Bankole Ajibabi Omotosho (born 21 April 1943), also known as Kole Omotoso, is a Nigerian writer and intellectual best known for his works of fiction and in South Africa as the "Yebo Gogo man" in adverts for the telecommunications company Vodacom. His written work is known for its dedication and commitment to fusing a socio-political reappraisal of Africa and respect for human dignity into most of his works.
Early life and education
Kole Omotosho was born into a Yoruba family in Akure, Ondo state, Nigeria. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents after the death of his father. Though the lack of a father figure could crush a young Nigerian boy, the events of his early childhood contributed a great deal to his development as a man and also as a writer. Omotosho was educated at King's College, Lagos, and the University of Ibadan and then undertook a doctoral thesis on the modern Arabic writer Ahmad Ba Kathir at the University of Edinburgh.
Omotosho returned to Ibadan to lecture on Arabic studies (1972–76), then moved to the University of Ife to work in drama (1976–88). He became a writer for various magazines (including West Africa) in the 1970s and was well known among Nigeria's literate elites. His major themes include interracial marriage, comic aspects of the Biafran-Nigerian conflict, and the human condition—as exemplified in friendship between the Yoruba and the Igbo and in relationships between children and parents.
His 1988 historical novel about Nigeria, Just Before Dawn (Spectrum Books), was controversial and led Omotosho to leave his native country. After visiting professorships in English at the University of Stirling and the National University of Lesotho and a spell at the Talawa Theatre Company, London, he became a professor of English at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa (1991–2000). From 2001 to 2003 he was a professor in the Drama Department at Stellenbosch University.
He also writes a number of columns in African newspapers, most notably the "Trouble Travels" column in the Nigeria’s Sunday Guardian. In 2013, he became a Patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.
Omotosho grew up during the rising tide of radical nationalism and was enamored by the potential that lay in the future of his country. His fiction ranges widely over the human condition, and themes include intergenerational and interracial relationships. Fela's Choice is an early example of Nigerian detective fiction. However, with the ascent of social and political decay, a few years after independence, he became deeply interested in writing about fiction. Fiction was an avenue that exists apart from the decay of real life and where deep reconstructions about life and ideas come true. It was also an avenue to experiment on social and political ideas for societal change and advancement. Omotosho’s non-fiction is wide-ranging in subject matter.
- The Edifice (1971)
- The Combat (1972; Penguin Classics, 2008, ISBN 978-0143185536)
- Miracles (short stories) (1973)
- Fela's Choice (1974)
- Sacrifice (1974, 1978)
- The Scales (1976)
- To Borrow a Wandering Leaf (1978)
- Memories of Our Recent Boom (1982)
- Just Before Dawn (Spectrum Books, 1988, ISBN 9789782460073)
- The Curse (1976)
- Shadows in the Horizon (1977)
- The Form of the African Novel (1979 etc.)
- The Theatrical Into Theatre: a study of the drama and theatre of the English-speaking Caribbean (1982)
- Season of Migration to the South: Africa's crises reconsidered (1994)
- Achebe or Soyinka? A Study in Contrasts (1995)
- Woza Africa (1997)
- Uko Atai, African Writers Vol. 2 1997
- Segar, Sue (26 October 2014). "'SA could become like Nigeria'". Weekend Argus. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
- "Kole Omotoso", Africultures.
- "Kole Omotoso". Retrieved 2010-07-06.
- "Omotoso, Kole", in Oyekan Owomoyela, The Columbia Guide to West African Literature in English Since 1945, Columbia University Press, 2008, p. 147.
- Posthumus, Carol. "Yebo! Gogo (Yes! Grandma)". Retrieved 2008-04-28.