It is the prayer of every parent to have children that will take their names to a higher height after their demise. Thus, the late doyen of the Nigerian Theatre, Chief Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, must be feeling proud of the family he left behind. With a large, polygamous family of 17 wives and 24 children, the late patriarch must have built a solid family structure that the children are consolidating. Since his demise in April 1990, the family has exhibited uncommon strong, unique bond. And December 26 to 30 of every year remain a very important period for the family as everyone consisting of the surviving wives, children and grandchildren gather at the legendary dramatist’s expansive home in Ososa, Ogun State, for an annual reunion feast to cement the bond among them.
The family, led by Chief Richard Ayodele Ogunde, the Babaoba of Ososa, also hosts visitors, including bishops and their wives in the family expansive home and visits the palace of the traditional ruler of Ososa, Oba Toye Alatishe, who, at every opportunity notes how Ogunde’s name has earned the town a name that is globally respected.
However, for visitors to the serene town, it will be a disservice to themselves, should they leave without a visit to the residence of the late doyen of Nigerian Theater, which the children have converted to the Hubert Ogunde Living Memory Museum. In spite of both federal and state governments’ failure to assist in developing the Ogunde Museum and the abandoned Ogunde Film Village both in the town, the family has taken it upon itself to preserve its progenitor’s legacy for posterity and tourism. To some visitors, the iconic place is arguably one of the richest museums in the country and beyond. From the entrance to the very last room, it beams with largely exotic documents, objects and spectacles that define the life and times of the legendary thespian. In furtherance of immortalizing him, the family, last week, unveiled a competition on the translation of his Opera produced between 1940s and 1950s.
The rationale behind translating the songs, according to Prof. Olufadekemi Adagbada, Head of Nigerian Languages at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, and head of the five-man panel to oversee the competition, was to give a wider audience, including children, youths and non-Yoruba-speaking people, opportunity to savour and appreciate the beauty and messages of the evergreen songs and to further immortalise Ogunde. Others member of the project team are Prof. Duro Adeleke, Prof. L. A. Bamidele and a representative each from the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, ANTP and the Theatre Arts and Movie Practitioners Association of Nigeria, TAMPAN.
Adagbada explained that Ogunde made indelible marks in the industry and beyond, but many youths did not really know who he was. “Many of them have not listened to or watched his works. Yet, there are many things to learn from the songs. So, we should get these operas translated into English, so that they can travel across ages, tribes and continents.”