Professor Nnadozie Inyama and hope deferred: A tribute – Toni Kan

It is funny how a man you never met could have made such a strong impression.

It must have been a Friday in September 2020. I was hanging out with a new friend and we were talking books and literature when she held up a finger.

“TK, please let me take this call, my dad.”

Her dad was Professor Nnadozie Inyama, professor of English Literature and university orator at the University of Nigeria Nsukka.

I had never met him nor even heard of him even though I would later discover that he had taught and moulded a few of my friends like Nwilo Bura-Bari and Onyemuche Anele Ejesu.

As I sat nursing my drink, daughter and father conversed and then I heard my friend say “Oh, he is a writer. He has published some books. Okay, let me put him on speaker.”

And so, I had my first and only conversation with Professor Nnadozie Inyama, teacher, raconteur, bon vivant, and author of “Guest From The Sky and Other Stories”.

I told him I had a Masters in Literature and had written a few books. He asked for the titles and I told him then in the course of the call our conversation segued into books and I found myself discussing John Dryden’s masterly “Absalom and Ahitophel”.

“What is your favourite line?” Professor Inyama asked. “Every poem must yield a part of itself to you.”

And so I had recited the opening couplet:

 “In pious times, ere priest-craft did begin,

Before polygamy was made a sin;”

He had laughed, a deep throaty laugh full of mirth and then he said  “That’s the opening line, everyone knows that one. Which other verse speaks to you?”

And so I supplied my other favourite couplet, the one that speaks to the heart of Ahitophel’s personality as not just a divisive figure but a man consumed by his own psychosis.

“Great wits are near to madness allied

And thin lines do their bounds divide.”

He had laughed again and said it was a good one.

Then as our chat progressed he said something in latin. A poem or a line from a book, I cannot now remember. We chatted a bit more and as I bid him good bye he had promised to send me the translation of that latin piece.

I do not recall now whether he did but that brief four minute chat had stayed with me and so when I learnt of his passing I was gutted because I had hoped that one day I would visit and join him for a tipple at his favourite watering hole, the Senior Staff Club, where we would have talked literature, recited poetry and traded stories.

Death has deferred that hope, eternally and I can only take joy in that one encounter as I wish Professor Nnadozie Felix Inyama eternal rest.

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