For the first time in many years, Africa’s leading poet, scholar and critic, Prof. Niyi Osundare, has found himself in a position where he cannot escape commending a Nigerian government. This appears strange on the part of the writer who had persistently lamented that the country has banished excellence to the past in many areas – no thanks to bad leadership.
The object of the current ‘aberration’ is two-fold: a regeneration of nature and intervention for higher education he experienced last week when he was part of a mentoring project for postgraduate students, taking place in Ikogosi, Ekiti State. It is being facilitated by journalists-turned scholars, Dr. Wale Adebanwi and Dr. Ebenezer Obadare, who are among the new generation of Nigerian academics making waves abroad. The programme, tagged Ikogosi Graduate Summer School, is a two-week programme aimed at exposing the PG students to what are believed to be best practices in scholarship.
While all the 47 candidates of Ekiti origin, from various higher institutions across the country, note that it is a landmark experience – with some saying they have gained more than what they would in two years at a regular school – Osundare was first arrested by the ambience of the popular Ikogosi Warm Springs. As many other visitors to the resource have noted, the Ikere Ekiti-born poet, who has celebrated the Ekiti hilly landscapes in many poems, was overwhelmed by the aura of the suave layers of roads that now lead to the heritage, an elegant resort that has sprouted there, and the way the waterfront has also been tendered and opened to receive the world.
In the process, the author of award-winning collections that include Village Voices, Eye of the Earth andWaiting Laughters composed a new poem. Besides, as he confessed to our correspondent in a telephone interview on Thursday, he had to quickly add about two pages to the keynote address he presented at the opening ceremony held on Monday, June 17.
He saluted Fayemi as a leader on a mission to return excellence to Ekitiland, based on the investment in Ikogosi and funding the government provided for the programme that attracted scholars from home and the Diaspora.
After introducing his speech with the poem that came in Yoruba and English, Osundare said, “Ikogosi Graduate Summer School’ sounds so new, doesn’t it? Not only new but also innovative, even giddily ambitious, with a hint of the magisterially presumptuous, the romantically futuristic.
“Consider the very location of the ‘School’. Ikogosi. A place of near-Edenic serenity tucked away in the awesome flanks of Ekiti hills, made popular by the differing temperatures of its springs. Until recently, Ikogosi was nothing more than a promissory mantra in political campaigns and recurring decimal in the arithmetic of annual state budgets. Half-executed projects littered its landscape. Giant mosquitoes and dragon-like reptiles played host even in the most executive of its executive suites. Government after government extoled its potential as a tourist money garnerer, but fell tragically short of taking adequate care of the goose that was expected to lay the golden egg.
“But as we look round today, a terrific difference arrests our gaze: gleaming access roads, enticing swimming pools,cozy chalets, capacious multi-purpose halls, spacious amphitheatre (with dramatic intimations of the famous Christ’s School Quadrangle), wood-terraced tour walks, etc. A world-class golf course is even teeing into existence much to the pastoral astonishment of a sleepy Ekiti terrain. There is every indication that Ikogosi is beckoning to the world; the tourist naira rain is about to fall.
“Only a Governor who dreams and dares could have conceived the kind of enterprise which brought us here today and lent Ikogosi’s sacred name to its provenance and historic significance. Only a leader capable of seeing through and beyond the thick fog of the philistinism and ignorance that have for long held Nigeria hostage to the incubus of darkness and underdevelopment. For, as far as I know, this is the first instance so far of this kind of ‘School’ anywhere in Nigeria (and my spirit tells me it is not going to be the last).”
He commended Adebanwi and Obadare for facilitating the project, saying they were dependable academic ambassadors.
At the programme were scholars that include World Bank Consultant, Prof Ladipo Adamolekun; Dr. Bola Udegbe (UI); Prof. Adeleke Adeeko (Ohio State University, Ohio); Prof. Olufemi Taiwo (Cornel University, USA); Prof. Bayo Olukoshi of the UN African Institute for Economic Development and Planning; Prof. Oko Obono of the University of Ibadan; and Dr. Funmi Olonisakin of the King’s College, UK. who respectively teach at Kansas University, USA and the University of California at Davis, U.S.A.
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Fayemi said the IGSS was put in place in line with his administration’s resolve to always blaze the trail in education sector and make Ekiti a marketplace of ideas and centre of knowledge in the country.
He said he realised that it would not be possible to relocate the best scholars to Ekiti in one fell swoop from their overseas base; hence, the need to develop a programme in which students studying for their master’s and doctorate programmes are brought under the tutelage of the best brains from various parts of the world.
Also at the programme were Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Prof. Modupe Adelabu; Senator Babafemi Ojudu and the First Lady, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, who also delivered a paper on feminism.
Last modified: June 25, 2013