Conversations with Professor Ademola Dasylva: Biography, Spirituality, Activism and Scholarship

I borrowed the title of this piece from the 146-page book published by a Pentade: Sola Olorunyomi, Olutoyin Jegede, Mobolanle Sotunsa, Rotimi Fasan and Adedoyin Aguoru. A five-man troupe that doesn’t play basketball but is formed into a franchise with an unpatented name: DST-Collective. I thought DST stood for Demolition Squad Team but it means Dasylva Supervisee Team. I congratulate the Lustrum on an illustrious project. This rich book contains oral interviews on various aspects of Dasylva’s life, tributes to about twenty PhD students and miscellaneous. The book launch will take place on October 27, 2022 at the University of Ibadan.

I enjoyed reading the book and I offer this reflection in broad outline and contribute to the spirit behind the innovative ideas of the pentagon. One of the most important questions in metaphysics is whether human beings are preordained by an unguided supernatural and supreme force, and, like metaphysicians, seek to probe the depths of questions like “Why are we here?” and “Do we have a purpose?” they could not answer any of them satisfactorily. Perhaps the acceptable answer to such questions is subjective and very personal – only able to manifest through each person’s lived experiences.

If individual experiences define existence and purpose, then this cinquefoil’s endeavor to create a collective of purpose-defining knowledge about the life of one of the most purposeful people I have ever known is no coincidence. Prof. Ademola Dasylva’s life was marked by outstanding academic and professional dedication, an unwavering spiritual attitude and a drive to give back to society; so it’s only worth it that we’ve all come together—whether friends, colleagues, students, carers, or family members—to honor and celebrate him. For as long as I’ve known him, Dasylva’s loyalty, trust, dedication and perspective on problems have only made him more popular with me in a relationship that has pushed the boundaries of what we often define as friendship. He is a principled man whose beliefs form the basis of his existence and his relationships with others, and I cannot count the many times we have had such soul-relieving conversations.

Friends like Dasylva are precious and worth celebrating, which is why I find the Pentagram-curated book among his past supervisees, entitled: Conversations with Professor Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva: Biography, Spirituality, Activism, Science, a worthy endeavor. In its three parts, the DST Fivefold explores the biography and spiritual origins of a life marked by intense social activism and scholarship, forming the intellectual underpinning of the life of Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva, a professor of African literature, oral poetics and performance. a life that served as the basis for the lives and careers of many others.

The first part is the transcription of an in-depth oral interview the quinquennium DST collective conducted with the celebrant, a decision that recognizes this scholar’s connection to orality and oral performances in literature. The second part, which continues to tell the unique story that defines the life, purpose and achievements of this eminent scholar, alludes to academic scholarship and is an exchange of written questions and answers between the team and the interviewee. In the final part, there is an emotional outpouring from Dasylva’s previous graduate students, who call themselves Dasylvites, and they do it beautifully. This was only possible because of the supervisor’s desire for excellence, which went beyond the limits or constraints of the few years that each of these doctoral programs lasted. And decades later, these students are not only in touch with the one who guided them through the dreary academic path, but they are also successful and accomplished people who attribute part of their success to this man we celebrate on this auspicious occasion. There is love, reverence, appreciation and respect, and on the part of Dasylva there is inevitably love, pride, fulfillment and contentment.

Dasylva, the focus of it Festschrift, has been involved in cultural practice and literature communication for many years. It should come as no surprise that he is best known for his scholarship and scientific pursuits, given his longstanding association with the organic realm of the mind. He has rightfully raised the teaching levels from Oyo State College of Arts and Science (OSCAS) to Adeyemi College of Education (ACE) to the prestigious position of Professor at the University of Ibadan, an institution where he has served in multiple capacities , including as Dean of the Philosophical Faculty.

This all-encompassing book, which embodies the most important things to Dasylva—spirituality, activism, family, and scholarship—opens with a first-hand account of the celebrant’s biography. Born Anthony Michael Sylva to ardent Catholic civil servant parents in Ilesa, Omobewaji attended St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Ifofin, Ilesa and then went to Lady and St Kizito Minor Seminary, Ede for his secondary education. Incidentally, in the same institution he lost his Catholic faith, but ultimately not his faith in God.

As significant as Dasylva’s erudition is, so are his connecting qualities that have shaped and shaped his life. In this book, however, the DST collective has made a desperate attempt to chronicle the beginnings of their spirituality, their conception and understanding of God, life and human destiny in the universe, and their attitude toward organized or unorganized religion. God’s love for this brilliant academic can be traced back to his birth and the circumstances surrounding it. It is not surprising, then, that the Dasylva we know today is a deeply religious man who had intended to take his life in a different direction than he had in his early adulthood, until fate guided him back to his predestined course . His time as a minor seminary student had a lasting impact on his philosophy, direction of life, and his enduring belief in God. It is impossible to understand the life’s work of this intellectual giant without finding the enormous space that God occupies, especially as documented in this book.

Dasylva is an exemplary socially conscious activist with a compelling and enviable track record. Here, too, the small seminary is a striking point, since it is the original starting point of his activism. From standing up to bullies, leading a revolt against oppressive white priests, rightfully demanding improvements in the welfare of faculty in colleges across Nigeria, to joining the quest to enthrone democracy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In scholarship, Dasylva has distinguished himself in the intellectual circle of African oral literature, oral poetry and performance with an extensive body of work in local and international journals.

The DST collective has painstakingly compiled the vast body of knowledge Dasylva produced, particularly in the postscripts. His theoretical conceptualization of ọmọlúwàbí’s Yoruba philosophy and “Oral Literature and the Problem of Ambivalence” are some of the few examples of work highlighted in this book. According to him, “Throughout my academic career I have advocated using native African epistemologies and theories. I believe Africa is rich and African literature old enough to develop its own theories; in particular, the use of African ontologies, cultural concepts and cultural principles to conduct critical textual, verbal, non-verbal, etc. analysis, analysis and interpretation.”

Significantly, Dasylva’s work is focused on finding African solutions to African problems, unusual for academics to embody the core principle that defines their field. The book contains several of Dasylva’s works related to teaching, research, and community service. Nothing symbolizes and captures all three more than a team of his former handlers who came together to celebrate a living icon. Needless to say, this is a life well lived, both personally and professionally. When asked about his core ideology and beliefs, Dasylva was unequivocal about his belief in God, and unequivocally emphasized the punchline of his humanistic side. This is correct because belief in God means trusting in His work, the chief work of which is human, and humanism, according to Dasylva, is an extension of God.

Eventually, Conversations with Professor Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva: Biography, Spirituality, Activism, Scholarship succinctly captures a life full of intrigue and wondrous events. Aside from celebrating a scholar, it is a book that will serve as a tool for the younger generation to form a personal belief in what it means to live for something greater than oneself. At 146 pages, this one serves detailed collective of the satisfaction of all types of readers, regardless of their relationship to the celebrant – be they professors of literature appreciating his scholarly work, historians reveling in the richness of his biography, or current students basking in the antiquity of ancient images and tales .

In a world where the Yoruba maxim “eniyàn l’ aṣọ mi” (People – friends – are the clothes that cover my nakedness and protect my dignity and honor) is true, Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva is a fat one for many of us Heaps of woolen blanket, warm, big, and enveloping enough to tuck us in and reassure us that we have a friend, and a real one. Congratulations again, my dear friend, on your 70th birthdayth Birthday and retirement, and kudos to our quintet, aka the Dasylva Supervisee Team, for the amazing work that has gone into bringing about this amazing collective.