The news came like a raging fire in the dusk of 27th August 2003, precisely ten years ago that Afolabi Atanda, Son of Pa Thomas Ojelabi, the Poet had passed away at the ripe age of 71. From the seat of power in Abuja to the periphery of Ogun State and the entire Yewaland, People from all walks of life came to pay condolence visits to Olabimtan family and to salute the exit of a prominent Scholar, Great teacher of language and culture, Nationalist and political leader of repute: a man who has done much for his people, to the Ivory tower and for his Country.
Inside this main auditorium of the Cathedral Church of Christ, Ona nla, Ilaro the same place where you were Baptised and named Emmanuel we celebrated your life and your glorious exit from our midst since we have the conviction that you died a great and fulfilled man; your lifeless body was laid in a beautiful casket under the watchful eyes of members of your immediate family, there was a long roll of Bishops and Clergymen and a congregation of the body of Christ consisting your old school mates, Government Delegates, your colleagues at the National Assembly led by the Deputy Senate President, your political friends with whom you served the State and the Nation meritoriously, your colleagues from the Ivory tower and the people of Yewaland your immediate community where you were a leading leader. We all came to give you a well deserved last respect.
There at your graveside we watched helplessly as that beautiful casket was lowered down to complete your earthly journey to the great beyond: an indication that you have actually returned to the dust.From the pulpit and by different speakers we were reminded of your humble and modest beginning as a pupil at the famous Christ Church School, Ilaro and an Arabic Scholar under one Alfa Bello before proceeding to the renowned Methodist Boys High School (MBHS), Lagos between 1948 and 1953. You were at the University College Ibadan in 1958 where you studied Classics and English in the Faculty of Arts and graduated in 1961.
You were at the Trinity College, University of Dublin, Republic of Ireland for a Higher Diploma in Education in 1963. You were at University of Lagos for Higher Degrees of Master’s and Doctorate in 1971 and 1974 respectively while you later rose to become a Professor in 1987.Now it is history but we were told how you, Afolabi Son of Madam Sarah Oyindamola Aduke, the hair weaver excelled to the peak of your profession through courageous hard work, diligence and exceptional brilliance. Your footprints on the sands of labour market and productive services to Nation building began to manifest from the Federal Ministry of Health in 1954 as a third class clerk.
Your redeployment to the Account section of Federal Laboratory Service, Yaba was a deserved elevation having passed the confirmation test with distinction. Your track records of service at MBHS were part of your epilogue of too numerous achievements which brought the Department of Arts to its greater heights before you joined University of Lagos as a lecturer in the School of African and Asian Studies in 1969 where you rose to become a full Professor in 1987.Of course, the history of your life can not be complete without a celebration of your loving wife and the gift of three wonderful children that had multiplied good fruits in the Olabimtan genealogy; Afolabi the husband of Olubunmi Ejide “coy”.
The father of Olufolabi, Adeolu and Olaolu. With that loving memory of the nuptial knot tied on December 28, 1961 at St Peter UNA Church Odi Olowo, Mushin, Lagos you went into adulthood with the woman you described in your auto biography as “one in a million” Chief Mrs Comfort Olubunmi Ejide Olabimtan (Nee Olurinde). I wish you are here to also read Mama’s response to that beautiful toast you proposed then when she said “ I Bunmi “ Ejide” describe ‘Folabi as “ one in a billion”. That was Mama’s deepest reflection of you after you had departed her to your present glorious home above.
It is also in the annals of history and in your credits that you had contributed immensely to knowledge at the Ivory Tower as a dynamic and Astute Scholar, you have held many positions of responsibilities with resounding successes. Your socio cultural orientation has reflected your kind of person as a man of many parts. Your coming into politics after your retirement from service no doubt raised your status enviably but it was also an avenue for you to contribute your quota to humanity.
All these had made it possible for you in your lifetime to be listed among who‘s who in the Common Wealth of Nations: International Register of Profiles, who ’s who in the World 5th Edition, The international who ’s who of Intellectuals and who ‘s who in Nigeria. Indeed your worthy contributions in all human endeavours were age long: and so while other prophets were without honours in their homes yours was with array of honours as you were a recipient of several Prestigious Awards and medals as one of the Distinguished Nigerians that ever lived. From the glossary of history, we know you to be a prolific writer , a poet, a literary icon, a great Awoist, and a former Senator of the Federal Republic.
In your biography we read the story of a young Ilaro boy who rose from grass to grace to become a world acknowledged Scholar, you provided the silver spoon for your meals through hard works, doggedness and resourcefulness. Through all these, you became famous and great in life but greater in death. In fact you have a trademark to the admiration of your teeming disciples who now refer to your literary works as references in the study of languages and classics and in the law books of the Federal Republic as a serving Senator between 1999 and 2003.
How can we forget that your rich socio cultural exploits in the intellectual wildernesses was part of your inheritance from the famous Thomas Ojelabi Adio , that great Efe and Agasa singer from Ekerin compound in Ilaro: An Intellectual in Social ,moral and language development who through his proverbial coated chants described incidents and events in the community. Ojelabi the great poet “ who sings 400 songs daily”.
Of course you died a honourable man and at the time the People of your Constituency needed your further mentoring and leadership most. You were an Elder Statesman; highly referred and respected. You were in the forefront of the peaceful resolution of the crisis that engulfed our nation to usher-in this present Democratic arrangement we are all enjoying today.
At a time when our Dear Nation was in serious crisis over the annulment of the popular June 12 1993 election and incarceration of our Own Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the election you stood firm as one of the numerous Yoruba leaders in defence of true democracy, Our gentle and loving Papa, your contributions to the building of modern day Nigeria is remarkable and laudable. That you have not been adequately recognised and given a National Honour in recognition of your contributions to the Unity, integrity, Educational advancement and political development of Nigeria would probably have been an oversight on the part of the Federal Government and Ogun State Government.
As we remember you today, we re-affirm that we love you so much. We bid you goodbye to Ilaro, your homeland and place of your birth. We bid you goodbye to Yewaland whose interest you always fought hard to protect. We bid you farewell to Ogun State your noble State which you aspired gallantly to serve for optimum development. We bid you farewell to the Ivory Tower which you nurtured so well through your brilliant writings and researches.
We bid you farewell to the political family of the Late Sage Obafemi Awolowo where you were a titan. We bid you farewell to the Federal Republic where you were an Icon of peace, good leadership and transparent political values. Continue to rest in peace in the bossom of your Lord Jesus Christ who had made you perfect with His Resurrection on the Cross.
Adieu Professor Emmanuel Afolabi Atanda Olabimtan.
Written ten years ago by Dapo Oke, Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.