De Campos: The sun set so soon
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
That the Director of the Linguistic Immersion Centre, Dr (Mrs) Elisabeth De Campos, died struck me like Donald Trump’s mother of all bombs in the morning of Saturday, April 15, 2016. It was with a mixture of disbelief and befuddlement that I immediately changed my course and drove to her house. I silently wished it was not true but on arrival at her residence, I was jolted to realise that the illustrious and ebullient academic and resourceful administrator had departed, leaving us with her footprints of brilliance, hard work, tenacity, good-naturedness and impeccable lifestyle devoted to God. It was a personal loss from which I have not recovered. Oh God, the last time I visited her at the hospital, her condition was far better than the previous and we talked of her discharge!
My knowledge of Dr De Campos started during the West Africa University Games (WAUG) that the University of Ilorin hosted between January 11 and 22, 2012 under the astute chairmanship of the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Albert Olayemi. Then, I was marveled by this new woman who ran the commentary of the games with infectious passion, speaking fluent French as the ace sports broadcaster, Mr Bayo Issah, did his own turf in English. Though the exercise ran for hours each day, Dr De Campos would be there smiling and speaking French all the time. The passion with which she took that assignment excited me.
We interacted more closely during the brief period I taught the Immersion students in 2013, having within a short time of her appointment developed a robust programme for the students she actively sought from our neighbouring Francophone countries. By the time we had to work together on the TETFund research proposal in 2014 and she made me to realize how much she appreciated me from a distance, our relationship blossomed. Together, we defended our grant winning proposal in Abuja on March 11, 2015 before a panel of the National Research Council.
Dr De Campos startled me with her tenacity and vigour which were responsible for the success recorded on the project. There was no advice she did not take. The two of us travelled together to France, mainly the Universite de Ruen, France, between April 17 and 23, 2016 as part of the field work of our TETFund Research. Together, we breathtakingly ascended the 324-metre tall Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) to the peak on April 22, 2016. The France experience, our walks through the blocks of downtown Paris and her vast network within the city made me to brand her “Mama Paris”.
So impactful was Dr De Campos’ versatility that she was the de facto bilingual translator for the University in national and international events. Active, proactive, amiable and likeable, she was always radiating smiles as she pursued her goals. Her magnetic personality had won her many friends within the University so much that it would be difficult to know she joined us just in 2011. Seemingly irreplaceable, she had remained the Director of the Centre for years with her knowledge of the West African terrain, being Togolese by birth, while her inimitable communicative competence in both English and French made her job quite rewarding to the University. Her death is a tragedy to humanity.
Born on July 7, 1959 in Notse, Togo, into the Amegah family, the late Dr (Mrs) Elisabeth Ablavi Massavi De Campos had her primary, secondary and A’ level studies in Notse, and Lome, Togo, where she studied at the College Notre Dame de l’assomption, Notse, Togo (1973-1977) and Lycee de Tokoin Lome (1978-1981). She relocated to Nigeria after her marriage in1981 to Mr Nicolas De Campos, who was also recalled by the Almighty in 2015.
Impassioned by the zeal for knowledge and self-development, she enrolled first in 1982 at the University of Ibadan and subsequently obtained her first degree, second degree and Ph.D. in French at various intervals between then and 2008. During the period too, she earned Diplomas in Website Creation and Computer Appreciation apart from a Proficiency Certificate in the Teaching of French Language at the same University of Ibadan.
A versatile academic and admirable workaholic, Dr De Campos had taught at Babcock University, Ilesa Remo, Ogun State and Lead City University, Ibadan, before joining the services of the University of Ilorin in 2011. Outside the University, she had taught at Methodist Secondary School, Fiditi, Nigeria, and worked as an administrator at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, and Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique (IFRA) or French Institute for Research in Africa, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
The late Dr De Campos started her winning streak while she won the Togolese Government Scholarship for being one of the best ten students after the National Entrance Examination to Secondary School in Togo. She also won IFRA fellowships to the Centre for African Studies (CEAN), Bordeaux, France, in 1998 and another one to the High School of Interpreters and Translators (ESIT), Paris, France in 2004. She had enjoyed the research grant of French Institute of South Africa to the 2nd conference of International Association of Translators and Intercultural Studies at the University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, in 2006 before she led a team of senior academics from the Departments of English, French and Arts Education, University of Ilorin, to win a multimillion naira research award in 2015. Her academic publications had appeared in various outlets across Nigeria, Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, among others, and she had presented papers and served as interpreter at many conferences across the world.
She is survived by Raphael, who successfully defended his M. A. dissertation under my supervision at the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies this month, and John, who is rounding off his PhD programme, as well as two grandchildren. May her legacy continue endure!
Adieu, Mama De Campos! Au revior, Mama Paris!