Professor Segun Odunuga
Professor Segun Odunuga
By Professor Bankole Okuwa
Once again the intrepidly cold and bold, daring, reckless, arrogant enemy of humanity has struck again. On this occasion, its wicked hands did us an irreparable damage which is permanent. It has snatched away our humble but brilliant, amiable, creative, hard-working professor from us in a rude and shocking manner.
We are all aware of death’s recklessness, yet we raise our heads with pride, as the faithful children of God Almighty, who believe in His holiness, the resurrection of Jesus and His superior power over all mundane activities and interests of this wicked world.
The sudden passing of Professor Segun Odunuga will remain one of my greatest personal losses of a loving, unassuming and brilliant senior colleague.
It was exactly 5:00a.m. by the United States, Eastern time zone, when I received a phone call from Chief Dipo Bailey, informing me of the sudden demise of Professor Segun Odunuga who was recently elected the President of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School Old Boys Association, JOGSOBA, on March 16, 2013, in order to have a new, effective beginning after the successful celebration of the first century of the great Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, IOGS. Professor Odunuga’s election reflected the positive mood and progressive expectation of the old boys who desire a solid beginning at the start of the second century of the institution.
I was privileged to work closely with Professor Odunuga, in writing up the hundred-year history of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, IOGS, in our preparation for the centenary celebration last January. As a senior academic colleague and a senior brother in all departments of human endeavor, I told him that I would send him my write-up in order to preview what I had put together, as part of the history of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School. But surprisingly, in his disciplined mind and to my utter surprise, Professor Odunuga said he would also send his own write-up to me for my critique. This is an uncommon gesture among African academics and that is how my unassuming brother reflects as a fair person to all and sundry.
I owe much of my centenary lecture details and preparation to his selfless effort because he told me on phone that he would want me to make an outstanding presentation of my lecture, on the important occasion of the centenary, as if I was presenting a second inaugural lecture for my professorship, if not better. After the presentation of my lecture, he had been encouraging me to give my lecture a comprehensive review with the idea to make it a book, because of its quality and that he would be available to help.
I had known Professor Segun Odunuga since 1954 as my senior student at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School. He belonged to the 1952 /56-57 set which was the first five-year set of the School to write the West African examination, WASCE. After this brief spell at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School as a secondary school student, Professor Odunuga worked as a journalist in Nigeria before going to the old Soviet Union (Russia) where he pursued further studies and obtained his chain of degrees and a terminal doctorate degree in Eastern European languages and culture. As a Soviet scholar of the COLD WAR era he was offered a teaching position for Russian studies by the University of Ibadan, where he rose to become a professor. After retiring from the University of Ibadan, he thought of coming home to his State of Ogun to join in further helping to build Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU); formerly known as Ogun State University, which was established in 1982. At OOU, Professor Segun Odunuga used his long standing and deep experience to help the university in all capacities until he suddenly passed away in the early hours of Saturday April 13, 2013.
In our preparation for the IOGS centenary celebrations, Professor Segun Odunuga worked tirelessly in collaboration with other individuals and groups, to make it a success. On a private visit to the United States, I invited him to address our IOGS old boys in Diaspora which he did with enthusiasm and responsibility and with a great concern for our collective interest for the success of the centenary celebrations. The meeting of the Diaspora old boys was usually held in form of a tele-conference which makes it possible for the old boy members, who are spread over several states, to discuss their views on the subject matter, without meeting physically. He had a pleasant and useful discussion with the group through the tele-conference; a gesture which gave members of the group the needed confidence, which had been missing in relating with the Central Planning Committee at home. Professor Segun Odunuga provided that vital link and all our financial contributions were passed through him accordingly, as we remained grateful.
The demise of Professor Segun Odunuga would remain a great tragedy to all the students of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School especially the old boys and its JOGSOBA association, the Olabisi Onabanjo University, all Ijebu-Ode youth social and religious associations, the University of Ibadan, the entire Ogun State and the Kabiyesi Ajalorun of Ijebu Ife, who was his classmate at IOGS, the Kabiyesi Lipa of Molipa, and our Big Baba - Kabiyesi Awujale of Ijebu land and all others who had had anything to do with the professor during his life. An illustrious son of Ijebu-land has been lost. The professor was a positive activist, a leader of immense stature and a great teacher at the tertiary level of education.
I am deeply and poignantly distressed by the demise of this erudite scholar who had become my close associate and brother within the last one year. I condole with his jovial and great wife, Yeye Alaba Odebunmi Odunuga, whose companionship had made a remarkable impact on the life of my brother and senior colleague throughout their conjugal relationship. I also condole with his children and other members of the extended Odunuga family on this regrettable and sad occasion. May the great soul of Professor Segun Odunuga, rest in perfect peace. Amen
* Professor Bankole Okuwa wrote this piece from the United States of America.