Tributes: Wole Oguntokun (1967-2024)

The theatre world is shrouded in sorrow at the passing of Wole Oguntokun, a distinguished Nigerian playwright, who drew his last breath on March 26, 2024, in Canada. 

Fondly known as Laspapi, Oguntokun’s legacy as a visionary of the dramatic arts, whose brilliance illuminated stages across Nigeria and beyond, remains etched in the hearts of many as can be gleaned from the outpouring of emotions on X in the wake of his untimely departure. 

Tributes have continued to pour in from far and wide, underscoring his profound impact on the artistic community. Colleagues have hailed his mentorship, leadership and his unflagging dedication to advancing African theatre.

Born on July 15, 1967, the dramaturge, director and lawyer’s journey through life was a testament to his unwavering passion for theatre. Armed with a Bachelor of Laws from Obafemi Awolowo University and advanced degrees from the University of Lagos, his intellectual prowess was matched only by his artistic fervour.

According to Elizabeth Ughoro @hateNcrazy “Theatre was alive in Nigerian universities but dead in town”.

It was, she writes, Oguntokun, who revived it and he will be missed.

Attesting to that, ChrisIhidero @chrisihidero points out that “when the history of contemporary Nigerian theatre is written, Wole Oguntokun will get a full chapter.  This news is shocking; this passing is painful. Go well, fellow traveller on the path. All roads lead home”.


For Molara Wood @molarawood,

“It’s thanks to Wole Oguntokun that young Lagos guy/girls started to think of theatre as perfect for a date. This scene we have now where Nigerians of every age now see theatre as a nice day out; it’s why resurgent musicals have become big box office. RIP @laspapi my friend”.

Obi Maduegbuna @obimaduegbuna writes “Rest on Wole Oguntokun. You will be missed dearly” 

Oguntokun founded Theatre Planet Studios and Renegade Theatre, both pivotal institutions in Nigeria’s theatrical landscape. His directorial prowess was legendary, marked by groundbreaking productions like Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka and his own critically acclaimed works.

Actress Tobi Igbenoba-Onikoyi credits him with discovering her as an actress:

Indeed, Deji Toye @dejitoye, who says he is still in shock over the news of Oguntokun’s demise recollects,”Sometime between the 80s and the 90s, a bridge collapsed [in the Nigerian theatre culture], and I think we’re looking for a way across that bridge” Wole Oguntokun says, as he prepares to take an adaptation of A Winter’s Tale to Shakespeare’s @The_Globe in 2012. #RIP @laspapi

Toye’s “I hope this news remains unconfirmed. I hope someone says it was an unfounded rumour, a bad joke!” echoes in the hearts of many who loved Laspapi. 

Like Adeoye Shobakin @deoyesalem, who writes

“Wole Oguntokun “Laspapi”. This news breaks me. Rest In Peace, Baba. Rest in peace.”


And Bemigho Awala @awalathegreat, who says it is “so sad to hear about Wole Oguntokun Laspapi’s transition”. We are grateful to the Almighty for the life that he lived in service of the theatre. I hope that his blog will continue to give us the impetus to remember this fine man of the Arts. Rest Well WO.

Beyond his directorial feats, Oguntokun’s influence extended globally. Not only did he run a popular blog, he played a pivotal role in international collaborations, notably directing Nigerian plays at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe, showcasing Nigeria’s rich theatrical heritage on a world stage.

Dan Baker @dan_baker83 says he is devastated to hear that Wole Oguntokun @laspapi has passed. I was lucky to meet him through @ISPA_global and he was brilliant, inspiring human whose smile and warmth could power the world. Rest in Power, my friend.

Onyeka Nwelue @onyekanwelue writes in his tribute, “I was about 16 years old when I first met Wole Oguntokun. His name splashed over posters. He was the King and he’s still the King of Theatre in Nigeria. He has been fighting this battle for a long time.

Now, he has transitioned. I am pained”.

His impact wasn’t confined to the stage alone. Oguntokun’s commitment to nurturing young talents and promoting Nigerian arts was evident in his establishment of the Theatre Republic in Lagos. 

Ayobami Oladejo @ayooladejo shares an exchange they had back in 2009.

“This was the exchange between me and Wole Oguntokun in 2009,” Oladejo writes. “Very sad to hear he has passed on to glory. I followed his work from Terra, his blog and other artistic ventures.May his soul rest in peace. Amen”.

For Yemi Akande @opeyemiakande, you cannot talk about the Nigerian theatre industry without mentioning Wole Oguntokun as he marked an era.

For Bayo Omisore @ibayoomisore and Toyosi Ige @thattoyosiige it is a simple “Rest in peace Wole Oguntokun” howbeit with a touch of disbelief for the latter.

As the whole world bids farewell to this titan of the stage with shock and disbelief, we are reminded of his enduring legacy—a legacy that continues to inspire generations of playwrights, directors, and performers to dream boldly and create fearlessly. Wole Oguntokun’s brilliance may have dimmed with his passing, but his spirit shines eternally through Nigerian theatre. Rest in peace, maestro.


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