It is possible that Prof Armstrong Matiu Adejo died of heart attack, Intervention has been told. Death did not oblige him much room for preparations. This is not a medical opinion but fits into what can be called an informed opinion on the likely cause of the demise of the Historian.
If the opinion is anything to go by, then his death speaks to the fate of several people who have died recently. The Nigerian condition as well as the ‘African condition’ is so disorienting for many, especially those informed about the dynamics of stressful modernisation brought about by a stunted local ruling class, a much more violent capitalism and a fractured global order. It remains to be verified if Prof Adejo is the latest victim of the killer tension associated with an extraordinarily dysfunctional capitalism as Nigeria has been experiencing in the past few years in particular.
There is still no statement from either the family or the Department of History at the Benue State University in Makurdi, central Nigeria where he worked as an academic Historian. But a legal luminary of the same ethnic identity with him as well as a senior member of Old Boys Association of the secondary school he attended have told Intervention that Prof Armstrong Matiu Adejo is dead. The precise time he died, the trigger of his death and his age are not immediately known. He should be between 65 and 70.
The late Prof of History is among the pioneer set or so of Emmanuel Secondary School, Ugbokolo unlike many of the front-rank academics and players from that area, majority of whom went to Mount Saint Michaels, Aliade, Mount Saint Gabriel Secondary School, Makurdi or Saint Francis Secondary School, Otukpo.
Prof Adejo taught Literature and History at Emmanuel Secondary School, Ugbokolo between 1977 and 1978 before entering the University of Maiduguri in the Northeast of Nigeria for a BA in History. Intervention doesn’t know immediately where he obtained his doctorate.
In the past two decades, he had sought to be Vice-Chancellor of the Benue State University as well as the University of Abuja. None worked. He invested a lot in the Idoma quest for governorship of Benue State, becoming one of the key intellectuals of that project. Last year, he sought to contest for the Och’Idomaship of Idoma. It is understood he was blocked from access to the nomination process by the powers that were.
The senior member of the Emmanuel Secondary School, Ugbokolo Old Boys Association, (ESSUOBA) who contacted Intervention labeled him variously and generously as “our father, mentor, fountain of knowledge, moral compass”, calling his death a huge loss to ESSUOBA again and, indeed, ‘a black Friday’.
It is not immediately clear how ‘Armstrong’ became part of his name and if it has to do with Prof Robert Armstrong, the British academic who did so much works on Idoma History at the University of Ibadan many decades back that the Idoma Kingdom made him a traditional title holder. He thus died with the princely title of ‘Odejo’ and was buried in Otukpo in 1987.
It would be an understatement to say that Prof Armstrong Matiu Adejo’s death will be a loss across many spaces in which he circulated, starting from the family, the community of origin, the Department of History at the Benue State University, Makurdi; the ESSUOBA, the Idoma ethnic arena, the Historical Society of Nigeria, academia in general and informed politics. Many of the second year students at Emmanuel Secondary School, Ugbokolo whom he taught Lamb Tales from Shakespeare, a simplified version of, arguably, the most key of Shakespeare’s plays, will never forget him, given his pedagogic innovations, sometimes using local knowledge to illustrate.