OPINION: At 90, the old lion purrs! (Tribute to Prof Oyawoye, Father of Geology). By Abdulrazaq Magaji

Date: 2017-08-05
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aturday, August 12, 2017. A large crowd will descend on Offa, headquarters of Offa Local Government Area in Kwara state to commemorate the birthday of the community's most illustrious son and best known ambassador. Ladies and gentlemen! Let's toast Professor Muhammad Jamiu Mosobalaje Olayooye Oyawoye, CFR, Africa's 'Father of Geology' and the Aremo (Crown prince) of Offa who turns ninety on the day.

This year, the series of activities lined up will be rounded off with special prayers by Muslim and Christian groups. Similar events in the past are deserved honour for an icon who remains the most recognized, the most decorated and the most respected individual known to this community and beyond. Little wonder that the campaign for Professor Jamiu Oyawoye to be honoured as the hero that he is, especially now that he is around, recently gathered steam!

So far, the Federal Government has set the ball rolling. Few years back, it honoured Baba Oyawoye as a Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR. What is more, Professor Oyaoye has a street named after him in a strategic location in the federal capital city of Abuja. At the University of Ibadan where he taught for many years, several monuments are named after the widely-respected Africa's Father of Geology.

Meanwhile, in the sterile belief that only the dead could be heroes, the Kwara state and Offa local governments are bidding their time to receive news of Professor Oyawoye before high-sounding adjectives are employed to describe him and, may be, consider the naming of some structure in his memory! This is, therefore, an appeal to the federal, state and local governments as well as an appreciative Offa community to learn to make heroes of the living!

With regards to the pioneering effort of the Federal Government to honour Professor Oyawoye outside his place of birth, there is nothing wrong in renaming the Federal Government's highest educational institution in the town as Jamiu Oyawoye Polytechnic, Offa. On its part, the Kwara state government has several options available to it; one of them is to rename its School of Health Technology after Professor Oyawoye. Several options are available to the Offa local government and Offa Community. Let's consider some of them.

For what he has done for community and for placing Offa on the intellectual map of the world, there should be no problem, for instance, with having Jamiu Oyawoye Hall in place of ODU Hall! Or, Jamiu Oyawoye Market in place of Owode Market. Or, having the Offa local government secretariat building renamed Jamiu Oyawoye Secretariat!

Born August 12, 1927, Professor Oyawoye, geologist, teacher, researcher, field worker, ambassador of peace, religious cum community leader and a man many prefer to call a human bridge was educated at Offa and Ibadan. He worked briefly at the Geological Survey of Nigeria from 1950 to 1952 and, as fate would have it, the brief spell at the Geological Survey of Nigeria literally determined the career choice of Baba Oyawoye that turned him into an internationally acclaimed intellectual celebrity fourteen years later.

Professor Oyawoye was at the Washington State University at Pullman in the United States for his bachelors and masters degrees before proceeding to the University of Durham in the United Kingdom for his doctorate degree. He returned to Nigeria in 1959 and took up a teaching appointment at the University of Ibadan where he established what was to become the best geology department in Africa. Seven years later, precisely in 1966, he was appointed Professor of Geology, the first African to be so honoured. That feat gave Offa community its first professor.

The academia shaped Baba Oyawoye's world view and actually prepared him for life's endless battles. Till date, elders still discuss with nostalgia how Baba Oyawoye, at 43, was the clear choice of Offa kingmakers when the Olofa stool became vacant in 1970. Baba Oyawoye reasoned then, that a life of seclusion inside a palace, in spite of its several attractions, was not top on the list. He has affected Offa in more ways than he could have done from the four walls of a palace..

Residents and friends of Offa readily attest to Professor Oyawoye's love for his community and its people. He has, since the 1960's been involved in virtually all projects aimed at lifting the Offa community and its environs. With the commencement of academic activities at the Summit University, Offa, in which establishment he played a pivotal role, the dream of Professor Oyawoye for a university to be established in his place of birth while he is alive has been fulfilled. Reports of a second university in the community are rife.

Without any doubt, two universities is a brilliant idea in a community that also hosts a federal and private polytechnic, a college of education, a specialized naval institution, a school of health technology, a school of Basic and Remedial studies and a study centre of the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, among others, to cater for the educational needs of Offa and its environs. It is in recognition of his love for community that Professor Oyawoye was named Aremo (Crown Prince) of Offa more than five decades ago.

Baba Oyawoye has literally seen all and conquered all. He is one of Nigeria's most decorated intellectuals and ranks top on the list Africa's intellectual gifts to the world. He is a man widely respected across Nigeria and widely honoured abroad. It is a mark of Baba's humility that his home is a mecca of sort for people who troop in from far and near to consult with Baba and tap from his wealth of experience.

Old lions don't roar; they purr! At 90, the lion in Baba Oyawoye continues to purr with dignity. In Professor Oyawoye, there is sense in the saying that a tree can make a forest! Indeed!

Another August 12 beckons. Join the chorus to say 'Happy birthday, Baba'!

Magaji <magaji778@yahoo.com> is based in Abuja

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