Events were put together for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Prof. Ayeleru on 12th February, 2016 at the University of Ibadan. The highlight of this honour was a colloquim of academic presentations evaluated the roles of writers in Africa around the theme: “Language and Literature in the Dis/Service of Humanity”.
Professor Lateef Babatunde Ayeleru is a native of Ijio, Oyo State of Nigeria. He got his M.A. French and PhD at the University of Ibadan in 1994 and 2002 respectively, after his B.A. French from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1990. He has been a lecturer since graduation, having plied his trade at the then Ondo State College of Education and the Ogun State University. A devout Muslim and a dedicated husband , he is a strong disciple of Senator Rasheed Ladoja, a former Governor of Oyo State and leader of the Accord Party of Nigeria. He has supervised and mentored many PhD graduates, some of whom decided to honour him today with this colloquium: Richard Oko Ajah, PhD (Department of Foreign Languages, University of Uyo, Nigeria, Email: email@example.com); Kayode Atilade, PhD (Department of Foreign Languages, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org); Abosede Olufunke Adeboyeku, PhD (Department of French, School of Languages, Niger State College of Education, Minna, Email: email@example.com) and Amos Iyiola, PhD (Department of European Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The afore-mentioned mentees invited scholar to reflect on the following:
“Writers’ roles in human development have always attracted polemics and discourse among scholars since the antiquity of Socrates whose views partly demonized writing and writers (poets). With seemingly unpopular ethical criticism, works of writers have been “judged” as dangerous and unhealthy for consumption. For instance, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses earned him a fatwa from Islamic world, creating what is known today as Rushdie Affair. However, others such as Aristotle had created influence on European classical writers who venerated literary works of Greco-roman antiquity. Undoubtedly, writers are known to have contributed to the development of the human society especially with the littérature engagée whose contributions are captured by Niyi Osundare in his treatise, The Writer as Righter.
Literature, relying on language as its vehicle, has played many roles in diverse cultures and civilizations. As a societal “mirror”, whose main aim is to communicate and whose primary means of accomplishing it is language, which itself has a duty to communicate to the society” (Ogwude 64). Literature and language have contributed immensely in shaping different societies of the world. Bernard Mouralis has attempted to link literature and development in Africa by reviewing the writings of Sembène Ousmane, Mongo Beti and Fatou Diome that fulfill “une certaine conception de la fonction sociale de la littérature” (8) Aduke Adebayo (8) understands literature as a means of ordering and expressing consciousness, aside its cognitive function as a form of knowledge. Through writing, writers have used their works to sensitize the public, disseminate information, transmit cultures from generation to generation, and to fight societal evils, thereby making “extensive claims to the transforming capability of art” (Osundare 8).
In the beginning of twentieth century, the artistic and literary activities of actors of Negro-Renaissance of Harlem fought social segregation and racial discrimination in the US; James Weldon Johnson, Claude Mac Kay, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes were mostly writers (Chevrier 17). In reaffirming the role of art and criticism in human development, Osundare (12) rhetorically explains its positive contribution in the French Revolution, in the Bolshevik Revolution, in the Chinese Revolution and in the struggle that liberated Angola from Portuguese imperialism. The end of Apartheid is largely attributed to literary activities of progressive writers. Abdourahman A. Waberi claims that Nadine Gordimer’s Nobel Prize (1991) in literature is a reward of her literary contribution towards the fall of Apartheid (121). Writers as well as critics are responsible for human development through literature. While the writer writes, the critic interprets the writer’s work to the public who is the primary consumer of any work of art which is constructed with the agency of language. Given to the questions raised above and bearing in mind that Prof. Tunde Ayeleru’s scholarly works have centered on the domain of language and literature, the theme “Language and Literature in the Dis/Service of Humanity” is carefully chosen to motivate academic discourses during the colloquium”.
Adebayo, Aduke. The Nature and Functions of Literature: The Comparatist’s Perspective. An Inaugural Lecture Series, University of Ibadan, 2010.
Chevrier, Jacques. La Littérature nègre. Paris: Armand Colin, 1974
Gill, S. K. Language Policy in Multi-Ethnic Malaysia. Multilingual Education 8, Springer, 2014
Ogwude, Sophia O. “An Exile Writing on Home: Protest and Commitment in the Works of Bessie Head.” Exile and African Literature. Ed. Eldred Durosimi Jones. Trenton: Africa World, 2000. 64-76.
Osundare, Niyi. The Writer as Righter. Ibadan: Hope Publications, 2007.
Mouralis, Bernard. ‘Littérature et développement: des concepts aux œuvres littéraires’. Notre Librairie. 175 (2005):8-13.
Waberi, Abdourahman. ‘Ecrivains d’Afrique du Sud: penser l’apartheid dix ans après…’ Notre Librairie 175 (2005):120-123.
The Lead Paper Presenter, Dr. Sule Egya, Dean, Faculty of Languages and Communication Studies, Ibrahim Badamasi University, Lapai, acknowledged the power of language to serve or destroy humanity. For him, literature has not been able to use language as effectively as political speeches or religious pamphlets to engineer changes in this post-modern society. Other presenters, namely Prof Timothy Asobele and Prof Femi Osofisan highlighted the importance of translation as a bridge between cultures in this era of globalisation.
The representative of Senator Ladoja, Dr Adekanbi, described Prof Ayeleru as a man blessed with a high emotional intelligence, which consists of self-awareness, self-control, motivation, social skills, and empathy. He is a rare breed, dependable and committed.
Prof. Aduke Adebayo claimed that Prof Ayeleru had always been like a family member. Her former PhD student always recognises and celebrates the contributions of other individuals in his career: Prof Olalere Oladitan (OAU), Prof Remi Sonaiya (former Presidential candidate under the Kowa party), Dr Soyoye (OAU), Prof Olateju (Dept. of English, UI), including her.
Prof Ayeleru would never accept that students fail a course, let alone having an extra-year. He marries merit with compassion, urging other colleagues to always do their best for students to succeed. As HOD, he has produced more 1st Class students than any other. I have learnt from him, and I pledge to put all my best in the My French World project so as to make members and followers 1st Class users of French, either in or out of school.