Nigeria’s education sector yesterday suffered a great loss with the death of former Education Minister, Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa.
He died in Abuja at 87. Fafunwa left Lagos for Abuja last Thursday to collect a special award and deliver a lecture during the convocation of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
Because the event was postponed, he was billed to return to Lagos yesterday before he started feeling dizzy early in the morning.
He died a few minutes later. Beside him was his wife, Doris. He will be buried today in Lagos.
Born on September 23, 1923, at Isale-Eko on Lagos Island, Fafunwa, a doyen of education, educationist and administrator, had his primary education at Ahmadiyyah School, Lagos Public School between 1931and 1936; CMS Grammar School, Lagos 1937 to 1943; and Bethune Cookman College, Florida, USA between 1950 and 1955.
Fafunwa, who married Doris Elaine Jones in 1953, and had two sons and two daughters, began his career as a clerk with the Nigeria Railways, in 1944 to 47, before he became an instructor, English and Social Studies at Bethune Cookman College in 1950; Area Specialist Division of Trusteeship and non-self governing territories, United Nations Secretariat, New York 1951 to 52.
He was an Assistant Nigerian Liaison Officer, British Embassy and Nigerian Office, Washington DC, USA from 1954 to 55; a Senior Tutor at Ahmadiyyah College, Agege, Lagos and Principal of Ahmadiyyah Teachers Training College, Lagos between 1956 and 57.
Describing his death as a great loss, Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, said “we have lost a pillar of education in Fafunwa’s death.”
With Fafunwa’s demise, the governor said Nigeria has lost a major pillar of the education sector, who worked tirelessly throughout his life time for the enhancement and development of the sector.
Reacting shortly after the news of the death of the former minister was broken to him, Daniel described him as “an erudite scholar, patriot, educationist and elder statesman whose contributions and active participation in all initiatives to reposition the country’s education remain unparalleled.”
To Justice Afolabi Abdulfatai Adeyinka, former Chief Judge of Lagos State and Fafunwa’s former student in 1956, his death came as a shock, “but we are grateful to Almighty Allah that the born teacher remained a teacher until the last day.”
“He went to Abuja last week Thursday to receive an award from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) and he was billed to arrive today,” Taju Okanlawon Ajakaye, one of his nephews, said.
In the condolence register, Dr. Akeem Agboola Onikoyi, said:
“With great shock and to the will of Allah, the entire family received the news of his demise this morning (yesterday). Baba was hale and hearty when he left Lagos and there was no trace of sickness. A man that was to receive an award and deliver a speech is a fit man, but Allah has his plan for every man.
He was 87 years old on September 23, this year, and it was well celebrated by friends, colleagues and well-wishers across the country. His last child, Thani, who is 48 years old and other children had been contacted for his final burial. Being a Muslim, it is define that we are going to pay the last respect for him tomorrow.
Also, Professor Wale Omole, former Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in the condolence registrar, wrote: “Our very dear Professor, teacher of teachers, trainer of trainers: You lived your life even for your fatherland and fully in your mother tongues. You are ever so patient and painstaking. You were such a mentor and a motivator.
The project you lived for. The academy was establish in your life time. Adieu rest in perfect peace.
Professor Siyan Oyeweso, Provost, College of Humanities and Culture, Osun State University, praised the late Fafunwa, whom he described as the doyen of education, for his contributions to the development of education in Nigeria, saying his death is a great loss to education, academia and the nation at large.
Oyeweso said: “He died a fulfilled man at the service of the nation, particularly education.
The apostle of Mother Tongue Education and 6-3-3-4 system of education, in the various dissertation written on him as minister, did his best, as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Fafunwa did his best as he served with distinction and without blemish.
As a Muslim, he was focused and disciplined.
A Muslim gentleman, he instilled in those around him with Islamic virtues.”
The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Nwachukwu Awuzie, who said he received Fufunwa’s death death with a great shock, described his demise as a great loss to the entire education firmament.