Associates Doff Hats to Afejuku, Literary “Iroko” As He Bows Out of UNIBEN

Anthony Esijolomi Afejuku
Anthony Esijolomi Afejuku

Anthony Esijolomi Afejuku, a Professor of English and Literature at the University of Benin, (UNIBEN) Benin City, Edo State, on Sunday, blazed the trail as the first retiring lecturer to be honoured, not just by the department, but the Faculty as well. Afejuku, described by one of his associates as an intellectual “Iroko” and “a chopper that goes round rudiments of language”, ended his 43 years of an academic career in a blaze of glory as colleagues, friends and family members treated him to a befitting send-forth ceremony.
It was an evening of nostalgic reminiscences and profuse eulogies for the literary icon at a retirement reception organised by associates under the aegis of Friends of Afejuku (FAJ). The university teacher, an Itsekiri from Delta State, disengaged from the services of UNIBEN after attaining the age of 70 years.
Speaking at the ceremony that was held at the Banquet Hall of the University, the Chairman of the occasion, Professor Mon Nwadiani, described Afejuku as someone who left a legacy of truth and boldness. Nwadiani noted that it was the first time such a ceremony was being held for a retired teacher in the department and faculty, a testimony, he acknowledged, stood the celebrant out amongst others who retired before him. He therefore advised those still in service to emulate the qualities of Professor Afejuku “who is seen as a friend to all, and enemy to none”.
He also showered accolades on the wife of the retired don, Augusta Alero Afejuku, for being there for her husband all the time, especially at the home front, and prayed that God would grant Afejuku, good health in his post-retirement age.
Taking his turn, former Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, described Afejuku as “one of those who point the way to progressive change, and match his words with action”; while Professor Felix Ogonna, described him as “a detribalised Nigerian who does not care where you come from but your ability to do what is right”.
Narrating how Professor Afejuku helped him gain employment at the University of Benin, Ogonna said: “I have been in the faculty for about 25 years, and I have never seen the kind of person like him. He is one who acknowledges excellence but also wants you to do the same. He has a philosophy, ‘No paddy for jungle’ because even as he came to be your friend, he will at the same time want you to do what is right at all times without taking sides”.
Others who spoke glowingly of the celebrant were Suyi Ayodele of the Nigerian Tribune, Dr Abigail Eruaga of the Department of English and Literature, UNIBEN, and Professor Kola Eke, who described Afejuku in a poem read by Dr Edafe Mukoro, as an intellectual ‘iroko’, a man of many parts, “a radar detector of linguistic infelicities, and a chopper that goes round rudiments of language”.
Responding, Professor Afejuku thanked God for his life from the very beginning to the present. He also appreciated his parents of blessed memory, his wife, and his children for being there for him, especially at critical moments. He also thanked his friends, especially those he influenced, who decided to converge and honour him. According to him, “When people say I am detribalized, it is because I have travelled and many of those who helped me in life incidentally are not from my Itsekiri ethnic nationality”.

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