Born in 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, in what is now part of Ekiti State, Niyi Osundare attended the St. Luke’s Primary School and Amoye Secondary School, both in Ikere-Ekiti, before moving on to the Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, which has produced many of the country’s finest intellectuals. Graduating from the University of Ibadan, with a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 1972, Niyi Osundare went on to earn a Master’s Degree in English in 1974 from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, with his thesis, Yoruba Proverbs: A Study in the Problems of Translation. After a two-year stint, beginning in 1972, as Assistant Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Ibadan, Niyi Osundare went to York University, Toronto, Canada in 1976 to undertake the doctoral programme in English, which he completed in 1979, earning the Ph.D. degree, with his dissertation on Bilingual and Bicultural Aspects of Nigerian Prose Fiction.
From modest but cultured beginnings in Ikere-Ekiti, through his cosmopolitan academic and professional engagements with the humanities at Ibadan, Leeds, and York, and several other universities across the world, Niyi Osundare has bestrode the world of scholarship in Literature like a colossus. It is not surprising, therefore, that knowledgeable critics have acknowledged “the fecundity” of Niyi Osundare’s scholarship, the “unique blend of intellectual acuity and moral rigor” and “the capacity to agitate that dialectical space between accommodation and resistance in a given social order”—all of which typically anchor his scholarship.
The high water-mark of Niyi Osudare’s academic and teaching career, which began with his appointment in 1974, as Assistant Lecturer at the University of Ibadan, where he became Professor in 1989, and which continued with his appointment as Professor of English at the University of New Orleans, USA in 1997, was his appointment to a Distinguished Professorship at the University of New Orleans. This is the highest professorship appointment in the University, to which only the rarest scholars, who have “established a truly distinguished national and international record in scholarship and creative work,” are appointed. The Chairperson of the Department of English Department described the appointment as “ a fitting tribute to [Niyi Osundare’s] achievements and stature as poet, scholar- critic and teacher