Tribute To The Marxist Scholar-critic, Prof. Gordini Darah At 68
It is time for celebration and merriment! Let the udje artistes prolong what they are well known for. It is time to celebrate a scholar who has recorded, translated and regaled the world with enchanting and charming udje song-poetry of the Urbobo in oil-rich Delta State. This is a time to celebrate an indefatigable, peerless teacher, who was a year older on Sunday, November 22, 2015!
Prof. Gordini Gabriel Darah, popularly called G.G, is one of the most influential of the Marxist school of criticism in Nigeria, nay Africa. He is a man with a peerless voice. He is fearless but compassionate and decent; radical but humble. His eloquence is unrivalled. Darah is an exemplar of versatility; he teaches so thoroughly and conscientiously. He is a scholar of commanding presence. Darah is much-travelled scholar who knows the traditions and customs of different lands.
Darah is a profound critic of dysfunctional social systems, with his country Nigeria providing ready fodder, as a state with huge but wasted potentials on account of profligate leaders. His academic essays, articles, public lectures, keynote addresses and interviews give ample evidence of the man’s love for his country.
In the field of oral literature and folklore, Darah is a veteran. He strongly postulates, and convincingly too, that Africa’s oral practices contain the seeds for scientific discoveries, which, unfortunately, African scientists have refused to explore for the overall good of the continent.
He has long postulated that Nigerians needed to mine the oil of the mind/intellect/brain rather than their continued dependence on oil-wealth in the Niger Delta with its devastating consequences of environmental pollution and human degradation. Darah has been proven right with the fate of oil prices hanging in the balance at the international market and the economy in dire straits.
He has held, and still holds, numerous positions: national president, Nigerian Folklore Society (1988-1995); member, Nigeria-UNESCO Committee on Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage; Commissioner, National Commission for Museums and Monuments; member, International Society of Oral Literature Association (ISOLA); member, Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation; member, International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (London); Chairman, Editorial Board of Daily Times (1991-1995) and The Guardian (1995-2001); Chairman, Academic Staff Union of University, Obafemi Awolowo University Branch, Ile-Ife and member of numerous university governing councils, former Head, Department of English and Literary Studies, Delta State University, Abraka; Special Adviser on Public Communications to Delta State Governor (2003-2005), Chief of Staff, Government House, (2005-2007), member, National Conference at Abuja (2014) and founding president, Nigerian Oral Literature Association (NOLA).
As an activist and socialist thinker, Darah belongs to the socialist group made up of radical writers and critics of the 1970s. This pantheon parades the likes of the late sociologist, Professor Omafume Friday Onoge, Profs. Biodun Jeyifo, Omolara Ogundipe, Kole Omotoso, Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare, Olu Obafemi, Tunde Fatunde, Odia Ofiemun, Tanure Ojaide and late Dr. Festus Iyayi and Bode Sowande. These writers, critics and cultural workers are renowned for their revolutionary praxis and approach to literature.
This prodigious, elegant and ebullient writer’s works include Radical Essays on Nigerian Literatures (2008), Battles of Songs: Udje Tradition of the Urhobo (2005) and The Niger Delta Resource Control and the Quest for Justice (2014).
He has mentored generations of students for over four decades. Many of his students are established professors, associate professors, PhD holders and movers of the society. He has taught at various universities across the globe among which are University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, and Northeastern University, Boston, U.S.
Darah is unarguably one of the most sought after and leading public intellectuals in Nigeria.
Let’s celebrate this eloquent egghead with a legion of sobriquets – translator, essayist, critic, folklorist, public intellectual, resource control advocate, intellectual militant, orator, biographer, interpreter, journalist, editor, columnist, cultural activist, historian, Marxist, environmentalist, democrat.
Happy birthday, my peerless teacher!
* Ajiroghene Oreh is a student of Department of English and Literary Studies, Delta State University, Abraka