A rare gem departs!

A man who had attained such great height yet humble. I was shocked when I heard the news that a one of Africa’s greatest philosophical had gone into eternity. Shocked at how soon after he attained his present status as Dean of Arts and then he was gone. Professor Aderemi Kolawole Owolabi popularly and fondly called Prof. Olu Owolabi by staff and students alike departed the World of the living and moved to the world beyond. It is no gainsaying that this man left footprints in the sand of time. To compound the heaviness of my heart, I got the news on my birthday and this was coupled with a ‘not too pleasant’ incident of that day. Why should he die and why on my birthday? To say that I am proud to have been taught by this great academician will be an understatement. I sat under his tutelage for just one semester as he painstakingly explained to us the rudiment of argument and critical thinking. He always made it a point of duty to be in class and hardly ever missed his lecture hours. Prof. Olu Owolabi attended the University of Lagos but he made it obvious in class that there is a vast difference between UNILAG and the University of Ibadan. One of his favourites quotes was ‘I am not a Professor of LASU, I am not a Professor of OSU (Olabisi Onabanjo University). I am a Professor of the University of Ibadan and do you know what that means? He was a man who was grateful for his formative years in Unilag but who knew he was made in UI when he came for his postgraduate studies. He was as humble as he seemed just a little proud at times. Understanding his worth, he continually carried himself with such an amiable character, approachable and simple! I cannot but remember his many quotes and philosophical thoughts. The famous ‘my people perish for lack of philosophy’ rephrased from the biblical verse ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge’. He often argued that our Nation’s retrogression is largely because we have no clear-cut philosophy as a people and there is less critical appraisal of our approach to national issues. He was a bold and daring man who stood for whatever he believed in. Though, we have never attended a University Senate meeting, somehow we get to hear of how he would often stand up and say no to any policy he considered anti-student. There is nothing as the joy that comes when students know that a lecturer who carries influence on the campus refuses to agree with every anti-student policy mooted on the floor of the University Senate. Another famous saying was ‘don’t be a hero in my class, listen all you boys: don’t teach the girls. They collate all your wisdom and theirs together, which is why they are more brilliant and produce better grades’. Whatever his reason for this I really didn’t understand, maybe it was a philosophical discovery! Anyway, this was one advice that I doubt was ever heeded by most of his male student. The young boys just couldn’t help saying no to the beautiful women who didn’t understand the rudiment of arguments. On the other hand, most of us guys had to listen to the girls as they eventually seem to have had a better grasp of the course than the rest of us. He would often repeat the lessons whenever it is not well understood by his students. He would ask over and over again if you don’t understand, you could stop him at any time and he will explain all over. A teacher per excellence and a great teacher of teachers, he will be sorely missed by the University of Ibadan community. It’s rare to find a Professor who comes for 7am class, Prof. Owolabi was one of such simple and humble Professors. He bravely fought and kept rising through the University ranks despite his health challenges. He has shown that our limitation lies within us and not without us. If we must climb till we reach the zenith, then we must brave ahead and prove doubters wrong. He rose to become the Dean of Arts and has in the last few months of office made obvious his great administrative skills. I trust you are resting in the bosom of the Lord. Adieu Prof. Olu Owolabi!!!