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UI Theatre @60: Restoring the old order

Photo: Otunba Osigbogun with Head of Dept of Theatre Arts, Dr Bashir Akande Lasisi after the opening ceremonies

(Being text of the speech by Otunba Deji Osigbogun, chairman of occasion at the opening ceremony of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan on August 23, 2023)

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‘…I propose “Wole Soyinka Theatre Foundation” which will be charged with restoring the image, standard and most importantly ensure that activities, seminars, exhibitions are constantly and periodically staged at the Wole Soyinka Theatre. The idea… would help upgrade and maintain the  facilities, encourage productions for viability of the theatre and formally establish it as a training ground for future stars and masters of the theatre’

RESTORING the old order

 In returning the old order, I would refer to one of James Brown’s tunes “There

was A Time”.

There was a time when we had a theatre called University of Ibadan Theatre.

Today, we have The Wole Soyinka Theatre renamed after one of the best brains that piloted the historic

birth of this kingdom called the Theatre Arts Kingdom

So, what makes the difference between the ‘University of Ibadan Theatre’ and ‘The Wole Soyinka Theatre’ hence the adage ‘There was a time’.

There was a time when the University of Ibadan Theatre was the best in the country. It produced the best plays, Saturdays were dedicated to children’s theatre, the Departmental productions were also of world standards. The University had the best lecturers in the world with names like Bayo Oduneye,

Zulu Sofola, Dapo Adelugba, Professor Adedeji, Jide Malomo, Wale Ogunyemi, Laolu Ogunniyi, Demas

Nwoko, Tunji Oyelana, Sumbo Marinho. They taught us in various fields from basic Acting, Directing, Stage Management, Dance, Music, and Playwriting.

So good was the department that it took the foremost position in the Festac 77 festival with so many of its students and lecturers enrolled as part of the Nigeria contingent for the FESTAC 77 festival.

My journey with the theatre started in 1963 as a child with the WNTV children’s play group and later graduated to taking part in the University of Ibadan Masquerade productions at the famous NBARI NBAYO CLUB in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

Saturdays were dedicated to the children’s theatre workshop. We had plays like ‘Trials of Brother Jero’,

‘Marriage of Anansewa’, ‘This Is Our Chance’, and other short plays that were people’s favorites in the ’60s and ’70s

It was a privilege to be on the University of Ibadan Theatre Stage where great actors like Late Femi Johnson, Wole Soyinka, Bayo Akinlola, Olu Falomo, Tunji Marquis, Steve Rhodes, Yomi and Taiwo Obileye, Jimi Solanke all once performed on.

So great was the University of Ibadan Theatre that IPI TOMBI the acclaimed South African award-winning dance-drama was staged here at this Wole Soyinka Theatre. Never was there any good theatre production held in Nigeria without a command performance held at the University of Ibadan theatre.


By accident of history and in recognition of his works as the pioneering staff of this department who later became a Nobel laureate in Literature, Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, a true son of Ipara and Egba, Ijegba” as he is fondly referred to is a man of many parts.

 Permit me to share some Oríkì my mother used to shower on him:

 *Akọ Okunrin tí bá ọkùnrin egbe rẹ leru

Wọn lé bo onle ara iwájú

Ọkùnrin Wa

Okunrin Wo

Ọkùnrin WawaWowo

Wọn lélẹ̀ wọn bá

Wọn bàbà wọn kò lè mú

Ti Wọn bá mú wọn kò le rí nko tí wọn má fi se!

Asejina àpáta Okunrin .

Erujeje ọkọ Aláìgbọràn

Afinju alakowe to dá irùngbọ̀n sì

Gbere ọmọ wọn lábé Olumo , Ọmọ wọn ní Ipara.ile .. 

 The University of Ibadan Theatre at 60 has been renamed now called THE WOLE SOYINKA THEATRE.

Three years ago, when the announcement was made that the University of Ibadan Theatre was renamed after him,I embarked on the project to bring the theatre back to a laudable standard that we were sure Wole Soyinka would be proud to be associated with such class and culture 

The standard of the theatre over the years had deteriorated due to lack of funding and other reasons ranging from indiscipline, lack of dedication to duty, lack of attention to details, lack of interest in cleanliness have all led us invariably led us to this present fallen standard.

Now, we have two “NOT TOO” difficult tasks on hand if we are to assist this great department at 60 to achieve that status.

1. Restoration of the old glory and upgrading the standard of the theatre now known as the Wole Soyinka Theatre.

2. Activate and ensure enough activities take place at the Wole Soyinka Theatre as we had in the past.

We should encourage the engagement of both staff members and students in production, trainings, exhibitions, film festivals. ln the times past when we had exhibitions amongst primary and secondary schools, drama competitions amongst drama troupes and tertiary institutions.

Those activities promoted our culture, traditions and improved the level of professionalism. Specialists were produced in various fields like Dance, Acting, Music and Stage/Theatre Management ….

Majority of the students of Yore., yesteryears and days of Old have became Professors, Doctors and Lecturers in various institutions at home and abroad.

With the Wole Soyinka Theatre in such a sorry state, we have to go back to that time when men were men and women were examples of loyalty and dedication in the Society.

 We must bring back the lost glory, we must not allow the cradle that we all grew up in to be destroyed.

Because of the vicissitudes of education mismanagement in Nigeria which is not necessarily the fault of our hard-working and dedicated lecturers,

 Our People   have been condemned to the fate of having no funds, grants or donations, like in the past

 The dept at 60 needs funds and a commited crew to take it to the next level. We to maintain the standard of Wole Soyinka Theatre and grow the departmenr in 2023.

The time now beckons on all of us to join hands and immediately begin……. a resurgence back to the Department to further improve it and its arrow head the Wole Soyinka Theatre

We all definitely have a major role to play in defining the mood of the nation at this stage in the life of our Nation,

Our fathers of the theatre like Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala) and others used the theatre to lend their voices on National issues the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in shaping the future of Nigeria.we must be ready to do the same today.

The theatre is a mirror of the society because we LOOK, LEARN AND LAUGH

With a name as big as WOLE SOYINKA, with his image towering above others, with his character and

integrity untainted, with a name that frightens those with guilt at heart and those who are wicked against the society, with his intimidating personality and his recognition worldwide, The Wole Soyinka Theatre project should be a project for us all.

We must appeal to the University of Ibadan authorities for assistance in applying to TETFUND for a 5billion grant to build / rebuild THE NEW WOLE SOYINKA THEATRE

Dear Sir / Ma, will you gladly join hands with me as I propose “Wole Soyinka Theatre Foundation” which will be charged with restoring the image, standard and most importantly ensure that activities, seminars, exhibitions are constantly and periodically staged at the Wole Soyinka Theatre.

The idea of a Wole Soyinka Theatre Foundation as proposed would help upgrade and maintain the  facilities, encourage productions for viability of the theatre and formally establish it as a training grounds for future stars and masters of the theatre

I sincerely hope that the idea of Wole Soyinka Theatre Foundation will be embraced by the Old Students Association (CHOBOI……EH), lovers and promoters of the theatre and interested agencies and organizations.


Thank you all for your attention.

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