By ‘Gbade Ojo (Ph.D)
The saying of the great English poet and playwrite, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), that “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” comes to mind as a personal assessment is being given to the traits of character and achievements of a highly revered eductionist and a father of faith, late Dr. Ezekiel Oyelami Adetunji.
The tripartite nature of this saying is very true of the life of late Adetunji in all ramifications. For, it is the nature of a man to rise to greatness, if greatness is expected of him.
I am privileged like several others too to have had contact with late Dr. Adetunji for over two decades and time and space will not permit me to write all I know about him, but in the following premises, I will try and x-ray some of the traits of his character and achievements which I know to be sterling that made him excel during his life time.
Late Dr. Adetunji was a seasoned educationist who was thorough and unassuming, dogged, adventurous and dependable; selfless and diligent in any task he embarked upon; devoted to worthy causes; highly performing and eminently practical personality; human resource manager par excellence.
Dr. Adetunji, being the fourth child of eleven children of his family, was born on January 5, 1930 in Ibadan to late Pa Samuel Aremu Adetunji. He was an educationist with Academic and Professional Qualifications of Bachelor of Arts, Master’s of Arts and a Doctorate respectively.
He had is early education at St Peter’s Anglican School, Alaho, Ibadan in 1938 and completed it at Mapo Central School in December 1943. Through his academic brilliance, he gained first position from a selective list of 90 candidates admitted into the school.
Similarly through his hardwork and tenacity, he secured his first employment as a probationary teacher. He also attended Government Teacher Training College, Ibadan from 1950 to 1951 and 1953 to 1954. University College, Ibadan, from 1957 to 1960. University of Birmingham, England, between 1962 and 1964. He also went to the University of Ibadan, from 1965 to 1973, University of Manchester, England, between January and April 1974. No doubt Dr. Adetunji’s desire for Western education was commendable in his early life.
Meanwhile, one can recall with nostalgia that he was a teacher in the primary and secondary schools, between 1946 and 1961. Senior Local Education Officer, Ekiti and Ibadan, from 1961 to 1965. An Assistant Registrar, University of Ibadan from 1965 to 1967. Assistant Registrar (Senate and Council Committees), from 1967 to 1968, Faculty Officer (Medicine), between 1968 and 1971. He was also an Admissions Officer (Undergraduates), from 1971 to 1972. Similarly, Secretary and Registrar at the Ibadan Polytechnic, between 1972 and 1976.
Dr. Adetunji was appointed Registrar and Secretary to Council, University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1976. He was also, a member, Royal Commonwealth Society, Associate, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM).
During his life time, his dream was to ensure that a good school was established in his village at Alaho in Oluyole Local Government Area of Ibadan which he achieved.
Late Dr. Adetunji wanted to achieve the same feat in his ambition to see that at least the foundation of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Alaho was laid during his life time, but he was unable to fulfil this laudable goal before he passed on.
According to one of his children, Babatunde, “I remember when dad asked me to produce some. architectural drawings for a proposed church he had in mind for the village. The first thing that came to my mind was the source of funds or lack thereof, for the project. I expressed my concerns to him and in his wisdom, he said to me “Olorun a se” (that God would do it). Unknown to me, my mother, Modupe Adetunji was on the heart desire of her husband a few years after his passing to glory, she made it a task of hers to assist in raising the funds and building the church that we are dedicating on this day.”
Modupe showed her commitment to the dream of her late husband. She took on the mammoth task upon herself and garnered money in order to actualize his husband’s unfulfilled dreams.
While he was alive, he received multiple honourary awards in recognition of his work both in the community and nationally. He was honoured with the cheiftaincy title of Aresa of Ile-Ife, conferred on him by the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade in 1983. The Otun Alasa of Ibadanland conferred on him by late Oba Oloyede Asanike, the Olubadan of Ibadanland in 1992; an honourary Fellowship of the Polytechnic, Ibadan (PFI) in December 1988.
Similarly, he was bestowed with the Fellow, Institute of Management Consultant of Nigeria (IMCON) and capped it all with the Officer of Order of the Niger (OON) which was conferred on him by former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in December 2005.
His contributions were also felt in various socio-cultural and religious organizations in his community. He joined St. Paul’s Anglican Church in 1951 and was a member of the Emmanuel Society of the church since then. He also served as the “Baba Ijo” of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Alaho in 1987. He was a member of Ibadan Progressive Union; Ibadan Social Group; Ife Country Club; Ibadan Prime Club and the Council of Ibadan Indigenes.
The fatherhood in late Adetunji was his skill, competence and character. Of all these three, character ranks the highest.
Dr. Adetunji was a man who gave so much in the service to God and humans, to a mortal who has denied himself the luxuries of life so he can remain pleasing to God. His name was a household name both in the church, in the town and in the society.
He was a very humble person and accorded everyone he came into contact with, with due respect. Moreover, he was a hardworking man and serviceable in his church. He was a family man who was committed to his home.
Dr. Adetunji was a godly man, a man of faith, a man of courage, a man with the spirit of tolerance, understanding, accommodation and one who believed so much in reconciliation.
What has a beginning must have an end.
Euphonically, everybody agreed that he was a man who was born and lived for a divine purpose. I had imagined how I could have begun to describe Dr. Adetunji or praise him for being a commendable servant of God? Perhaps, celebrate him even after death for being a community leader; for the mountains that he surmounted while alive, or the numerous valleys that he survived?
His service to God and humanity was not lopsided, having traversed the religious, educational and social spheres of life. He was a leading light, especially in the area of education. He did not pursue his own inner academic inclinations, he started at an early stage to lay the foundation of “intellectualism” and “progressivism” for the younger ones.
Dr. Adetunji was a distinguished community leader who believed in his community. During his life time, he served meritoriously at the church, association, conference and convention levels. He did not serve because he was honoured, he served because he believed in the atonement of the Lord Jesus. Since he did everything with the fear of God, it made no difference to him whether he was serving in an academic, religious or public domain.
He was a fulfilled husband and grandfather who took time to invest in the lives of each member of his family directly in spite of his other commitments at the age he died.
Late Adetunji made positive impacts on all and sundry. The Lord blessed him and set him high. Most of the good things said about him came by hardwork and by the grace of God. He made sacrifices; he denied himself while he was alive.
Ten years down the memory lane, late Dr. Adetunji remained a figure who personified classical values of honesty, integrity as well as respect for individual rights, that which continued to make his personality command respect from all and sundry during his life time. I pray for your gentle soul to continue to rest in peace (Amen).
Dr. ‘Gbade Ojo, an Associate Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Ilorin sent in this piece.