Although dead and gone to his final resting place, it seems there is no exhausting the late Dr. Emmanuel Udah Olowu’s story. It seems there will always be a story to write about him. Many Nigerians have heard one variant or another of that heroism but very few can tell you exactly what it is that happened. In other words, like all such tragedies, it all happened far away from “we, the people”.
Much of what the rest of us heard are what most of his course mates at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, for example, who followed his career, have told us. For instance, one of them speaks of rough treatment of Olowu in the NDLEA, saying “He had served in the most exemplary manner that many rightly thought he would surely become (it’s) Chief Executive. This was not to be as a military figure generally acknowledged to be mercurial hounded the more academic and methodical Emma out completely”.
The great point seems to be that Dr. Olowu dared the system at his own level and collected the pleasures and pains of doing so. He never successed in become ‘tactical’, ‘exposed’, ‘suave’, ‘diplomatic’, ‘mature’, ‘understanding’, ‘sophisticated’ or ‘cooperative’. Rather, he remained or chose to remain ‘naive’, ‘Christian fundamentalist’, ‘dogmatic’ if we uncritically accept some of the labels thrown at such people. It is interesting that sections of the society took note of his heroism as to have kept a reportorial tab on every turn of his homeward journey through about five months of hospitalisation.
At this point, however, the story has to shift to Mrs Josephine Olowu, the woman who bore the fullest brunt of this transition. With daughters-in-law, in-laws and grand children across many continents, Dr. Olowu echoed far and wide but still, it was the wife who took charge. And did so admirably on all counts! She bungled in no part throughout the challenging time, from being permanently calm in disposition to her alertness, cultural sensitivity and even medical judgment.
If they have not awarded her an honorary medical degree, it must be on account of the conservatism of traditional status quo professions. At some point, she did have absolutely dependable ideas about the state of her husband and what should be done. Most of that were rejected but returned to at last. Many of her conjectures turned out to be the corner stone that the builders rejected. Perhaps, the fact that she is an academic helped in terms of observation and inference. Her extreme control of herself must have saved many explosive situations throughout the trial period.
In academia, excellence is graded as either Accomplished, Distinguished or Exceptional. Taking care of a distressed husband is not academe. But it should be possible to borrow that categorisation in rating Mrs Olowu.
To make a concession to bad belle elements, let’s not award her Exceptional but nothing less than Distinguished will be adequate for a rare case of exemplarity in considerate caretaking of the other person nowadays.