Members of the academic community, family members, and well-wishers of Emeritus Professor of History and International Relations, Akinjide Osuntokun, OON, FNAL gathered on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, to celebrate him at the Tayo Aderinokun Auditorium, University of Lagos where his 80th birthday was marked.
It was an occasion that also featured the launching of the book titled “Africa and the Challenge of Underdevelopment” – A Festschrift in honour of Professor Akiniide Osuntokun.
The ceremony was well attended by dignitaries, friends, and well-wishers drawn from tertiary institutions and the media. The list of attendees includes the former External Affairs Ministers Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and General Ike Nwachukwu under whom Osuntokun served as Special Adviser and Ambassador Veteran Journalist and Chief Editor of Gaskia Media, Dare Babarinsa; Retired Professor of English at UNILAG and former colleague, Funsho Akere; and Internationally renowned Historian, Professor Toyin Falola amongst many others.
The former Plenipotentiary was eulogised by the students he has taught from his active years as a teacher at the University of Lagos, and Redeemers University, where he had set up the Faculty of Humanities and consequently the Department of History and International Relations.
The Chairman of the Occasion, who is a close ally of the celebrant, Sir (Chief) Olatunde Aluko described the erudite scholar as a man whose legacy is not in doubt. He took the audience on a journey of the past, painting a picture of the energetic and passionate young Professor Jide Osuntokun at the Christ School, in Ado-Ekiti where they had first met and at the University of Ibadan as freshmen few years later.
He recalled that his intellectualism and excellence which defined the life and career of the seasoned academic. He placed on record that the Osuntokun’s of Okemesi are characterized by an inclination to serve humanity through public service, and Professor Osuntokun played his part as proof of the saying.
According to him”…the average Nigerian in the early 70s, 80s, and 90s would know of the other members of the Osuntokun family and how they worked for the betterment of society. Although demised, the astute scholar’s siblings were well-known names in their respective career fields. As a result, he knew no other way than to become an excellent and outstanding person in his chosen field”.
Prof. Osuntokun’s exposure to politics came quite early due to his brother’s affiliation with the political elites in the Western region at the time. A situation that was quite confusing at the time. Through his brother, he was indirectly involved in the consequences of complicated political schisms that heralded the 1960s when the country was trying to find its feet in the republic.
An excited ‘Baajobi of Lagos,´ who was full of thanks to those who came around to witness the occasion noted that his presence as Chairman of the event is premised on the fact that he knew the celebrant the longest amongst his friends. He congratulated the university don for looking radiant at 80 and wished him well in the remaining years ahead.
In his remarks, General Nwachukwu said he had no regret in associating with Prof. Osuntokun. He recalled that when Osuntokun served as his Special Adviser in the Ministry of External Affairs, he found him to be a reliable and a dependable colleague.
His words: “He is one of the country’s most exemplary and productive academics, Professor Osuntokun obviously takes very seriously his responsibility to seek and speak the truth at all times irrespective of the consequences he may personally suffer. As the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Nigeria to a united Republic of Germany between 1991 and 1995, an appointee of the General Ibrahim Babangida military regime, Professor Osuntokun refused to compromise the truth to suit the fancies of the succeeding General Sani Abacha dictatorship”.
It was an opportunity for the ex-Army chief to urge the audience to be steadfast in whatever they are assigned. He noted that they left behind as dedicated public office holders’ policies that are good enough to strengthen the international relations of Nigeria and many other countries while he encouraged the audience to emulate that.
Earlier, a former student of the octogenarian and the Acting Head of Department of History and International Studies, Redeemers University, Dr. Ben Fyanka described the pioneer Dean and Head of the Department at the Ede-based institution as a lovable personality. He said that Prof. Osuntokun has been able to distinguish himself in his chosen field amongst the pantheons of great academics that have done the country proud.
Another bosom friend of the celebrant and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Akinyemi extolled the virtues of Osuntokun. He remarked that if one were to describe Prof. Akinjide Osuntokun by a cluster of words, it would be an impactful intellectual who radiates positive energy. He remarked that essentially, the Diplomat lived through some of the historical moments in western and national politics. According to him, “despite his rather rough introduction to politics and public service, he still took on the mantle of service to the country later in his career – a feat, he considered quite impressive”.
The former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs affirmed that he blazed the trails right from the genesis of his education at Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, all through Ibadan Grammar School, the University of Ibadan, and throughout all the colleges and universities where he pursued advance studies. He posited unequivocally that he is one of the most intellectually profound products of the Ibadan School of History and one of the few people selected for an exchange program at the University of London School.
Similarly, Prof. Osuntokun’s mentees including Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Olufunke Adeboye, Dr Osemeka and past students from Redeemer University eulogised him and described him as a Teacher, Father, and Mentor and a selfless intellectual.
Also present at the event were members of his family, particularly his nieces and nephews including Akin Osuntokun and Nike Osuntokun. The climax of the occasion was the cutting of the cake.