The month of January 2016 has come and gone but its memory will continue to linger because of the sour taste it left in our throats. At least, two tragedies befell us as a community. These were two obituaries which shook many of us to the foundations of our arteries. The University is mourning. To me, like many others with common ground in various ways, they were personal losses.
It was first the death of Adedola Adepetu that drew a dagger into my heart. An alumna of the University, staff member of Unilorin 89.3 FM station till her death and 2010 graduate of the Department of English, the late Miss Adepetu was a good ambassador of her Department at her beat. It was a ghastly motor accident that claimed the life of the vivacious young lady on Sunday, January 17.
I had supervised the final year project of Adedola and had kept a tab on her progress, like some others, since she graduated. It was gratifying that she later joined the services of her alma mater in 2014 and she had since then carved a niche for herself among our OAPs (On-Air Personalities), with her recognisable voice and elan. Just two days before her unfortunate death, she had pinged to update me on an earlier discussion on her additional academic pursuit. Death snuffed life out of her at the most unexpected time.
As if the tragedy was not devastating enough, death, the stalking terminator, still prowled on the University community. A week after, precisely on Sunday 24th of the month, the news hit us like a tornado that the dynamic Head of the Department of English, Dr Patrick Olajide Balogun, had answered the last call.
A top University contact had called in the morning to ask after the late consummate scholar and a description of his house. After saying he was fine, I had an eerie feeling that something was amiss as the question was unsettling. A call to the Chairman of ASUU, Dr Abdur-Rasheed Adeoye, left me open-mouthed in petrifying disbelief. Incoherent and lachrymal, Dr Adeoye was an emotional wreck on the phone. My heart sank with a thud. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since 2001 that we both joined the University as lecturers, Dr Balogun had always struck me as a complete gentleman. A robust scholar, rigorous researcher, astute administrator, creative writer, literary critic, social activist, union leader, bridge builder and man of God, Dr Balogun wore many caps with admirable panache. He gave his best in all the various platforms he served with impressive finesse and effectiveness.
Academically humble and generally unobtrusive, even if avuncular, he was always a jolly good fellow to be with in his “archetypal” conviviality. As Secretary-General of ASUU at a point, we worked closely together on a crucial union project and I appreciated more the several glittering aspects of his life. He was a source of inspiration with his boundless energy, way of life and intellectual acumen.
When he became the Head of the Department barely six months ago, the late don further revealed himself as a man of abundant vision. His plan included the organisation of an international conference, the publication of a book and the institutionalisation of a professional publishing arm of his Department. He hit the ground running by putting the machinery in place towards the actualisation of these goals.
Dr Balogun touched the lives of everyone who was associated with him positively. He was an epitome of simplicity and paragon of humility. He belonged to that rare breed of scholars who would defer to and even “Sir” subordinates. It is an irony of life that straight trees don’t last in the forest. The loss of good men like him is a loss to humanity, not just his family and other entities to which he was affiliated.
As an academic giant, Associate Professor Balogun was a well-acclaimed expert in Oral Literature, Prose Fiction and Literary Criticism all of which he explored through modern literary theories especially his favourite Archetypal. A thorough-bred Unilorin alumnus, he was an active member of several academic and professional associations including the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), American Studies Association (ASA) and African Literature Association (ALA), among others.
This writer commiserates with the family, especially his wife and colleague, Mrs Bamitale J. Balogun, his friends, colleagues in the Department, Faculty of Arts and University, associates, kin and compatriots as well as the entire Kogi collective.
“Like toys we are in the hands of fate/ The Will will be wrought on its day or date”, I wrote long ago . The January obituaries are a jolting reminder that tomorrow is not certain and it is therefore imperative we seize the day and do good.
Adieu, Adedola; bye, Dr Balogun! May God give all, especially their families, the fortitude to bear the painful losses!