|Friday, December 28, 2018|
n the late 80s, I was a staffer of the University of Lagos, Akoko, Lagos, Nigeria, before I decided to further seek knowledge in the citadel of learning. Through the inspiration of people like Professor Sophie Oluwole, I knew that nothing in the cockpit or cocoon of determination is unbreakable and unachievable if you are willed or determined to break the jinx!
Once upon a time, it was one of the good old days in the chilling and dry wind at the University of Lagos. The dry wind is also known as harmattan in the tropical region of Nigeria. The weather was harshly cold and unfriendly. As the cold wind blew intermittently from the northeastern seaboard of the University in the beautiful morning of December, 1993, the new students including this writer were scampering to get ready for the first lecture ever, on our journey to becoming members of the literati or intellectual community.
The course for that day was General African Studies, coded GST 101. The lecture was held at one of the vast amphitheaters of the University. The huge and brand new class was to be lectured by a Professor of Philosophy unknown to some jambites being conscripted into the academic environment. In a jiffy, with no African time, the smart and disciplined female lecturer surfaced with her unique and ebullient voice. As she introduced herself as Professor Sophie Oluwole from the Philosophy Department, her bouncy and audible voice was embellished with her noticeable nervy status. The uncontrollable noisy and rowdy class (students) suddenly became quiet and cocooned in their rookie season of expectations.
The agile professor of the University of Lagos was always a dandy woman in ankara, tailored in iro and buba outfits to compliment the African and Yoruba cultural heritage. As a former staffer of the Unilag bookshop, Professor Sophie Oluwole's intellectual image and presence anytime she came to buy or window shop for books at Unilag Bookshop had always infatuated my intellectual curiosity and insatiable quest for education.
The professor's mien, if you, ordinarily as a man, you don't understand it can intimidate or rattle your masculinity. Professor Oluwole was a cynosure of all eyes in the university community. "Mamalawo" as she was popularly called in the literary circles, was Arogidigba (a timber and caliber) in the academic community. Her voice and disposition commanded respect among all her contemporaries in the unique University of Lagos environment.
Interestingly, University of Lagos dwells in the metropolitan Lagos. Unilag is strategically located in the circumference and confluence of some inhabitants in the suburbs of Akoka. It is virtually the only university in Nigeria bestowed with uncommon sociological principles and psychedelic learnings. Unilag is second to none! When Unilag coughed in those days, other universities usually caught colds in various forms. In those good old days, Unilag was popularly known as the "only University and others" in Nigeria! Lol! Up till today, in spite of the mercantilism of religious and private ventures in Nigerian education sector, Unilag has maintained the coagulation or coalition of its impeccable professors with incredible credentials.
To obtain admissions into Unilag is a dream come true, and it's like winning Visa lottery to America! The late Prof. Sophie Oluwole's intellectual acuity was a reflection of the University's exceptionalism, and one of the intellectual representations of the University of Lagos. Prof. Oluwole's proficiency in cultural and social nuances contributed to the uniqueness and exceptionalism of the University of Lagos. Great Akokite you would say!
Prof. Oluwole was a pan-Africanist. Some of her wailing students even christened her as Iya Aje (witchcraft) because of her incorruptible and disciplined persona. She was extremely versed in African culture and history. Mama Sophie Oluwole was a traditionalist and an African cultural renaissance. "Iya Aje" Sophie was an African sophist and a philosopher queen who would effortlessly dissect the nitty-gritty of African religion and tradition.
The Late Prof. Sophie Oluwole was the first female doctorate degree holder in philosophy in Nigeria. She was a vintage and astute practitioner of Yoruba philosophy. An ambassador and a cultural icon who inspired everyone with special interest in Yoruba mythology. Mama Oluwole had a unique way of beautifully expressing her beliefs in our cultural and traditional religion. Mama's suggestion for our political office holders to swear with Ogun-the god of Iron sent jitters to the spines of these children of corruption in Nigeria! With trepidation, our politicians ignored the 'big idea.' Instead, they prefer to pseudo-swearing with the holy books, and the balkanization of the Quran and Bible! But the only thing our politicians are existentially answerable to is Karma, which mama's prescription for the consequences of corruption! Karma has always been their inescapable reality!
Mama was an ideal Nigerian intellectual and a quintessential sophist who relished in her beliefs, traditions and mores! She will be great missed by those who have read or met her vintage person! Mama's extemporaneous responses to issues of education, religion and other social nuances will be archived in the national library and our universities. She will be sorely missed and greatly mused!
It is pertinent to use this medium to express our condolences to Mama's family; colleagues in the global academic community, and the entire University of Lagos staffers and students.The literary community has lost a woman with spacious reasoning and a cultural icon!
Goodnight to our amiable sophist, and the "Mamalawo" of Yoruba cultural anthropology!
May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace!
Yahaya Balogun wrote from Arizona, USA.
Late Prof. Sophie Oluwole