Professor Gabriel Jimoh Afolabi Ojo is many things rolled into one but is first and foremost, a teacher. The brains behind distance learning at tertiary level in Nigeria, Prof Ojo has been a teacher all his life and has authored over 140 books and academic articles.
He started as a class teacher in Ekiti in 1946 and quickly rose to become a headmaster. He was a tutor at St. Joseph’s College, Ondo, and quickly rose to become the Vice-Principal. He went to the Nigerian College of Arts & Science Enugu in October, 1959 as lecturer, but soon became Head of Department (1960-1961).
He moved to the then University of Ife and became Acting Head of Geography Department (1962). On October 1, 1970, he became a Professor of Geography. He then Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences (1972) and later, Dean, Faculty of Administration (1976-77).
One of his notable achievements among many was being Chairman, Presidential Planning Committee on the Open University System in Nigeria (1980-81). He was then appointed as pioneer Vice Chancellor of the National Open University (1981-1984).
Prof Ojo was born to Pa Sanni Kowe Ojo and Chief (Mrs.) Lydia Aina in Ado-Ekiti on November 1, 1929. He had his primary education at St. George’s Catholic School, Ado-Ekiti, between 1936 and 1942, went on to St. John Bosco’s Training College, Ubiaja (1944-1945), before earning his Senior Cambridge School Certificate in December 1948.
In 1950, he obtained the Teachers’ Higher Elementary Certificate, and topped it up with the London Matriculation in June, 1951.
He then proceeded to the National University of Ireland in 1953 and finished with a B.A. First Class Honours in 1956, (thus becoming the first African to acquire a First Class Degree in Geography and Economics from Dublin).
He later obtained another First Class with his Master of Arts degree in 1957. The Ph.D he obtained from Dublin in April, 1963 was the icing on the cake.
Active in the Church and His Community
Away from academics, Professor Ojo is also an active member of the Catholic Church, as well as the local communities in Ado-Ekiti and Ife.
He is the foundation National Secretary of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria (CLCN) from 1973 to 1981. He later became the National President of the CLCN from 1986-1994, and thereafter, a National Life Patron in 1995.
He is also a foundation member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the Vatican from 1983, a post he occupied for seven years.
Prof Ojo served as the Chairman of the Provisional Governing Council of the Catholic University of Nigeria, Abuja (CUNA), from 2005 to 2008. Till now, he continues to serve the Catholic Church in Nigeria in various capacities especially as the author of a good number of religious publications.
In recognition of his active participation in the Catholic Church, Prof Ojo was conferred with a Papal Knighthood (Knight of St. Gregory the Great) in 1975.
In recognition of the impact he had on the development of his hometown, Prof Ojo holds the traditional chieftaincy title of Asiwaju of Ado-Ekiti. He is also the Otun Maye of Ile-Ife and Balogun of Imesi-Ekiti.
He was, for many years, the President of Ado- Ekiti Progressive Union of which he later became a Life Patron.
Prof. Afolabi Ojo currently holds the membership of a good number of professional and academic bodies. His awards in such academic membership include Fellows and Consultors; leading to such positions as: Chairman, Editor, President, Patron and more.
He is a Fellow of the Geographical Association of the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and an Honorary Mountaineer of the State of West Virginia, USA.
For his meritorious services to Nigeria and humanity, Prof. Ojo holds the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) which he was awarded in 2004.
Prof Ojo has always been of immense service to Ado-Ekiti over the years. He served as the president of Ado-Ekiti Progressive Union and encouraged and groomed others to take over from him, thereby encouraging the asociation to grow from strength to strength.
He has also promoted the growth and development of other institutions, especially National Open University of Nigeria.
Prof. Ojo is blessed with three sons and three daughters from his union with Florence Bukunola Ojo (nee Adeyanju), who joined the Church triumphant on March 20, 2012.