Reading in extremis: genuflecting to a worthy role model -Nurudeen Aribisala
This essay takes a cue from one of Professor Biodun Jeyifo's The Talakawa Liberation of the Nation newspaper, where he is a regular columnist of their Sunday production, titled 'Writing in extremis!'. I am a regular reader of BJ's (as he is fondly addressed by friends and close associates) columns and regular am I to the column that I've never for once missed out of what he has also never for once failed to dish out- hot and steaming, spicy and sweet-read- for read on Sunday. Well, less should not be expected of a professor of literature at Harvard, a first class graduate and scholar (literal and media) of international repute. And, this also serves as an act of genuflecting to a worthy role model.
My role models are professors. There are professors in any and every garb one could ever think of: atheist, moralist, peadophile, religionists, etc, and I tilt towards those that atune with my standard and agree with the point of view I hold sacrosanct in my psyche. The same way people have role models in every facet of life with separate temperaments and adorning different garbs.
No role model is better than the other but we tend to glorify those we hold in reverence with different verbal epaulettes (existing or not- for the sake of superiority) when there is a call for role model comparison. In our dealings, we also tend to poise or act out the characteristic-features of these models.
I have been bestowed with the love for reading from my formative years that when I screened the friends I keep- my boon companion especially- I discovered to my utmost chagrin: for I cherish people from all walks of life irrespective of interest in books or not but based on shared living and existence, that they are also compulsive readers, some versatile than I am. This isn't my doings, anyways. Birds of a feather flock together. The reason for my love for the engagers of books.
Like I reiterated initially, professors are my role models. What I like about them that makes me cling to them like leeches on a wound- plus the features acquaintances like to say I share with them- will be revealed and that is the reason for this- Reading In Extremis!
I love to read literary/critical works that have professors as characters, or more importantly fictionalised the reading aspect of their lives. Or, as an exchange if one couldn't find that and also that only should not be the basis of reading, the life of a rebel or a deviant who is a compulsive reader would do. Reason friends would see me arguing for 'Of human bondage', 'An unnecessary woman', 'Jailed for life', and even nonfictional ones like Adesanmi's 'You're not a country, Africa' as worthy read any time any day. In fact, Adesanmi's 'You are not a country, Africa ' has become a vade mecum, I part with it to only intimate ones.
This is not to say other books without this aren't worthy of read. No, for I like to read all: an idiot as a character is as intriguing as a witty one and as any kind of character would be in the imagination of a good creator who has mastery of the language to be used, as well. The dynamism of the language mixed with indirection is the key.
The singular reason for this maze of my explanation is to set a background for the person that is the reason behind this writing. I love Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare, Wole Soyinka, Abiola Irele, Tony Afejuku, Ibrahim Bello-Kano, EE Sule etc because of their high intellectual capacity in the area of their field. The same way I love Tunde Fagbenle, Gbenga Omotoso, Sam Omatseye, Kunle Ajibade, Jahman Anikulapo among others in the journalist/newspaper enclave for the artistic mastery of their writings. I love them all but I seem to prefer those whose works mixed with their lives and (maybe) all of their activities are available at a click without much ado for the benefit of their followers who desire their step and desire their story as impetus for survival. That is why Soyinka will be a perpetual model to me. But recently, Biodun Jeyifo has been the front burner of all the role models I have (as Adesanmi was in the distant past and he still is among the list). He has become so glued to me that any friend within the radius of closeness that claims to know me without knowing BJ shouldn't be consider worthy of a friend to be called whenever I'm on a hot seat, for say 'Who wants to be a millionaire?'. A close friend should not only know him but also know one or two of his essays for I practically worship his Sunday columns in the Nation newspaper and this I punctuate my point of argument with and make reference to in my daily conversation with friends. I don't know him on a personal level, as Femi Osofisan, Yemi Ogunbiyi (or even Osundare) could boast of knowing him but I've read almost all (if not all ) of his columns- plus those he had written for then the Guardian Newspaper titled Talakawa Herald and- in the Nation newspaper under the title Talakawa Liberation and I've googled and read all his interviews, books etc that can be got online at megabyte cost. To buy all he's written would be suicidal for my financial standing despite the love. And library in the country are in no way to help out. I've been exposed through his writings and interviews to the world of a real and proper professor and how a real and proper professor should be: not the jekojeko that litter our campuses this days. His writings which I adore has formed the pedestal in which I judge many professors' writings.
In one of his interviews, the one he granted the Tell magazine when he was celebrated world wide for reaching the milestone age of seventy, he revealed things which hitherto considered impossible but has now formed the landmark I must achieve and surpass. I see him as someone I look forward to becoming- better more. While Adesanmi remains a doppelganger in the nearest future. When a work becomes as boring as hell and my visual and mental radar couldn't be forced but read I must, BJ's regular Sunday column (and Adesanmi's 'You're not...') are the doses of rejuvenation I need for these are injections that jolt my system out of boredom. And reading them umpteenth time further revealed the beauty therein in the language and visible it is(even to the willfully blind) the reason for the worth of their high rating. Despite the push or jolt from these wonderful belle-lettres, some books will still refused to be tasted, eschewed, swallowed and/or digested.
The life of professors appeal to me. Intellectuals- in any profession- who aren't in the academia but have engaged in versatile and voracious reading are also professors in my world: Ayo Olukotun, Odia Ofeimun, Sam Omatseye, among others. These are those that can engage anyone in intellectual discourse. Thus, professors I consider them. When a book, essay, novel, film bores me, I fill such space with columns of these intellectuals to 'ginger my swagger', as some are wont to say.
My reading in extremis is to fulfill the dream of having read much with deep comprehension to be acclaimed a scholar, and professor: eventually. So, when I indulge in pedagogic activity- my forte and life calling- and students rally round to praise my infantile knowledge, which they see as intellectualism of the highest order, my mind quickly race with the speed of a meteor- faster than that of Usain Bolt and Cheetah conjoined- to these role models of mine. Also I spread their intellectual gospel to the ones willing- or those, who like me are intrigue by them and their high intellectual virtuoso. I gather followers as much as I gather mentors- who increase or rather pile up day-by-day as my reading increases- I hope also in extremis to be due to be confirmed professor (a man of high intellect and an intellectual) who will also be revered as I have the ancestors- living or dead- worthy of their salt.