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Filming Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo’s life and career

By Tony Afejuku
29 April 2022   |   3:55 am
Let me go straight to my subject already named. He is a great man who is greater than a great man. He is a good man who is better than a good man.

Professor Emeritus Ladipo Ayodeji Banjo

Let me go straight to my subject already named. He is a great man who is greater than a great man. He is a good man who is better than a good man. He is a calm man who is calmer than a calm man. He is a patient man who is more patient than a patient man. He is a brilliant man who is more than a brilliant man. He is a generous man who is more than a generous man. He is a compassionate man who is more than a compassionate man. He is a steady man who is steadier than a steady man. He was a Vice Chancellor who was a Vice Chancellor’s Vice Chancellor. Above all, he is a scholar who is a scholar’s scholar – several times over.

Next Monday, May 2nd 2022, he is entering his 88th year on this earth plane where his odyssey continues to filigree.

On this said day the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), the scholarly organisation which he helped to form and nurture to its current octopus stature and status will be honouring him with a zoom discussion that the powerful influential Academy in which he and other foundation members and its very early Fellows are playing enlightening roles, will assemble a strong panel of discussants consisting of five eminent and eloquent professors and two other equally eminent non-professors to dwell on the theme of “Nigeria in 2050 and the Future of Work: Blending Humanities with Science in University Education.”

I should add before it escapes me finally that the event I have just announced is actually going to be an “International symposium,” to re-state it, “to celebrate Professor Ayo Banjo at 88” – in the exact words of the organisers that also include National Universities Commission -STRADVCOM partnering Nigerian Academy of Letters aforesaid as co-host. The symposium is for 7.00 p.m. and for duration of rich 90 minutes. For now, the meeting ID and passcode shall be kept in abeyance until the columnist gets words to the contrary; in that case interested persons can always reach and re-reach me through my WhatsApp number which is my familiar number.

Now why am I really interested in doing this, in announcing what I have announced; and more importantly, in dwelling on the one and only Professor Ayo Banjo, CON, NNOM? My announcement is to enlighten the huge number of former students and followers of the greatly great scholar and academic administrator outside the Academy that one honour that befits his towering reputation and well-framed physical frame will be appropriately given to him on the said date and time.

And without mincing words, I am adding that the lecture will enlighten the growing number of members of the Academy among whom Professor Ayo Banjo holds under his sway. For those for whom the greatly great linguistic scholar-critic is the connoisseur, not the analyst and philologist, he is among the greatest scholars of the world. And he is a Nigerian – one of us!

Banjo entered the consciousness of this column and the columnist precisely on Friday, August 13, 2021. That was when I did my column entitled “Nigeria’s poorest vice chancellor.” A past employee and a former editor of this paper, who wrote his doctoral thesis in English on postcolonial theory at University of Ibadan called to inform me that Banjo, a past two-term Vice Chancellor of the premier university, was also a sure candidate for the title jointly with the now late Professor Grace Awani Alele-Williams (nee Awani), also an alumna of Ibadan.

When I probed and prodded my then editor, he told me that Banjo also did not eat when he was Vice Chancellor at UI. Meaning that he, like Alele-Williams, as another friend has since put it, was, in office, not an “Epicurean [who] finds favour in eating.” Meaning, furthermore, that our subject is “against epicurism,” which shows that he is against corruption – official or private or both. When I quizzed my friend further, he admitted me into the knowledge of what I really wanted to hear – without his being aware of it even though he was (and still is) aware of my Nigerian dream. Simply, by way of paraphrasing him, not in his exact words, Prof. Ayo Banjo is a man of big, fat, robust, high, tall, wide and beautiful integrity. Such a personage, no matter his new age, ought to be the leader of this country: your, my and our dream country. I am not building castles in Spain!

Now my readers, who is Professor Ayo Banjo? A slice of him from a collection on him: “At different times in his career, Professor Emeritus Ladipo Ayodeji Banjo has been Head of Department, Dean of Faculty, Chairman of Committee of Deans, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Acting Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Universities of Port Harcourt and Ilorin, and Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors.

“He was Vice-President, Fellow and later President of Nigerian Academy of Letters. He is also a Fellow of the Nigerian English Studies Association and holds a Doctor of Literature Honoris Causa. Needless to say, Professor Ayo Banjo has written many books and contributed several chapters in many others. He also has to his credit several articles in learned journals.”

The several establishment posts he has held should not mistake my readers and his observers to call him an establishment person. No. Some of the interviews he granted some newspapers (for example, Saturday Punch, Saturday Tribune and The Sun) which I read as far back as 2010 up to 2014, clearly indicated to me that Banjo is a quiet tough rebel and revolutionary who strongly frowns upon and condemns without inhibition the faded monkishness in our houses of religion, the political impotence of our political leaders which underscores their hypocrisy and what I may call their first-order cruelty. I should like to tender samples, from the said interviews, of his grand words. But the samples must wait till another time when I shall compose an essay here on “Professor Ayo Banjo as a rebel and revolutionary of candour.”

A young friend of mine whose MA work was supervised by Professor Ayo Banjo always mentions him to me as a humanist and a nice personage of candour – who always speaks great words of truth. The fellow who now is a long-standing journalist and columnist in a powerful South-West-based newspaper always likens this columnist to the tall legend in a manner that recalls the following words of the top Soviet novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky: “Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing is easier than flattery.” Draw your conclusion.

My unquestionable concern for now, however, is to draw the attention of our filmographers to the life and career of Professor Ayo Banjo that Nigerians and citizens in other parts of the world deserve to see on screen for their edification. Our film-makers including film writers, directors and actors are called upon to direct their search-light towards his direction. Many of the films on our television screens don’t enlighten our youths in the right direction.

I have discussed this with a highly-placed patriot of like minds based in Canada. Professor Ayo Banjo (as well as the late Professor Grace Alele-Williams) deserves the honour – at least for now. And our newspaper columnists and education journalists should give ample attention to personages such as Professor Ayo Banjo in their columns and stories as never before. A well marbled journalistic focus on our exemplary scholars and academics by our columnists and reporters will go a long way to give this country your country my country our country a new magic in the act of national morality and re-birth as our filmographers hearken to this call. Funding is not a problem and is a non-issue for the envisaged series for our film-makers.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.