“God morning to you Profito, as I always greet you, whether on the phone or on your regular visit to my home. I said God morning, but on earth we would say Good morning. You always amazed me. Thank you, my friend for the time we knew each other; from Lesotho, Mpumalanga, MEDUNSA (now SMU) and all over. Who can forget your laughter and the jokes with us and our children? You were there for them as well. You witnessed all their experiences from babyhood to adulthood and even to our grandchildren. We are comforted by your life, your love, your desire to be there always, your innumerable gifts, your kindness and your leadership”
Those are the words of his close friend and confidant, Dr Robert Oyedipe, in a glowing tribute to Professor Gboyega Ogunbanjo who slept in the Lord on Saturday July 17, 2019 after an extra-ordinarily impactful life.
Dr Soji Soogun, another close friend of the Ogunbanjo family, gave a moving sermon at a memorial session held in his honour at the weekend by the South African Academy of Family Physicians (SAAFP). He described Professor Ogunbanjo as “a man of courage and principle, a professor of medicine par excellence, a pastor and father who cared and loved like no other, and a mentor full of love, support and guidance”
A dedicated teacher and preacher
“You raised men with your words of wisdom, you taught men with your life and passion, and just like that………you stopped! To continue on the other side, but never to be forgotten on this side of eternity. You made impact, you left your mark and you carved your name onto our hearts. Thank you for sharing your years with us,” Dr Soogun concluded.
Professor Ogunbanjo’s first son, Olusegun, who is also in the medical field, waxed philosophical as he addressed the audience at the memorial:
“What a privilege and honour it is to stand in front of you on behalf of my family and talk,” he began.
“There is a bit of irony in the fact that I’m standing here because my dad always hoped that I’d fall in love with Family Medicine, and while that is still brewing, I’m awestruck, to say the least, at the love and respect each individual present here has for one another. This is truly a Family!
“Our father went through a lot regarding his health within the last 8 months and stunned the doctors as he fought through. As painful as it is to us who remain, we believe he fought a good fight and he ran and finished his race.
“Dad was your DIY guy around the house, FULL of energy, life and laughter, but little did we know just how vast his impact and contribution was, not only in the specialty of Family Medicine, but also in the very lives of people. This draws our attention to what matters”
And what matters, to Segun, is summed up in excerpts from ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ by John Piper, a book he had read, and which he cited:
The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves
– John Piper
“We are simply called for something beyond ourselves,” Segun concluded stoically, while appreciating those who had gathered to honour his father.
Other speakers at the event include SAAFP President, Prof. Bob Mash, Prof. Ayo-Yusuf: Deputy Vice Chancellor, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), Prof. Honey Mabuza: Acting HOD, Family Medicine (SMU), and Prof. H. Steinberg: Secretary General, Colleges of Family Physicians (SA). They all extolled Professor Ogunbanjo’s sterling qualities of super intelligence, diligence, humility, magnanimity and dedication to the uplifting of man in the service of God.
Earlier last week, the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA), said in a condolence letter addressed to his wife and signed by its president, Dr Flavia Senkubuge, that Professor Ogunbanjo was “a well-respected giant of our medical fraternity, whose span of work reached far and beyond the shores of our continent. He was known for his passion for serving the most vulnerable of our society through his chosen specialty of Family Medicine.”
Friends and professional acquaintances of the late professor have also been narrating their encounters with him in the course of his earthly sojourn.
Mrs Lizzie Mudzingwa recalled how her family was a beneficiary of his exceptional kindness:
“At one time, I was leading the women’s ministry and I had a very small baby. As I worked in the house of God, I had to drive around in executing some work and I didn’t have a car at the time. Prof. O and his wife invited my husband and I over to their home while they were still living in Bronkhorspruit. And guess what? When we were about to leave their home, Prof rose and gave car keys to my husband and told him that he and his wife have blessed us with a car. And he said, “The car you see parked facing the gate is yours.”
In a terse tribute, Professor Edwin Ijeoma, Head, Department of Public Administration, and Project Leader, Institute for Development Assistance Management, University of Fort Hare, said of him:
“His legacy remains ‘a loud silence’ in every heart that was touched by his gentle and peace-loving soul,” while Dr Anne Ijeoma attested to his humility:
“You were humility personified. You treated everyone specially. I recall when I needed information about a program in MEDUNSA as it was called then, you met with me at your church (a convenient place for me you wanted); you gave both fatherly and professional advice. And you said to me, ‘no need to travel all the way there just to get the application forms, I will get them for you’. I did not imagine a man of your status rendering such assistance just to make life easy for someone,” Anne recalled.
Mothomone Pitsi has this to say of him:
“Can’t remember an encounter with him that was not solution orientated. Always coming with proposals to make the system work better. At my lowest point, he was providing spiritual support and guidance. Death has lost its sting, we remain strong through our interactions with this giant of faith.”
Advocate Kemisola Akinbodun recounts two special moments:
I had the honour to moderate the cake cutting on his 50th birthday and performed the same role on his 60th birthday last year…The Giant; lovingly addressed as Prof. O was a full package of a human being! He was a great man of God with amazing intellect and inimitable humility. His sense of humor is unparalleled.”
Another close family friend, Mrs Funke Olateju lamented:
“Why? Why? Why is it that good people exit just like that? Prof O, man of honour, principle and unimaginable humility. A selfless being, who will go extra miles. Uncle, you came, you fought and conquered. The legacy you left behind will linger in our hearts forever.”
Still on legacy
“His legacy speaks of a man who was selfless, understood gender equality and the challenges thereof. To him, men and women were equal beings and one gender was better only because of the other. And this began in his home, with his dear wife,” says Dr Inonge Kamungoma Dada.
“I have had an introspection in the week on what legacy/inheritance is…what kind of legacy are we leaving behind? Looking at Prof O’s life, he lived a fulfilled life in all aspects. It’s touching to see how he touched the life of many through his love, support, gratitude, guidance, involvement, sharing, engagements, humility etc.,” declares Sis Maria who shared a photo of Prof with children at a SANSAA Quiz regional event.
Professor Ogunbanjo is survived by his loving wife, two wonderful sons, an aged mother and a number of siblings.
Without a doubt, more tributes will flow on Saturday August 31 when family and friends bid him a final goodbye in Pretoria.
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