A University of Benin (UNIBEN) don, Professor Anthony Esijolomi Afejuku, has said that for Nigeria to know where it got it wrong as a nation, there is the urgent need to study the autobiographies of the founding fathers of the nation diligently.
Afejuku of the Department of English Language and Literature of the university, asserted that the reason why the post-colonial Nigeria was not out of the woods yet was the failure to pay attention to the autobiographies of the trio of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, which he described as the “official records of Nigeria”.
Delivering the UNIBEN 245th Inaugural Lecturer titled :”The Autobiography of Nigeria”, last Thursday, the professor of Literary Criticism, stated that the autobiographies: ‘The Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’, Azikwe’s ‘My Odyssey’ and Bello’s ‘My Life’, “in different degrees, dwell on the need for Nigerians of all religions and political groups to discern and articulate interconnections between ethnic, religious and linguistic diversions to construct (and reconstruct) a sense of sharer country-hood or nationhood.”
Supporting Professor Adebayo Williams’ position that “Awolowo was a social reformer and crusader for the inalienable right of every citizen to access life more abundant”, Afejuku affirmed that the late Avatar was a key proponent of healthy attitude.
“Chief Awolowo, regardless of any failings of human nature he possessed, was a key proponent of healthy attitude and virtuous conduct of political government: and was the nearest instance of the ideal elder and leader of administration and governance conceived of, especially as a future possibility for Nigeria – going by what he did in the Western Region, where he was Premier and was not allowed to do by the terminators of the First Republic”, he submitted.
The poet therefore canvassed that “to know where we got it wrong as a nation or as a people, there is the fundamental need to study the autobiographies diligently. Our failure so far to do so must be a basic reason why post-colonial Nigeria is not out of the woods yet in every respect.
“I am also suggesting that our steadily unprogressive omission to define the true motivations of the autobiographers and their political signs account for an important reason why up to now we have not had a standardized body of individuals or people who genuinely see themselves as autogenous and impermeable Nigerians”, Afejuku said.
He therefore proceeded to recommend to the university to establish an independent ‘Centre for Autobiographical Studies’ which shall be a novel one in the country “in order for autobiography to be freed of its status as ‘a kind of auxiliary literature’ that is no longer legitimized or ‘legitimated by its partner the novel or to conflate it and the novel.”
Highlight of the lecture was the departure from the norm by Afeju, who, breaking the norm of official dressing for inaugural lectures in suit, donned his native Itsekiri attire, complemented with a long coral bead and the academic gown.
Professor Afejuku holds a 1987 UNIBEN doctorate in English and Literature. His primary research interests are Prose Studies with emphasis on Autobiography, Creative Writing, Poetry, Literary Theory and criticism.