It was a momentous outpour of encomiums recently to Professor Adeboye Babalola, a foremost author and scholar, Yoruba studies and Literatures at the University of Lagos. The occasion was the maiden annual lecture by the university’s Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies to celebrate the late don who contributed immensely to the promotion of Yoruba Studies and other languages in the university.
The lecture, entitled “Yoruba Studies in Nigeria: Before and After the Death of Adeboye Babalola,” exposed some in the contemporary society who ignorantly view and downplay Yoruba Studies as some vague, unscientifically, diabolical and fetish discipline with babble of many mythological phenomena.
Professor Ogunwande Abimbola, the first Ph.D. graduate of University of Lagos, presented the lecture. He awoke the consciousness of the audience to the declining use of mother tongue in the day-to-day expression in public and private fora.
Through his scholarly works, the celebrated emeritus professor, who hails from Ipetumodu, Osun State, demonstrated, beyond reasonable doubt, that Yoruba worldview and metaphysical concepts as embed in their philosophical standpoint was enough for individual sustenance of survival in the hurdles of life.
The Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, commended the organisers of the event for honouring Professor Adeboye Babalola for the role he played in the development of Yoruba Studies and other Nigerian languages in the university.
Represented by Professor Muyiwa Falaiye Dean, Faculty of Arts, Ogundipe noted that there was no gainsaying that he was a force to reckon with that made landmark achievements in the history of Yoruba studies in his lifetime, adding that the late Emeritus Professor pioneered an important field for Yoruba peoples of the continent.
In a separate chat with this reporter, Professor Falaiye expressed concern about the use of local language, adding that no nation develops with the use of another language. He noted that, all across the world, countries that had witnessed development were those who used their local languages.
While welcoming the audience, Head of the Department (HoD), and the convener, Professor Iwu Ikwubuzo, paid shinning tribute to the erudite scholar for his contribution to the promotion of Yoruba Studies and other Nigerian languages.
He noted that the late Emeritus Professor was broad-minded, adding that, though he was of Yoruba extraction, his vision to promote languages, project Nigerian languages and literatures went beyond the Yoruba culture and enclave to other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
He revealed that he was the product of the department, and his major area Igbo studies. He said, “Professor Babalola included Igbo language programme in the curriculum of the department. Not only that, as he was projecting the study of Yoruba language, he was also projecting other Nigerian languages and literatures.
Igbo language, culture, and literatures are thriving in the department, because they are well established, and we owe this to the efforts and contributions of late Emeritus Professor Adeboye Babalola”.
Iwu who was visibly excited that he convened a successful lecture that saw the guest speaker, Professor Wande Abimbola, presenting an insightful piece, called for the encouragement of Nigerian languages and studies.
He said, “Those of us that are products of the department, students and scholars in the indigenous languages have nothing to regret. We are proud we have made a career in it. So. I owe the department a lot, and to a man who made sacrifices in establishing the department and encouraging the growth of Nigerian languages, I must honour him in my little way as the head of the department.”
Guest Speaker, Professor Ogunwande Abimbola, listed three aspects of the study of any language, adding that the core of it was literature. He appended the crux of what Babalola established in the university to the fact that he truly understood what a degree programme in any language should be.
Ogunwande also dwelt on oral literature, “While Prof Babalola worked on Ijala, I made Ifa a point of duty to not only chant it but also chant Ijala; the literature of Obatala and Irinle. There is hardly any literary form with which our ancestors praise themselves or Orisa I cannot participate in. It is part of our
literature. If we are scholars and intellectuals, and we don’t put on the garb of our culture, who is going to put it on?”