The University of Ibadan and the Obafemi Awolowo University, respectively, have honored Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, in separate moves.
The management of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, on Tuesday renamed its Arts Theatre after Prof. Wole Soyinka; while the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State has also established a museum in his honour
Students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, on Monday, treated the Nobel laureate to youthful songs and complimentary slangs during the opening session of this year’s edition of the Ife Festival of Food and Identity, organised by the university.
At the five-day festival where the institution also opened a museum in Soyinka’s honour, the students, who joined scholars, traditional rulers and other culture enthusiasts at the Oduduwa Hall in the varsity, yelled with elation as Soyinka stepped in, in company with the OAU Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede.
The Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga, who represented Governor Ibikunle Amosun was there, along with other dignitaries.
The students continually sang, ‘Igi Iwe! Igi Iwe! Igi Iwe!’, describing Soyinka as “uncommon scholar.”
So intense was the celebration that the Nobel laureate could hardly finish the speech he was billed to make.
The museum, which is a base for many artworks that Soyinka had collected over the years, evolved from the house he used to live in when he was a lecturer at the institution — then called the University of Ife.
According to the vice chancellor who acknowledged the support of the Ogun State Government in the development of the facility, the university decided to establish the museum not only to honour Soyinka but also to deepen OAU’s cultural legacy.
Also speaking on the museum, Soyinka said, “It is always good to see pieces of artwork where they can breathe.
“They are from my collections. And it is always a different feeling when you see them isolated and properly arranged. It is a different sensation and that is what I saw when I went there this morning.”
Meanwhile, the University of Ibadan also named the Practical Theatre as Geoffrey Axworthy studio.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Axworthy was the founding Director of the School of Drama of the university in 1962.
Soyinka was also the founding head when the school was transformed into a full Department of Theatre Arts in 1970.
Speaking at the unveiling of the theatre, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, said the event marked a major landmark in the history of the university.
The vice-chancellor said the two iconic figures had played significant roles in the development of the department and the growth of performing arts in the country.
According to him, the quest to rename the theatre after Soyinka received the approval of the Senate at its meeting in October 2017.
“But the honour being conferred on Prof. Wole Soyinka today belongs to a special class.
“ Not only is he being honoured during his lifetime, he is physically present to receive it in good health of body and mind, ” he said.
According to him, the theatre was constructed in 1956 to provide a forum for performances and other forms of entertainment.
“Now that the Arts Theatre is being renamed, we are hopeful that the new vision for Wole Soyinka Theatre will be realised sooner than later with the active support of benevolent philanthropists and well-meaning corporate organisations, “he said.
In his remarks, Soyinka said he was happy to be in the university, adding that he was in a familiar environment with lots of memories.
“This is a place of memories for me, I also felt contented co-honouring me with Geoffrey Axworthy who fought so hard to make the department what it is today.
“It is very easy to forget pioneer, but I have to say that our successors here have a sense of history, so, I must thank you all for this, “he said.
The Nobel Laureate, however, urged the lecturers and students of the department to continue to make it great with creative production.
“You all should try and have fun like we used to and continue to make the department great with creative productions, “he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the 2nd Geoffrey Axworthy lecture entitled, “Geoffrey Axworthy and the Modern Nigerian Theatre, ’’ was delivered by Prof. Ahmed Yerima, the Vice-Chancellor of Reedeemer University, Ede, Osun.
Yerima said Axworthy used his position as the Director of the School of Drama to influence policy development and implementation.
Axworthy, he said, also promoted the relationship between the “town and the gown.”
NAN reports that Soyinka was a student at the University of Ibadan between 1952 and 1954.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.
Dignitaries at the event included Prof. Femi Osofisan, John Pepper Clerk, Dr Kolade Musoro and Chief Gbenga Arulogun.