WILLIAM WORDSWORTH once said: “Death be not proud”. It is based on the above poetics that I join numerous mourners, writers, fans and wordsmiths to express my grief over the death of Dr. Richard Tosanwumi.
Tosanwumi, a consummate communicator, was a delight to read in his numerous outings in the pen-pushing trade he assigned himself. I actually encountered the late erudite scribbler at the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, Cultural Centre at Okere Road, Warri.
An event of intellectual discourse was being held and distinguished media personalities and stakeholders in the literati were present. Again and unfortunately another eminent scholar who educated and entertained Deltans and beyond with his witty and stimulating writing was present. Like Tosanwumi, his field of specialisation was distinct from studies in the main stream media pre-occupation.
He was James Oghene, the American-trained business studies lecturer at the Delta State University, Abraka. The topic of discussion was whether education should be made free or not. I was then freelancing for the Urhobo Voice Newspaper in the early ’90s.
Given the intellectual grasp of both communication gurus, it was bound to be profound and engaging. So it was as the audience was held spell bound by the presentation of both media disseminators. This writer when reporting the encounter titled it: “Tosanwumi clashes with Oghene”.
Both writers, now late, took opposite views on how education should be funded. While it would have been unusual for Oghene and Tosanwumi to take the same route in the discourse, and given that both actually had sympathy for the proletariat even with their bourgeoisie class, Oghene took the stand that though he was fully in sympathy with the down-trodden, there was no free hitch in America, hence there was the need for the population to pay a token for the education of their children and wards.
He said that nothing gotten free was worth anything for the beneficiary pointing out that when you pay for an article or a service, you have value for such an article or service.
Tosanwumi rose shortly to defend his stand-point that the proletariat has the inalienable right to enjoy free education and must be provided by the government. He noted that the state has the obligation to provide for the poor who have been short- changed in the corruption-driven system of government that has left the proletariat in a pitiful condition. At the end of the discourse, both Oghene and Tosanwumi were applauded.
Though I failed to pay tribute to the late Oghene being a public figure who contributed immensely to the media development, I felt I should wake up from my slumber and lethargy and at least join the numerous fans and admirers of Tosanwumi to pay this last respects to a man who trudged this volcanic earth with great courage and tenacity. It would be a great disservice if he died unsung.
The greatest attribute Tosanwumi bequeathed to the intellectual world was in his capacity of disseminating his thought in the socio-political discourse in an elucidating, unambiguous and simple language. Many thought that the late dentist was a master of English Language while others felt that he was in a wrong profession as a medical doctor instead of being in the writing world where he seemed to blossom exceedingly.
Reading Tosanwumi’s articles and features, one was compelled to feel that he was probably in the class of the legendary Chinua Achebe, a master story teller who always delivered socio-cultural-cum-political artistic story in simple language.
Though, most of his writings were on political dispensations, Tosanwumi was not a vengeful and antagonistic commentator. He provided data and statistics to buttress his analysis; so he did not occupy the same position as those who spewed bitterness probably because they were not in a particular system. He tackled issues frontally with a language which was accessible to the secondary school leaver yet in a profound and dignified method.
Tosanwumi built his reputation through his regular contribution to local and national newspapers and it amounted to a miscarriage of information that his being one time Commissioner for Health made him popular. Tosanwumu’s popularity and acceptability in the media firmament was due to his firm grip on the things that government has to do to ameliorate the condition of the down-trodden where though he did not belong yet fully identified with.
In this clime where ethnicity has been catapulted to the pinnacle of socio-political engagement, Tosanwumi shunned ethnicity and pitched tent with other ethnic groups to engage in his pragmatic approach to politicking. Scholars have propounded that one of the obstacles and impediments to national development is the political drum beat of ethnicity.
According to commentators, drowning and out of favour politicians who messed themselves up always play the jingles of ethnic subjugation to attract defensive walls from their ethnic soul mates.
Throughout his life, Tosanwumi did not exploit ethnic sentiment to stay on course but instead, he came out boldly to state his point of view and damn the consequences. Adieu. Tosanwumi, we miss you.
Mr. SAM TEMIENOR, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Warri, Delta State.