Biyi Bandele: Midnight encounters with the master

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By Wale Okediran

Dr. Wale Okediran (right) clutching a copy of Burma Boy after its launch by the late author Biyi Bandele (left) in 2007 in London PHOTO: Molara Wood

JULY 30, 2022. Midnight. I was browsing the internet researching for an essay I was working on when I stumbled on a reference to Biyi Bandele. As I continued reading, a photograph I had taken with the iconic writer, dramatist and filmmaker during the launch of his book: Burma Boy in London, U.K. on June 21, 2007 popped out. Fascinated by the discovery, I sent the picture to Biyi Bandele’s Facebook as well as to Molara Wood who had invited me to the event when she was based in the U.K. as a journalist.
A few days later, Biyi sent me a reply: ”Wale Okediran, I remember that reading at Lewisham Library. In the days of my youth! You were there with a friend, I remember”
August 9, 2022. Midnight. While checking my Whatsapp messages, I stumbled on the news of Biyi Bandele’s death. He was said to have died on August 7, 2022 in his house in Lagos. Apart from being devastated by the terrible news, I was puzzled as how I could have chatted with someone I last met 13 years ago just eight days to his death.
Was it a premonition of his forthcoming demise or was it just a farewell message from one writer to another? Like many writers, I read Biyi Bandele before meeting him. Born in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Nigeria, Biyi studied drama in 1987 at the then University of Ife, several years after I had also completed my medical education in the same university.
It was not until 2007, precisely June 21, 2007 at Lewisham Library in London that I finally met the multi-talented author during the launch of his book: Burma Boy.
It was our first and only meeting.
I recollect that I had been invited to the event by the then U.K. based Journalist, Molara Wood who actually took the picture of Biyi and I.
As I struggled to piece this short tribute together, I try to remember Biyi as he was in ‘the days of his youth’, dreadlocked and debonair in his traditional shirt and jeans attire.
I also recollect his wonderful juxtaposition of literary roles from the print to the stage and on to the screen.
He may have died young, but he lived a fulfilled life.
May the good Lord rest him.

* Okediran is the Secretary General of Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA)

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