Obituary: J.F. Ade Ajayi, Man of principles, Scholar, Historian, former Vice-Chancellor dead at 85 – Tola Adenle

August 11, 2014


The death has been announced after a very brief illness of Illustrious son of Nigeria and Africa, Emeritus Professor J.F. Ade Ajayi.  He died at the University College Hospital, the Teaching Hospital arm of his University of Ibadan alma mater.

Professor Ajayi, a world-renowned scholar would go on to head the History Department and later rose to become the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Lagos.

He was an internationally-recognized scholar who served as a great role model not only for Ekiti youngsters but earned a name as one of those who made Ekiti famous for an area of hard work, academic excellence and strong principles.  Many who would drink from his fount of knowledge in History where he was a lecturer, head of department and Dean of the Arts Faculty talk about and of him with fond memories.

I am sure his strong, though gently-worded letter to President Jonathan about the need to revert the University of Lagos to its former name when it was changed to honor the late winner of Nigeria’s freest election must have struck a chord and played a role in “LAG” getting its old name back.  Here is a bit of that letter copied from Yoruba Affairs:

“… The University of Lagos is an important part of our institutional history and I urge you to restore back its name – and consider a more meaningful and befitting way in which to pay tribute to Chief MKO Abiola.

“I believe your commendable decision to honour Chief MKO, also offers you a golden opportunity to rise above the sectarian divisions that are heating up the national polity and pay tribute to MKO by identifying his name and his contributions to democracy in Nigeria – with a Federal institution that is not necessarily located in Lagos or the Southwest of Nigeria …

Please do not listen to those who will say to you that to step back from this decision may be seen as weakness on your part.  History has shown that a true statesman will stand for the right and will not be stampeded into any line of action …”

Professor J. Ade Ajayi wrote his own epitaph through his work and through the way people will always remember him.

May his soul find eternal rest with the Lord.


MONDAY, AUGUST 11, 1:50 p.m. [GMT]



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10 Comments on “Obituary: J.F. Ade Ajayi, Man of principles, Scholar, Historian, former Vice-Chancellor dead at 85 – Tola Adenle”

  1. emotan77 Says:


    Dear Tola,

    Sorry about Adadevoh’s daughter’s death.

    I was still at Unilag as principal engineer (Works Dept.) when he was appointed Vice-Chancellor (VC) Unilag. He was a suave, neat and dapper guy who loved to remind every body around him that he was Herbert Macauley’s grandson by wearing grandfather bow ties to work. He let us know that he did not belong to those who rose from grass!

    Herbert Macauley’s picture was right on his office desk.

    His father was a man from Gold Coast (Ghana) who served in the colonial Nigeria Police Force as a superintendent. The police superintendent had a personal house at the Yaba end of Ikorodu Road. The colonial Bungalow was No 3 Ikorodu Road. His mother was a daughter of the great Herbert Macauley. Who, among the professors, had such a family pedigree? Although these pedigrees don’t count in the academic world, it counted if you were holding the job of VC Unilag at that time for Lagosians and others who cared.

    On top of his mien which many saw as snooty, he was the only cigar-smoking professor that we at the Works Department knew. He was not resident in the VC’s Lodge as expected, like Jacob Ade-Ajayi; so we did not know members of his family.

    I feel sad like millions of Nigerians that he lost his daughter to Ebola virus. Being a professor of medicine himself, he would have the solace that she died helping the world by fighting against a deadly virus for which man is yet to find a cure. What a way to die?.





    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Doctor,

      Thank you v. much for this. Your comments always bring out little anecdotes and facts that most readers could not be aware of which makes them always very welcome.

      I did not know Dr. Stella Adadevoh but she seemed to fit the saying that an apple does not fall far from the tree as far as following the medical line like her father and like quite some descendants of our Great Herbert Macauley. Her dad and another Macauley descendant that I know, a first cousin to her dad, is also a medical doctor who retired as an army Colonel; he, too, has a medical doctor daughter. Her dad’s mom and the army man’s mom were sisters. We all [sort of] knew Professor Adadevoh as Unilag’s Vice-Chancellor and who would not appear to be snotty with his pedigree!

      I can almost picture the house at 3 Ikorodu Road near what is now around the flyover at the beginning of Ikorodu Road just as many of your readers – old and young alike – can as we read your contribution. This kind of commentary brings nostalgic feelings of the past back, especially to those who knew when that area and some parts of Yaba were home to upper and upper-middle class families.

      This is Dr. Stella’s story but she was not an under-achiever from just a great family but a serious student and later professional; we all must salute her for it and cannot tell her story without talking of the root from which she came. I was in elementary school when we learnt the followimg song about Macauley’s day of translation, incidentally the year of my birth. Now, THAT dates me for those who might not have known!

      Ni’rọlẹ, ni’rọlẹ, ni’rọlẹ ọjọ ti Macauley re’le ọrun’
      Igi wo o lu’gi, ọpẹ wo lu’pẹ (2ice),
      Ẹ wa w’ero b’o ti nrin l’ori ọda, l’ori ọda, ni’lu Eko o;
      Iku t’o mu Macauley lọ, Ọlọrun l’o Ọlọrun l’o mọ;
      Arun t’o mu Macauley lọ, Ọlọrun l’o, Ọlọrun l’o mọ.

      I think there was a line or so more but I just am no longer sure nor do I know it if another line exists.

      Thanks, and please keep them coming.



  2. Fatai Bakare Says:

    Another great, icon, academic and acclaimed scholar is no more. How many can we count? The only way to relieve our pains for losing them is to live up to the expectations of what they struggled for or were saying when they were on this side of the Great Divide. May his soul and that of others like him rest in peace. Meanwhile, I pray that the likes of him still with us will live long enough to see the fruits of their struggles. Amen.



  3. emotan77 Says:


    Requiescat in pace Baba rere!.

    I was employed by Unilag (University of Lagos) as an engineer in the works department during his tenure as VC and Mr. Eperokun was the registrar while Mr. Babatope (ebinotopsy) was student affairs officer..Professor Ade-Ajayi was the coolest man I ever knew. I used to wonder how he held the Awojobis, Chike Obis, Laz Ekwuemes, all big academicians in common harmony with himself. I was always very welcomed in his official residence with my staff to perform our duties. There was no heavy-handed officiousness about him. He allowed me and the workers take cold water from the fridge (a rare thing in those days) The wife gave us food to eat after work. My men always like scheduled duties at the VC’ s Lodge by he Lagoon side when Professor Jacob Ade-Ajayi was VC Unilag. .He took care of people joyfully.

    His wife is from Ile-Oluji, Ondo state. She was very kind and graceful, she graciously accommodated an indigent lady student in the household. without fanfare.
    We have lost one of the most erudite professors, I am told he is the best Nigerian Historian in his cadre. Good Baba, God will take care of you in heaven as you took care of people who came in contact with you on earth. (RIP).




    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Dr. Ajao,

      Thanks for giving us this in-depth look at Late Professor Ade Ajayi and Mrs. Ajayi’s relationships with others, especially the fact that they did not treat staff of lower cadre the way most Nigerian so-called big men did and still do.

      May God rest his soul in his bosom.

      Regards, as always.

      PS. Please help reduce my work by posting directly. Regards, Tola.



  4. emotan77 Says:


    My dear Tola,

    Many thanks for that succinct but comprehensive tribute; you brilliantly captured the essence of the “colossus” and icon of all that is noble in academia and personal life of an individual!




    • emotan77 Says:


      Thank you very much for your thoughts on Professor Ajayi’s passing. Thanks, too, for the very generous words.

      May his soul rest in peace.

      Fond regards,



  5. emotan77 Says:


    A living will become a funerary ovation. I ddnt know him much nor his works for that matter,but he had a healthy reputation in an unobtrusive way in a clime of vulgarity.

    Ọrun ire o,alagba wa.

    A. Tao.



    • emotan77 Says:

      Thanks, Tao.

      Most, in a country of almost 200 million, would not know him in the true sense of the word of “knowing” but what could be more than having lived a life of “healthy reputation … in a clime of vulgarity”?

      Thanks, as always.



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