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Wole Soyinka: How I failed to teach Odia Ofeimun

IT was a hilarious moment last week when snow wearing hair styled Africa’s first noble laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka surprised everybody, when he stated that he failed in his duty as a teacher by not  converting Odia Ofeimun to the culture of wine drinking.

Soyinka, himself a known connoisseur of good wine said this to a well attended and up scale gathering that came to the Nigerian Institute of International  Affairs , NIIA, Lagos to  honor Odia Ofeimun’s 60th birthday.

In his words; “I have tried to teach Odia to drink wine and he has refused to drink. Instead, he is bent on drinking fermented fruit juice. I have failed in this my task as a teacher.”

Making his remark as the chairman of the occasion, Soyinka, himself a long standing friend and mentor of poet, Odia went back memory lane to tell the audience that he discovered Odia through his poetry entry for Poems of Black Africa anthology edited by Soyinka.

According to him,” I got an entry from a person, who called himself Odia Ofeimun. The name I couldn’t place whether it came from Ethiopia, Tanzania or Uganda. There was no address, but he wrote beautiful poetry and so I published it.

“However, there was a complaint I had about Odia many years ego. I begged him not to read his own poems. I asked him to get somebody to read the poems for him and  even if he had to ask me to come down to read his poems that I would do it for him because his poetry reading hurt my ears.
“ He took this suggestion to heart, and some other time when I went to his house and he attempted to read his poems,I left and went into the rest  room, but he called me to come back that he had been working on his voice. And true to his claim, he had worked on it. That is the height of  Odia’s capacity to learn and adjust.”

Soyinka also said that he had complaint  against Odia. The  first complaint  is what  he described as Odia’s commonwealth spirit. “ I told him that he will die bankrupt because his house is a commonwealth.” He said.


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