By the time Tunde returned, he came back to Unilag, not only with a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and an M.Sc. in Statistics, but also with a virtuous woman by the name, Anna. Anna, a graduate of Music from the University of Wisconsin, is a French Hornist and Flutist. She expanded our music horizon in the group, Solid Rock, as we performed in many musical concerts all over the country, with other friends such as Olu and Idowu Lafe, Bunmi and Bola Oni, Funso and Remi Sonaiya. We all enjoyed playing music to God’s glory, but Tunde was exceptional in his musicianship.
In the late 60s and early 70s, school bands featured prominently in the lives of Nigerian teenagers. Those were days in which public schools had functioning boarding facilities, and most school-age young boys and girls grew up living in school boarding houses. In a natural bid to fully utilising our spare times, we formed school bands, which performed at literary and debating society and other school events. I was school organist in Methodist Hight School, Ibadan, playing hymns at assembly. Our school had the only Boys’ Brigade band at that time in Ibadan and so we had what it took to breed drummers and cornetists. A few friends offered some rudimentary guitar skills and so we formed a school band. We sang the covers of the classics of Otis Redding, James Brown, the Temptations, Fela Anikulapo-Kutiand other international and local musicians. Our Boy’s Brigade cornets gave a bit of an edge to Fela songs, given Fela’s rich horn section. We tried our hands with mixed success at composing and recording. Of course, Ofege of St. Gregory’s College in Lagos was the particularly successful school band, having landed an enviable recording deal with EMI, the international record label. In Ibadan, however, the school band to beat was Sound Incorporated (SI) of Government College, Ibadan. The Bassist of SI, by our teenage standards, was a rather diminutive character popularly called Papa. As they say, dynamite comes in small packages. He would jump up and down, darting round and round the stage, with his trousers tucked into his boots in mimicry of Spartacus, the bassist of Osibisa, the then popular London-based Afro Rock Band. We knew each other and I had great admiration for his musicianship but we never really became close friends in our Ibadan days.
When I got admitted into the University of Lagos in 1974 to study Electrical Engineering, who was I to meet in the Christian fellowship? Papa! He was then in his penultimate year studying Chemical Engineering. At the fellowship, he was either with a guitar or some musical instrument or the other. I had been invited to join a gospel music band a few weeks after my arrival in Unilag by one of my classmates, Walter Ononogbu, and I enthusiastically invited Papa to join us. In characteristic humility, Papa, who I greatly admired as a charismatic bassist in the Ibadan school boys band scene came with me to the Light Bearers rehearsal with a descant recorder, its mouth piece forced in place with a few layers of tissue paper. For him, it was enough to play the modest descant recorder to glorify our God. It was just enough to be in God’s service. At our next rehearsal, in the depth of Ajegunle (AJ City), Lagos, where we met weekly, we were surprised to find a trap drums kit. Our leader, Emmanuel (Emma) Umeokwochi (later Esiobu) had happened on the drum set at PZ Stores and must have spent a substantial portion of his Federal Ministry of Works pupil engineer’s salary to purchase the drums. Papa mounted the drums and dazzled everybody with scintillating syncopated rhythms and Tunde Ogunnaike, hitherto popularly known as Papa became “Tunde drums” and I, “Tunde organ” of the Light Bearers, which turned out to be one of the most celebrated Nigerian gospel bands of the 70s into the 90s. The Light Bearers performed all over Nigeria bearing the good news of the salvation in Christ.
“Tunde drums” graduated from the University of Lagos, two years later in 1976, with First Class as part of the pioneering set of Chemical Engineering student of the university of Lagos, under the tutelage of Professor Ayo Ogunye. He went over to Port Harcourt in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and came back to the University of Lagos as a graduate assistant by the time I was in my final year. As a graduate assistant, he had the luxury of a sort of bedsit accommodation in Jaja Hall and we spent many hours together in that bedsit composing and arranging songs and playing music together.
How could I forget this verse of one of Tunde’s many compositions that we recorded under our Chrisounds Label?
Life doesn’t seem so smooth,
Its hard to live in this generation
With every day we face new temptations
The world is searching for truth,
But we don’t hope in vain
We know from God’s eternal living word
That Jesus Christ the Son of God is coming back again
Sing it out, sing it out, out sing out, sing it out,
Jesus Christ the son of God is coming back again.
Tunde’s cryptic interpretation of the Bible story of the prodigal son was:
He sat in dust,
He looked hungry and lost
His friends were all gone
He faced life all alone
He ate with wild pigs
He wished for the sun
Tunde was such a consummate artist. His poetry, for those who know, sometimes suggest the continuity equation expressing the flow of fluid in a pipe or the transfer of heat by the mix of conduction, convection and radiation. What do you expect from a First Class Chemical Engineer, who, when he was not writing poems, was modelling the flow of nutrients in blood vessels as the flow of fluids in non-rigid pipes, as a means of studying the pharmacokinetics of drug ingestion and metabolism?
He later went to the U.S.A to study for a PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Maddison. I remember accompanying him to what was then the Lagos International Airport at the present site of Muritala Mohammed Domestic Terminal 1. I inheriting his Tokai Gakki acoustic guitar! As expected, he came out in flying colours, as we were constantly regaled with news of his outstanding performances in academics, music and sports, while he was away. We had many long telephone conversations when I visited the U.S.A to attend the World Conference of Faith Scient and the Future at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston U.S.A in 1979. The fact that I found it prohibitive to visit Tunde in Madison, having found out that it may take close to a whole day on the road, was my first encounter with the sheer vastness of the U.S.A.
…Tunde remained undaunted. For a long time. He continued to undertake high quality research and also mentor students both in Chemical Engineering and Statistics. Beyond mentorship in Chemical Engineering and Statistics, his weekly Bible Study meetings in the heart of the chaos of Osodi Bus Stop was a haven of peace for many students and young families of the mid 80s. The Bible Study group, as well as Tunde and Anna’s short association with Chris Okotie, was rather significant at the beginning of the Household of God Church International Ministries.
By the time Tunde returned, he came back to Unilag, not only with a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and an M.Sc. in Statistics, but also with a virtuous woman by the name, Anna. Anna, a graduate of Music from the University of Wisconsin, is a French Hornist and Flutist. She expanded our music horizon in the group, Solid Rock, as we performed in many musical concerts all over the country, with other friends such as Olu and Idowu Lafe, Bunmi and Bola Oni, Funso and Remi Sonaiya. We all enjoyed playing music to God’s glory, but Tunde was exceptional in his musicianship. In particular, he was the only Nigerian classical guitarist that I knew of. His guitar rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” was always greeted with surprises as the guitar was more associated with less delicate music.
But Tunde’s return to serve his nation cannot be said to have produced pleasant experiences. He returned at the point in Nigeria’s history when it was becoming crystal clear that “money is not our problem but how to spend it” was a major problem and a great misfortune. He did not have what could be considered as the basic needs of an academic or indeed the intellectual that he was. He had to make do with the office of his mentor, Professor Ayo Ogunye, who was then either on sabbatical leave or some strategic national consultancy assignments. He did not get living accommodation on campus and so had to live in an off-campus accommodation within the chaos of Osodi Bus Stop. He woke up early every morning to wade through the Lagos traffic from Osodi to Akoka and back. Anna, having registered in Unilag for a post graduate programme in Music, went to campus with her husband daily. It was not pleasant, but that was their daily routine.
This was the life Tunde and Anna lived, full of all the usual and sometimes unusual and constant challenges of Nigeria and frequent surprises, particularly of the Lagos flavour. I visited the Ogunnaikes often from my Abeokuta base. We enjoyed one another’s company. Usually, I would be playing their upright piano, Tunde playing his Ovation guitar and Anna playing her flute. We played tunes of all sorts in the midst of taking turns to make light the Nigerian problems we have chosen to take in our strides. Anna once spoke of how in church the previous Sunday, the preacher encouraged the congregation to drop off all their burdens and worries at the feet of Christ and go back home free of encumbrances, re-energised. Anna said she heaved heavily and said to the Lord Jesus Christ; Lord, NEPA! If only I can always come back home Lord and be sure that the food in the freezer would still be edible. Tunde too told stories of deep discouragement. Of particular note was how he wrote what he thought was a compelling proposal for the local training of Nigerian oil industry engineers. He justified the heavy capital outlay for the required equipment for the training programme by demonstrating that it was totally disproportionate when compared to the annual cost of flying engineers abroad to institutions where he had met and taught many of them when he was still in the USA. He argued further that having such equipment in Unilag will reflect positively on the generality of the engineering students. The stolid response was that “the powers that be may not be happy to spend such money in a certain part of the country”. Such jejunity!
But Tunde remained undaunted. For a long time. He continued to undertake high quality research and also mentor students both in Chemical Engineering and Statistics. Beyond mentorship in Chemical Engineering and Statistics, his weekly Bible Study meetings in the heart of the chaos of Osodi Bus Stop was a haven of peace for many students and young families of the mid 80s. The Bible Study group, as well as Tunde and Anna’s short association with Chris Okotie, was rather significant at the beginning of the Household of God Church International Ministries.
Tunde weathered many storms and remained resolute in contributing his quota to Unilag, his Alma Mata, and to the country as a whole. In my perception, however, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the theft of his state-of-the-art IBM Personal Computer from the make-shift office he was using in Unilag. With the theft went the expensive hardware and all the irreplaceable and priceless data he had accumulated, many vital notes he had made and reports of many studies that were about to be sent out for publication. It was after this experience that Babatunde Ayodeji Ogunnaike left Nigeria for good, but kept looking back.
One rather frustrating experience that Tunde had remains indelible for me because I was involved. His unquenchable passion for producing and spreading knowledge had driven him to write a book on Principles of Mathematical Modelling and Analysis in Chemical Engineering. He sat for many sleepless nights thinking through novel ideas emerging around the use of microprocessors for making control decisions. These were days when computers were found mainly in computer centres and the newly developing idea of personal microcomputers was essentially in its infancy. Though targeted at undergraduates and early postgraduate studies, a lot of the ideas in the book were cutting-edge. Some sections used the natural control systems of the human body as illustrations for control in engineering systems. That was the level of novelty and the pioneering status of the book Tunde wrote in the mid 80s.
Tunde had found out about my close relationship with a Nigeria-based expatriate publisher and got me to offer the manuscript of his book for publication. Tunde, the consummate artist, had rendered the entire manuscript hand-written in beautiful calligraphy. It was such an art to behold. When I handed the manuscript to the publisher, he was clearly overwhelmed and he declared that in all his decades as a publisher he had never seen a technical book hand written so aesthetically in calligraphy. He sent the book with excitement to his overseas associates and we waited with bated breath. Days, weeks and months rolled by, with Tunde and I both waiting patiently. Of course, those were days of no SMS, no email, no WhatsApp, no LinkedIn and what have you. We had to depend on the good old “Par avion” and so the wait was understandable, even if unpleasant. Then, one day, the response came to me and I had to convey it to Tunde. The overseas associates found the book really interesting, both for the artistry in the hand written calligraphy and the state-of-the-art content. Unfortunately, however, they would not be willing to publish the book. Why exactly, they would not say. However, from what was not said and the non-verbal communication, I felt the assessors could not reconcile its content with an African source. They must have searched for the “original” from which it might have been “copied” to be able to point out the “plagiarised” sections but might have not found any books of its range and depth. In not too many words, therefore, I was told something I perceived as; the assessors felt to stay out of copyright problems, they would prefer to stay away from the book.
Tunde excelled in more than intellection and musicianship. He was an exceptional cook, his speciality being dòdò àtẹ̀wà (fried plantain served with beans). He was a keen sportsman, at one point, a member the national field hockey team. Above all, he was a kind and thoughtful person, a man of integrity, who lived for high ideals. His love for God and dedication to the cause of the gospel of Christ was unambiguous.
The lot now fell on me to communicate this silliness to my friend. I talked round and round the issue, making little or no sense, not being able to mouth what I thought was the true message. It was Tunde himself who helped put my thought in proper words: “they did not think I could have written it”. I replied: “Something of the sort” and his nonplussed but cool response was, “Kí wọ́n ṣáà bámi gbé ìwé mi” (well, let them return my manuscript). The next waiting game was to get the artistic masterpiece that was this manuscript back. Unfortunately, this did not happen till Tunde left Nigeria for the U.S.A finally.
It was with great joy and a deep sense of accomplishment that Tunde autographed a copy of the 1265-page Process Dynamics, Modelling, and Control By Babatunde Ogunnaike and Hammon Ray, published by Oxford University Press for me on one of his home trips to Nigeria. Tunde always spoke of Hammon Ray (his PhD supervisor) in glowing terms and with great relish in appreciation of his mentorship. Who knows, Hammon Ray’s name could have also been the password that opened the publication door for the book.
In the U.S.A, Tunde first went to industry. He tried to explain to me the concept of “tenure” in university appointments in the U.S.A. I did not fully understand it, but what I gathered from his attempt at explanation was that leaving Nigeria was not an easy decision for him. He worked for many years at DuPont, where he contributed significantly to the operations and processes of the company. While in DuPont, he kept an eye on the academia, serving as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Delaware. He later moved back to the academia and later became the William L. Friend Chaired Professor of Chemical Engineering at University of Delaware. Sounded like “tenure” to me!
Tunde excelled in more than intellection and musicianship. He was an exceptional cook, his speciality being dòdò àtẹ̀wà (fried plantain served with beans). He was a keen sportsman, at one point, a member the national field hockey team. Above all, he was a kind and thoughtful person, a man of integrity, who lived for high ideals. His love for God and dedication to the cause of the gospel of Christ was unambiguous. In my final year in Unilag, while he was a Graduate Assistant, after playing music together in his Jaja Hall bedsit one night, he showed me a prayerful poem he had written while he was in Port Harcourt for the NYSC. It went somewhat as follows:
O God of (all) creation,
Direct our noble course
Guide our leaders aright,
Help our youth the truth to know.
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true,
Great lofty heights attain,
To build a nation where peace
And justice (shall) reign
Babatude Ayodeji Ogunaike went to be with his Lord on February 20, and is being buried today, Friday, February 4 in the U.S.A, leaving behind a devoted and loving wife Anna and three sons, spouses, a growing clan of grandchildren, dear siblings and a host of Nigerian and international friends.
Farewell my brother, friend and namesake. You have now joined Emma (Electric) Esiobu, Frank Onuzo and Willy Ranis of the Light Bearers who went before you. Those of us left behind celebrate you, even in death, as we look to and cherish the times you shared with us.
Tunde Adegbola, a language technologist, culture activist and director of Alt-i (African Languages Technology Initiative) wrote from Ibadan.
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