Mr. Shobo Onasanya (left); former Commissioner of Finance, Lagos State, Chief Folarin Williams; DG, Nihotours, Mrs. Chika Balogun; former ICAN boss and chairman Occasion, Bashorun J.K Randle; publisher and CEO, Diamond Publication, Mr. Lanre Idowu; and Mr. Femi Simpson With Meditations, Soji Simpson lives on
Soji Simpson may have passed away 43 years ago, but his works and memories still linger. The book of poems Meditations, compiled and annotated by Femi Simpson, the immediate younger brother of Soji, was launched on Saturday at MUSON centre Onikan, Lagos. Friends, families and other notable guests were present at this occasion to celebrate the great genius of Soji Simpson.
Simpson wrote over 70 poems between 1958 and 1962, while he was a student at the Lagos Baptist Academy and King’s College, Lagos. He also wrote five plays: Too Much Too Soon, The Vogue, If I Forget Thee, His Master’s Voice and Mirage. The later poet and playwright mysteriously vanished, while rehearing Rasheed Gbadamosi’s play Behold My Redeemer in August 1974.
Among notable individuals who graced the occasion were, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, Fadesewa of Simawa, Chief Olusegun Osoba, CON, chairman of occasion, FCA, OFR, Bashorun J.K Randle, Former Commissioner of Finance Lagos, High Chief Folarin Williams, Mrs. Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett and many others.
The publisher of the book, and CEO Diamond Publications, Mr. Lanre Idowu, said as he addressed the audience, that “it is very delightful to see an appreciable turnout of guests and well-wishers at the occasion, as it is no ordinary day, but the 70th birthday of Soji Simpson. The poet whose lines we have come to listen to, whose work we have come to appreciate and whose thoughts we have come to share.”
Explaining ‘Olusoji’ to mean a name that conveys resurgence and reawakening, he said: “We at Diamond Publications are grateful that the significant work that Meditations represents was not still born, we are grateful that it was not aborted in negligence, misadventure, or a deliberate decision, that it was not worth bothering about the manuscripts, but it has now been turned into a book. In a sense we are celebrating love for diligence, love for talent, love for enterprise, love for industry, love for the arts, love for poetry, love for enduring values, love for our father land.
“ We are gathered here to celebrate God’s love, and celebrate revival of interests, the poetry talent that went missing; we are here to say to the Simpsons that after weeping comes joy,” he added.
Former ICAN boss and Chairman of the occasion, Bashorun J.K Randle, who spoke about the then greatness of Nigeria, said: “We took for granted when Soji was alive that Nigeria was destined for greatness. In fact, it was already great; everything worked well, the future was bright, but today if I might digress, we should draw an example from not only the life of Soji Simpson, but the whole of the Simpson family because they are patriarchs.
“Let’s not forget that Mr. Simpson the patriarch was a civil servant, and 50 years after he retired, I have never heard anyone report that he collected bribe or was involved in any shady business. These are the things that we take for granted, so in a way, the Nigeria that we are dealing with is totally different from what the likes of Soji Simpson, his parents and many others who had dedicated their time and energy to,” he said.
The event witnessed a recital of some poems from the book by some select readers after which Mr. Kunle Ajibade reviewed the book.
According to Ajibade, the testimonies of those who knew Soji intimately and the body of his works show that Soji Simpson’s presence made the darkest day feel pleasant, as a human being, a poet, a playwright, an actor and a culture enthusiast.
He noted that Soji imbibed many of the elements of romanticism, as a literary move. He disclosed that his views on nature, beauty, women, children and other element clearly showed this and concluded that the late dramatist was a romantic poet.”