Akinjogbin’s demise: Ojo Ade seeks better deal for retired professors
Emeritus professor at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland, US, Femi Ojo Ade, has made a case for old Nigerian professors, saying they deserve a better and longevity-friendly deals in retirement.
In an interview with our correspondent, Ojo Ade, who was recently on a visit to Nigeria, spoke against the backdrop of the recent death of revered professor of History at the Obafemi Awolowo University (then University of Ife ), Ile Ife, Osun State, the late Adeagbo Akinjogbin.
While extolling the virtue of Akinjogbin as an erudite scholar of African history and a ‘genuine Yoruba elder’, the professor of French said that the deceased was a victim of the kind of neglect that, he noted, retired professors were usually subjected to in Nigeria.
“Professor Akinjogbin retired, and he was forgotten. This is an example of what happens to academics in this country,” Ojo Ade said.
According to him, even when such a retired professor is engaged on contract by some universities, he is usually over-laboured.
He also recalled the death of oral literature expert, Prof. Oyin Ogunba, who, he added, still had a lot to do at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, where he worked upon retiring from OAU.
He explained that, as was obtainable in the US, a retired professor at such a level should be strategically used.
“For instance, he should not be reduced to the level of a full time conventional teacher – what new universities tend to do,” he said.
“As you find in a place like the US , a retired professor is a treasure. The best way to use him is in research capacity, mentorship, international linkages and agreements with other universities. That won’t overtax them; it will preserve them. It is out of lack of appreciation of what a retired professor is that you have him being confronted with a plethora of tasks.”
Ojo Ade, author of numerous literary and non-literary works, said the problem recurred in the way the old academics are treated while wanting to collect payment due to them. “I know of ex-vice chancellors who are made to line up with others to collect pension. At times, some fall down and die. So, ours is a society where even elders at that level are not respected.”
Recalling the days of both deceased scholars at Ife, he noted that they were thoroughbred and exceedingly committed scholars. Although Akinjogbin was older than Ogunba, he added, both were part of a generation that always enthroned merit. “They, including Prof. Wande Abimbola, were like the founding members. In those days, to choose a dean, they had a way of playing down elections to eschew challenges of competitive voting. It was like a rotational thing, because by the time they got to voting level, there was unanimity. And it was a very effective system - perhaps something that had got to do with Yoruba culture.”
Although Ojo Ade is formally retired from St. Mary, he is working on contract basis in The Gambia, still for the institution. There, he is coordinating the Programme for Educational and Cultural Exchange between Maryland College and the University of Gambia . Ojo Ade, however, conceded that he was eager to return finally to Nigeria . The scholar, who recently had a one-year sabbatical with the University of Lagos intends to join a Nigerian university with which he has, according to him, started discussing.
“I still believe one feels better and more fulfilled as a human being, when one is close to home than being elsewhere,” he said.
“I don’t have to assess my achievements abroad myself. That is better done by others. But if one had not contributed significantly, I don’t think one would have been made an emeritus professor. I feel quite satisfied and fulfilled by the humble contributions that I have made teaching abroad. Yet, the other side of one keeps on reminding one that whatever one is doing for young ones outside, one can do the same for one’s people at home. And I will feel psychologically better doing so, as, I believe, our students at home also need contributions of people like me.”