By Dr. Godknows Igali
Our beloved Prof Robin, just like Canadian botanist, Collin Powell, and British linguist, Kay Williamson died and we buried him in the Niger Delta, Ijaw soil.
By Royal Decree of His Serene Majesty, Prof TJT Princewill, Amachree XI, the Amayanabo, he was on 18th January 2020 buried in the sacred island of Abiama, reserved for Kalabari Kings and Royalty.
The Royal Decree included that his rites of passage including not often seen masquerades perform daily from seven nights.
Like many of the brightest minds ever produced by Oxford University, Alabo (Prof) William Horton, came to Nigeria in the early 1950s, later armed with a First Class Honours Degree in Anthropology, Philosophy and Religion dedicated himself to the study of the traditional religious life and believes of Africa.
From Ibadan to Ife to Nsukka, he finally settled in the University of Portharcourt. He fell in love with the belief systems of the Kalabari Ijaw sub-ethnic nationality.
He converted officially to African (Kalabari) religion and fully adopted Buguma as home. He joined the much revered Ekine Masqerade Society (the equivalent of Poro in Sierra Leone, Ogboni in Yoruba and Ekpe in Efik,…etc.) and rose to the highest grade.
He loved Kalabari, spoke Kalabari, married from Kalabari and retired to Buguma, capital of Kalabari to practice full traditional worship, research, and writing. (Disappointedly) he was a full traditionist and challenged the tendency of African Christians to practice syncretic and hypocritical admixture of western religions and African practices, rather than draw a straight – “if any man is in Christ he is a new creature”.
He called it “The Rationality of Conversion” and many African leaders and academics felt quite uncomfortable. This put him in trouble but none could disprove him.
At UNIPORT, many of us in Humanities passed through him. He showed interest in all our infantile historical and sociological studies in the 1970s. Like Kay Williamson who lies in Kaiama, in Bayelsa, l understand, there are tons of unpublished works.
I traveled down to Buguma, along with Sunny George, up to the sacred and eerie island of Abiama to lay him to rest, close of King Amachree the Great. Earlier, his bosom friend and partner, Professor Emeritus, Ebiegberi Alagoa (Alabo Kala Jo), led the official UNIPORT delegation at the funeral while I spoke for all his former students and Alumni.
A lot of cultures, masquerading and, on the demands of family, Christian worship. Den na mu, beloved Professor. Your good work will continue.
Amb. Godknows Igali, former Federal Permanent Secretary and Diplomat wrote in from Abuja.