I was always a call away from him (Professor Oladipo Olujimi Akinkugbe) but whenever he called there was always something, not necessarily urgent but important, to discuss. But when he called one evening about three weeks ago at about 6 pm asking that I met him right away at his Little Summit residence on Oba Aleshinloye Way, Iyaganku GRA, his voice carried a note of urgency. Debo, can you see me right away? Professor Akinkugbe instructed. I told him it was not possible as I live on the outskirts of town.
Driving down to his residence would take an hour and considering that curfew was in place at the time I politely sought his permission for a postponement of our meeting till the following day. The urgency of our meeting was underscored by his insistence on my seeing him first thing in the morning adding that I might not meet him if I came late.
Well, as they say in my part of the country, ounpeni ni sola, by seven o’clock the following morning I was on my way to Iyanganku. I made it in one hour and was ushered into his sitting-room promptly. My host was not there. Could he be upstairs in the other sitting room or in his study where he had received me in the past? I was shocked when I was ushered into his bedroom and met him lying on the bed. Being in bed at 8 pm for an eighty-six-year-old man wasn’t anything strange to me but something seem to be absent in the man on the bed. His effervescent self was gone. Professor Akinkugbe spoke gently and the usual banters that usually preceded our discussions in the past was not there this time around. It was our last encounter.
Our discussion centred on the preservation of two of his many legacies bequeathed to his alma mater one of which was something we had worked on for seven years. That we finally struck gold was not his major concern but ensuring we preserved the gold through the ages. Professor Akinkugbe was also donating one of his treasures to the University and wanted an urgent evacuation to the University. He sounded like he was running out of time. And when the discussion went into his next birthday, his countenance changed and the discussion ended. As I made to leave, he asked me to say a prayer for him. It was the first time he was making such a request. I obliged and yours truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room. He became cheerful afterwards and joked about my Ogbomoso descent. He asked if my father was alive and I told him he died five years ago at 84. He said his own father died at 86 and was worried that at 86, he may not have much time at his disposal. That prompted a second session of prayers and I assured him it was still a long time for him to leave.
Professor Akinkugbe was out of the country for a while on medical check up as he had hinted in our discussions. When he arrived he called me saying we should meet in his Ibadan home in two day’s time. As I picked my phone to check if he was in Ibadan on the appointed day , a call came in from one of my colleagues in the office announcing the departure of this international icon. I made some calls and it was confirmed.
l promise I will do all within my ability to preserve those legacies for as long as l live.
It’s Goodnight but definitely not goodbye as your presence will be with us forever through things you said, things you did and the legacies you left.
- Debo Adeosun is the Director, University Advancement Centre, University of Ibadan
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