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