The feeling of disdain expressed towards death is not becomes of the mere pain that comes with it but the permanent disconnection it brings between great men and their people. Thinking about the sudden ceased great prowess of these beings will continually increase the pain greatly in those who value progressive change till another cycle of death comes to visit them too. Four years ago (September 16, 2012), the first Faculty of letters in Nigeria was thrown into mourning due to the sudden departure of the then Dean, Kolawole Olu-Owolabi. Even though his painful exit was the third in the series in the Faculty, his was more with greater and cannot be easily forgotten because of the various invaluable roles he played to ensure the development of the Faculty in particular and by extension, the University.
Despite the fact that our immediate society does not encourage scholarship, the late Professor knew that to change the malady, some group of people must consistently struggle for it for the emancipation of others. This undeniable fact made him embrace the quest for knowledge till his sudden departure. Born on 20th May, 1961, Kolawole Aderemi Olu-Owolabi obtained his Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 1980 and by 1983, he graduated from the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos as the best graduating student of his Department. Due to this exceptional display of academic sagacity, the late don was retained by his Department for his National Youth Service programme. By 1989, Professor Kolawole Olu-Owolabi became the first student to defend his Ph.D. thesis in the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos. He joined the University of Ibadan as a Lecturer Grade II in October 1989 and rose through the ranks to become a professor in 2002.
As expected, the late Philosopher discarded the claim that being a professor signifies the end of the road for acquiring knowledge by enrolling in the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University’ Law department to study Law and he graduated with second class, upper division in 2007. Despite his health challenges, the late Philosopher and Lawyer returned to OAU for his Master’s programme in Law and graduated in 2010.
It is worthy to note that Olu-Owolabi committed himself to the development of his society since his childhood as all his academic scholarly submissions are plausible suggestions to how the innumerable political, social, linguistic and environmental problems of his society could be solved. It is so painful that policy-makers and government authorities have not considered it worthy enough to implement any of the suggestions proffered. It is of little wonder he submitted while presenting his inaugural lecture that “my people suffer because of lack of knowledge of philosophy”. Without mincing words, it would be agreed that this is the main cause of Nigeria’s woes; lack of a defined scholarly and empirical stance on policy formulation and implementation. Since amalgamation, each administration that had had the opportunity to govern the land had tried and adopted policies that are not Nigeria-friendly, thereby entrenching our woeful state, this is the reason why the word ‘confused’ has become synonymous to the Nigerian government over the years. To find invaluable partial solutions to the current numerous problems bedevilling the nation, it is time the government fell back to the various philosophical submissions made by the late distinguished scholar.
While mourning the late Professor, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Isaac Folorunsho Adewole commented in the condolence register thus ‘What a monumental loss and too mighty to comprehend. A star has fallen.” Truly, late Professor Aderemi Olu-Owolabi was a great star in the academic world with his high ranked scholarly papers delivered both at the national and international platforms. Even when the call for the fight of corruption was not yet on the high volume in the Nigerian society as witnessed now, the late Professor of philosophy with special interest in epistemology (foundation of knowledge) decided to reminisce on that through his Master’s project work (A Critical Analysis of the Legal Framework for the Management of Corruption in Nigeria) defended at the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in 2010.
As the Dean of Arts, he laid the foundation for the facelift of the Faculty which was built on by his successor after his sudden and unfortunate demise. He was the brains behind the creation of the English Language Clinic in the Faculty, a platform that has positively contributed to the efforts of language scholars in ensuring the correct use of English in our society. The late don had left legacies that will speak for him to eternity behind. Meanwhile, the promise of the Institution to immortalise him will contribute immensely to the invaluable name left behind by the distinguished professor if the promise can be fulfilled at this point in time.