The Chairman of University Press Plc and Kakanfo Inn, Dr. Lalekan Are and his wife held a special luncheon in the honour of Professor Niyi Osundare for being the winner of Nigeria National Merit Award (NNMA) 2014. The Distinguished Professor of English at New Orleans University, U.S. and award-winning poet Prof. Niyi Osundare was the toast on Sunday in Ibadan, when many distinguished academics and writers turned out in large numbers to celebrate Osundare's excellence as a writer and public commentator.
Academics and writers turned up to celebrate Prof. Osundare's excellence in writing
Many distinguished academics and writers turned out in large numbers to celebrate Osundare's excellence as a writer and public commentator.
Among those present were two Emeritus professors and Osundare's teachers Ayo Banjo and Ayo Bamgbose (Bamgbose also being a former winner of the academic award), Ambassador Olusola Shanu, Profs. Dan Izevbaye, Labode Poopola, Agboola Adesonoye, Segun Ojewuyi, Dr. Kunbi Olasope, Kolade Mosuro, Tade Ipadeola, Joop Berkhout, Ropo Iwenla, Femi Morgan and many others.
The event was held at Kakanfo Inn. As always, just as the accolades came fast for Osundare so too were the lamentations for a country that once flourished and its universities that were once the pride of the African continent that attracted scholars and seasoned teachers from all over the world. Osundare likened what has happened to his country to the current political situation in his Ekiti State since the emergence of the enfant terrible, Mr. Segun Fayose. "Ekiti of those days used to be the one of mental infrastructure," Osundare said. "Today, it's one of 'stomach infrastructure'".
Our country, our universities once knew better times. "We will need to go back and see what went wrong with our universities, our country. Our students are not really bad; it's the system that cheats our students. Nigeria helped me; I believe in the Nigeria, Yoruba I grew up. I don't know if I'd grown up in Nigeria today whether I would have achieved the little I've done. Integrity and hard work were the values that were preached to us in our days.
I consider myself a lucky man, an absolutely lucky man. The achievement is not mine alone to share". EARLIER, Are said Osudare's winning the NNMA award was on merit strictly based on his scholarship and devoid of any political leaning or geographical spread. According to the onetime academic turned businessman, "Nigeria is yet to have 70 people being conferred with the honour.
It's on merit and not geographical spread and not political. It's our equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Only Osundare won it last year. The assessors are people of integrity. It's for the works you have done that speaks for you". Banjo, who chaired the event also said, "Ibadan is the intellectual capital of Nigeria. I've watched Osundare's progress since he entered University of Ibadan. He became a budding writer and afterwards to a celebrity.
We're here because Nigeria has made a claim to him. Osundare is unique among our writers. He has written some enchanting love poems; his nature poems are authentic and charming. "He's written a lot of satire on his country, Nigeria. He has a habit of producing thunderous essays about Nigeria; he has a voice that is distinctive among his peers. He doesn't follow literary fashion. His is distinctive poetry that is accessible.
He's firmly of the Nigerian soil and has gone abroad to do exploits. He has won a lot of awards, but this one is the icing on eh cake. It's not tainted with all types of trivialities. If government had any hand in it Osundare would probably not have won it given that he does not spare them.
He's a charming person and he's very respectful. He listened to my lectures at a time; now I have to study him. That's the joy of being a teacher. We're waiting for the Nobel Prize from him!" Amb. Shanu said he sneaked from his sick bed just to see Osundare whose reputation he said preceded him.
Also, the fact that Osundare has been to Harvard University, a university he attended some 62 years ago, "and the trail of being a back man; I pray Osundare continues to be our hero".
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