“They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing thy righteousness ” – Psalm 145-7
It is five years today that the mother earth, unperturbed by the drenching warm tears of thousands, received the lifeless body of a great man, a good man snatched by the cold and cruel hands of death!
Now it is time to stop grieving but relish in spreading the gospel and thank God over the death of a father, teacher, friend and mentor like-no-other, because he lives on even in our memory.
To a multitude of doctors across the world, Awojobi was a source of inspiration and as such a messiah of some sort with die-hard desciples, whom a colleague who did not have the wonderful opportunity of meeting the colossus of Eruwa, described as ” a cult-like followership”. This is borne our of the reciprocal love and respect we have for a truly great leader we found in Awo J, the architect, builder, engineer of and the force behind Awojobi Clinic, Eruwa(ACE).
I am the 3rd of the desciples. My predecessors were the late Olumide Awe and Niyi Adekola(Ade K). I make bold to say that no one, living or dead has had so much impact on my life as much as Chief, as we called him in our days at ACE. To us, Awojobi was comparable to a saint; a lanky, courageous man with unmatchable intellect and a mighty voice but with heart of gold.
Beyond the rubrics of primary surgery, Awo J taught me to be humble. He was an embodiment of humility. Apart from his rather strange decision to pitch his tent with the lowly and agrarian community of Eruwa, it is an uncommon situation to find a consultant of his stature sharing peanuts and popcorn in between surgical sessions with senior house officers that we were. “Eyin janmo”, Chief would call us like an Imam addressing his congregation! He would otherwise call me “Windy”.
Even as a workaholic, he taught me the essence of vacation as a time to ‘recharge my battery’.
Awo J also told me to be relevant in my environment by giving back to the society.
Awojobi established ACE to render the most uncommon service which now serves the whole world one way or the other. It is interesting to know that 80% of the patients attending ACE are from Lagos-the distance, and bad roads are not enough to deter them from accessing the uncommon service made available and affordable with application of appropriate technology.
Awojobi refused to be frustrated by the inadequacies and shortcomings of the society. This and his uncommon love for the common man form the mission of ACE. With the resounding and acclaimed success of ACE, Awojobi, expectedly, became irritated by the inactions of the society especially of his colleagues. And why not? Eruwa and its environs were in darkness for the better part of a decade and ACE, rather than suffer any setback , grew in leaps and bounds to become a Mecca of some sort!
His proddings, often misunderstood and misconstrued, sometimes abrasive are unimpeachable. His advice, pronouncements and contributions to issues are prophetic.
Despite his scientific disposition and a genius that he was, Awojobi had an unparalleled respect for the Yoruba culture and tradition and he would unrepentantly defend it. His appreciation and worship of the Yoruba forefathers and their unparalleled wisdom are instructive and worthy of emulation. Awojobi, it was, who taught me that the best religion is service to mankind and one’s community. He virtually prepared me for my current role as a royal servant leader!
Awojobi, a true Yoruba man, the uncrowned “Omoluabi” was a good man, a kind-hearted man whose love for the poor is missionary. There is no medical practice that is like ACE where patients only pay when they are discharged – an uncommon practice indeed and in truth. His grossly misunderstood fight against ‘Surgical Turf Protection’ was purely in defence of the common man vis a vis the surgical work load and how to deal with it.
Awojobi, highly principled and
painstaking, was a man of many enviable values he would not compromise for anything. A man of impeccable character; detailed records, and accountability were his watchwords. His integrity was never in doubt and would defend it with the last drop of his blood; and so he did till the end. He fought corruption in medical practice ferociously even among his closest associates.
A valiant he was in every respect and like a valiant he died. He could afford the service of the best hands in the field of medicine and I’m convinced beyond doubt that any of such hands would be very happy and willing to attend to this giant of medical profession. In his characteristic self, Awo J stood by what he believed in – the ACE family and spirit. As I listened to his fainting but coherent voice, holding his cold hand from which I could hardly feel his pulse, in his last moments, I was overwhelmed by emotions which I had never experienced before; not even with my late biological parents. As he took his last breath, I could read the message of a gallant warrior defying the fear of impending death – if my life cannot be saved in this place that has saved millions, on this theatre table that I fabricated and has saved hundreds of thousands and by my trusted capable hands that I trained, so be it! Such is the way of Aaare Ona Kakanfos! The valiant warlords of immense and awesome power and authority who held sway in the old Oyo Kingdom.
“Ina ku, o f’eeru b’oju, ogede ku o f’omo e ropo”
The pale ash results from a fire just as a new offshoot replaces a harvested banana tree.
It is most heart warming that ACE still bubbles with activities five years after Awojobi. Awo J died leaving capable hands to keep his legacy alive. Yombo Awojobi, an Engineer has taken up the “fabricating shoes” hurriedly left by his father. Ayodele, the “congenital surgeon” is living up to the billing of a chip off the old block. Grandma Tinu, the ACE matriach has left no one in doubt of being in charge effectively.
Before his untimely death, Awojobi was deeply committed to his dream project of establishing a modern, hi-tech cancer Centre, the first of its kind in Africa, with a primary objective of making cancer treatment affordable to the poor, in lime with the principles of ACE. The centre was to be commissioned sometime ago but for the dearth of fund resulting from the death of the dreamer. I hereby appeal to well meaning individuals, goverments at all level and corporate organisations to please come to the aid of this laudable project.
Awojobi lives on!