Dr. Adeleke Adewole, a lecturer in the Department of History, Osun State University, Ikire campus has penned a tribute to the late UNIOSUN lecturer, Dr Ogunmika Oparah who died after a brief illness. Read the tribute below as posted on his official facebook page:
Dr Ogumika Oparah: A Eulogy for a close Friend.
Writing a eulogy for a close friend and colleague can be extremely difficult. Composing a narrative for the dead is somewhat mournful and grief-stricken. Today marks the eighth day when our friend and colleague transited to the great beyond. He slept on the day of the Lord. I had pondered and wondered day by day about this gem lost for all future time by my dear department. In my intense sorrow, I came out with this panegyric to serve as a posthumous honour for a fallen hero who I met for the first time ever in 2018 when I finally returned from my study journey outside Nigeria. We came closer, worked together and understood each other most intimately. During the short period he spent with us, Oparah wholeheartedly did his quota of work in the development of the Department of History and International Studies, Osun State University.
I regarded Ogumika Oparah as a ‘complete’ Nigerian. He was born and bred in Ibadan by an Ibo father from Imo State and a Yoruba mother from Ibadan, Oyo State. He was married to a Northerner from Nassarawa State. Oparah spoke much to me about ‘Aunty Funmilayo’ as he affectionately called his own mother on how the Ibadan-born woman rubbed much of Yoruba culture and traditions on him. Oparah spoke the Ibadan dialect of Yoruba Language. Despite his upbringing and life in the West, he frequented ‘home’ in the East. This became necessary especially when responsibility beckoned on him early in life to become a head of the extended family due to the early death of his father and him being the first born of the family. During his life time, he also paid regular visits to the North to salute his in-laws. Within two months before his death, he visited the East twice to arrange for the burial of some departed relations.
He loved his family to a fault. He talked lovely about his widow who he said was very supportive.
He had distinct future plans for each of their children. We discussed and planned together how his two eldest children would have university education abroad. He was successful in getting the necessary papers for them; one to study in the United States and the other in Russia. The two boys were getting ready to go when the coronavirus pandemic started. I gave him an affectionate name, ‘Ogbuefi.’ He was delighted being so called. What a committed family man!
A man of peace. He was troubled to be at loggerheads with anyone. To Ogbuefi, getting involved in a quarrel or feud with someone was an anathema, an object of loathing. At the highest point of provocation, he simply smiled it off. He thus lived his life based on the Biblical injunction of following peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). An example will suffice here. In the recent past, some of my colleagues in our College including Ogbuefi and I were niggled to emotion on the controversy surrounding the payment of the withheld November 2018 salary. Ogbuefi did not push. He was all smiles and assured me that the money would be paid one day. Alas, he did not live to collect his own portion of the money to spend when it is paid someday.
After a dispute resolution meeting (for the love of our dear department) earlier this year, a renowned Professor who hardly knew Oparah listened attentively to me when I rolled out to him who Ogbuefi was. The Professor took much more interest in him thereafter. As human life is often interwoven with incredulity and fun, Oparah was a jokester and a nurturer, but had a way of drowning his sorrows like every other man has. His chosen style of drowning his fears to forget the source his sadness may be a weakness on his own part, but this is human. If God should mark iniquities, who shall stand? To his students, he was a fosterer who taught with little academic verbiage; to his colleagues, a jokester and a warm-hearted fellow.
An erudite scholar who taught his students animatedly and enthusiastically. Perhaps the course he taught the best in the postgraduate class was MISS 709: A History of Global Terrorism. His knowledgeability of the course was so vast that I jokingly referred to him as a ‘terrorist.’ His PhD thesis was on an aspect of the Nigerian Civil War. On his research trip, he had to visit some places of horror, intense fear and delight. He visited the war bunker of the Biafran war hero and spent some nights inside it. He was a host to the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Biafran war hero, the Nkemba of Nnewi and the ‘Eze Ndigbo Ogburugburu,’ and his elegant wife, Bianca née Onor in their beautiful country home at Nnewi, Anambra State. He ate with the Ojukwus the food prepared by Bianca personally. Over the meal, he fearfully watched, from afar the two dreadful pythons strategically placed as guards to the entrance of the war veteran’s expansive Nnewi mansion. He reminisced about a company of ostriches adorning the vast estate of the Nkemba. Dr Ogumika Oparah on his research field met the Nkemba eyeballs to eyeballs. He rubbed elbows with the Nkemba of Nnewi and discoursed the Biafran trajectory for the sake of scholarship.
History would have lost Dr Oparah’s academic excellence to the police supposing he was successful in joining the Nigeria Police Force. He failed and came back to the world of academics where he rightly belonged. Shortly after obtaining his second master’s degree, he applied to join the Police Force. After series of screening, he made it to the state level. He was among the candidates representing Imo State for the final screening at the Federal level. At the Kam Salem House headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Lagos, he met Mr Tafa Balogun, a Commissioner of Police who later became the Inspector General. The future I.G. disqualified Oparah with a simple avowal; “with an undergraduate degree in addition to two master’s, you are too qualified to be a policeman in Nigeria, and therefore, I cannot give you the job.”
There lies in the morgue the man who traversed his little corner of the world of academia like a colossus. A dedicated teacher with a high sense of moral rectitude combined with a deep sense of responsibility and academic rigor. A team player with superb interpersonal relations. A man well known for his hard work and resourcefulness. A scholar renowned for his ability for independent research and who demonstrated an admirable zeal for continuous scholarship position. ‘How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!’ It is the LORD that determines when to recall a soul, not mortals.
There is no pontification about that. But had I known that you will fly away so quickly, I would have told you that you were good and pleasant in your life. Everyone morns you. Your lovely family morns you. The Church morns you. JABU morns you. Uniosun morns you. College of Humanities and Culture morns you. Department of History and International Studies morns you. Your students morn you. I morn you. Our adieus are uttered without you hearing them. Good bye!