Emeritus Professor Femi Osofisan’s Birthday! By Pius Adesanmi

imageimageIt’s official: my Oga, Professor Adeleke Adeeko, is my enemy and is hereby sentenced to life in prison as my mentor with no option of parole. First day of our seminars. Fantastic sessions and wonderful chemistry with our students – all early career and mid career lecturers. We return to our hotel at about 4 pm exhausted but all fired up. At the lobby, all three of us – Professors Adeeko, Moses Ochonu, and yours truly – agree that we would just go and crash in our respective rooms and meet up for breakfast tomorrow morning before heading out to campus for day two of the seminars.
7 pee emnish and the phone in my room loudly disturbs my sleep. It is my Oga, Professor Adeeko, calling from the lobby. I try to mumble some reasons why I cannot come downstairs but my Oga interrupts me:
Professor Adeeko: Pius, guess who is here with me. Professor Femi Osofisan! He heard that we are in town and has come to see us.
Me: Ehn, Professor Osofisan ke? Mo nbo kiakia! Let me wear my sokoto and rush downstairs.
When you hear that Kabiyesi has summoned you, you do not offer the impudent excuse that you are consulting the Ifa oracle. What if Ifa says yes and Kabiyesi says no? When you hear that Emeritus Professor Femi Osofisan is at your hotel lobby waiting, you clear the sleep from your eyes and hold an impatient dialogue with your legs. If you take Wole Soyinka’s famous white mane out of the picture, Femi Osofisan is Africa’s greatest playwright – followed by Athol Fugard of South Africa.
Soyinka, Osofisan, Fugard – my pecking order of African dramaturgy. While in Accra on sabbatical, I had screamed with excitement when my Egbon Professor Rem Raj called from Ibadan to tell me that Professor Osofisan’s elevation to the rank of Emeritus was in the bag. Prof subsequently promised to be in Ghana for the staging of one of his plays but multiple postponements meant that he arrived a few weeks after I left Accra.
Now he is in my hotel lobby, waiting.
I hurry downstairs. Rioutous reunion. I haven’t seen Prof since we last fraternized at a conference in Madison-Wisconsin in 2004. I tell him that he owes me multiple beers, the most important of which is the urgent need to wash the Emeritus Professorship. After all, I waited for him to wash it in Accra but he tactically maneuvered to come to Accra after I had left.
Professor Adeeko: Pius, there is reason for more beer and washing o. It is Prof’s birthday today! And he has come to pick us up to spend the evening with him!
What a privilege! What an honour! Here is one of the African continent’s most famous writers, just coming in from Bayreuth, Germany, and a tour of China, and he hears we are in town and decides to come and pick us up for his birthday soiree! I tell him that Shola Adenekan was live blogging his Bayreuth appearances with photos and commentary. He is surprised that I was in Ottawa downloading live photos of his conference presentation in Germany.
I tell Professors Osofisan and Adeeko that I must rush upstairs to wake the snoring Moses Ochonu who has already closed shop for the day. The two trees of knowledge appeal to me not to disturb Moses. I tell them that the Vanderbilt man would never forgive me. I rush upstairs to Moses’s room with the extraordinary news. The Idoma Professor wakes up and rushes to the shower at a speed faster than Nigeria’s billions have been making their way to Senator David Mark’s bank accounts for several decades and counting.
Off we are in a convoy to Professor Osofisan’s chalet for what turns out to be a wonderful birthday soiree for the playwright. Anecdotes, reminiscences, stories, suya, barbecued chicken, Orijin, Heineken, whiskey, gbogbo faaji, ariya unlimited. I make a mental note of what Bamidele Ademola-Olateju is missing.
Professor Osofisan fills the house with a well of drinks. Professor Osofisan festoons the road with the heat of amala. My friend, Adiba Obubo, is with us and is subject to banter inquiries into the intertwined destinies of a particular part of Nigeria and a certain beverage that those quaffing coat of arms-decorated champagne in the Nigerian establishment have now banned.
The birthday boy, Emeritus Professor Osofisan, regales us with stories, snippets, anecdotes from what Professor Adeeko longingly remarks is a long overdue autobiography. The celebrant wants to drink wine. He brings out a bottle of Merlot. I examine it and approve the authentic French origin of that Merlot.
Where is the corkscrew? Professor Osofisan ransacks the kitchen. No corkscrew. He has only just moved into the chalet. I refuse to give up. If Prof wants to drink wine on his birthday, the absence of a corkscrew shall not be a weapon fashioned against that desire. I settle for an African gragra way of opening a bottle of French wine without a corkscrew. I apply a table knife and push the cork into the bottle. Red wine splashes all over my shirt. Professor Osofisan and the wicked Professor Moses Ochonu insist that I take pictures in that condition.
Moses: And if I don’t see that picture on your Facebook Wall, I will personally write about it and tag you for the benefit of your followers.
The motion is seconded by the playwright.
Luckily, the 14th-century internet speed in this hotel will not allow me to upload pictures of the party.
You will see the pictures whenever internet service here improves to 18th-century standards.

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