I remember this story clearly even now. It happened over 40 years ago. It happened to a celebrated figure, the first Nigerian to become a Professor of Mathematics in the University of Ibadan, Professor Adegoke Olubunmo. He died in 1992. He, along with Ezeilo and Chike Obi constituted the trio of Africans that shook the global world of mathematics with such enduring and monumental footprints. This was before AASUU took up the fight that conferred financial honour and reward on university teachers in terms of appreciable salary and remunerations.

Professor Olubunmo had taught many generations of great and brilliant students at Ibadan who had climbed the ladder of corporate and political leadership in Nigeria. He has retired from the University with an incredibly poor pension that the University Teachers were entitled to then. This great son of Orin Ekiti had no car of his own. This generation of University Teachers devoted their entire lives to academic research and teaching. They didn’t know anything about private practice. Before General Yakubu Gowon humiliated the teachers by asking them to end their strike or pack out of the houses that the universities provided, University Teachers pursued scholarship and academics with a remarkable single mindedness.

Professor Olubunmo was one of these teachers. In retirement, he had no car of his own. This Saturday, he had to go to Lagos from Ibadan. So he waited by the roadside, hoping that he would find a car that he could join. Cars, big, mighty and luxurious, were passing in their top speed. Some were driven by his former students, who waved at him as they sped past. In some of the fast moving, shaded cars were some of his former students, seated comfortably. After waiting endlessly, he ruminated about his immense services to the nation. Here he was under the sun, enduring the wafts of suffocating heat, while his former students were ensconced in the back seats of their luxurious cars. He finally asked himself. lS THIS WHAT ALL MY SERVICE TO THE COUNTRY AMOUNTED TO? Did what he has done matter? Did his monumental services to the country matter any longer?

I am sure that there are many pensioned teachers who feel like that, riding their rickety old cars, wearing their faded jackets, shirts and ties, seeing their former students hugging the Klieg lights in opulence and luxury. The teachers will always ask must their labour of the past be in vain. Sometimes, they must be in agony, ruminating over their illustrious services for which there has been no reward or recognition.

Odumegwu Ojukwu, the husband of beautiful Bianca, described Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the BEST PRESIDENT NIGERIA NEVER HAD. It was the choice of Nigerians not to have him. Nigeria preferred to send him to jail by Yoruba judges Sowemimo and Adetokunbo Ademola. He was sent to mosquito infested Lekki by a Yoruba man, Moses Majekodunmi. His petition against President Shagari was decided by a Yoruba Chief Justice. Earlier, another Yoruba, as Head of State, has warned that the BEST CANDIDATE MAY NOT WIN THE ELECTION. Yet it was as a Premier of Western Nigeria that he utilised his immense skills, abundance of wisdom, all what he called MENTAL MAGNITUDE to serve the Yoruba people. He bequeathed many firsts to this people. Yet some betrayed him. Some denied him. Some derided him.

Was there any time he would have wondered if his services mattered as he laid on his narrow bed in Calabar Prison? When he lost his brilliant son, Segun, as he sat down within the lonely cell of Calabar, would he have wondered whether what he did or his services mattered?

Let’s see some of what he said in his allocutus of 11 September 1963. He said “in the course of my political career, I have rendered services to this country, which historians and the coming generations will certainly regard as imperishable”. But did he regret or give up? He said, “It isn’t life that matters but the courage you bring into it “. He went on to say “that I go from this twilight into darkness, unshaken in my trust in Providence of God that a glorious dawn will come on the morrow”.

In the course of your life journey or career journey, you will find yourself at cross roads or even cul-de-sacs that you will ask yourself HAS IT BEEN WORTH IT? HAS WHAT I HAVE DONE MATTER? HAS MY SERVICES, INDEED, MY SACRIFICES BEEN APPRECIATED. It happens when in the presence of millions of qualified people, NYSC Corpers are being schemed to become Minister. It happens when the best footballer is being sidelined because of financial, ethnic or religious reasons. It happens when those who ought to dispense justice or merit become Apostles of ethnic or religious balancing, ethnic or religious cleansing. It happens when merit becomes chameleonic in definition, and varies depending on which interest has to be protected. It happens when the best is no longer the best, and has therefore been schemed out. When this happens, what should you do? Lament if you must, but you must NEVER GIVE UP. DON’T ABANDON YOUR PRINCIPLES OR VALUES SO THAT YOU CAN JOIN THEM. SHOW WISDOM, REASONING AND COURAGE. Let me end up by reminding you of the Biblical story of David.

When Prophet Samuel got to Jesse’s House, nobody remembered David who was in the wilderness doing the dirty job of shepherding, killing bears and wild animals but living a lonely life. Jesse didn’t remember him. His brothers didn’t remember him. They never thought highly of him. The Prophet Samuel didn’t know he existed. But the only One, that matters, God remembered him. If you don’t GIVE UP, God will remember you. He remembered Noah in the midst of the flood. He remembered Joseph in the prison and he became a Prime Minister in a foreign land. He remembered David and he became King. He remembered Awolowo and out of prison became Vice Chairman, Federal Executive Council and Federal Commissioner for Finance, God will never forget you, NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER BE WARY OF DOING GOOD OR SHOWING EXCELLENCE. See you next week.

Yemi Farounbi