Every so often, we come up with unsung and unknown heroes of our land, people who have made contributions in various disciplines, putting Nigeria on the map and promoting the many positive characteristics of our people. For the sake of brevity, I need not mention names, but I am always proud to mention the names of noble Nigerian Giants of Literature like our own Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Chinua Achebe, the late Cyprian Ekwensi, TM Aluko, Ken Saro-Wiwa, etc. New Nigerian literary figures abound too.
One of the latter is Omoseye Bolaji, who has become something of a celebrity in, wait for it, The Republic of South Africa. Personally, I am proud to say that Omoseye Bolaji is a cousin of mine, an Ibadan man born to the late Chief Simeon Labanji Bolaji, my uncle and role model in the 60s and 70s, who was Managing Director of The Sketch Group of Newspapers in Ibadan in the early 70s, and my Auntie, Mrs Bolanle Bolaji, still alive. Late Chief Bolaji’s pen-name in those days was “Eselby” in the Daily Sketch and Sunday Sketch, so I am not surprised by Omoseye’s exploits in literary writing. His pedigree speaks for itself. His late father was also a member of my church society, Emmanuel Society of St Peter’s Church, Aremo, Ibadan.
As far as I know, the only accolade and honour bestowed upon this young man, Omoseye, in Nigeria was the conferment of hi late father’s title, Onigegewura (Owner of the Golden Pen) of Ibadanland by the current Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Odulana, in 2008, to mark the first anniversary of his accession to the throne.
Omoseye Bolaji, is an award winning black African writer who over the years has contributed phenomenally to the growth of Black Literature at grassroots level in South Africa, especially in the Free State. Bolaji is a novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, literary critic, biographer, editor and journalist.
Omoseye Bolaji’s published fiction is renowned for its unexpected, often shattering endings. His published works of fiction are The Termagant (1988), They Never Say When (1994), Impossible Love (2000), Tebogo Investigates (2000), The ghostly Adversary (2001), The Guillotine (2001) Tebogo’s spot of bother (2001), Tebogo Fails (2003), People of the Townships (2003), Ask Tebogo (2004), Tebogo and the Haka (2008), and Tebogo and the epithalamion (2009). He has also published a play, The Subtle Transgressor (2006.) His poems are collected under Snippets (1998) and Reverie (2006). His other general works include Eagles at USA 94 (1994), The story of Collins Mokhotho (2000), Fillets of Plaice (2000),Thoughts on Free State Writing (2002) Molebogeng Alitta Mokhuoa (2004), and, My Opinion (2005). In 2007 Omoseye Bolaji published Poems from Mauritius (ISBN 978 0 9584556 9 5) and My life and literature.
Analysts of Bolaji’s books (in some of the published studies referred to, below) point out that he has been heavily influenced by writers like Sidney Sheldon, Dick Francis, and Agatha Christie who highlight the unexpected in their work. For examples in Impossible Love, an intriguing gentleman suddenly finds himself inadvertently in love with his own daughter; in People of the Townships, a young man readers have come to empathise with is ultimately exposed as a cold-blooded murderer; and in Tebogo Investigates, a charming, amiable young lady turns out to be a ruthless killer.
Bolaji has been editor of South African publications such as Free State News, Kopanang magazine, E and E magazine, and is now editor of CHOICE magazine.
Omoseye Bolaji’s awards and honours include the following: Sports Writer of the Year (2000) courtesy of the Eclectic Writers Club of Bloemfontein; recipient of the Community Publishing Project (CPP) grant (2003) from Cape Town’s Centre for the Book; Free State Author of the Year (2003) for his novel, People of the Townships; Certificate for penning enthralling Fiction (2006), courtesy of Phoenix Literary Club, Ladybrand; and the “Lifetime Achievement Award” (2007) from the Free State Department of Sport, Art and Culture. In September 2007, the University of the Free State conferred the Chancellor’s Medal on Omoseye Bolaji, in appreciation of his contributions to grassroots literacy and literature. ]Bolaji was also conferred with a Chieftaincy title by the Olubadan (King) of Ibadanland in Nigeria, again thanks to his contributions to African literature.
Studies (books) already published on Omoseye Bolaji’s literary work are: Omoseye Bolaji:His writings/his role as a catalyst for FS Writing. By Pule Lebuso (2001); Omoseye Bolaji: Perspectives on his literary work. By Flaxman Qoopane (2003); Omoseye Bolaji: Channelling one’s thoughts onto paper. By Charmaine Kolwane (2005); Tebogo on the prowl: a study of Omoseye Bolaji’s series of books based on private sleuth, Tebogo Mokoena. By Petro Schonfeld (2006). A recent book, The Triumph (2007) ISBN 978 – 0 – 620 – 38207 – 6 written by Urbain Tila, details the events at the gala night where Omoseye Bolaji received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
• The growth of Free State Black Writing (a collection of essays on Bolaji, Qoopane, Lebuso, and Thaisi). 2002. By Bareng Mogorosi. Published by Bareng Book Enterprises. Mangaung.
• Free State Writers Talking. (2002). Edited by Molebogeng A Mokhuoa. Published by Qoopane Literary Services. Bloemfontein.
• Four Free State Authors. (2005) By Pule Lechesa. Eclectic Writers Club. Bloemfontein.
• Omoseye Bolaji…on awards, authors, literature. (2007). Edited by Pule Lechesa. Phoenix Press. Ladybrand
• EMINENT journal (West Africa). August 2008 edition. “Profile of Omoseye Bolaji, the new Ibadan Chief”. Page 18.
• THE CREST (Omoseye Bolaji honoured in Nigeria). (2008). By Flaxman Qoopane. Qoopane Literary Services. Bloemfontein.
1. Omoseye Bolaji receives Lifetime Achievement Award (South African Small Publishers’ Blog, retrieved on Jan 9, 2008)
Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omoseye_Bolaji”
Bolaji and his works
By Kgang Abel Motheane
* Published in MAFUBE NEWS, Feb 2005 edition
This piece is intended as a sort of introduction to Omoseye Bolaji’s ever increasing literary output. Many people can not reconcile his prodigious contributions to journalism – e.g. the fact that Bolaji has written for so many major South African publications including Drum; or recently his hundreds of articles for Daily Sun – but in this article we are focusing on most of his books.
Impossible Love (2000) is Bolaji’s most famous novel, a hit with readers, male and female, and a popular read at libraries across the country. The stunning story of a gentleman who somehow found himself later falling in love with his own daughter (!) is one that will always fascinate.
After the publication of The Ghostly Adversary (2001) Bolaji’s reputation as a skilled, fascinating African novelist was assured, whether he published other works or not. In this highly readable book that “no true reader would be able to put down” we are cleverly guided through a series of well planned, sustained violence and mystery with the pivotal “Mr Tortoise’ an enigmatic person” till the end of the book.
The “Tebogo mystery” series of books was born in 2000 when Bolaji published Tebogo Investigates in which he introduces the “detective” Tebogo Mokoena. The first book, now in retrospect, does not look as impressive as it once was, but the initial party scene in that first adventure is still etched in the mind.
Tebogo’s spot of bother (2001), the second of the series, was a real triumph with a double or triple gripping twist at the end of the book that would bring any reader of the book out in sweat. It was also when Bolaji began to write the detective series in the first person, bringing Tebogo closer to our hearts
Tebogo Fails (2003) maintained
the puzzling nature of the Tebogo novelettes. In this story set in Botshabelo, the thing that strikes one most is that Tebogo goes on to fall in love! “the type of romantic love in Impossible love on a minuscule scale ” as Flaxman Qoopane commented. Yet he still solves the baffling mystery in the end.
The previous “Tebogo” work, Ask Tebogo (2004) is the longest, and reveals what seems like Bolaji’s current pessimistic approach to most of his writings (a follow up to People of the Townships). He introduces essays into the story,(mystery) in the latest of the Tebogo series.
In his latest “Tebogo” work Tebogo and the Epithalamion (2009), a charming young woman mysteriously disappears at an absorbing ceremony that forms the prelude to her wedding, and sleuth Tebogo Mokoena is inadvertently sucked into another baffling investigation. He has to meticulously scrape through the veneer of outward appearances and adopt unconventional methods to prevent a torrid tragedy.
By the time Bolaji published People of The Townships (2003) the reading public had come to expect the invariable startling conclusion to his books, and he did not disappoint. People of the Townships attracted the Community Publishing Project grant from Cape Town. The book and its denouement remind one in particular of the skill employed in Agatha Christie’s mystery books. But we must also note the social commentary, “moral” exhortations, in the work.
As for Bolaji’s short stories, You never know with women (2002) and The Quack of Qwaqwa (2003) are too slim for any analysis in an article of this nature. In his book, The Guillotine (10 short stories by Bolaji) most of the stories grip us; none more so than The narrow escape.
But Bolaji has not written and published fiction only. In Fillets of Plaice (1999) Bolaji gives us glimpses into the world of journalism essentially. In Thoughts on Free State Writing (2002) – his own contribution to literary essays – we see how well-read Bolaji himself is, with a somewhat comprehensive taste. The Story of Collins Mokhoto (2000) is biographical.
Snippets (1998, 2002, 2004 editions) contains Bolaji’s poems, and if they are not as simple as we would want them to be, perhaps it is no surprise that he is hardly regarded as a popular poet. 2005 has opened with Bolaji publishing My Opinion, a collection of some of Bolaji’s popular columns in the Free State News – “Opinion”
Of course with such a prolific author like Bolaji, one can only but touch the surface of the man’s writings, as I have tried to do here…
• They Never Say When. 1994
• The Golden Pen of Eselby.(Ed) 1994
• Snippets. 1998
• Fillets of Plaice. 2000
• Impossible Love. 2000
• Tebogo Investigates. 2000
• The Story of Collins Mokhotho. 2000
• The Ghostly Adversary. 2001
• The Guillotine. 2001
• Gilbert Modise: the man and the myth (with F Qqoopane). 2001
• Tebogo’s spot of bother. 2001
• Thoughts on Free state Writing. 2002
• You Never know with women. 2002
• Tebogo Fails. 2003
• The Quack of Qwaqwa (Ed). 2003
• People of the Townships. 2003
• Molebogeng Alitta Mokhuoa. 2004
• My Opinion. 2005
• Tebogo and the Epithalamion 2009
Books on Bolaji’s Works
• Omoseye Bolaji: His writings/his role as a catalyst for FS Writing. By Pule Lebuso. Published by Image Promotions. 2001
• Omoseye Bolaji: Perspectives on his literary work. By Flaxman Qoopane. Qoopane Literary Services. 2003
• Free State Writers Talking (2002, 2004)Ed M.A Mokhuoa
• FOUR FREE STATE AUTHORS (2005). By Pule Lechesa
• The growth of Free State Black Writing (2005). Ed Peter Moroe
When it comes to fiction (written in English) OMOSEYE BOLAJI is in a class of his own. His novel Impossible love continues to stun those who read it, and can be described as “a love story with quite a twist in the tail”. Bolaji’s novella, Tebogo investigates has also been hailed as a superb mystery/detective story of local colour. Recently, his latest novel, The Ghostly adversary was published, and it manages to be even more exciting and suspenseful than his earlier works. Another thing worthy of praise is Bolaji’s versatility. He wrote the biographical book, The story of Collins Mokhotho (a Free State traditional dancer) and a book on journalism, Fillets of Plaice.
The Subtle Transgressor, a superb play based on the Mangaung townships had its premiere at Uitenhage in Port Elizabeth in late March (2006). The play, written by novelist, poet and essayist Omoseye Bolaji drew many audiences from the townships as it was brought to life courtesy of the Gladman Theatre. The youthful cast did themselves proud.
A didactic, yet gripping play, The subtle transgressor focuses on the abuse of youngsters, especially girls. It brings together the complicated relationships between the father, Job, the daughter Kate and peer pressure in general. Kate’s friends, Maria and Violet also loom rather large in the drama.
Questions that arise from the play include: what type of pressures do young women face nowadays; what makes them tick? How do they relate to their parents; how does their background fashion, and later reflect on what happens to them in future? How far can a parent go in trying to “discipline” their children?
Meanwhile in Mangaung (Free State) itself, some writers and artist expressed disappointment that the play was first put on stage away in Port Elizabeth. Pule Lechesa, the well known author said: “Bolaji wrote the play based on Mangaung here, and in the text we have references to areas in the Bloemfontein townships. Why could it not have been premiered in the Mangaung townships? Maybe the lesson is that we should get our arts and theatre here in order.”
Bolaji’s main weakness is a lack of motivation and encouragement that could make him into a real “great” in writing fiction, despite his achievements so far. It is common knowledge in Mangaung townships that Bolaji announced a “complete retirement from writing in 2001”. This announcement, it is gathered, was caused by an extraordinary run of bad luck in getting remuneration for his work, and alleged betrayal by close aides who profited from his writing talents.
Chief Omoseye Bolaji, the Onigegewura of Ibadanland is a true Champion for Nigeria, and should be better recognised in his own country.