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For BJ at 60: A Student's Random Recollection in Lieu of a Tribute

Ogaga Ifowodo


Sometime in 1987, not longafter Dr Festus Iyayi, together with three other colleagues, had been dismissed from the University of Benin (Uniben) as punishment by the Babangida military regime for his social commitment and vibrant leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), I joined him and two other comrades on a solidarity-building visit to Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife. It still bore its old name of University of Ife then. Chief Awolowo, for whom the university would soon be renamed, had recently joined the ancestors and a poem I wrote to commemorate my feelings, indistinct to me now, had made it to print in The African Guardian, due mostly to the benevolent view Okey Ndibe, the magazine’s editor, had of it. It was my second year at Uniben, where I was a law student with all his heart and half his head in literature. Before setting out, I had shown the poem to Iyayi who after very encouraging words said, “You have to meet BJ.” I already knew the famous nickname from the circle in which I had begun to mingle ever since I was introduced to Odia Ofeimun two years earlier. Besides, BJ’s was one of the most recognisable names in the lively discourse on Nigerian literatures that had then found a bridge from the universities to the public arena through the justly celebrated but short-lived Guardian Literary Series of The Guardian of Lagos; a weekly feast for the Nigerian literati, especially for us aspiring writers.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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