Victor Mordi: A Pathologist Par Excellence Bows Out at 80

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Vanessa Obioha writes on the late Professor Victor Mordi whose groundbreaking works in Pathology and Histology remain unmatched

Inside the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church at 1004 Flats, Victoria Island, Lagos, last Wednesday, the ambiance was tranquil. The commendation service for the late Professor Victor Nonyelum Mordi was already underway, yet people kept coming through the doors. The church was almost full. Sure, there was going to be a need for more seats as some guests were still outside, looking for parking space.

Seated opposite the altar was the widow, Gisa Mordi. She was flanked by her first two daughters Jane Mordi and Grace Onosode. Her other daughters, Ndidi Osakwe, Ifechukwu Patrick-Onyeka. Ifeanyi Adefarasin and Nkiru Adekoya occupied another pew and the sons-in-law sat in another. The grandchildren too were in the gathering.

As the mass proceeded, the daughters once in a while gave their mother a comforting hand or hug while she looked on courageously, listening with rapt attention to the words of the priest. Her facial expression masked any grief that she felt inside. It was the second day of events held in her husband’s honour.

The previous day had witnessed an impressive crowd at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) where a valedictory service was held. Her husband once headed the Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine of the hospital till he left in 2012. The event pooled the cream of the society who lauded the savant for his exceptional knowledge. Familiar faces at both events include Toke Ibru, Folake Coker, National President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Felix Omobude and many others.

Likewise, after the mass, more people gathered to express their sympathy to the family as well as celebrate the late Mordi’s life. Being a working day, they were not in a hurry to get back to their businesses, rather they proceeded to Lekki Coliseum in Lekki for the reception. This shows how much the late scion of Daniel Mordi was greatly revered.

During his lifetime, the Delta-state born was known to many as FK (fountain of knowledge) due to his vast knowledge in many subjects. Everyone who encountered him was inspired by his deep well of knowledge. In his field of study, his students revered him for his outstanding knowledge. No wonder his services were sought by the Ministry of Justice in resolving high-profile cases like the Dana Air Crash in 2012.

To be sure, Mordi studied Histology and Pathology in the University of Cologne in West Germany then. His exceptional academic brilliance earned him scholarships from both the Nigerian and German governments. His diligence earned him a part-time job with Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company. He would later his Medizinisches Staatsexamln (MBBS) and MD (by thesis) from the same university in 1965 and 1967 respectively. He trained for five years at the Institute of Pathology and became a specialist in Pathology/Histology.

Before his return to Nigeria, he received his fellowship in Anatomy Pathology and was admitted to the German Pathology Society that same year. He also headed the Department of Pathology at the Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital from 1987-1988 before moving to Saudi Arabia in 1990. He worked in various hospitals there such as the Royal Armed Forces Hospital in Tabuk where he worked as consultant and histopatologist.

But it was not all books for Mordi, he was a social person. He enjoyed parties and it was in one of those occasions that he met his lovely wife Gisa Quent. They got married on March 7, 1966, and raised their six children in Germany.

His children fondly called him Déddy or Vatti (father in German). He was the ideal role model. Unperturbed that he had no male offspring, Mordi treated his six daughters like he would treat any male child. He called the his small generals. For example, Ndidi was nicknamed Brigadier General DH. He instilled in them integrity, independence, humility, compassion, excellence and education values.

Their fondest memories of him were in their Eni Njoku residence in University of Lagos (UNILAG). Mordi had just returned from Germany following an offer by the Federal Government in 1972 to lecture at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). This was shortly after the civil war. In fact, he arrived on October 1, Independence Day.

It was here that Mordi taught his children his gardening skills. They fondly remembered how the garden in their backyard boasted of different fruits and vegetables. The garden was also home to all kinds of animals, from turtles to chickens, his children grew to love and care for animals.

Apart from his gardening skills, Mordi impressed his children with his culinary and dancing skills. They lovingly looked forward to his meals, awaiting his regular when he’s done ‘attack and destroy’. At times, he would hold social events in his home. This gave him the opportunity to display his grilling skills with his mouth-watering barbecues.

When it comes to dancing, he was the perfect companion, not one to shy away from new skills, he sampled any new dance with his wife and children. His favourite was salsa due to his love for Spanish language. Although he planned to take his lovely wife to Cuba, to master the language. However, he spoke four languages fluently Ibo, Yoruba, English and German. Mordi was a lover of classic music and its values. His children recalled how Mozart and other classical tunes were a regular in their home.

Away from his home, Mordi was greatly revered by his students for his indisputable ability to teach without taking a glance at his textbook or notes. Most of his students occupy top echelons in their fields. For instance, the former Provost of the Lagos State University College of Medicine, LASUCOM was a student of his. His academic journals and papers are all over the globe.

Before his peaceful passing on April 22, 2016, friends, families and loved ones gathered to mark his 80th birthday last year and in March, he celebrated his golden wedding anniversary with his wife Gisa of 50 years. Mordi was born on November 28, 1935. He is survived by his lovely wife, six children and 18 grandchildren.