By Chijioke Uwasomba
It was with trepidation and a numbing disorder that I received the passing into glory of a friend, comrade, patriot, father figure and “twin brother”, Professor Martin Olusola Ogedengbe, Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The late amiable Ogedengbe had been ill for some time but his will to live was obvious in all his activities as he always drove himself to the hospital, church and such other places like the newspapers’ stand at the Obafemi Awolowo University gate for his newspapers.
In his tribute to the late Ogedengbe, Toye Olorode, the Botanist and highly regarded political economist described the death as the loss of “a courageous comrade, a great friend, a man for all seasons”. Indeed, the late Ogedengbe was a man of steely comportment who was rigidly committed to principles and not given to blinking and backpedaling on issues of honour and decency.
As a teacher and unionist he provided a strong moral compass for his students, colleagues and the University Administrators alike. He was highly disciplined, thorough, easy-going, well-bred and radiated culture and excellence. He was in every material particular a man of high intellectual propensities.
Because of his rounded intellectual pedigree, most people (including this miter) did not know that he was in the Engineering discipline. For years, until I know him closely, I had thought that he was in the Social Sciences. He wrote and engaged in discourses which gave him off as a man of letters, and possibly one who should have been a Professor of Literature. There is no doubt, as I later found out, that he read a lot of literary works even as a student and teacher of Engineering Sciences.
Interestingly, it should be noted that the late Ogedengbe started his career at Ife in the Department of Agricultural Engineering where he taught courses like Hydraulics, Hydrology, Water Resources Management, Technical Report Writing, Structural Analysis and other Civil Engineering-related courses.
It was therefore not surprising that given his academic exposure that he could single-handedly establish the Department of Civil Engineering in the University which has pronounced a lot of Engineers who have and are contributing to the development of our country. And for Ogedengbe, the icing on the cake came when by a letter dated May 6, 2013, from the University Registrar, he was told of his appointment as Emeritus Professor in recognition of his sterling academic accomplishments as a scholar worthy of emulation.
The late Ogedengbe was a strong voice on the floor of ASUU (the union of academics that has since 1978 been a thorn in the flesh of successive irresponsible governments in Nigeria). Very sequenced in his debates on the floor of ASUU and the Senate of the University, and no wonder he was appointed into many committees of both the Union and the University. Usually, his thoughts and their vocalisations were anchored on logic and reasoned anecdotes making him an admirably respected figure within the university system.
In those days of insensate Military dictatorship of various stripes accompanied by a creeping authoritarian flavour even in the Universities, the late Ogedengbe and the likes of Eni Akigboungbe, Toye Olorode, Idowu Awopetu, Dipo Fashina, Segun Osoba, ‘Layi Ogunkoya, Otas Ukponmwan, Kayode Adetugbo, Kola Torinmiro and others, too numerous to mention, provided the intellectual and ideological templates for the union in particular and the University in general with their encyclopedic knowledge.
The tragedy of our country today is that men and women of Ogedengbe’s stature are leaving the scene with their unimpeachable values while those of lower values with their crass ignorance and polluted mindsets are taking over the affairs of our country. The country is indeed at the cross roads and at its worst!
An old friend of the late Ogedengbe gave a vivid account of their relationship at the Iowa University of Science and Technology, in the United States of America in 1967 where they had gone for postgraduate studies, hinting of Ogedengbe’s virtues of erudition and patriotic excellence.
It is not unlikely that what shaped Ogedengbe’s consciousness and outlook was his socialist inclination which prepared him for a life of conscientiousness. This, as noted earlier on rubbed off on the platforms and units that he had had the opportunity of creating and leading.
It is pathetic that this icon of truth and integrity of the highest order has passed on at a time in our national life when many members of the Nigerian Left are retreating and cocooning themselves thereby creating an undeserved space for the rampaging neo-liberal order with its theology of the market and ever-ready theologians who are holding away.
The Left cannot be coy in telling whoever that cares to listen that the only alternative for humanity is the socialist mode of economic production. Any other economic process and arrangement, as Kagaslitsky has brilliantly articulated, will amount to barbarism.
The Nigerian Left which Professor Ogedengbe was eminently part of must come out of its political closet to redeem the country from the clutches of rent seekers and political pimps who have hijacked the post-colonial Nigerian State. Partisan politics has become a profession to a good number of people who by every definition and consideration could not have had the opportunity of enjoying political power if things were properly arranged.
It is intriguing that it is these otherwise less gifted and fourth-rated individuals that have been allowed to determine the fate of millions of Nigerians. No wonder our sensibilities are routinely assaulted by the indiscretions of these elements who have nothing useful to offer other than their self-serving proclivities.
There must be a new way of doing things in Nigeria and the Left must be at the vanguard of the process for the attainment of a new Nigeria. It is by attaining the goals, ideals and values for which Ogedengbe cherished and lived that all his creative and patriotic exertions would not have been in vain. Adieu good brother and bonhomous comrade.
- Dr. Uwasomba is of the Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. email@example.com
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