By Maik Ortserga
Society may perhaps be past praying for, but there is always hope when once in a while, we come across individuals who are real ‘human beings’. As students of Benue State University some years back. We never ceased to be mesmerised by Prof. Armstrong Adejo’s command of the English Language and oratory. In thinking of him as my role model, I wondered what the source of his unmatchable oratory was. His personality had enticed me to take elective courses in the Department of History, and any time I saw his name for a particular course I would jumped at it and register . With his strong presence as a teacher, he tried to be everything in relation to his profession – a father, a role model, a critic all rolled into one. In class, Adejo had a way of mobilising English phrases and sending them to deliver his teaching to us in a manner that was quite lucid and memorable.
Prof. Was the kind of teacher any good student would externally be gratefu to be taught by him, I am too. He understood that knowledge requires learning and learning requires humility and that one has to be humble in order to learn, so Prof would never let any opportunity to make us humble pass him by, including making us to always stand up before greeting him anytime he came to class.
His lectures were absolutely absorbing. While lecturing, he would modify his discourse with more extemporaneous comments and was less rigid in his delivery. Perhaps the most valuable contribution that he made to us was not merely emphasis on shared experience but on shared informed experience. He was also acutely conscious of the need to shape his lecture to the alloted classroom hours. He was stern, yet very jovial. If you were lucky to meet him on a day he forgets your name, you instantly become either “Bigman’ or “Chairman”. I became Chairman on many occasions.
It was years after my graduation that the puzzle of Prof. Adejo’s rare eloquence was solved. I was then, an Executive Editor with Aboki Publishers. On this fine sodden morning of the rains, I was going through a manuscript in the office opposite Ishaya Bakut Road then, a shadow suddenly fell over my desk., I did not see him enter. As I looked up, he quickly grabbed a copy of Earnest Hemingway’s “For whom The Bell Tolls” on my desk before I could quickly stand to greet him as he had thought us to do while in school.
He sat down and began his conversation on the book in his hand which excited him because he had studied it in secondary school a long time ago. We spent most of the next few minutes discussing books that morning. For a Professor of History, l was amazed at Adejo’s grasp of European literature and classics – great authors like Leo Tolstoy’, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Anton Chekhov kept on dropping from his lips like ripe fruits from an overburdened tree. It then downed on me that this man was vast because he had read wide even outside his field. That, to me was the source of his eloquence which was almost magical.
Why did I celebrate this attribute of Professor Adejo’s vastness? I recently had cause to sit with an emeritus Professor in the the social sciences. A very brilliant man. When he asked me the source of all the things I was saying about our immediate society during the dinner, including those he was well aware that they happened when I was not yet born, I told him I have read books. He shook his head slowly and casting his pretensions to gentlemanliness aside, he confessed that he didn’t know most of what I was saying because when he went to school in his days, he believed that everything was about psychology, and so he did not read other books.
Armstrong Adejo was a rare breed who had concentrated in reading the finest works by writers across various fields worldwide, and had also interacted with those whose visions inspired him. It was not by mistake that he came to write Wantaregh Paul Unongo’s Biography entitled “Wantaregh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo: The Man, The Myth”. As a young man, he must have admired the eloquence of Unongo which may have drew him closer to the colourful politician.The fact can not and need not be disguised that Great people have always learnt from their role models, iron sharpens iron. The sad thing is that Adejo could not live to see Unongo buried before going the way of all mortals himself to meet his mentor.
Armstrong would have been a successful politician with the eloquence of let’s say, Chuba Okadigbo, Bola Ige or Paul Unongo. But he shuned all the plaudits of the world and lived his life as teacher and a simple child of God, quietly but brilliantly lecturing at BSU. Apart from his colleagues and us, his students, and great grand students, the world may not even hear that such a great shinning star is plucked from the sky today.The newspapers may not even scream his name, and It may not even bother those pretty newscasters in cosy TV studios to relate his obituary in trembling voices. But we , who know his value, will always bear upon ourselves the lingering memory of this man of honour who has crossed our paths.
GOOD NIGHT, PROF. A. M. ADEJO.