President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday mourned the passing of renowned author, playwright and literary icon, Professor Akinwumi Ishola.
The renowned scholar died on Saturday at his Ibadan residence. He was aged 79.
In a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, Buhari said the literary world would surely miss the cultural activist whose steadfastness and dedication to the promotion of the native language as a means of sustaining the culture and tradition of Africans is worth emulating.
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 even as a student and throughout his academic life.
“The 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 calls on other academicians 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 gains.
“The President prays that Almighty God will grant the soul of Professor Ishola eternal rest,” the statement added.
Also, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, described the death of the renowned playwright and literary giant as a colossal loss not only to his immediate family but to Oyo State, the Yoruba race and the world at large.
The governor, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Communication and Strategy, Mr. Yomi Layinka, said that he received the news of the death of the Ibadan-born culture ambassador and progenitor of Yoruba literature with disbelief and utter shock.
By his death, the governor said that the state had lost a venerated son of the soil, who devoted his life to the promotion of Yoruba culture through his creative works and huge contributions to the global body of knowledge.
As a student at the University of Ibadan, Isola wrote ‘Efunsetan Aniwura,’ a play the governor said had remained a timeless piece in teaching lessons on abuse of power and retribution, while he said that his epic novel, ‘O leku,’ was also evergreen.
Quoting from William Shakespeare’s book, ‘As You Like it,’ the governor said that the world was a stage, where Isola had played his part meritoriously and had gloriously exited to be with his maker.
Ajimobi said, “The late Prof. Ishola was also a blessing to his Alma Mata, Wesley College, Ibadan, because he composed the school anthem, which is still in use till date.
“He was a man of many parts. Not only was he a prolific writer, but he was also a talented actor and astute broadcaster who churned out many plays, drama series and box office films.
“Prof Akinwumi Isola was an unabashed believer in the promotion of the Yoruba language, which he once demonstrated by being the first person to deliver a university convocation lecture in Yoruba at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, which was very unconventional.
“But, in the words of William Shakespeare ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.’ Baba has played his parts and he has exited gloriously.”
The governor sympathised with the family of the late icon, whom he eulogised as a worthy son of Ibadanland, and prayed that the Lord would grant his soul a peaceful rest and his family, as well as the creative and literary communities, the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.
Isola, who wrote the popular play, Efunsetan Aniwura, when he was a student of the University of Ibadan in 1961, died after age-related ailment according to a family source.
“Baba has gone,” said the source, who preferred anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the family.
“He had been sick for some time and was getting better. But this morning, he died peacefully. He left a good legacy and his life was a good example for mankind.”
A friend of the deceased and chairman of Kakanfo Inn and Conference Centre, Dr Lekan Are, who also confirmed the demise of the professor of Yoruba and writer of several Yoruba plays, praised Akinwumi for his passion for Yoruba culture, language and tradition, adding the deceased’s wife called him early on Saturday to inform him of the actor’s death.
Are said, “When his wife called me this morning, and told me that Isola had died, I was shocked because I had visited him two weeks ago, he told me that he was getting better. We had a vibrant discussion. He was excited to see me again.
“This is why I was taken aback by his death. He was a brilliant individual who made Yoruba history popular beyond Africa. He delivered lectures in Yoruba language. He wanted the language of Yoruba to feature prominently in our education system but unfortunately, this did not happen in his life time. May his soul rest in peace.”
Also, a very close associate of the deceased, a foremost cinematographer, Tunde Kelani, confirmed the departure of the famous playwright .
“Yes, Prof Ishola died this morning in Ibadan. He has been down for about two years now,” Kelani said over the phone. Ovation Publisher, Dele Momodu, also confirmed the death in a Facebook post.
“Sad to receive the news that Nigeria has lost the legendary writer Prof Akinwunmi Isola, my former lecturer & supervisor; author of O Le Ku and Efunsetan Aniwura and others… Rest in Peace Sir…,” Momodu wrote.
Born in Ibadan in 1939, Prof Ishola attended Labode Methodist School and Wesley College in the capital of the old Western Region of Nigeria.
He 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.
Among his most popular plays are Efunsetan Aniwura, Madam Tinubu, Oleku and Olu Omo .
His works, Oleku, Koseegbe, Saworoide, Agogo Eewo and Campus Queen were adapted to film by Kelani.
He worked with Kelani as a member of a trio which also had Late Adebayo Faleti and Larinde Akinleye.