A SENATOR WHO LIVED FOR OTHERS

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Eyitayo Lambo pays tribute to Joe Funso Obasaju, a politician and educationist

When he came to the University of Ibadan for the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme, I was away to the United States of America on sponsorship from the University of Ibadan. After I returned in 1974 and particularly when he was the Principal of St. Monica’s College, Kabba, I always heard good news about how he had transformed the college. When Joe represented Kabba/Bunu in the Kwara State House of Assembly, many of us from Okunland who were members of the academic staff at the University of Ibadan were proud of his contributions to debates on the floor of the House and the various bills that he sponsored.

When Joe won election to represent the good people of Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu/Yagba Senatorial District in the Senate in 1983, the Okun people in the University of Ibadan felt very proud and hopeful that he would be a voice to be reckoned with in the Senate and that he would also bring development projects to Okunland.

Similarly, we were elated by the election of Chief Cornelius O. Adebayo as the Governor of Kwara State because we believed that he would bring meaningful development to all parts of the then Kwara State which included our Senatorial District. Unfortunately, our hope was dashed with the military coup that took place a few months after Joe and Chief C. O. Adebayo were elected.

I did not have physical contact with Joe until 1983 when I was appointed a Foundation Professor by the University of Ilorin, an appointment that I did not take up fully until 1984. It was during my weekly trips to deliver lectures at the University of Ilorin on part-time basis in the 1983/84 academic session that we met and chatted on numerous occasions. He was one of the Okun people who urged me to move from the University of Ibadan to the University of Ilorin and contribute to the socio-economic development of our state then. From the discussions that we had together, I saw that Joe was very passionate about the development of Kwara State, in general, and Okunland, in particular.

When I finally decided to move my family from Ibadan and joined the services of the University of Ilorin in August 1984, I remember that Hon. Abraham Goshie of blessed memory (who was the Commissioner for Education then), Dr. Job Adewunmi, Chief J.T. Omotowa and Chief D. L. Obasa (both of blessed memory), Prince Olusola Akanmode (who was in the Military Governor’s Office then), and Joe played different roles in ensuring that my wife was able to transfer her services from the Oyo State Civil Service to Kwara State with ease. I can never forget this.

Joe and I interacted throughout the period that I was at the University of Ilorin (1984-1990) but there was a break in our interaction for the subsequent 13 years largely because I went to work outside the country. We reconnected in 2003 when I was appointed Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by President Olusegun Obasanjo. We were in close contact throughout my tenure (2003-2007) and Joe was one of the people from Okunland that constantly sent me words of encouragement and commendation during my tenure. I really appreciated this.

Since Joe’s passing, many people have given good testimonies about him. Those who attended St. Augustine’s College, Kabba, with him have not only testified to his academic performance but also to his achievements in sports, especially soccer. Those who attended St. Monica’s College, Kabba, have paid glowing tributes to him for the academic and physical development he brought to the College during and after he was the Principal of the College. Joe’s community, Kabba, has testified to his contributions to the socio-economic development of the area.

Some other people have testified to how he helped them to get jobs or how he was instrumental to their gaining admission into institutions of higher learning. The list goes on and on! These testimonies affirm that Joe has done well and that he has lived an impactful life to the glory of God.

Adieu my dear brother Joe. May his soul enjoy eternal peace and may the Holy Spirit comfort members of his family in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Professor Lambo is a former Minister of Health