It's sad that Elusiyan's killing was worse that a Christ­mas chicken's - Col­league of mur­dered OAU medicine prof

The Punch - - PANORAMA - BOLA BAMIGBOLA

A Pro­fes­sor of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health at the Obafemi Awolowo Univer­sity, Ile Ife, John Okeniyi, chal­lenges the po­lice to find the killers of his 51-year-old col­league and pro­fes­sor of Pae­di­atric En­docrinol­ogy in the univer­sity, Jerome Elusiyan, in this in­ter­view with

What was your re­la­tion­ship with late Prof Elusiyan? We were pro­fes­sional col­leagues. We were both lec­tur­ers of the Obafemi Awolowo Univer­sity at the De­part­ment of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health. We were also friends and alumni of the univer­sity.

What did he tell you about his back­ground?

He did not come from an af­flu­ent back­ground. He was a very sim­ple per­son. He loved his town, Oke Igbo, and his peo­ple. He was a de­vout Chris­tian and tried to live his Chris­tian­ity, not by words, but by his ac­tions. He was very ac­ces­si­ble.

how im­por­tant will you say he was to this na­tion?

We all started this jour­ney in a way that most Nige­ri­ans would not re­alise. To be­come a med­i­cal doc­tor and a spe­cial­ist and then a su­per spe­cial­ist, it takes a very long time and most peo­ple with­out pas­sion will not be able to ded­i­cate their lives to that kind of thing.

Af­ter sec­ondary school, in univer­sity you have to spend be­tween six and eight years. There­after, you will spend another length of time on house­man­ship and the manda­tory na­tional youth ser­vice. He (Elusiyan) did all those things.

It took us six years and then we be­came pae­di­a­tri­cians and he be­gan his jour­ney to Pae­di­atric En­docrinol­ogy, deal­ing with chil­dren who had hor­monal prob­lems. There are not many peo­ple in that field all over the world, not talk about Nige­ria. Pae­di­atric En­docri­nol­o­gists at­tend to the health needs of chil­dren with di­a­betes, growth hor­mone , gen­i­tal prob­lems and things like that. I don’t think there are to up to 12 peo­ple who spe­cialised in this field in Nige­ria. I know one of them died three months ago as a re­sult of an ill­ness. Then comes Eluy­isan’s sud­den demise. It is a ma­jor blow to this coun­try. It is also a ma­jor blow for the train­ing of fu­ture pae­di­a­tri­cians be­cause he was among the top train­ers in the world.

The blow even goes be­yond the ones I al­ready men­tioned. Right now, the Bri­tish are open­ing up cen­tres in Nige­ria where peo­ple can eas­ily be in­ter­viewed to get jobs in the United King­dom. They are in need of 5,000 for­eign doc­tors to beef up their own health in­fra­struc­ture. The coun­try sub­sidises the med­i­cal school here and it in­vests heav­ily on the train­ing of doc­tors, only for Bri­tain and Amer­ica to come for them.

Some­body, who sac­ri­ficed so much to stay be­hind in Nige­ria, de­spite his ex­per­tise, was killed in a way worse than a Christ­mas chicken. When you kill a Christ­mas chicken, you know why it has to die. In his (Elusiyan’s) case, no one knew why and who? We only knew when and where, which was on the road where there was no in­fra­struc­ture for re­sus­ci­ta­tion and se­cu­rity.

Then you see the loss. It is not just Elusiyan life that we lost; the loss will also af­fect the med­i­cal stu­dents and res­i­dent doc­tors that he was train­ing. They will lose vi­sion and hope in the coun­try. How do we con­vince our stu­dents that Elusiyan and I took the right de­ci­sion stay­ing back in the coun­try to train them?

how would you de­scribe his per­son­al­ity? Was he a peace­ful per­son?

He was very unas­sum­ing and sim­ple. He al­ways wanted to help. There is a med­i­cal school in Edo State that needed lec­tur­ers to in­ter­vene in the ex­am­i­na­tions. Our ex­ams need a cross-fer­til­i­sa­tion of ideas to main­tain stan­dards. Peo­ple will have to come from other places to ex­am­ine those of us in the OAU, just as we do the same thing in their uni­ver­si­ties. With this kind of death, do you think any lec­turer in the OAU will ever go to ex­am­ine stu­dents in that kind of place again? Do you think peo­ple from there will ever come here? Do you think they can call any of us to go and ex­am­ine in the north­ern re­gion and we would go? That death has now di­vided the coun­try more. It could be worse, if not solved. It has to be solved to re­store san­ity, peace and con­fi­dence in the sys­tem. I was very glad­dened when the lo­cal branch of the Nige­rian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion staged a peace­ful protest here in Ile Ife and in Osogbo to call the at­ten­tion of the au­thor­i­ties to the need to re­solve this death.

You men­tioned that you both had job of­fers out­side the coun­try. Why didn’t you take them?

There were of­fers. There are of­fers and there will still be of­fers. Im­me­di­ately, we learned of Elusiyan’s death, one of my stu­dents in the United States called me and told me there were more op­por­tu­ni­ties over there. When I went to In­dia for a pro­gramme four, five years ago, I spent seven months in an in­sti­tu­tion there. When I was done, the Head of De­part­ment of­fered me a job.

Nige­ri­ans are hard work­ing and we are not de­mand­ing too much. That is why they are treat­ing us like that. If we were like the peo­ple of Hong Kong, we would sit on the road for six months and re­strict ve­hic­u­lar move­ments.

Nige­ri­ans are mal­leable. When you push them to the wall, they will find a way to break the wall and go to the next place. You see, most other cit­i­zens will not do that, they will fight you back. You can­not mis­gov­ern peo­ple with­out their con­sent. Back to your ques­tion, there were op­por­tu­ni­ties and there will al­ways be.

Were you told how he died?

It was very sad. He went to ex­am­ine a med­i­cal school ex­am­i­na­tion in Pae­di­atrics at the Am­brose Ali Univer­sity, Ekpoma. I dis­cussed with some of our col­leagues there, par­tic­u­larly the head of the de­part­ment and I was told the ex­am­i­na­tion went well and he left around 4pm or 5pm. I think that was not a bad time to leave. He wasn’t driv­ing to Ife, which could have been dan­ger­ous, but he was head­ing to Benin, which was less than 100 kilo­me­tres away, to pass the night.

In his good na­ture, be­cause a col­league’s daugh­ter’s wed­ding was hold­ing that Satur­day, he chose to rep­re­sent us. The next thing we heard was that “the owner of this phone has been shot.” That man­ner of break­ing the news was highly un­pro­fes­sional and I think the IGP can look at it and train his per­son­nel to do bet­ter than that.

All we know is that while Elusiyan was head­ing to Benin, some peo­ple de­scribed as ban­dits had shot at his ve­hi­cle and he died in­stantly. He was dead be­fore he was taken to a health fa­cil­ity. We also know that he passed at least one check­point be­fore the in­ci­dent oc­curred. That means the Nige­ria Po­lice know that the road was un­safe and it also means that they are not enough to pro­tect the lives of in­no­cent and law abid­ing Nige­ri­ans.

Elusiyan’s driver was also shot. For­tu­nately, he is alive and re­spond­ing to treat­ment.

When was the last time you saw the de­ceased? What did you dis­cuss?

He died on Friday. I saw him on Wed­nes­day. We had a What­sapp chat be­tween that Wed­nes­day and Friday. Like I said, he was a very ac­ces­si­ble per­son. He was also serv­ing as the chair­man of our Med­i­cal Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee. That means he was the num­ber two per­son in the hos­pi­tal. At that point, I just fin­ished my clinic on Wed­nes­day and I had some chal­lenges that I felt he could help me to solve with his man­age­rial skills.

That Also there was a doc­tor, who I no­ticed was hav­ing emo­tional prob­lems and I felt if I dis­cussed with Elusiyan, as a friend, we could both as­sist that doc­tor. I went to him while the ARD was hold­ing their An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing and he was the one who chaired the meet­ing. I called him out­side from that meet­ing and we spoke and told him of the doc­tor’s plight. He promised to see to it. The dis­cus­sion to help a younger col­league was our last dis­cus­sion.

Are you sat­is­fied with the way the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his death is go­ing?

I don’t have a clue about the in­ves­ti­ga­tions. No­body has come to the head of the de­part­ment. Al­though I am not the head, I am speaking on his be­half of­fi­cially. He is still emo­tion­ally down be­cause of what hap­pened and he told me to be the act­ing HOD. I am not happy go­ing to pick a cof­fin for a friend and col­league. I have told my younger col­leagues, that at best, I will be at the ly­ing-in­state event. I am not go­ing to the burial site. I can­not cope with it. No­body has come from the po­lice to meet with us of­fi­cially or to in­ter­ro­gate us.

•Okeniyi

•Late Elusiyan

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