Today marks the 20th memorial anniversary of the late Professor Emmanuel Afolabi Atanda Olabimtan.
Precisely, on August 27, 2003, our revered patriarch completed his earthly sojourn and departed to his present glorious home above.
Our hearts are still heavy but full of satisfaction as we reflect on your life, your legacies, and the role you had played in the lives of millions of people, especially the academic community, where oceanic waves of your knowledge have continued to serve the humanity.
Just like the comet, men like you come but once in a blue moon. The vacuum you left behind still remains largely unfilled, as no one could step into your big shoes.
But we are not here to lament the loss of your knowledge, your socio-cultural orientation, your kindness, and your carefully cultivated veneer of political refinement.
We are not here to chronicle your life and time as a museum piece but to celebrate the part you had played in the making of a new world of knowledge. We are consoled that you left your imprints in the sand of time.
Indeed, one of the challenges of writing a tribute to an intellectual giant like you is how to choose which part to espouse among several complementary endeavours.
As an outstanding colossus academic, prolific writer, and poet, your scholarly contribution, as well as intellectual attainment, is phenomenal and unrivaled. You had contributed immensely to knowledge at the Ivory Tower.
With your humble background, the inspiring story of your resounding success in the intellectual wilderness and other several positions of responsibility is indeed a guide to the younger generation of nowadays who believes that the world is only for those who are born with silver spoons or that they can only make it in life by cutting the corner.
Through the dint of hard work, exemplary academic brilliance, doggedness, and resourcefulness, you worked your way to the global reckoning and secured a place for yourself in the International Register of Profiles among the list of ‘who‘s who’ in the CommonWealth of Nations: who’s who in the World 5th Edition, The international who’s who of Intellectuals and who‘s who in Nigeria.
Here in your home country, you won an array of honours as a recipient of several Prestigious Awards and medals as one of the most distinguished Nigerians that ever lived.
As a young boy, we learnt you rose from grass to grace to become a world celebrated Icon in the intellectual world with your enrolment for elementary education at Christ Church School, Ilaro, Ogun State (1939 and 1947) and subsequently secondary education at Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos, between 1948 and 1953.
Your outstanding performance and insatiable quest for higher knowledge took you to the University College, Ibadan, where you studied Classics and English in the Faculty of Arts and graduated between in 1961.
Thereafter, you proceeded to Trinity College University of Dublin, Ireland, for a Higher Diploma in Education from 1962 to 1963. You then capped it all with a Master’s and Doctorate degrees in African Languages at the University of Lagos (1969-1974) where you rose to become a Professor in 1987.
Within a limited space of time, you became an expert in the Yoruba language and wrote a number of novels in the mother tongue. And all through your career in academics, you towered above your peers.
Up to date, your contributions to the field of knowledge remain a quick reference point. Your numerous works constitute a rich storehouse of values for the entire humanity and the Yoruba race in particular.
From your popular “Oluwa l’o M’ejo da” to “Kekere Ekun”, “Olaore Afotejoye”, “Ayanmo”, “Ewi Orisirisi”, “Iwe Asa Ibile Yoruba”, “Asa Yoruba”, “Ijinle Ede ati Litireso”, among several others, you represented an embodiment of the Yoruba ethos of good virtues aptly encapsulated in the concept of Omoluabi.
In Yoruba mythology, an Omoluabi represents the highest recognition of the honour of good behaviour award and is unequalled to no other laurel.
For those of us you left behind, your life, your track record of dedication to duty, and your excellent performance as a renowned Scholar and as a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will continue to serve as an illuminating light in our today’s rapidly changing world where material wealth is fast replacing the old standard measure of achievements.
We hold you in high esteem for your candour, forthrightness, kindness, and purposeful leadership. All these reflected in your kind of person as a man of many parts. You became famous in life not by accident of history, place of birth, parental advantage, or other extraneous circumstances.
You conquered the world through your commitment to hard work, persistence, perseverance, and untiring fighting spirit. You became great in life through your combined academic prowess as well as your uncompromising attitude to excellence.
You excelled at the peak of your profession through courageous hard work, diligence, and exceptional brilliance. You died a great and fulfilled man and you are greater in death. That greatness is the reason we continue to celebrate you.
We learned from your life history that you stamped your footprints on the sands of time in 1954 when you began your productive services to nation-building at the Federal Ministry of Health with your engagement as a third-class clerk. Your subsequent elevation and redeployment to the Account section of Federal Laboratory Service, Yaba, Lagos, was a testimony of your distinction.
Your distinguished track records of service at the University of Lagos as a lecturer in the School of African and Asian Studies where you rose to become a full Professor in 1987 further confirmed the strength of your character as an achiever of no mean guile.
“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit (guile),” says Psalm 32:2. You equally earned your place among the pantheon of heroes of our democracy by playing the forefront role in the peaceful resolution of the June 12 imbroglio.
As a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), you stood firm on the principles of fairness, equity, and justice. You vehemently opposed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election won by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and joined the struggle for the restoration of democracy at the risk of your life.
Your foray into politics following your retirement from your academic career and your election into the Senate representing Ogun West on the platform of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) was to, therefore, contribute your quota to humanity.
Regrettably, you left us for the great beyond when the people of your Constituency needed your further mentoring and leadership most.
You are no more with us but the fond memories of your life, time, and legacies will continue to live with us forever. As encomiums continue to pour in torrents, we will continue to commit ourselves to honouring your legacy by rallying around the ideals you represented for the benefit of humanity. We will continue to carry the torch you had passed to all of us as we say Adieu, Professor Afolabi Atanda Olabimtan.