Dignitaries from within and outside the academia were all present at the Afe Babalola Hall on Thursday, December 15, 2022 to celebrate the 70th birthday anniversary of ace scholar and practitioner of Theatre Arts, Professor Duro Oni, FNAL.
The former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services) of the University of Lagos was the cynosure of all eyes, as his mentors, colleagues, mentees, friends, and family members lauded him for his exemplary professional life, full of creative outputs and visible impacts.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Professor Lucian Chukwu, represented the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, FAS, at the event. He extolled the long and unblemished years of service that the celebrant has put in at the University of Lagos.
“The University of Lagos will surely miss the services of this erudite scholar. He came in at 23 as a Youth Corps member, put in 46 years of service, and is bowing out of service at 70. He is on record as one of the longest serving members of staff of this great institution”.
The Vice-Chancellor’s representative also commended Professor Duro Oni for his legacy as the creative force behind the birth of UNILAG’s Creative Arts Department, and expressed the gratitude of the institution for that.
“Professor Duro Oni was very instrumental to the creation of our Department of Creative Arts. With its specialties in Music, Visual Arts, and Dramatic Arts, that department has become a production pipeline of creative geniuses who are doing the University of Lagos proud in Nigeria’s entertainment industry. He is rightly called the “Father of Creative Arts in UNILAG”, and for that legacy, UNILAG will always be grateful. We wish Professor Oni more fruitful years in retirement”, he said.
The pioneer Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University, Professor Francis Ogunye, was the Chairman of the occasion. He spoke glowingly of the celebrant and prayed for his continued relevance.
“Duro is a person I love, because he was loved by someone who loved me too – and that was our former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ade-Ajayi. From the moment we met, we sparked off a brotherly relationship that has continued till date. He is a reliable professional and a very sociable person. He is synonymous with the scholarship and practice of Theatre in Nigeria, and he is deserving of every accolade that comes his way”.
The celebrant, Professor Duro Oni, was effusive in his response. He expressed gratitude to God for the privilege of a fruitful professional life; and to the University of Lagos for the opportunity to create and contribute to knowledge.
“I am not likely to spend 46 years in any other place in the world apart from UNILAG. This great citadel of learning has been very good to me, and I owe it my utmost gratitude for allowing me to grow in my career. Out of the 13 Vice-Chancellors that we have had, I have served UNILAG under 11 of them. I have done my bit. I have served UNILAG to the best of my ability. It is time to for me to go”, he declared amidst a standing ovation.
Royal fathers, captains of industry, senior academic and administrative members of staff, members of The Ijesa Society, and the University of Lagos Alumni Association, among others, all graced the occasion with their presence.
A highlight of the event was the public presentation and launch of a book titled, “Duro Oni: Art, Design, and Life”, a publication of over 800 pages written to celebrate the life and contributions of the celebrant to the field of Theatre Arts in Nigeria.
Professor Duro Oni served as Head of the Department of Creative Arts and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He is a former Director-General of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC). He is the President of the Ijesa Society. He is also the current President of the National Academy of Letters (NAL).