A student of Linguistics Department of the University of Ibadan, Iyanda Temidayo, speaks to KEHINDE OLADAPO about an unusual accident that occurred while he was playing the role of Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder, in a school drama.
How did you find yourself on the stage where you got your face burnt?
As a youth in Nigeria, apart from studying Linguistics and aside academics, I have to do something else. Modelling has always been my passion so I decided to go for it again. I decided to go for the biggest show in UI, which is Mr UI. I thought that the Yoruba culture is dying. If you look at most Yoruba homes, you will discover that the parents do not want their children to speak Yoruba language again. So, I did the Sango display to remind people of the Yoruba art and culture.
How did the accident happen?
When I decided to perform Sango, I consulted a Theatre Arts student who taught me everything, from Sango dance steps to bata dance. Unfortunately, in the video that was released, the bata dance was not there. The fire accident happened at the end of the performance. When it got to the fire part, I did not know what I was doing again; it was as if I was possessed. My colleague tried to put out the fire but he could not. It appeared to be a supernatural thing and I don’t think there is a way you could match the supernatural. At that moment, he could not take the burning stick I was holding from me. When I was spinning, the gin my friend was holding acccidentally spilled on my costume, and when I brought the burning stick close to myself, it caught fire. Fortunately, my face did not burn. The Sango costume also did not burn. It was as fresh as it was when it was given to me. It was not petrol that was in my mouth but gin. After the accident, I wanted to continue but they rushed me to the school clinic, Jaja. The doctors said it was not something they could handle, so they referred me to the Burns Unit of the University College Hospital. There, I got a very good treatment. The care they gave me there was unbelievable. It was impressive.
What was the play about?
The play was about Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder. He was a good god. I wanted to show that aspect of our cultural heritage. I wanted to show how deep our culture is. Recently, Halloween was celebrated; I saw how the people wore Halloween costumes whereas I have never seen a time Yoruba people wore Sango costumes. I was trying to show that our gods still live.
What was your role in the play?
I played the lead role of Sango.
Who would you blame for the accident?
I would not blame anybody for my action. It was my decision to do it. I would not blame God either, because He actually saved me. I could have burnt my face.
What did your parent say about the accident?
When it happened, I gave Jaja Clinic my brother’s number and they called him. Initially, we decided not to call dad. He is an old pensioner and we thought he might have a heart attack if he heard what happened. My mum is late. My brother came to UCH and settled the bill which was about N60,000. He has always been there for me. He encourages me to continue in my modelling career. My dad and sisters just learned of the accident. Dad visisted me yesterday [Thursday last week] to see how I was faring. He pitied me; he didn’t blame me for anything. He knows I was only pursuing my dreams.
What did the university say about the accident?
I have not heard anything from the university. I have missed several tests but my lecturers promised to give me makeup tests when I resume. My Head of Department came to see me that night at the hospital and gave me N10,000. Some students sent text messages to me, too.
Are you the only one that caught fire in the play, since you were not the only one on stage handling fire?
I was not the only one. My friend, Kunle, who played the role of Adele Sango and who is in the same department with me, also did when he noticed that I was on fire and tried to put it out. He ran off stage for air and the fire went off. Then, he came back on stage to save me, although the video did not show it. Timileyin also caught fire. When Kunle caught fire, he was the one that helped him quench the fire. Kunle was treated and he resumed classes the next Monday. My case was serious, so I have not been able to attend classes for more than two weeks now. I am still at home.
How are you responding to treatment?
I am responding to treatment. The burns are healing and the pain has reduced.
Do you think this incident will affect your studies?
I was in school yesterday because my department was playing football. I was there to support them. They were scared when they heard about the incident. They were worried. I went there to watch the match and support them. As Mr Lesser Elite, the fashion face of my department, I know my presence would motivate them. I know how to handle situations. I will be okay. God is always there to help me. I am sure He will help me this time. After the accident happened and we went backstage, I asked my friends how bad it was. They told me that it was not too bad. My brother told me it was not the end of the world; that it happened for a reason. For me to have a breakthrough, I have to break something, so I am still very positive about my career. It is not the end. I see it as an uplift for me.
What motivated you to study linguistics?
I have been a lover of language since my secondary school days. I have always wondered what led to language; how language came into being. There are differences in tongues from here to Ghana. You will find different languages even from here to South Africa, to nearby countries and all. I was so eager to know what caused it, what language really is, and how language started.
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