Biodun Jeyifo: Reflections of a Radical Literary Critic, Theorist, Unionist and Columnist


Prof Biodun Jeyifo
He is clearly patrician in the way he acquires and disseminates knowledge but his general lifestyles are very simple but cool. BJ, as he is fondly called by many people, loves words— Yoruba and English—which he uses inexhaustibly. He also loves big ideas which he invests in and wrestles with endlessly. Born and bred in Ibadan seventy years ago, Jeyifo’s childhood was tempestuous because he made many considerable efforts in resistance to the codes of conduct imposed on him by his immediate society. His non conformity and rebellion could have damaged him irreparably but for his sharp brain anchored in intense and wide-ranging readings. He is one good example of a man saved by literature.
Today, he is an eminent, highly gifted and respected scholar teaching Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Jeyifo was one of the pioneers of radical, Marxist Literary tradition in African universities. He was also the first National president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities in Nigeria. With incredible courage, commitment and intellectual panache he led a winning unionists—among who were Festus Iyayi, Mahmud Tukur, Dipo Fasina and T.U. Nwala. He has taught in at the universities of Ibadan, Ife and Cornell. Between January 21 and 22 2016 at the Conference Centre of the Obafemi Awolowo University—formerly University of Ife—, Ile-Ife, ideological soul-mates, academics, journalists, students and friends of Professor Jeyifo gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday. It was an impressive turn –out.
The conveners led by Dr Wumi Raji, chose ‘’Complexity of Freedom” as the conference theme. Speaker after speaker engaged Jeyifo’s scholarship, pedagogy and radical politics of the Marxian variety. Some were unfairly but respectfully critical, many were deeply appreciative. He would have taken issues with his unfair critics but the moral burden of being the rallying point prevented that. He listened to some …Read More

Source:: PM Newspaper