Located at the Southern outskirt of Abuja city and serving as a gateway to the Nigerian seat of power, Gwagwalada is a cosmopolitan town strew non a vast verdant expanse of land. A melting pot for Nigerians from different sections, sectors and strata in the society, it plays host to the old campus of the University of Abuja.
It was a bright, busy Tuesday afternoon, in the month of January, 2001. The campus was as boisterous as ever; flooded by the fluttering footsteps of students in search of academic knowledge. I was one of this lot. Having just defended my Ph.D. Research proposal, I went in search of Professor James Olukayode Omole, then a Doctor and Senior Lecturer, who had been
Assigned to mentor me in Linguistic Stylistics.
Within a few minutes, I was before the immense presence of Professor Omole, a foremost Linguistics scholar, teacher and critic at the University of Abuja. Three years of rigorous intellectual grooming and tutelage had begun. Having a first, direct close encounter with Professor Omole was not only inspiring but also deeply revealing of his character and disposition.
A dark, sharp, stern looking man, built of athletic frame, he is soft-spoken, unassuming, unruffled and imbued with stunning intellectual solidity. He exudes self-confidence, courage and candour. A down-to-earth Professor, not for him the loquacious instinct of a rabble-rouser in a hurry to make a point.
Within 30 minutes of interaction, he took me through various schools of thoughts in Linguistic criticism-Formalism and Functionalism; Linguistic Criticism and Literary Criticism, the Principles and Practice of Socio linguistic Criticism and so on. Spend few minutes with Professor Omole and you will be confounded about the level of his knowledge and the ease of his recall and expression.
Professor Omole has a rare capacity for hard work and tenacious attention to details. Working with Professor Omole could be pleasantly challenging and exciting to a committed student and frustrating to the lazy ones who want to cut corners. To have his attention and affection, you must work extra-hard, rigidly and religiously follow laid down principles and procedures. He puts you to task to ensure that the best comes out of you.
A deeply religious man of high integrity, he cannot be influenced or lured by filthy lucre. He is firm, fair, forthright; tenaciously glued to principles and standard; radically uncompromising. The hallmark of his personal dignity is his unmatching integrity, untainted transparency and self-respect.
A committed Christian in the real sense of the word, Professor Omole radiates love, compassion and simplicity. In the course of my doctorial apprenticeship under him, the doors of his house were open to me. Taking a text book per week, I ransacked his thickly forested helf for one full year in search of knowledge and academic confidence. I had an unrestricted access to his house and the privilege to dine with him on several occasions. He disseminated the light and left me to find my way.
I earned his trust and confidence to the point that he introduced me in writing to people like Late Professor Adegbija then at Covenant University and Professor Niyi Osundare at the University of Ibadan in the course of my research work. It was Professor Osundare who refined my intellectual focus that was honed by Omole and I returned from Ibadan, home and dry ready for the rigor of doctorial dissertation.
At the end of the day, through Omole’s mentoring, I became his first PhD product and the first Ph.D graduate in the Faculty of Arts, University of Abuja.
On Friday,17th July 2020, Omole will be bowing out of the University of Abuja at the age of 70 and after about four decades of imparting knowledge and preparing Nigerian youths for responsible leadership. He is definitely going to leave a big gap in the Department of English where he served with passion and commitment. But those of us he mentored, motivated and inspired are happy that he is exiting without blemish and leaving behind indelible intellectual marks to be found in the volumes of papers published in scholarly journals, periodicals and books he devoted his life and time as passionate contribution to knowledge. At the University of Abuja where he last served, his robust intellectual presence, exemplary moral standing and towering dignity will forever proclaim that Professor James Olukayode Omole was not only present, but was profoundly and eminently so. He professed knowledge at the highest level, maintaining a deep and uncommon sense of personal honour and integrity.
At a time like this when the society is largely driven by primitive acquisitive tendencies, and when the University community has been grossly ravaged by unbridled “extortionism, sex for marks, unbelievable allegiance to the god of money, Prof. Omole has come out with the testimony that amid the rots and the maggots, a man can still be clean. Welcome home our dear Prof. and congratulations on your meritorious service and graceful exit.
- Dr. Adewole is the Director of Special Duties at the National Council for Arts and Culture, Abuja.
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