Family, friends, professional colleagues and admirers gathered in Pretoria on Saturday to bid a final farewell to Professor Gboyega Adebola Ogunbanjo.
61-year-old Professor Ogunbanjo, one of Africa’s finest professionals and a renowned humanist, passed away on August 17 in Pretoria, South Africa, after a protracted illness.
He was like Mandela
The Nigerian Consul-General in South Africa, Ambassador Godwin Adama, who gave the opening tribute at the funeral service, likened Prof O (as he was fondly called) to South African icon Nelson Mandela who “understood his purpose in life and worked in line with it”.
Adama described Ogunbanjo as a highly ethical professional, a mentor and motivator, a go-to person, a great leader and a good person who cared for others, adding that Professor Ogunbanjo’s passion and hard work set him apart from others.
The CG enjoined all present to honour the memory of Professor Ogunbanjo by doing some introspection on what kind of legacy they would leave behind when the time comes.
Dr Ayo Yusuf, A fellow Nigerian and Acting Vice Chancellor of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), where Professor Ogunbanjo worked for over two decades, recounted how Prof O gave much of his energy and commitment to his work to put the Family Medicine Department which he headed on the global academic map.
Dr Yusuf said the medical fraternity had lost in Prof O a visionary, creative genius, skillful negotiator, strategist, great mentor, prayer warrior, and a great dancer who had an incredible capacity for practical action.
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“Professor Gboyega Ogunbanjo was an embodiment of the motto of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA),” said past president of the CMSA, Professor Mike Sathege, as he performed the commendation ceremony to honour the deceased.
Professor Sathege said Prof O very well represented the motto: ‘The Spirit of Learning Will Prevail’ far and beyond the shores of South Africa. He commended his passion for serving the vulnerable with great tenacity and dedication.
In recognition of his service to the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Botswana, the faculty has instituted an annual Professor Gboyega Ogunbanjo Memorial Lecture with its inaugural lecture slated for next week.
Similarly, the Nigerian Doctors Forum (NDF) South Africa announced that NDF members had made generous contributions towards immortalising him by instituting the annual Professor Gboyega Ogunbanjo Merit Award of Excellence for the best graduating Family Medicine student in South Africa.
NDF President, Dr Emeka Ugwu, who made the announcement, described Prof O as “a quintessential all-round achiever and a colossal Nigerian brand” who epitomised the best of Nigerian values.
He commended his widow, Mrs Priscilla Ogunbanjo, for standing lovingly by her husband to the end and further announced that members of the NDF had resolved to adopt her as their mother and would assist the family whenever necessary.
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Speaking on behalf of the Ogunbanjo family, his sibling, Mrs Olajumoke Akinlosotu, described her brother as an angel who was loaned to the family by God. She said Prof O lived a sacrificial life and was a man of very good taste who married a good and beautiful wife to complement him.
In the same vein, Mrs Maria Effa Ngaji, who spoke on behalf of Mrs Ogunbanjo’s family, described Professor Ogunbanjo as a shining star; a man of great presence who brought brightness to every place he stepped into. She recalled how he would always push those around him to be the best they could be; a highly disciplined man who gave of himself easily, completely and truly.
Professor Ogunbanjo’s close friend and confidant, Dr Robert Oyedipe, likened the deceased to a computer application that operated on the mnemonic LOVE. He said Prof O showed the love of the Living God in everything he did, represented the Omnipotent silent teacher, gained Victory in Christ Jesus and transited to Eternal life. He showered encomiums on Mrs Ogunbanjo for standing solidly by her husband in all things.
Professor Ogunbanjo was renowned for his punctuality and time management. In his tribute, Mr Oliver Amutike, a member of the Cornerstone Assemblies of God Pretoria where Prof O worshipped for some 30 years and served as Associate Pastor, disclosed how the senior pastor of the church, Dr Elijah Mahlangu, used to joke that Professor Ogunbanjo would be assigned the role of Timekeeper in heaven.
He said the profound, poignant, funny, and thought-provoking testimonies about him aptly painted the picture of a man whose influence extended beyond the church.
A people’s person
Professor Ogunbanjo’s son, Olusegun Ogunbanjo, who is also in the medical profession, gave a moving tribute in which he recounted how his father could recall the name of every person he had encountered at a grocery shop; from the manager to the car guard, and stop to greet all of them, sometimes issuing impromptu prescriptions, and often turning a five-minute visit to the shop into an hour-long exercise.
He said he would miss among others, how Prof O would seek his opinion on an article due for publication, his dad’s dancing with his mother, the tasty fish dish he used to prepare, the gratitude he always showed to his mother after a meal, their discussions of current affairs, how quickly his father always answered his phone calls to him and how he would say “Please, Segun” when he was being adamant in an argument.
Segun said his dad was a strict disciplinarian who was not ready to settle for second best and the hiding he got from him in his younger years was the best reminder of that expectation.
The younger son, Oluseyi Ogunbanjo, pledged to carry the lessons, morals and values that his father instilled in him at a young age and strive to have a positive impact on the lives of people the way his dad had.
“Thank you for being an amazing father, role model and friend to me. You were always someone that I could come to when tough times arose and you gave me a sense of direction. You instilled the word in me and taught me sermons that I will forever keep. I will continue to cherish the moments we had, the good times we had and so much more. I hope I can make you proud. Love you Dad,” Seyi concluded.
Every woman’s dream
“As heartbroken as I am today, I’m equally grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity and rare privilege of being the wife and partner of a wonderful, loving, kind and God-fearing man. Life could not have been better because I was living every woman’s dream,” stated Mrs Priscilla Ogunbanjo in a tribute read on her behalf by her sister, Mrs Maria Effa Ngaji.
The emotionally distressed widow expressed her gratitude to her late husband for the time they shared together, the family they built together, the dreams they shared together, and the love that held them together, which she said she would cherish forever.
“Saying farewell to you is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. That your passing away has left a huge vacuum in my life, in our family, both nuclear and extended, is an understatement. I am not sure I can really express just how much I’ll miss you, Daddy. Yes, Daddy because you were not only a loving husband and wonderful father to our children but also became a father to me having lost my own father over fifteen years ago.
“I cannot say I understand your early passing, but I believe that God knows best and just as you danced and sang praises to Him while you were alive, I know that even now you are dancing and singing praises with the angels to our Maker.
“My Prince Charming, my love, rest in God’s bosom till we meet to part no more. I love you. Always and Forever. Adieu My Love!” she concluded in the tribute.
In the funeral service ministration captioned Our Heavenly Dwelling, Pastor (Dr) Elijah Mahlangu of the Cornerstone Assemblies of God expressed the conviction that Professor Ogunbanjo had inherited the Kingdom of God not because he was a professor but because he was a child of God who had prepared himself for the last day. He enjoined all present to emulate him and prepare themselves for victory in the struggle between mortality and immortality.
Reverend Dr Soji Soogun, together with Dr Mahlangu, later presided over the graveside service at the Pretoria East Cemetery where Professor Gboyega Ogunbanjo’s body was laid to rest.
May his soul rest in perpetual peace!