By Abdullahi O.Haruna Haruspice
Man in his hope, desires what is good, but only through action can man create what he desires. Through the enduring vicissitude of life, one man stood tall to fashion an ideal way of living predicated on a clear sense of direction, forthrightness, honesty, and fairness. He stood to reason as a being, to think in of things in mystic terms, and convinced the truth in purity.
He deprived his body to satisfy his mind by thinking collectively rather than individualistic. In the search for knowledge and in 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 bears on high value does not hang on him on the temporary contest but dwells in him on permanent contracts.
Judge him not as he appears before your eyes, but see him as he manifests the value of his inner realm. He found more value in knowledge and this inspired his admiration for things of enduring value.
In the course of his journey from childhood to adulthood, his beliefs are related to natural principles and this guided his fate and predicted his destiny. Until you meet him then you will know, that what goes out of him to mould others supersede the measure of that which comes back to him in material reward.
Professor Femi Odekunle attached his existence to the course of his intellect and makes his decisions on the platter of logic, projecting his expectation of subsequent consequence in advantage rather than the drive towards uncertainty and possible regret.
He is a great man of risk who took the path of providence as the judge of men. He focused his thought and engaged his mind in search of defining the purpose of life. The reason he lives spread beyond biological fulfillment.
The doing of good or bad is what professor Odekunle cannot reconcile to what is right or wrong; this contraction provoked his mind to wander in search of answers to question that many feared to ask. Is the crown on the head of a king not made by the hands of men? Who is born to be a slave or a master? Who is born to follow and not to lead?
This daring inquisitions pitched him against the many formidable forces in the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria hegemonic clout and his time as the Special Adviser/Chairman, Advisory Committee to General Oladipo Diya in the Abacha government which led him to become the first Professor to be tried by a Special Military Tribunal for Treason and Conspiracy to Commit Treason, each punishable with death by firing squad; fortunately, he is also the first to be accused and tried for “coup-plotting” but be completely discharged and acquitted on both counts by the tribunal.
In the material sense, this man may not be wealthy but you cannot deny him his many goodwills which cut across all facets of life. There is no student that passed through the faculty of social sciences of the Ahmadu Bello University that does not hold him in great reverence because this man is not only a teacher but a friend of excellence, hard work, and creativity.
His manifest sincerity, earnestness, impressive oratory, gentle nature, and charming personality have endeared him to people, particularly the student community who respects and adores him in absolute affection to the envy of some of his colleagues.
From my first year in the university, I made it a duty to always attend his classes, even though I was a student of Mass Communication and rejoiced at his solicitude for the students and the latter’s respect for him.
Unlike other lecturers, his affection for students was pure and unselfish. The characters of this phenomenon had always whetted my appetite for undergoing the study of his life, unapologetically.
A startling quality that endeared me to this phenomenal is his impeccable honesty. This he exhibited in the highest degree of self trust and confidence. Prof’s smartness, responsiveness, honesty, forthrightness, and rationality in expression were moulded from childhood, and to this present day, there are still his guiding references in life.
A near case of Prof’s honest manifestation was in the 1980s when he organized the First Anti-corruption Conference in Nigeria where he brought together not only people in government but petty traders on the streets to address the issue of corruption.
After the conference, he audited his account and returned the unspent money back to the government. This rare act angered some people in government who felt he had committed an abominable act by returning what was supposed to be shared! Out of mischief, this group went to Professor Ango Abdullahi, who was ABU’s Vice-Chancellor to express their displeasure over Odekunle’s holier than thou posture.
And Ango in his usual forthright judgment berated the group thus; “you can accuse Odekunle of anything, certainly not with fraud. Go back and verify your claims. What you are supposed to do is to show your appreciation to this man who risked his health to put together this conference”.
One permanent characteristic of Prof is the fact that he is susceptible to controversial issues which in most cases resulted from his persistence for justice, fairness and common sense, which in normal human behavior is a royal attribute uncommon in a society where corruption, nepotism, favoritism and self centeredness has eaten deep into the hearts of the people.
His courage against his adversaries and stubborn resolve to ensure the right thing is done has stimulated the growth of an epic and transformed him from just someone living but to a legend. There is no doubting the obvious that Prof has created a culture in us that will be an indelible imprint on the Nigerian imagination.
In bringing all these to considerations, Odekunle in his ride to intellectual creativity and excellence is founded on the intricate pedestal of peculiarity, creamed in a deviated pattern of social behavior that is rooted in personal conviction rather than popular notion or general perception of what is, to what ought to be.
Femi Odekunle, a man of liberal principle and intellectual curiosity took the monumental stride of his life when in July 1974 he adventurously “jumped” bond to become a lecturer in the department of sociology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Like the legend of old and the story of wishes, he was faced with the choice of three job offers, between the University of Lagos where urbanization defined the mark of civilization, the University of Ibadan where Femi’s mark of intellectual creativity was set and put to bond, and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where intellectual heritage was reconciling national ideology by the virtue of cultural relativism.
But he opted for A.B.U Zaria based on a positive perception that northerners were honest and straight forward as it were during the era of the Late Ahmadu Bello.
Educated at the University of Ibadan, and Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA in Sociology. Odekunle returned to Nigeria in 1974 after two years of teaching Criminology and Sociology at the Lincoln University, USA.
Swiftly, He started the training of Criminology in ABU, Zaria where he rose through sheer handwork to a full professor in 1985 and meritoriously served as Faculty Sub-Dean; head of Department, Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences; Senate –elected Member of the Governing Council of A.B.U, and Government appointed Member of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos.
The thrust of Odekunle’s academic and professional career have covered teaching, research and publications, policy-advice, and community service mostly in the areas of sociology of law, crime and delinquency prevention, and control; victims of crime; policing and law –enforcement; courts and justice-administration; prisons and correction of offenders all considered in the context of social-economic and political development.
Prof this honour is coming in recognition of your long record of public services as a teacher, crusader, a very dependable friend, impeccable and inspiring mentor, and a true nationalist.
As you add another golden year into your blissful existence, we wish to appreciate your symbolic intellectual, educating, ethical, transparent and spiritual life. We appreciate your comprehensive national figure embolden in impeccable national outlook.
We shall continue to follow your footsteps because they are just worthy of emulating. You represent a perfect reference guide to us and from the fountain of your legacy shall form our foundation in the true governance of this nation.
This is a sincere tribute for character, integrity, transparency, straightforwardness/boldness, reliability, hard-work, and socio-political commitment to justice, fairness and equity as he turns 73 years on mother earth. Happy birthday, Prof, your legacy shall be the pride of our generation.
Abdullahi O.Haruna Haruspice, former President of the National Association of Social Science Students, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria wrote in from Abuja.
Additional notes from Vincent Unogwu