Nollywood, academia mourn Prof Ayo Akinwale

by Araayo Akande

It’s yet another round of mourning in Nollywood and the academia with Sunday’s passing of Ibadan, Oyo State-born academic and actor, Professor Ayo Akinwale.

The Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin (Unilorin), Professor Abdulrasheed Adeoye, who announced his passing in a statement on Sunday said: “If life is not vanity upon vanity, then, what is it? Death is indeed wicked! With a heavy heart and total submission to the will of the Almighty God, I announce the passing on to higher glory of Prof. Ayo Akinwale, of the Department of the Performing Arts, University of Ilorin. He died today, the 13th September 2020 at the Unilorin Teaching Hospital. May the Almighty God comfort the family and all of us.”

Director of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin, Kunle Akogun, also confirmed the passing of the former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and pioneer board chairman of the University of Ilorin FM on Monday.

Akinwale, who attended St. Luke’ Demonstration School, Molete Methodist High School, Ibadan, began acting at an early age and was already a professional before he proceeded to study Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan where he also earned a PhD.

He was at various times a presenter at the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), and lecturer at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, before he moved to the University of Ilorin where he rose to become Professor.

The author of publications including ‘From Compound Space to the Living Stage’ Nigerian Theatre Journal. Vol. 2, No. 1. (1998); ‘Theatre and Democracy in Nigeria’ Nigerian Theatre Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1, ‘Nigerian Playright’; Zulu Sofola (2005); ‘The Nigerian Theatre and Economic Viability.’ Arts Administration in Contemporary Nigeria; The Nigeria Broadcaster’ Media Nigeria; ‘The Theatre and Nigeria’s New Democratic Environment: A Sociological Overview,’ was also Chairman of the Oyo State Council for Arts and Culture.

The passionate promoter and believer in quality education featured in movies including ‘Sango’, ‘Ladepo Omo Adanwo’, ‘Clash of the Gods’, ‘Iranse Aje’ and ‘Eti Keta’. He was 74.

Reacting to his demise, one of his ex-students and a Director of the National Theatre, Abiodun Abe, described Akinwale as a mentor and father-figure.

“He made some of us; we are what we became due to his training. He brought out skills we never knew we possessed and made us do things we never thought we could do. He saw beyond the bearer of the capability and talent. He was a personable human being. He was kind and passionate. Impossibility was not in his dictionary, and he kept in touch with his students long after we left Unilorin. He nurtured relationships,” Abe told TCN.

He added: “The University wanted to retain me to teach Technical Theatre after graduation, but I wanted to go into the industry. I had two letters from NYSC, one posting me to Unilorin but I opted to go to Lagos. There were no mobile phones in those days, and Uncle Ayo made up to four trips to Lagos to convince me to return to Ilorin. But my mind was set on the industry. It took me a long time to convince him that I was fine in the industry. He was a very humble man, and whenever he came to Lagos, he would visit with me.

” When my father died in 2012, he didn’t need any official invite. He saw the notice on social media and drove himself to my hometown. He declared the Artists Night in honour of my father open and livened up the event because he was a very lively and jovial man.

“At Unilorin, he was everyone’s father and uncle. I remember he had this Peugeot 504 and boys would go and meet him that they want to do shakara with his car. You only needed to know how to drive, and he would throw you the car keys. Sometimes he would trek home because boys didn’t return the car on time. We learnt a lot from him; he shared his rich experiences and taught us practical things apart from what was in the textbooks. You are never wrong with Prof Akinwale. He would listen to you and let you have your say. He would see sense in what you are saying and then tell you; you could have easily approached it this way. He wasn’t a bully. He was a friend of students. We would all miss him sorely. May his creative soul rest in peace.”

Also reacting, broadcast journalist and producer, Ademola Aremu, said Akinwale’s passing was a shock. He further described his death as the end of an era, noting that, “He was a contemporary of the late Dr Larinde Akinleye. These were determined men who went to the university as mature students and still reached the top of their disciplines. This is a monumental loss. I pray to God to comfort his family.”

Top journalist and Unilorin alumnus, Niran Adedokun, also mourned Professor Akinwale’s passing. He described him as “a phenomenal teacher and performer. Decades after, his teachings still ring in the heads of those of us privileged to have been in his classes. May the Lord grant Prof Ayo Akinwale rest and comfort his family and everyone to whom he meant something.”

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