“Professor of Professors”, “Mentor of Mentors”, “Baba Awon Engineers”, “Waterloo Mafian”, “Imperial Master”, “The Proud Molusian”, are some of the sobriquets you would hear friends and mentees call Prof Ayodele Francis Ogunye, each one for very good reasons or stories.
It is today July 31, 2022 he actually attains 80 years on earth.
Last Tuesday and yesterday, however, the drums were rolled out. I cannot say for sure who and who rolled out all those versions of drums I saw or felt, but they all had the imprimatur of my subject matter.
On Tuesday, prices and awards for scholarship and research were given and a colourful Book Launch followed all that at the Ade Ajayi Auditorium of the University of Lagos. I was there.
Yesterday, friends, family, and well-wishers of the celebrant worshiped with him at his church in Japara, Ijebu-Igbo and later ‘jollificated’ (choose your spelling) with him at the Omo-Ilu hall in the same town. It was a typical Ijebu-standard ‘jollification’ and you needed to be there to know it. I was there.
The book launch was classic. Many went with plans to buy at least one copy to read a jolly good fellow’s account of his story but we all went away getting a copy free of charge; and that was for all the over 500 of us who came. The attendance was crème de la crème of academics, business, tradition and the youth.
The book: TRIALS, TRIUMPHS AND LEGACY is appropriately titled through and thorough, at least for the stories we have heard long before the book came to life.
Here is a man whose circumstances of birth were mysterious. Please find out. One young Academic who established a department of chemical engineering at 31 years of age, became professor at 36, and was sacked at 38, along with five other professors. He went to Court, all through to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, obtained justice for himself, returned to his job, retired at 53 and donated all his earnings on salaries, gratuities and pension for life into a Foundation for the same University that sacked him. The University later honoured him with a DSc. honoris causa. So tell me how else the book would have been titled.
I have not read my copy but it is my hope that the book tells all the stories that we have heard about the enigma that Prof Ayo Francis Ogunye is.
Although I graduated from the University of Lagos, Prof Ogunye (then Dr.) did not meet me in the Faculty as I had finished three months ahead of his coming to establish the department of chemical engineering in August 1973. I however heard a lot about him especially at the time of his travails with the Unilag goons who hated his guts, gave him a bloody nose, but later ate their vomit. By the time I met him in 2012 he was, as President, only inducting me into the Fellowship of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering where I quickly grew to see him as a fatherfigure of sorts.
At such close quarters, I dare say we have seen in Prof AFO a Teacher of Teachers, a giant academic, an astute industrialist, a Mayor of local tradition, a good family man, and an engineer of exemplary qualities.
In biblical dimension, Prof Ogunye has travelled to old age. We join all men of goodwill in wishing him more years of service, to God and to man, in good health and in dimensions that are as very large as his heart is.
Happy birthday Prof.