Kole Omotosho: Dusk at last!
Kole Omotosho

Adebayo Obajemu

Professor Kole Omotosho! Last Wednesday, the 19th, the bell tolled for him, causing pains to the literary, public intellectual community, and Nigeria at large.

But the last couple of decades have seen the other part of Africa, notably South Africa, drinking from his fountain of muse, in the land of Mandela his ‘Old Genesis’ beard thrust fame on him as one of the most prominent black faces on South African television, known as the “Yebo Gogo Man”.

In South Africa he was the “Yebo Gogo man” in adverts for the telecommunications company Vodacom.

Omotosho belonged in the second generation of Nigerian writers that nearly almost fused into the first.

He shared literary podium with writers like Biodun Jeyifo, Yemi Ogunbiyi, John Ohiorhenuan, Femi Osofisan,

Kalu Uka, Daniachew Worku, Obinkaram Echewa, Flora Nwapa , Nkem Nwankwo and others.

In the 80s, the generation of literati that Omotosho encapsulated enriched the Nigerian literature through the fusion of critical public intellectualism with profusion of literary criticism in a mix of popular essays that interrogate public life, popular culture and literature. The leading lights were among others, Omotosho himself, Biodun Jeyifo, the trioka of Chinweizu Ibekwe, Ihechukwu Madubuike and Onwuchekwa Jemie, Olu Obafemi, Isidore Okpewho.

Omotosho’s repertoire 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.

Omotoso 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. Omotoso’s non-fiction is wide-ranging in subject matter.

Omotoso 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.

Omotoso returned to Ibadan to lecture on Arabic studies (1972–1976), then moved to the University of Ife to work in drama (1976–1988). 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 Omotoso 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). His other popular novels are: The Combat and The Edifice .

From 2001 to 2003, he was a professor in the Drama Department at Stellenbosch University.

Omotoso also wrote a number of columns in African newspapers, most notably the “Trouble Travels” column in the Nigeria’s Sunday Guardian. From 2013 to 2016, he was a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.

In the mid-1990s and 2010s, he appeared as the “Yebo Gogo man” in a number of television advertisements for Vodacom mobile phones, which led him to being described by Nelson Mandela, whom he first met in 1991, as “the most photographed man in South Africa”.



Kole Omotoso was born into a Yoruba family in Akure, Ondo State, Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents after the death of his father. The events of his early childhood contributed a great deal to his development as a man and also as a writer. As at the time of his death he was 80s.

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