By Abdullahi Haruna Haruspice
Something happened recently in Minna, the capital of Niger State, it was the commissioning of a building complex (one of the ones funded) named after a late cerebral -humorous and radical First Professor of Criminology in Nigeria, Professor Femi Odekunle at the Federal University of Technology, Minna.
Here is the news; the late sage personally attracted the funding of projects as the Pro- chancellor through the TETFUND intervention initiative fund. The law permits a 10% commission for anyone who attracts such intervention funds.
The fund was Six Billion Naira in total, so by calculations, the Prof was entitled to 10% of the N6billion and the university was ready to pay him. Guess what? Professor Femi Odekunle, the mystery of time refused his legally entitled commission and dashed it to the university to add to any area of needs!!!
That was Femi Odekunle for you, radically controversial, difficult to understand, and inimitable in principles. What would make a man not worth a 50 million naira in his account reject Six Hundred Million Naira at a time others are killing themselves over hundreds of naira?
As a Pro-chancellor, he couldn’t even earn 5million but on his knees is a whopping 600million begging to be received yet the man shocked everyone with this unimaginable gesture by refusing to collect the money.
This wasn’t the first time this man would display such a rare attribute of impeccable resolve of contentment.
In 1979, when he organized the First Anti-Corruption Conference in Nigeria, he returned unspent money to the government coffers- a move that pitched him against some civil servants who felt he had no right returning money already approved and released. Until his death, he never had anything to do with civil servants (in what sense) as that experience left a hole of shock in him.
Femi Odekunle lived a life of mystery that it takes a deeper thinker to understand who he was. He stood to reason as a being, he thought of things in mystic terms and was convinced of their truth in purity. He deprived his body to satisfy his mind.
In the search for knowledge and the practice of wisdom, he faced the challenges of unusual contradictions common only to those who seek the truth in form and order, drawing analysis on the way things appear and the way they really are. The character he bore in high value didn’t hang on him on the temporary contest but dwell in him on a permanent contract.
In all his 78 years on mother earth, where he had interacted with human forces, held positions of institutional reckoning never for once was he accused or indicted for any misdemeanor or official dereliction, he lived above the attractions of material gains to sustain the estate of contentment where integrity was his compass.
He had the chance to be stupendously rich in material acquisitions but chose the path of modesty- for life, in his estimation was a fleeting passage of time built on the feeble foundation of vanity.
The riches he craved for were the ones that come with value, character, and integrity- these he worked tirelessly for all his life. Trying to also instill them in the lives of those who came in contact with him.
Today, wherever he is, he lives in fulfillment because one of the products of his school of life in contentment -Oluwatoyin Odekunle is recreating the virtues of the late irrepressible professor. Shortly after he died, his widow was delivered a parcel that happened to be an allocation of land in one of the highbrow areas in the FCT.
It was a promise to her late husband, and Mrs. Oluwatoyin shocked the man that brought the gift when she refused to collect it. her reason was the man that needed it was no more as there was really no need for it anymore.
Why take what you don’t need, she argued. The gesture she reasoned, be kept or given to those who are in desire of it. Stupefied was the man that he was in shock and teary. That was Odekunle living in his wife, he would have done the same! The apple is never far from the tree.
Professor Bala Abdullahi, Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna couldn’t hold back tears (when told to make a speech) by the representative of President Muhammadu Buhari in the person of the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba while commissioning the building complex named after the professor.
Professor Femi Odekunle dotted this wall map of Nigeria’s history with very unimaginable traces, filling gaps left hollow and setting standards hard to break. He lived in contradictions of time and reality, he did what was considered weird because of his defiant dispositions to popular norms.
Would they be another Odekunle in this time defined by greed again? Only time shall tell.