Kole Omotoso: A Giant Gone To Sleep

By Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin

I became a protégée of Professor Omotoso in 1973 , when I was admitted into the University of Ibadan (UI) and was taking elective courses in the Theatre Arts department.

In 1974, he accepted me into his house and gave me the boys quarters to stay, along with one Keith Gittens, who later renamed himself Koffi – a student from Trinidad. I stayed in the house for a year.

Professor Omotoso got married to his delectable wife, Maggie, a West Indian, in my presence. May her soul rest in peace.

I was there when they had, Akin, their first son. Today, Akin is one of the most prolific film directors in Africa.

Through Professor Kole, I became very close to his band of Afrocentric peers. Biodun Jeyifos, Abiola Irele, Femi Osofisan, Sumbo Marinho, etc.

I was in his house the night Wole Soyinka crept in at night, dodging from the military government of General Gowon. National alerts were out for Soyinka to be arrested on sight. He had written a book, The Man Died, which was a scathing exposé of his prison experience and the terrible things about the prosecution of the Biafran war by the military.

Soyinka was going to escape into Ghana. The manuscript of the book needed to be hidden. That night, it was buried within the Kole Omotoso official quarters that was shared with Professor Osofisan. We dug the ground.

The last time I saw Professor Omotoso was about twelve years ago. I wanted to buy a house in South Africa. Prof had a fantastic one by the beach in Durban. He offered to sell it to me at a discounted price. In fact when I was coming back to Nigeria, he drove all the way to the Joburg airport to see me off.

We retired to a small coffee shop because his presence was causing so much attention. He was the face of the popular South Africa GSM network, Vodacom. His character was Yebo Gogo. His face adorned billboards and every TV Station in South Africa. The anti-immigrant riots shortly after killed my interest in buying a house in Durban.

Professor Omotoso was a member of an endangered species of African literary giants who gave their lives to the spirit of Afrocentrism. These are the African sons who reinterpreted the image of the African spirit, which was badly painted by the Western PR machine. A throwback to the colonial era.

A giant has gone to sleep, yet the town crier is fast asleep. The expected ovation in the village square is missing. But we cannot be caught napping. Because we drank from the spring of his essence. And it made us become drunkards of creativity. Although the man actually died, but his tomb is the temple of creativity for generations! Forever!

Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin (DUDU) is a foremost motion picture producer, director and screenwriter.


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