-primary education in Ijebu axis.

His brilliance came to the fore early in life, where his love for reading and writing was discovered.

The young Adedina’s love for acting was equally spotted when he played the lead role in a drama competition that involved schools in the community. His school came first in that competition.

“That singular performance launched my theatrical career. I was already versed in oral poetry. I could chant ewi very well,” he said.

Perhaps, these early traits revealed an inner craving that was firmed in Department of Theatre Arts, University of Calabar.

He ran away from being a teacher to be an artiste, but ended up being an artiste, as well as a teacher of artistes. “Fate clearly had a sense of humour in my life,” he said.

“After secondary school, my intentions were to enroll for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and then proceed to the university.

This was not to be, because of finance. But his situation was saved through the 1976 Obasanjo-led administration’s introduction of the one-year post-school certificate programme in Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs).”

Before then, TTCs were designed for Modern Three school leavers. This innovation brought some brilliant, but indigent students into the Grade II Teacher Training programme.

“Most of them wouldn’t have gone to TTCs but their indigent nature forced them into the programme which was designed to fill in the gap for the dearth of teachers in the then introduced government’s Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme.”

Thus, the young Adedina found himself in the classroom as a teacher at the age of 18.

After teaching various subjects such as, Mathematics, Yoruba, CRK and Biology and in different classes between August and December 1976, the young man felt he was through with teaching for life and opted for a job as cashier assistant in an insurance firm- the then British American Insurance Company- where he hoped to build a career in accounting cum finance.

“But fate had something different for me with the establishment of Ogun State College of Education in 1977. I was one of the pioneering students of the institution.”

He left the school in his second year to study theatre arts at the University of Calabar that was miles away from his parents’ base in Ibadan, all against his father’s consent.

“Contrariwise, my father would have loved me to finish my programme at the college of education, become a certified NCE teacher and helped in training my siblings – being the first child.”

He decided to embark on an adventurous risky journey on a train for three days, for the first time, to Kano, from Ibadan, in search of an uncle that he had never met to sponsor his university education.

Adedina’s expedition paid off as his older cousin, his father’s elder brother’s son, agreed to finance his education and he did this religiously for the four years he spent in the University of Calabar.

“However, it was not without my personal sacrifices of meal skipping, avid reading, meticulous studying and deprivations leading to suffering of gastro-intestine ulcer for 12 years,” he said.

His wife, Bunmi, who sat a few metres away, said virtue ‘lured’ her to him. “He is a disciplinarian and I know I can’t change that.

I have come to know him as a strong and steadfast person; and that aspect attracted me to him. I feel happy and fulfilled because of his achievements.”

She added: “He stands for what is good and upright. He never compromises.

At work, he wears an iron mask. He is not a different person at home except that people think he doesn’t smile or not jovial (laughs); but he is humorous and entertains the children at home.”

His marriage to Bunmi Nkemdilim nee Nwosu, a theatre artist and scholar in her own right, has been a blessing to him. The union has been blessed with children.

A teetotaler, Adedina take time to relax, in spite of his busy schedule by reading, watching movies, listening to music, writing, travelling and playing with his family. In spite of his modest achievements, the hardworking and progressively ambitious man believes he still has a lot to offer humanity.

“My dream, upon retirement, is to promote literacy through creative writing workshops, promotion of arts with funding and sponsorship of theatre at the grassroots level and establishment of film and arts institute.”


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