My heart skipped for joy on seeing the much anticipated news of the promotion of Simon Ademola Ajayi to the coveted rank of a Professor in the Department of History, University of Ibadan. It is a glorious addition to History department, Baptist Historians, Ogbomoso community, Ogbomoso-Ghanaian community and many more communities than I can mention.
My relationship with Professor Ajayi dates back to 2006 when Prof A. Christopher Odebode, Botany Department, University of Ibadan, directed me to his office and suggested that he should be one of the editors of the biography of my maternal grandfather, Rev John Adegoke Okesiji, that I embarked on as a rookie creative writer. He was glad to see a lad like me venturing into such a project; he corrected my intention of fusing creative writing into the biography and I explained why I wanted to spice up the piece with such tilt; he gave me all the encouragement and it is a success story today.
The endless nurturing spirit in him is also evident in his referral method. I write either in English or Yoruba, as the muse directs. I wrote a particular poem titled Asiko he shared the poem with Professor Dotun Ogundeji, whose wife incidentally was my Yoruba teacher in Abadina College, University of Ibadan, I met Professor Ogundeji through this and I must say that many of my works have gained a larger audience through his referral method.
Professor Ajayi has truly demonstrated his interest in the development of historical materials for the Baptist denomination in Nigeria. He has been instrumental to the writing of many historical books and biographies of Baptist ministers. This is an area of studies that is novel and he has excelled in it. These books are not just reference materials in the Nigerian Baptist academic institutions but also has rich historical content. An important point that I want to bring out of this is his willingness to give me such books whenever I visit his office which is an indirect way of preparing me for more writings for the denomination as well.
There is something noticeable about Prof Ajayi’s office; it is never under lock and key for long.There would be someone either reading or an assistant would be there. In addition, he is one of those lecturers who do not see students as hapless or weaklings. As such, he reminds a reference point for other lecturers on how to handle students who would also get to the zenith of life somewhere, somehow, someday.
After these experience, he has been monitoring my progress. I started a botched postgraduate programme in the University of Ibadan while I residing in Lagos. He kept a tab on me asking me questions online about how I intend to manage the situation. Despite, my desire to keep it away from him, I had to open up eventually.
I am glad to say that late Professor JA Atanda, the renowned Professor of History from Ogbomoso has had a successor with the attainment of Professor Simon Ademola Ajayi; the late Emeritus Professor JF Ade Ajayi also of the department has had a successor with the same surname within the department. Professor Simon Ademola Ajayi has nurtured many people who are excelling in different fields of human endeavor and I wish him many more Baptistic academic writings and academic laurels henceforth.
11:39pm; 2nd April, 2015
(c)Olutayo IRAN-TIOLA, Lagos, Nigeria