WHY WALE OGUNYEMI STILL LIVES ON NIGERIA'S STAGE-DIRECTOR OF LANGBODO
The maverick playwright died ten years ago leaving behind a retinue of plays, all of which remain relevant to the social, political and economic lives of the Nigerian people. Among these plays is Langbodo, the epic drama which the late Chief Wale Ogunyemi, foremost writer and actor adapted from D.O Fagunwa's book entitled Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole.
The latter was equally translated into Forest of a Thousand Demons, by Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, while Langbodo was chosen as Nigeria's drama entry for the Second World Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) hosted by Nigeria in 1977.
But as a play for all seasons, Langbodo, according to Professor Ojo Rasaki Bakare who is currently directing it in Akure, Ondo State said everything about Nigeria is in the play. Although the drama, which encapsulates the various elements of the theatre is to mark the third anniversary of Dr Olusegun Mimiko as Ondo State governor, it also speaks to the entire Nigerian society which is currently challenged by insecurity and disunity.
Like a timely panacea for all ailments, Langbodo offers Nigeria the needed solutions to her problems, albeit through the pains and lessons received by the seven hunters while on their expedition to Mountain Langbodo. The play thus remains a major avenue for Nigerians and indeed their leaders to mirror their excesses, as well as learn how to correct themselves.
Recently at the Cultural Centre complex, Akure, Ondo State, Bakare told Daily Sun why he finds the play so intriguing such that he has directed it on many occasions to speak to the Nigerian government and its citizens:
'I directed the play in 2006 for the National Cultural Summit being planned then by the National Assembly. We finished the rehearsals and the play was set to run on stage. But suddenly we heard about the plane crash in which the Sultan of Sokoto and other prominent Nigerians were killed. And because of that tragic incident, the production was cancelled.
Last year too, I directed Langbodo for the inauguration of President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Dignitaries in public and private lives graced the inauguration ceremony. This time around, I was invited by the Ondo State government to direct the same play. It was selected by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the state and I was just asked to produce it to commemorate the governor's third anniversary in office. But what makes Langbodo thick is the powerful message in it. Everything we're facing today in this country. Also the issues raised by the playwright are very topical so the script continues to be relevant and that is why it has been perforatively ubiquitous.'
Ezekiel Olawale Adisa (J.P. M.O.N) was born on 12 August in 1939 to Samuel and Mary Ogunyemi in Igbajo, Osun State. He completed his secondary school in 1954, when he graduated from Commercial Academy, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, Oyo State. His first encounter with the drama came when he was employed as a typist for the Nigerian Television Service (NTS) in Lagos
By the time he was 21 he had fully established himself as a talented artiste, dramatist, producer and actor. He continued his education at Leeds University (UK) and returned home to continue his career in the theatre. He worked in the Institute of African Studies, as a research fellow, from where he retired on August 29, 1999. Throughout his life he worked and traveled with the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.
He won many awards for his plays at home and abroad. Among these are Sign of the Rainbow, a BBC African Theatre Award. The Vow, African Arts Special Award of the University of California, Los Angeles. He has many other plays to his credit out of which 16 were published, and one of which was Queen Amina of Zauzau.
Some of Ogunyemi's best works include The Scheme (1967); Are Akogun (a Yoruba adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, 1969); Esu Elegbara (1970), Ijaiye War (1970), Obaluaye (bi-lingual music drama (1972) and The Divorce, (a domestic drama, 1977);
In recognition of his artistic and creative contribution to Nigeria, he was honoured with the award of member of the Order of Niger (M.O.N) by President Shehu Shagari in 1982; the same year the Olokuku of Okuku conferred on him a chieftaincy title of Majeobaje of Okuku. His last major appearance on stage was between August and October 2001 when he was involved in Wole Soyinka's King Baabu, which travelled around the world, including his own native country, Nigeria. He died in Ibadan on December 17, 2001 after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Margaret Modupe Folashade, his five children and many grandchildren.