"A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come." -William Shakespeare
What is in a name? 'Professor' Saad Yusuf Omoiya's name is deeply rooted in the world of radical minds. As a historian, thinker, politician, researcher and most importantly, teacher of history, Omoiya in the eyes of the students (past and present) in Department of History and International Studies, University of Ilorin, was nulli secundum.
He was never appointed into professorial chair, but virtually all his students (past and present) found in him qualities of a professor not minding whether he had met the academic requirement for the prestigious cadre or not. To many, he was 'deprived' of professorial appointment because of his "anti-establishment" posture.
The name-Omoiya- caught my attention before I was offered admission to study Performing Art at UNILORIN a few years back. But by divine intervention, personal insistence and a friend's comradeship spirit, I was miraculously catapulted from PFA to Department of History and International Studies.
I had read and heard much about him before I met him in 2012 at the Kwara State House of Assembly. Then, he came to give his opposing view to a bill on renaming of the State-owned University after late Dr Olusola Saraki, father of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
I listened to his brief, but excellent submission with rapt attention. Others who were at the Public Hearing recalled how they benefited from Saraki's political philanthropy. Yet, they argued that KWASU belongs to all and it would be a step in wrong direction to name the university after the late kingmaker of Kwara politics.
But Omoiya said: "Unlike what others have said. I never benefited from Saraki because we did not share the same political ideology until his death."
Among those who opposed the bill were, Omoiya; an elder statesman, Baba Bako; Chief Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo and my good friend, AM Alabi ESQ who delivered speech of then state Chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
However, Magaji Nda of Ilorin, Alhaji Woru Mohammed did not spare any of these opponents. In his words: "What are you talking about? Oloye had contributed immensely to the growth and development Kwara State more than anybody. In fact, we can name Kwara State after him. If they play politics in heaven, we will queue behind Saraki." The rest is now history.
Back to UNILORIN, I must confess; my humble self and host of other co-students considered history as a 'dead-man' course. We looked into our future after graduation with despair. Respite came when the course was renamed 'History and International Studies.' It became fascinating and this rekindled hope for the future. Students' hope was further strengthened by some inspiring lecturers who believed without knowledge of history; no society can make headway.
Sadly, Omoiya, one of those inspiring lecturers gave up the ghost last Thursday... and he died. Death sneaked into Department of History and International Studies, taking away our own Omoiya. He died after a brief illness at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin (UITH).
But why Omoiya? If death has to take him, oh my God, why NOW? Who killed him? These were some of the questions that agitated my mind when news of his death filtered in Thursday afternoon. "Ha! Dey don kill this man Ooo!" a friend said. Again, who killed him and for what?
Oh my God! This man has found abode among the dead? His hard-earned knowledge which he derives pleasure in passing over to the next generation has gone into oblivion with him? What a world of vanity?
Any day anytime, Omoiya was a students' delight, deep in the knowledge and ever-willing to impact it. His unique charisma and sense of honour endears students to him. He was down-to-earth-radical and never encourage his students to be laid back or dull.
"I can see you are a potential radical. But be careful because radicals don't live long. They make more enemies than friends. For me, I ought to have died a long time ago but God had preserved my life," Omoiya once told a recalcitrant history student in his class.
As teacher, he was never found wanting. He taught his students not to relegate themselves to the background. He believed history is best course anyone can study. He once said: "History represents knowledge. Have you ever seen any course without its history? When people talk, they say: history will judge you. Why not law? Why not medicine? Why not chemistry?"
Omoiya was hardworking, inspiring, resourceful, brilliant, intelligent, philosophical, friendly, humorous and above all, he epitomised humility and responsibility.
My heart bleeds. I commiserate with all students of "Omoiya School of Thought" and his family. We found solace in your undying contribution to the development of history as a course of study especially now that history is staging a comeback into school curriculum in Nigeria.
Personally, I'm elated to have drunk from your pool of historical knowledge. I still have some audios of your lectures with me; I will hold and preserve them. If history is taught in heaven, I am convinced you deserve a befitting space in there. Like Napoleon Bonaparte: you came, you saw and you conquered. Goodnight 'Professor' Saad Yusuf Omoiya.
Peter Moses writes from Ilorin. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org