By Snr. Chief ‘Lekan Alabi
IBADAN – 35 years ago, exactly on Sunday, December 16, 1987, the late Chief ‘Bola Ige, SAN and his wife, the late Honourable Justice Atinuke Ige, hosted Africa’s first Nobel laureate, Professor ‘Wole Soyinka, at their Esa-Oke home.
Reason? Prof. Soyinka and Chief Ige were very close friends (hand-in-glove type). They both shared ideas and values.
The highly-cherished Nobel Awards are traditionally announced in October of each year.
And so it was in October 1987, when Professor Soyinka was announced the winner, the first African, of the 1987 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Naturally, Chief Ige was ecstatic, like millions of Nigerians and Soyinka’s followers all over the world, about his friend of many decades not only winning the coveted prize, but breaking the record as the first African.
While the formal presentations of the Nobel Awards in the various categories of human endeavours, traditionally take place in Stockholm, Sweden, the native country of the donor, so was that of 1987.
Thus, Chief Ige and his wife rolled out the drums in honour of Prof. Soyinka, by inviting selected high profile guests/friends across Nigeria to Esa-Oke.
My humble self – Senior Chief ‘Lekan Alabi, Maye Olubadan of Ibadanland and the first Culture Ambassador of the National Museum and Monument, Ile Ife (then the Press Secretary to the Military Governor of old Oyo State) and wife, made the Iges Esa-Oke list.
The cream of the society drawn to Esa-Oke (now in present Osun State) by the Iges on December 16,1987, included Mrs. Fransesca Emmanuel, then the Permanent in the Federal Ministry of Sports, Chief Tayo Akpata, Professor Abiola Irele, Alhaji Ali Baba, the late Professor Toriola Solanke and his wife, Folake, the First Lady SAN, the late Princess Teju Alakija, old Oyo State First Lady Head of Service, the late Mr. Femi Johnson, the late Professor Muyiwa Awe and his wife, Bolanle, also a Professor, the late Ambassador Segun Olusola, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, the late Hon. Justice and Mrs.Tayo Ayanlaja, the late Chief Bode Akindele, the late Chief Bayo Akinnola, Professor Obaro Ikime etc (For the full list of the 1987 Nobel/Esa-Oke celebration attendees, kindly refer to my artcle: “NOBEL AND ESA-OKE CONNECTION”, published in the December 23, 1987, issue of the now-defunct Sunday Sketch newspaper and also on page 75 to 77 of my 1990 book: “SPEAKING FOR GOVERNORS”.
Chief Ige,was pleasantly startled one day in 1983, during an after lunch discussion at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, when I asked him why he and Prof.Soyinka stopped their annual joint newspaper immemoriam for the late Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, the first Military Governor of the now-defunct Western Region of Nigeria, who was assassinated in Lalupon, Ibadan with the visiting first military Head of State of Nigeria, Major-General Johnson Thomas Umanukwe Aguiyi-Ironsi. I had told Governor Ige of my interest in the joint immemoriam while I was in the secondary school. The immemoriam was traditionally signed off by “Bola & ‘Wole”
In addition to the immemoriam, I revealed to Chief Ige how, while a 17-year old Form 111 student of the African Church Grammar School, Apata-Ganga, Ibadan, I had written a letter of appeal on behalf of WS to the then military head of state of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon, to release the then Mr ‘Wole Soyinka from indefinite detention, without trial, in Kaduna Prisons, as ordered by the Federal Military Government, headed by him, Gowon.
*Senior Chief ‘Lekan Alabi, Maye Olubadan of Ibadanland and the first Culture Ambassador of the National Museum and Monument, Ile Ife writes from Ibadan, Oyo State capital.