Breaking News

Professor Unionwan Edebiri..... By Tony Afejuku

Prof. Tony Afejuku

"Until he died, specifically before he died, he told me in confidence what I should engage in on his behalf with a tight friend of his in the Faculty of Arts. I gave him my word.  His destiny did not allow it to come to fruition before what has been has been." Afejuku.

The year that has just passed was a peculiarly peculiar one that birthed winds that played painful tricks on our emotions. The gone year, especially after the presidential elections, reduced the majority of our compatriots to silence. One after the other they were felled by bodily pain that was intensely intense. What happened all about us was not what was expected. For patriots who are true patriots of patriots your country my country our country would be compelled to distract or frighten us to a state of naked silence that bbbbbbb illustrate the continuous deterioration of our problems as human beings in a country stupendously lacking in humanity.

Anyone who expresses any opinion drastically contrary to what I have just expressed is nothing but a fabricator whose confusion of thought, emotion and reason cannot but bruise and dwarf Nigeria which has been badly bruised and dwarfed over the years – and has been very roughly deprived the advantages of development in every manner. 

I am not saying something unknown or originally original. But it is captivatingly inviting; whether or not what I am saying is agreeably agreeable to anyone. But surely it ought to be to the majority of our readers or of my readers.

Why have I begun this essay which I conceived as a tribute to a remarkably great Nigerian literary and cultural personage who voyaged to the great beyond on November 16, 2023? 

I may be doing an injustice to his memory if I keep to myself his patriotic and philosophical thoughts relating to this country. 

As a sincere and true twenty first century Nigerian in emotion, inspiration and vision, his personal private conversations with me centred always and at all times, on the Nigerian condition. 

Professor Union Edebiri’s true tendency as a top scholar, critic and teacher was to express an ordered vision of the life of man; of his compatriot, with great vigour of the personage of culture and often acute, rich observation. 

As a Benin man who received university education up to the Ph.D. level in France, at a time of maximum French assimilation of the foreign power’s subjects, his range of feelings, emotions, philosophical and cultural ideas was never lacking in universal consciousness contrary to what the foreign power might sincerely want. 

The benefit of French culture and mythology which he had, enabled him never to be dismayed by any situation and by any encounter with any human being who might be the arch-angel of negative spirits. His friendships cut across borders; national and international. Internationally, for example, he was a friend of Bernard Binlin Dadie, the recently late (1916-2019) Ivorian novelist, autobiographer, poet and playwright whose work he read and studied with relish. In Nigeria, he had friends across our ethnic borders from the Mid-West to the West (where he married his wife that pre-deceased him) and to the East and the North with whom he related delightfully without any feeling of alienation – an attitude our politicians needed (and need still) to teach their followers exemplarily, but which they never did or will patriotically do.

I physically knew Professor Union Edebiri, OFR, FNITI, FUFTAN, FNAL, very late in life, although he was not a stranger to me by reputation as I had encountered him numerous times in his writings in journals – ever before our face-to-face meeting. He had retired from the University of Lagos where he taught for years and years, and had come to the Department of Foreign Languages in Benin, the University of Benin, that is, as a refined retired professor. I found him to be an engaging personality. He was a quiet gentleman-scholar or, better stated, a quiet scholar-gentleman. He never ever minded to be alone, to stand alone and, quietly to stick to what he believed was true and the truth. (We warmed toward each other as he was a great admirer of my immaculate scholarship, creativity, ambidextrous mannerism, open nature and frankness and what he called my guts). As far as I was concerned his characteristic aloneness without any obvious display of any air of superiority of alienation was invigorating to me. This character trait of his, among other ones that endeared him to me, was a strong quality of a strong revolutionary who became a revolutionary, a positive revolutionary out of a sense of positive rebellion. Yet he did not strike me as a scholar who was interested in getting involved in practical politics – which he, however, believed should be used to serve the general wellbeing of every Nigerian and of mankind. His concern could never ever be likened to the “plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer,” as TS Eliot or William Blake would state it. 

In one of our series of conversations in his Benin residence to which he often invited me for scholarly chats and socials, I wanted to know if he lived ever a life of intransigence. I put the matter to him politely without any ounce of rudeness. My elderly friend who was endowed with a profound capacity for considerable understanding of human nature, with a remarkable and original sense and music of its language and style, answered me in a manner that reminded me of the following words of Paul Nizan (1905-1940), the French philosopher who befriended in college Jean-Paul Sartre: 

“Your modesty will be the death of you, dare to desire, be insatiable, let loose the terrible forces that are warring and whirling inside you, do not be ashamed to ask for the moon – we must have it.” 

And his peculiarly advisory words to me never ever were lost on me: “Tony, don’t ever satisfy the world to roast in trouble. Remain your true self always.” I philosophically benefitted immensely from Professor Unionwan Joseph Edebiri who, as far as I knew (and know), never left his genuine friends in the lurch. At times, I wondered why this patriot, this eminent man and high scholar of profound sensibilities who detested every act of injustice or any form of injustice did not have even a little taste and bite of the morsel of this country’s practical politics. Clearly his high conscience soared above our kind of practical politics.

Until he died, specifically before he died, he told me in confidence what I should engage in on his behalf with a tight friend of his in the Faculty of Arts. I gave him my word.  His destiny did not allow it to come to fruition before what has been has been.

Today, Friday, January 12, 2024 after 12 noon his remains will be given to his earthly ground in his ancestral city of Benin after Mass - in accordance with his Catholic Faith at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Airport Road in the ancient city. Fellows and Members of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) which he was a Fellow of and which he also served as Legal Adviser (for he was a Lawyer as well) will be at the event(s) to usher him to his final home. Members of the Department of Foreign Languages and of the Faculty of Arts will similarly be present at the event(s). They are joining his nuclear family and relations of his extended family and other friends to do their final duty to the personage who was a personage.

I am joining the train to offer and surrender him to the Almighty in ever-lasting peace and peace everlasting to rest. 

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

No comments

Drop Comment