Professor Olufemi Obafemi: Renowned Playwright, Poet, Novelist & Scholar

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Professor Olufemi Obafemi is a multi-talented and many-sided Abusite. Playwright, poet, novelist, scholar, teacher, translator, and much more.

The 76th recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NMOM) award (2018) is also a renowned author and Professor of English and Dramatic Literature at the University of Ilorin. He pioneered an experimental tool for revolutionary aesthetics in Africa

Professor Obafemi who is a winner of Nigeria’s highest and most prestigious prize for distinguished academics and intellectuals who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s development is public intellectual par excellence.

L-R: Mrs Grace Obafemi, Professor Olufemi Obafemi and President Muhammadu Buhari during the presentation of the award
L-R: Mrs Grace Obafemi, Professor Olufemi Obafemi and President Muhammadu Buhari during the presentation of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NMOM) award (2018)

He has shown throughout his career, a moral commitment to interrogating the social injustices in our nation and elsewhere while striving to build bridges of understanding across the contentious gulfs of class, culture, and race.”

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Born on 4 April 1950 in Akutukpa Bunu, Kabba, in present-day Kogi State, Professor Olufemi Obafemi had his elementary education in Kabba before moving to the Government Secondary School, Dekina and later Titcombe College, Egbe for his secondary education. In 1975, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He later proceeded to England, where he obtained an MA in English (1975) at the University of Sheffield and a Ph.D. (1981), also in English at the University of Leeds. He returned to Nigeria in 1981 to pursue a career in academia and has been Professor of English and Dramatic Literature at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, since 1990.

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His first play-Pestle on the Mortar, written while he was still an undergraduate at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was produced in 1974 and was also broadcast by the Kaduna Broadcasting Corporation. 

As a playwright, his published plays include Nights of a Mystical Beast and The New Dawn (1986), Suicide Syndrome and Naira Has No Gender (1993), and The love Twirls of Adiitu-Olodumare and Iyunade (2016). His plays explore solutions to the country’s problems.

As a poet, Professor Olufemi Obafemi has published a volume of poems, Songs of Hope, from which two poems were picked for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) syllabus.

He is believed to have pioneered an experimental tool for revolutionary aesthetics in Africa, typifying the plays of the second generation Nigerian and African dramatists. His work has also influenced the interpretation of radical drama among theatre scholars in West Africa in the 1980s and 90s.

He has also contributed to advancing the discourse on post-feminist aesthetics in Nigeria drama to the engagement in material perception of society

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As a scholar, his works include Nigerian Writers on the Nigerian Civil War (1992), and Contemporary Nigerian Theatre: Cultural Heritage and Social Vision (1996). He also edited New Introduction to Literature (1994), and co-edited Character Is Beauty: Redefining Yoruba Culture & Identity (2001).

Professor Olufemi Obafemi is an editorial consultant and columnist for several major Nigeria’s national newspapers since the 1980s including The Punch, Daily Sun, Daily Trust and Thisday, through which he has argued for a better society.

He was the chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Kwara State, and in 2004, he became the National President of the Association which is a reflection of his commitment not only to writing but also to the world of writers, as well as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

As President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), “the apex body of arts and literature in Nigeria,” he continued on his trajectory of services to the humanities. He later served as Director of Research at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru-Jos, the

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Professor Olufemi Obafemi is currently the National Chairman of the Nigerian Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) a position he assumed in June 2019. He remains dynamic and relevant as a man of ideas.

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“I’m a political writer,” he declared in an interview. “I have moral investment into how this nation is run. I’m compelled to participate, mediate, in the destiny of this country, in its leaders, in how not to allow our nation to be run down and even contribute to how I think our nation should be run. And these are the factors that compel me to write either in literature or in my newspaper work…”

Professor Olufemi Obafemi @ 70th

Prof. Olufemi Obafemi marked his 70th birthday on April 4, 2020. Among those who paid tribute to him for a distinguished career and contribution to nation-building was President Mohammdu Buhari who extolled Obafemi’s passion for research, creative spirit, and organisational skills.

The president affirmed that Prof. Olufemi’s versatility and resourcefulness in the literary world as a poet, dramatist, and English Professor, had been generously used to improve the administration of education in Nigeria.

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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