Thursday 19 July 2018

Cliff Ogiugo: 1941-2018

Cliff Ogiugo.
I met Cliff Ogiugo at the Daily Times in 1974 when I assumed duty as Art Editor of what was then undoubtedly the most authoritative daily in Nigeria. I immediately bonded with him and the inimitable Josy Ajiboye who, with the late Yomi Wilson, constituted the core of the Editorial Art Studio. A fast talker with a polished stutter who peppered his conversations with brisk, brittle chuckles, À-Cliff- è, as Josy and I used to heckle him, carried his face mirthfully, especially on those occasions that we broke into spontaneous fabulation episodes in the office. Little Joe, his iconic strips in the Sunday Times, had by then become this trail-blazing weekly, a compelling read for the newspaper’s subscribers. Long before I met him in person, I had known Cliff Ogiugo. But meeting him in person added something special to the enigmatic awesomeness of his comic strips. He was a self-assured master draftsman and versatile illustrator with deft brush lines and creative chutzpah to match. Ogiugo was there at the top echelon of the few public practitioners of the trade at that time, including Chuks Anyanwu, Oke Hortons, and
Josy Ajiboye.

Learning about the passing of Cliff Ogiugo once again underlines the transient nature of existence. But it also reinforces the criticalness of legacy, for that is what ultimately continues to speak your name long after you are gone. The departure of Ogiugo is the loss of all of us who worked and interacted with this peripatetic creative sojourner; it is indeed a loss to all of humanity. While occasions never brought Ogiugo and I together after our Daily Times years, I have continued to follow his work with avid interest. Learning about his passing was thus a rude reminder that even À-Cliff- è, the one with flourishing brush lines and a body of work that is a potential gold mine for scholars as they attempt to encounter Nigeria anew—even À-Cliff-è—was after all mortal. He was too generous, caring, and creatively impetuous to succumb to mere death. But in the scheme of things, Ogiugo did not die after all.

He could not have died who shared with humanity profound insights from his fecund well of creativity; he who created cartoons that became larger-than-life realities did not die. The man whom many knew not for his flamboyant and insensate lifestyle, but for hard work and sustained bouts of creative and inspirational outpourings, did not die. He has simply been immortalized by the preciousness of his work—work that validates the rambunctiousness of his imaginativeness. The moments that I spent together with him at the Editorial Art Studio of the Daily Times in the mid-70s will forever remain permanently etched in my memory as moments of priceless adventures and creative inquisitiveness. We should all be consoled by the stoutness of his name and the robustness of his legacy. Little Joe lives on in every adult who was once a rascally urchin. Rather than silence him, death has only deified Ogiugo. His work and name are testaments to his immortality. And immortality is the ultimate essence. Or, as the Yoruba are wont to say, “Aiku Pari Iwa.”
- dele jegede is a Prof of Art, Miami University, Oxford, U.S.

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