FATIU ADEMOLA AKESODE: A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE
The orator is used to giving eulogies to a deserving person based on landmark achievements and performance. The task of the orator is difficult this morning because he has to deliver a dirge for his friend, brother, boss, and confidant. But who can deliver this better other than a friend and close watcher of developments around our late hero?
As student, most of his friends and colleagues generally agree that he was highly cerebral and they all knew he was destined for the highest positions in the medical profession. It is therefore not a surprise to many of them when Fatiu rose to become a world acclaimed Professor of Paediatrics; Executive Chairman of Lagos State Hospital Management Board; Provost, Obafemi Awolowo College of Health Science, Ogun State University; and Chief Medical Director, Ogun State University Teaching Hospital. He also had the singular honour of being the only Medical Officer in Olabisi Onabanjo University where he combined the post of a Provost with that of Chief Medical Director, and he was instrumental to the creation of the Faculty of Pharmacy, the only state school offering Pharmacy in Nigeria. With this success, it could thus be said that his life as the Provost and CMD was one of fruitful service and absolute commitment to medical education and healthcare delivery.
His outstanding performance was continued at the Lagos State University (LASU) when he was appointed the 4th Vice-Chancellor of the institution in February 1997 by the Marwa administration. Perhaps, his greatest feat in LASU was the successful completion of the first four year term in office and reappointment for a second term. During those four eventful years, (Feb. 1997 - March 30th, 2001), Akesode performed creditably well in terms of uplifting the career aspirations of staff.
He had the singular opportunity of appointing several Associate Professors and Professors which are based on rigorous but widely acceptable standards. However, the most eloquent testimony of his great stride is the changing skyline of LASU from one with inherited makeshift buildings to a citadel of learning with massive architectural edifices. Even his bitterest critics would also admit that his era witnessed phenomenal expansion in the curriculum of the university. The establishment of Lagos State University College of Medicine, Ikeja, a School of Communication and a Faculty of Management Sciences bears adequate testimony of this visionary and qualitative expansion.
Professor Akesode however gave expressions to some of these visionary achievements in LASU. He singled out one event that gave him the greatest joy when he was the Chairman of the Lagos Hospitals Management Board. According to him, that was; 'The day I saw about 53 students registering as medical students of the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM)'. For the Prof. Akesode, 'this is a great achievement. It is a great tribute to the staff of LASU who assisted us and the government of the state;' adding that 'the proposal had been on for many years, but we were able to wrap it up. It is a wonderful achievement and I am very happy about it'.
Verily, Akesode had tall dreams for LASU and worked very hard to attain them. A sound administrator, seasoned academic, a bridge builder and manager of men and resources, Akesode definitely strove for the best in LASU and Lagos State. In fact, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the then Visitor to LASU and the Executive Governor of Lagos State monitored closely the activities of late Prof. F.A Akesode and he was quite impressed by his record of academics and infrastructural achievements. Thus, in his capacity as a Visitor to the university, he had no hesitation whatsoever to renew Akesode's appointment for a second term in office. With this, there is no doubt that Fatiu Akesode towered above his contemporaries and contenders for the exalted office.
Even after his demise, Akesode has grown taller and much more appreciated. He was an open-minded person and a role model. He was not given to acquisition of incessant wealth nor material benefit. He was a kind, forgiving, considerate and generous Muslim, who combined a very sharp intellect with genuine desire to maintain excellent human relations. And if Akesode had any weakness at all, that would be his non-vindictive character. He allowed his avowed enemies open space, a field day, and believing that history will vindicate the just. Certainly, Akesode's life was characterized by dynamism, high sense of responsibility, handwork and keen sense of mission. In life and in death he commanded the respect of the young and the old while he remained a truly medical professional with abiding commitment to paediatrics endocrinology.
As an academic, he was a prolific, distinguished and unabashed defender of the academic community worldwide. Akesode was also a man of honour. He was an achiever of distinction, a man of probity and sincere believer in accountability. He was a man who did not allow glory and trappings of power to becloud his sense of social responsibility and commitment to people. He saw university administration as a sacred trust, an opportunity to serve and not to be served.
Indeed, the late Prof. F.A. Akesode was not only a success in public life; his private life is also a resounding success. He was a good family man, a champion of family values, a devoted husband and lovely father of four lovely children; Faisal, Toyin, Abiola and Azeezat. Often times, he expressed his joys concerning his family. In one of these instances, he noted that his happiest moment was his marriage to the girl he met when Nigeria became independent in 1960. That lady was then Miss Risikat Titilola Bakare Another was the birth of his first daughter, Modupe, in the United States while he was undergoing his postgraduate studies at the John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
For me, March 29 would remain significant in two respects. It is the celebration of the birthday of the doyen of democracy, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the communication guru Prof. Idowu Shobowale. More importantly, however March 29, 2001 remains indelible because it turned out to be Professor Fatiu Ademola Akesode's last day on earth. Between 12:00 and 5:30pm, Prof. Akesode, Prof. Abisogun Leigh, Kunle Odufuwa Banji and my humble self had attended Dr. Sobowole's 60th Birthday celebration at Shepardhill Baptist Church, Obaninkoro. We also planned to attend Governor Bola Tinubu's birthday bash at Boudillon but I noticed the uneasiness that befell on Prof. Akesode while the party progressed. Before that day, he had been complaining of a nagging headache which was suspected to be migraine. I advised him to take some pain-relievers which he did. But during the party, he was certainly not comfortable.
This was about 6:30p.m. I tried to ask him what the problem was but he just muttered some words. He certainly did not want to be disturbed. And all of a suddenly, he just stood up and decided that we should take our leave. Quickly, he had walked up to where his car was parked while the rest of us rushed to catch up with him. As we got near him, I noticed he was avoiding eye contact with me. Nonetheless, I still summoned enough courage to tell him that all was not well and that he was not looking fine. And I insisted that he must see his doctor which he promised to do.
Professor Leigh and I left the venue of the party for our different destination while Prof. Akesode, together with Mr. Odufuwa and Banji left to keep appointment with his physician. At about 2:00 a.m. in the morning of Saturday, 31st March, I received a call from Mr. Kunle Odufuwa through my computer operator, Muhammed Kelani. In relaying the sad message, Mr. Odufuwa was simply crying like a baby. The message was that Professor Fatiu Akesode had passed away. At that moment, I was deeply dumbfounded, fear took over me and I was shattered throughout the moment. What happened? I couldn't find the answer. But I realized that my mentor, my adopted father was gone. Then my mind began to roam about the mystery of this world we are living and this generally expected but unwelcomed guest called death.
There and then, I decided to contact some of the key allies and friends of Prof. Akesode among who were Dr. A K. Noah, Provost of AOCOED, Ijanikin; Prof. Opeloye and Alhaji Raheemson of the LASU Muslim Community of which the late Prof. Akesode was a prized value. I also told them to inform Prof. Peter Akinsola Okebukola, Akesode's predecessor in office, a valued friend and a man who had great personal respect for Akesode. To everyone I called, however, my message was also that we should endeavour to meet at about 6:30 a.m. at the family residence of the Akesode's at 77, Adefowope Street, Off Association Avenue, Ilupeju, to console the family and assist in putting in place necessary machinery for the burial.
It is true, bad news spread like a bush fire in the harmattan season. The news of the sudden death of Professor Akesode reverberated throughout the nooks and crannies of Lagos State, and by 12:00 noon, it was actually a major news headline in the media. His primary constituency, LASU also wore a very sober look. It was also a sad day for his colleagues in the medical profession, most especially at the College of Medicine, Idi-Araba and Obafemi Awolowo College of Health Sciences, Sagamu where he had served as the Provost/Chief Medical Director. But more devastated by the news was the Akesode's nuclear and extended family and the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society where he was one of its leading lights.
Though Prof. Akesode had gone the way of all mortals, he has left us with very sweet and fond memories. He slaved for the LASU project, the people of Lagos State and indeed, Nigeria. It is for this reason that the Senate and the Governing Council of the Lagos State University immortalized the name of our late Vice - Chancellor, Professor Fatiu Ademola Akesode. The greatest immortalization of his name and memory will be to name the LASU Colloge of Medicine after him in line with the Lagos State House of Assembly resolution of April, 2001.