Pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Gabriel Jimoh Afolabi Ojo (KSG, CON), has passed on at the age of 90.
Prof Ojo transited in his sleep on the afternoon of Sunday, August 30, 2020, at his Ikeja residence in Lagos.
The brains behind distance learning in Nigeria, Prof Afolabi Ojo was a teacher all his life and authored over 140 books and academic articles.
He was Chairman, Presidential Planning Committee on the Open University System in Nigeria (1980-81) and was then appointed as pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University (1981-1984).
Away from academics, Professor Ojo was an active member of the Catholic Church, as well as the local communities in Ado-Ekiti, Ife and Lagos. He held the traditional chieftaincy titles of Asiwaju of Ado-Ekiti, Balogun of Imesi-Ekiti and Otun Maye of Ile-Ife.
Prof Ojo was the foundation National Secretary of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria (CLCN) from 1973 to 1981. He later became the National President of the Laity Council from 1986-1994, and thereafter, a National Life Patron from 1995.
He was also a foundation member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the Vatican from 1983, a post he occupied for seven years.
He later became Chairman of the Provisional Governing Council of the Catholic University of Nigeria, Abuja (CUNA), from 2005 to 2008, and served the Catholic Church in Nigeria in various capacities, especially as the author of several religious publications.
In recognition of his active participation in the Catholic Church, he was conferred with a Papal Knighthood (Knight of St. Gregory the Great) in 1975.
His immediate communities in Ekiti and Ife also recognised his impact their development; he was conferred with the traditional chieftaincy titles of Asiwaju of Ado-Ekiti, Otun Maye of Ile-Ife and Balogun of Imesi-Ekiti.
Prof Ojo was, for many years, the President of Ado- Ekiti Progressive Union of which he later became a Life Patron.
Born to Pa Sanni Kowe Ojo and Chief (Mrs.) Lydia Aina in Ado-Ekiti on November 1, 1929, Prof Ojo had his primary education at St. George’s Catholic School, Ado-Ekiti, between 1936 and 1942, then on to St. John Bosco’s Training College, Ubiaja (1944-1945), before earning his Senior Cambridge School Certificate in December 1948.
In 1950, he obtained the Teachers’ Higher Elementary Certificate and topped it up with the London Matriculation in June 1951.
He then proceeded to the National University of Ireland in 1953 and finished with a B.A. First Class Honours in 1956, thus becoming the first African to achieve a First Class in Geography and Economics from his alma mater.
Prof Ojo later obtained another first class with his Master of Arts degree in 1957 and later a PhD, both from the same institution in 1963.
However, he already started his life-long career as a teacher as far back as 1946 in Ado-Ekiti. He later became a tutor at St. Joseph’s College, Ondo, and quickly rose to become the Vice-Principal.
He went to the Nigerian College of Arts & Science Enugu in October 1959 as a lecturer, but soon became Head of Department (1960-1961).
Prof Ojo later moved to the then University of Ife and became Acting Head of Geography Department (1962). On October 1, 1970, he became a Professor of Geography. He was appointed Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences in 1972 and later, Dean, Faculty of Administration from 1976-77.
Afolabi was a member of a number of professional and academic bodies. He was a Fellow of the Geographical Association of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and an Honorary Mountaineer of the State of West Virginia, USA.
For his meritorious service to Nigeria and humanity, Prof. Ojo was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2004.
Prof Ojo was blessed with three sons and three daughters from his union with Florence Bukunola Ojo (nee Adeyanju), who joined the Church triumphant on March 20, 2012. He also had numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.