By Sunny Awhefeada
The profound or genuine essence of our world is embedded in philosophy. Every race or society has a worldview which is lucidly expressed and accepted as part of its given philosophy. Although imperial arrogance as embodied by Europe negated the African worldview, more than enough evidence abound to depict a rich and abiding tradition of thought which is anchored on studied rationality. Among Africans of old as of now are philosophers, poets and prophets. And there were also professors in African universities in Sankore, Fez and Cairo whose unmatched academic wizadry, inventiveness and contributions to civilization became victims of European and Arab invaders many centuries ago.
A significant feature of the African philosophy in its attempt to come to terms with its worldview is the pithy, and at times recondite, manner many an observation of our world is framed and expressed. Proverbs, anecdotes, names and other verbal practices ensure that Africans give a vent to how they apprehend the world and express their anxieties, fears, hopes and aspirations.
The Urhobo people took a ponderous look at death and asked rhetorically, onobrederugwhu which means who fixes appointment with death? Nobody books appointment with death. It is one phenomenon that defies negotiation. Death is an inevitability that will come whenever it wants to. That was why the Urhobo asked the poignant question, onobrederugwhu? That was the general feeling at the Delta State University, Abraka and beyond, when the morning breeze of Wednesday 9 December came with the shocking news of the death of Professor Enamiroro Patrick Oghuvbu who until that fateful morning was the Provost of the Asaba campus of the University. The sudden death of Professor Oghuvbu elicited shock and tears.
An official assignment took me to the Asaba campus two days earlier. The task took a long time to complete and by the time I was done evening was nigh. I debated between going to say hello or taking off since it was no longer wise to travel late in the evening. Another colleague advised I should just say hello to the Provost and leave. I heeded that advice. I got to the Provost’s office in long and quick strides. I met him and he expressed great delight in seeing me. He offered a seat and wanted to call for drinks, but I declined politely citing the late hour and how unsafe it was to travel late. The kind man reached into his pocket, brought out some money and tucked them into my hands for lunch and fuel.
That was on Monday. Then the shock on Wednesday morning that he passed away. It was unbelievable. Sad, as the news was, I felt relieved that I saw him that Monday evening. It was our last and symbolic meeting. As I left his office that evening he said as he often did whenever we met, “please, remember to take care of your boy oo”. And as usual I promised I would not forget. He was referring to his son, Augustine, who is my colleague in the Faculty of Arts.
The Urhobo in their attempt at interrogating human behavior did ask in their naming practice, onoyovwere, who is perfect or entirely good? Professor Oghuvbu was not a perfect man, but the verdict from all who knew him attest to his goodness and refinement of character. He was fair-minded, temperate and very analytical in his handling of issues. At a moment when base, blind and primordial sentiment had the better of some people, Professor Oghuvbu stood to be counted on the side of reason. He saw through people and refused to be swayed by guiles. He was a great encourager who supported people and causes. He detested lies and deviousness as he called a spade a spade.
My encounters with him, many as they were, always gave me something new to learn. His Ukane (Ikale area of Ondo State) experience aligned with those of my parents and grandparents. His parents were among the early Urhobo economic migrants to Ikale just like my grandparents. Like my parents, Professor Oghuvbu was born there. He told me many a story about that experience. What he told me complement what I learnt from my grandmother, parents, uncles and aunts and they have in great measure conditioned my personality. I gave a keynote lecture at a conference some days after his death and my voice betrayed me as I dedicated the lecture to him as a tribute.
Professor Oghuvbu delivered his inaugural lecture on 16 November 2017 and I am reproducing (slightly modified) what I offered as his citation on that day below:
Professor Enamiroro Patrick Oghuvbu, uttered his first earthly cry on the 28th of January 1958 in one of the Urhobo Diaspora communities called Ilutitun now in the Ondo State. Embracing the farm and the classroom, the young Oghuvbu put up remarkably brilliant outings in primary and secondary schools and left nobody in doubt regarding his high academic destiny. A thoroughbred teacher, he obtained the National Certificate in Education (NCE) in Mathematics and Economics from the College of Education, Abraka in 1980, the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) in Mathematics from the University of Benin, Benin-City in 1986, the Master of Education (M. Ed) also from the University of Benin in 1990, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education Administration from the Delta State University, Abraka in 1998.
He became famous as an experienced and effective secondary school Mathematics teacher before joining the services of the Delta State University, Abraka in 1995. His research portfolio is a mix of sublime ideas on the pages of books and journals which reverberate in seminars and conferences across the world. This academic feat earned him a professorship in 2009. Professor Oghuvbu served DELSU in different capacities. As Head of Department, as Director, as member and chairman of committees, as Dean, as member of the University’s Governing Council, Professor Oghuvbu remained a high index achiever. He successfully supervised 17 PhDs and 47 Master’s degree graduates.
He received awards and honours nationally and internationally in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of scholarship and humanity. A member and fellow of over ten distinguished professional associations in Nigeria and across the globe, he was an external examiner to many universities and editor of many highly reputed journals.
Professor Oghuvbu scored many firsts: he was DELSU’s first PhD graduate to become a professor; he was DELSU’s first PhD graduate to become Dean of Faculty; he was DELSU’S first PhD graduate to deliver his inaugural lecture and uniquely with his supervisor as incumbent Vice Chancellor!
His name ENAMIRORO, meaning “these are what I am thinking about”, has significations for Mathematics and Planning, the two phenomena for which he was well known. Professor Oghuvbu was married to Chief (Mrs) Emonena Mercy Oghuvbu and they are blessed with children and children.
How so sad that I now have to modify the citation to refer to Professor Oghubvu in the past tense? We shall all miss him badly. We pray that God should be with his family for he was a great husband, father and more. May his kind and gentle soul rest in peace! Tode ooo…..Akpokedefaooo