Ajayi Crowther: The Triumphs and Travails of a Legend By Femi Osofisan

SAMUEL AJAYI CROWTHER was born in 1809 in the little village of Osogun, now in the southwestern state of Oyo in Nigeria. Captured by slave-raiders in 1821, he was freed by British war ships and settled in Freetown. There, he became educated, was baptized, and the first student enrolled at the famous Fourah Bay College. He became a priest of the Anglican Church, was posted to Abeokuta along with others to start the mission there and, having participated in some expeditions up the Niger River, was eventually appointed as the first black Bishop for West Africa.


In this capacity, Crowther opened numerous missions up the Niger and Benue rivers, from Bonny to Lokoja to Kippo Hill, earning the trust and friendship of the local kings; he translated the Bible fully into Yoruba, and partially into Igbo and Igalla. Unfortunately however, the last two years of his long and eventual life were to be marred by controversy and bitterness. Some priests sent down by  CMS from England on a visitation to the Niger Mission returned very negative and destructive reports. As a result, the Bishop, already over 80 years old, suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered. He died in the closing hours of December 31, 1891. This play is about those last, painful years.


Ajayi Crowther was initially commissioned by The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Nigeria, City of David Parish, and is one of Osofisan’s most recent plays



Babafemi Adeyemi Osofisan was born in Erunwon, near Ijebu-Ode in 1946, and educated at the Government College, Ibadan, from where he proceeded to the University of Ibadan. He began full professorship first at the University of Benin in 1983, and then, two years latter, at the University of Ibadan.

Osofisan has taken on a number of national assignments. He was Artistic Consultant to the Drama team at FESTAC 77, as well as to MAMSER in 1996, and Director of Drama at COJA, the 8th All African Games held in Abuja in 2003. He also served, until August 2004, as the General Manager and Chief Executive of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos.


Also known as Okinba Launko (his pen name), Osofisan is a multi-talented creative artist and scholar known for his remarkable versatility, robustness and richness. He is a playwright, director, actor, poet, fiction writer, critic, translator, newspaper columnist and administrator.

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