By Bashorun J.K. Randle
For me the death of Professor Olufemi Williams was a huge shock. I was invited by phone on a Saturday morning: “Please come and see Prof urgently” only to be confronted by his lifeless corpse. He must have passed away during the night. In life as in death, he was a genius and an enigma. Or to be more precise, he was an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. Almost eighteen months after his demise, it is now time to accord him the decent burial to which he is entitled. Regardless, the puzzle lingers on.
By his own admission, he was a late developer. It was not until he had left CMS Grammar School, Lagos (1951/1952 set) and gained admission into University of Dublin, that he not only flourished, he soared like an eagle.
Perhaps, as the youngest amongst his classmates he was overwhelmed by the calibre of:
i.) Professor Ademola Segun (Decd)
ii.) Professor Osoba (Decd)
iii.) Professor Tunji Adeleye
iv.) Professor Nosiru Ojikutu (Decd)
v.) Professor Gboyega Jadesimi (Decd)
vi.) Dr. Sanya Sonuga
vii.) Dr. Adebola Oyemade (Decd)
viii.) Dr. Oluyemisi Kuforiji
ix.) HRH Eze (Engr.) Benson Maduakoh (Decd)
x.) Professor Gbajumo (Decd)
xi.) Dr. Tunji Doherty (Decd)
xii.) Chief Simeon Ojuri (Society Photographer)
xiii.) Justice Sola Thomas (C.Judge Lagos State) (Decd)
xiv.) Dr. B. Ayorinde
xv.) Engr. Olawale Ayorinde
xvi.) Prince (Engr.) Adenuga (Decd)
After graduating from University of Dublin with distinction, he was rewarded with rare academic accolades and superlative achievements in medicine and research, especially in pathology.
On his first visit to apartheid South Africa he was designated “White”in the column for race in his entry visa!!
In the United States of America, he was a resident scholar at the prestigious National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Professor Williams’ vast knowledge and arsenal of talents were not confined to medicine. When he ventured into business and investments, he did so with commendable gusto which earned him a bountiful harvest.
Also, as the Executive Secretary of OAU (African Union), he performed brilliantly as a diplomat and administrator. Equally, as the Pioneer Provost of the Medical School, University of Calabar, he left behind a robust legacy of commitment to excellence which has remained untarnished.
He was also a very brave man. A case in point was his diagnosis of the ailing President Muhammadu Buhari without the privilege of physical examination of the patient. His prognosis was as grave as it was forthright.
Ironically, Professor Williams is gone and President Buhari is very much alive. Indeed, he is standing for re-election in two weeks’ time.
Till the very end, Professor Williams would engage me in matters that involved deep knowledge of philosophy. His favourite topic was “U and Non–U” (You and Non – You) which he broke down into a digestible thesis that would translate into evidence-based theory – as human beings, we are irresistibly attracted to the very things we reject and abhor.
I remain convinced that death was never an item on that agenda. In our discussions, no matter how intense, he never gave a hint that death was imminent especially as he had only just returned from the United States of America where his doctors had given him a clean bill of health and the encouragement to pursue with fresh vigour his dream to build the African Cancer Centre, in Lagos – as the first of its kind. The dream must not perish.
May his soul rest in peace.