President Muhammadu Buhari and other prominent Nigerians have commiserated with the government and people of Oyo State over the death of renowned playwright, literary icon, author and cultural activist, Prof Akinwumi Ishola . The veteran playwright, Ishola, passed away yesterday in Ibadan at the age of 78 barely one month before his 79th birthday. The president’s condolence message was contained in a statement signed yesterday by his special adviser on media and publicity, Mr Femi Adesina. He said the literary world would miss the cultural activist whose steadfastness and dedication has promoted native language as a means of sustaining the culture and tradition of Africa.
President Buhari noted that the love of the departed academician for the Yoruba language was never in doubt as he exhibited this through all his published works and speeches, from his student days and throughout his academic life. The statement partly reads, “Mr. President joins the entertainment industry in mourning the loss of a producer and director whose contributions to the evolution and transformation of the entertainment industry from a disparaged genre into a major contributor to the nation’s economy will never be forgotten.” He called on other academics to follow the sterling qualities of the National Merit Award Winner and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters who was more focused on the development and transformation of minds as opposed to material gain.
The president prayed that Almighty God grant the soul of the Professor Ishola eternal rest. On his part, Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi described Ishola’s death as a colossal loss to the state, the Yoruba race and the world in general. Ajimobi who expressed pain at the loss of the giant in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, Mr Yomi Layinka, yesterday, said he received the news of the death of the Ibadan-born culture ambassador and progenitor of Yoruba literature with disbelief and shock. Other prominent Nigerians who were alarmed by Ishola’s demise paid tributes to the culture activist and scholar. A socio-cultural group, Yoruba Youth Socio-Cultural Association (YYSA) described Isola’s death as a monumental loss.
The group, in a statement signed by its national secretary, Olawale Ajao, said Ishola was one of the most respected Nigerian writers. “Isola was extraordinarily gifted in imaginary literalism, a cultural icon and a renowned teacher who impacted morally, culturally and socially on the lives of Nigerian youths,” it said. Society writer and publisher of Ovation magazine, Mr Dele Momodu, said: “Sad to receive the news that Nigeria has lost the legendary writer, Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola, my former lecturer and supervisor; author of “O Leku” and “Efunsetan Aniwura” and others….. Rest in Peace, sir.’’ LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that Isola, a professor of Yoruba language, had been sick for over two years before he died yesterday morning. The late Ishola is best known for his literary works, and his work in promoting the Yoruba language. He’s the author of “Efunsetan Aniwura”, “Madame Tinubu”, and translator of Wole Soyinka’s “Aké” and “Death and the King’s Horseman.” He is famous for his two books that were made into movies, “O Leku” and “Efunsetan Aniwura” Confirming the death, foremost cinematographer, Tunde Kelani, said: “Yes, Prof Ishola died this morning in Ibadan. He has been down for about two years now.
Movie Practitioners React: Prominent faces in the movie industry have described the demise of their late colleague and icon as a great loss in their field. Popular actor, Jibola Dabo said the country and the industry lost a rare talent: “Wow! it’s an exit of a rare gem!” . Movie director, Fidelis Duker, on his part said that the literary giant would be missed. He said, “Prof was a great man. An icon we will all miss in Nollywood. He brought in professionalism through most of the scripts that was filmed by Tunde Kelani. May the soul of Professor Akinwunmi Ishola rest in peace, Amen.” On his part, actor and movie producer, Femi Branch said Prof Ishola’s impact on the literary world connecting the English language to Yoruba language will always be a reference point. “Prof Akinwunmi Ishola’s death is a colossal loss to the literary world no doubt. We must take solace in the fact that he made his own mark; great one indeed, while he lived. “To many of us, he was an uncompromising teacher/ writer. His contributions to the literary world will always be a reference point. Adieu Prof,” Mr Branch stated. Professor Akinwunmi Ishola studied at the University of Ibadan, earning a B.A. in French.
He also earned an M.A. in Yoruba Literature from the University of Lagos in 1978 before commencing academic work as a lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University where he was appointed a professor in 1991. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. Some of his works – Oleku, Koseegbe, Saworoide, Agogo Eewo and Campus Queen – were adapted to film by Kelani. Ishola wrote his first play, “Efunwura”, between 1961 and 1962 while still a student at the University of Ibadan. The novel, O Leku, which was turned into a movie, followed this. He also wrote a play entitled, “Olu Omo”, published in May 1983 by Onibonoje Press & Book industries (Nig.) Ltd. In 1986, he wrote and composed the college anthem for Wesley College, Ibadan. Since then, he had written a number of plays and novels. He also ventured into broadcasting, creating a production company that has turned a number of his plays into television dramas and films. In recognition of his immense contributions to literary production, he was in 2000 awarded the National Merit Award and the Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters. The late scholar was married and had four children.
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