Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, is fast becoming every author’s delight. Only last August it hosted the Orange Broadband Prize winner, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Kenyan winner of the 2002 Caine Prize for African writing, Binyavanga Wainaina, for a reading, the first in a Nigerian university after the former won ‘the Bessie’. The campus, on Saturday November 24th 2007 lived up to its literary tradition when it hosted yet another award winning duo - El Nukoya and Jude Dibia.
The literary event aptly captioned ‘3-2-1’ three books, two award winning authors, one afternoon was the brain child of the Association of Campus Journalists (ACJ), Obafemi Awolowo University. The event which took place at the auditorium 1 of the faculty of Arts was graced by a motley crowd of book lovers and the literati who turned out to celebrate the works of the writing duo.
Jude Dibia, author of the ground-breaking Walking with Shadows and Unbridled (ANA/NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa prize for prose), accompanied by Dr Chijioke Uwazonmba of the Department of English and Literature, sauntered into the venue clad in a navy blue short sleeve shirt at about 2.30pm. The programme commenced with a book signing session as students armed with copies of the author’s works took their turn to get the books autographed by the writer. In what could pass as an attempt to fill the seats of the auditorium, the students did not allow the moment to slip past them as they trooped out to get copies. Twenty minutes into the book signing the winner of the 2007 ANA/Jacaranda prize for prose, El Nukoya, arrived. The author of Nine Lives, in blazer and denim jeans, breezed into the venue to resounding applause from members of the audience eager to see the face behind the award winning thriller. He joined Dibia on the dais and the programme soon commenced.
Dr Nwazonmba in his opening remark welcomed the authors to the campus. He applauded the Association of Campus Journalists for taking the initiative of bringing the authors closer to the readers, as it would strengthen discourse and revive interest in the reading of literary works. Three budding poets: Oni Afolabi, (A4), Ima Iduma and Pheabian Alao set the tone for the event as they performed their poems.
El-Nukoya was the first to read. The bespectacled management consultant cum writer read excerpts from Nine Lives, the 490-page story of how Olupitan Ogunrinu confronts the vicissitudes of life. A few members of the audience who could not resist the reading raced out of the auditorium to get copies of the book. The reading was interspersed with a performance by O.A.U’s leading cultural troupe Ajankoro Dugbe who thrilled the audience with a graceful dance drama.
Jude Dibia thereafter read from his two works: the controversial Walking with Shadows and Unbridled. The NASELS drama troupe delivered a short satirical play titled ‘Justice Justus’ that threw both the guest writers and the audience into girth-racking bouts of laughter. The audience was literally screaming ‘encore!’ when the troupe left the stage for an engaging question and answer session where the audience took the authors to task on the themes addressed in their works. Expectedly, the first salvo for Jude Dibia was his seeming fascination with taboo subjects like homosexuality and incest. El Nukoya was not spared either as he was asked the plausibility of Olupitan keeping a chance picture for years only to use it as an object of blackmail. The questions ran the whole gamut from what informed the choice of the name ‘El Nukoya’ to what writers and intellectuals could do to engage issues in the body politic. In his response, the author of Nine Lives contended that the name El Nukoya was a pseudonym that gave him a distinct identity without intruding into his other professional engagements. “I would not like a situation where I would be in the board room and a fan would identify me and be discussing fiction when we are talking business,” he added.
Jude Dibia in his reaction to issues raised on his obsession with sexuality said he noticed that the issues were deliberated avoided as people only talk about them in hushed tones. “I am not gay but I feel everyone has a right to his/her own sexuality,” he retorted, when the question of his stance on homosexuality was posed.
The event was graced by Professor Adebayo Lamikanra (poet, pharmacist and convener of the Ife festival of Poetry) - and Dr Chima Anyadike who was instrumental in the hosting of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie earlier in the year. The two authors evidently had a great time as they promised to return to the campus in the future.
“I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I loved the professors that came and their comments,” Jude Dibia enthused after the event. “I loved the performances as well as all the students who came to personally meet us, take our autographs and then snap pictures with us... everything was good” he added, beaming smiles.
- Words & Images © Adedotun Eyinade