I am extremely delighted that a day has come for me to tell in a few words, the contributions of Prof. Omogbai to my academic growth. It was in my first undergraduate lecture in Pharmacology in 1988, that my class was told of a certain young and superbly intelligent lecturer who was away for further studies in the UK.
As young impressionable students, we looked forward to meeting him but there was the belief that he would not return. Unexpectedly, he did return. His senior academic colleagues such as Prof. Hope Obianwu and Dr. Dave Anufuro had in their lectures told us of the huge sacrifices that Dr. Omogbai (as he then was) had made – coming back to Nigeria that promised very little when he could have gone to countries of better self-actualization and reward. But that would have been incongruous with the character of a quintessential man who emblematizes decency, uprightness, hard work, dedication, philanthropy and whatever else may be added as virtues.
His first lecture with my class was on prostaglandins. It was interesting learning from him the focus and tenacity of the Nobel Laureate Prof. John Robert Vane who unveiled the mechanism of action of aspirin. His spoken English was flawless, and the accent was like that of an educated Londoner who had familial connection to Buckingham Palace. He taught pharmacology with authority, civility, enthusiasm, and dispensed knowledge with angelic simplicity. In postgraduate lectures, he taught us how to philosophize – to audaciously question the how and why if not the where and when surrounding any scientific theory. I have since been transferring this principle in a pristine manner to my postgraduate students. He helped to institute the spirit of excellence, self-actualization, discipline, and moral rectitude in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
Prof. Omogbai identifies, encourages and supports. Three days after returning from the mandatory national youth service in April 1993, he as Acting Head of Department, Prof. Peter Hugbo as the Dean of Pharmacy, and then Dr. Augustine Okhamafe, ensured that the University signed me on immediately as a Graduate Assistant. They were insistent if not consistent that my life would be better in the academia than in the pharmaceutical industry for which I had been invited for interviews.
A six-month national strike action by academic staff of universities started shortly after my assumption of duties and my postgraduate programme became imperiled.
Seeing that I had become rudderless, despondent, despaired, disenchanted, and disillusioned by the turn of events, he and Dr Ambrose Isah (as he was then) encouraged and took on the supervision of my M.Sc thesis. He also supervised my PhD thesis, and it has been a sweet experience for me as his academic firstborn. Beside me, there are Professors, Associate Professors, other academics, pharmacists, medical doctors, optometrists, and nurses that he has mentored. His fecundity as an academic accentuates the profundity of his virtues and intellectual endowment. Who else would have so graciously introduced me to external examinership? He taught me the rudiments of postgraduate supervision by making me a co-supervisor of some of the postgraduate students that came after me. Mentors teach mentees how to progress to the top and Prof. Omogbai did it excellently well.
The elements are indeed well proportioned and mixed in the distinguished scholar. I look forward to another opportunity with more time and space to talk more about this inimitable man who is a Catholic Knight of the Order of Saint Mulumba and is fascinatingly amiable and gregarious. I join everyone in wishing him happy retirement. May the years ahead be very many and more glorious. May his biological children be greater than him. May the big shoes he leaves behind for his mentees not pinch but offer them the comfort needed to climb to the highest rung of their ladder. Amen!
I love my Prof!!!
*Prof Ray I. Ozolua, _B. Pharm., M.Sc., PhD, FPSN, FWASP, FNAPharm is Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), University of Benin,Nigeria