His body died exactly a year today but his soul hovers around with pleasurable presence, for good men don’t die, they live forever. His deeds speak for his absence while his awesome existence sustains his memories. Professor Femi Odekunle lives forever in the reference of character, value and sacrifices. A patriot of unrivalled proportion, unmistaken nationalist and irrepressible fighter against prejudices of all sorts.
Never seen a man who lived beyond his enclave like this man, boundless, limitless and endless. Everywhere was home and everyone was a brother to him. – humanity was his fortress. That is why he could spend almost all his life in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria teaching generations upon generations of students who are today custodians of the Nigerian project whether in the public or private sector. There is hardly any establishment you go to that a former student of this enigma is not found. He ingrained himself in everyone that crossed his path. Odekunle lived for humanity.
It may be a vain venture for one to try planting a tree where grasses
do not grow. But here, we had a man who grew whole forest of change
in a society where change is conservatively static and social order is defined by primordial identity. His compromise in life goes beyond the fear of the unknown, rise above the conception of divinity and sometimes in the opposite direction of popular culture. Odekunle was a culture of a generation; from him, we learn the true meaning of justice, equality and freedom.
In the journey of his life, Odekunle was faced with the challenges of popular conception. He has out of relative intellectual conviction created his own peculiar lifestyle devoid of common norms and conventional perception. His interpretation of life is summarized in the paradigm of justice and fair play. To him, things must be done as they need to be done and not as they are done.
He viewed life from the better side as way to reach the best. So Odekunle easily disagrees when things are not in order of perfection or excellence. This principle inspired him to advance actions and to take decisions as hard as they appear with little or no respect to who gets the hammer on the head in the process of putting things right. This saw him in the opposite direction in most issues. Typical of this, was his daring outburst during the Ibrahim Magu saga where he spoke in a lone voice against the dangerous powerplay that later consumed Magu.
In popular assessment, those who come in contact with Odekunle attached a label to his personality. So often, he was referred to as controversial. Speaking on the public lecture organized by the department of Sociology to bid Odekunle farewell on the eve of his retirement in October 2006, Professor Ango Abdullahi the guest lecturer said:
“He is often referred to as controversial, but from what point of view? “When you say someone is controversial, it suggests to me that the person does not agree with you on particular issue which to you is to be accepted”
Odekunle hardly accepts issues or take side with opinion out of sentimental proceedings. He, in most cases, stood as an opposite force to a prevailing system that in one way or the other guarantees segregation within the community. In relative terms, he usually stood alone in course of his ideological orientation. He died and the people cried an ocean of tears for a good man defined in ebullient loads is gone. The man who never lived in the darkroom of life, who brightened his surroundings and makes lively any trace of despondency.
He never caved in to worries not even at his worst moments -which are usually excruciating. This man faced very constricted occurrences in his life, he was faced with death severally and in all of these, he came out triumphant. He was sentenced to death by late General Sani Abacha, few days to his execution, Abacha died; his kidney suffered a near collapse that he was given up for dead until a ‘roadside doctor saved him, few months to his eventual death, he went under a gruelling surgery that took miracle for his survival just then came the cowardly Covid 19 virus that eventually subdued this ferocious fighter of a man. For 12 days, cerebral, irrepressible and fearless Odekunle battled the virus until the system failed him when he ran out of oxygen and the Ilesha born intellectual closed his eyes and breathed his last thus sealing the earthly curtains of a great man!
Dear Professor Odekunle, It’s one year since you left us; one year without your charm, love and mentoring. I miss every trace of your beautiful existence my teacher, my mentor, my father and my friend. Continue to rest in the embrace of the lord my young old man, fashionista, swagger man, brainbox, fierce fighter and beautiful handsome ijesha -omo ogboni scion.
*Abdullahi O. Haruna Haruspice,
Student, Personal Assistant and Friend to late Professor Femi Odekunle.