By Eric Elezuo
While the nation was still mourning the demise of the first military governor of Lagos State, Mobolaji Johnson, the week claimed yet two other strong irokos of relevance in Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape. They are a former Minister of Petroleum and Consultant Virologist, Prof Tam David-West and a former Minister of Information as well as former Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Chief Alex Akinyele.
TAMUNOEMI SOKARI DAVID-WEST was born on August 26, 1936 in Buguma, Kalabari, Rivers State. He was well read and had his education at the University of Ibadan (1956–1958). His other academic qualifications included a B.Sc degree from the Michigan State University (1958–1960), an M.Sc degree at Yale University (1960–1962), and a PhD degree at McGill University (1964–1966).
David-West qualified as a Consultant Virologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Ibadan in 1969 and was subsequently promoted to Professor of Virology in 1975.
According to Wikipedia: “David-West served in Nigerian government as commissioner of education and a member of the Executive Council of Rivers State (1975–1979), as a member of the fifty-person Constitution Drafting Committee for the Federal Military Government of General Murtala Muhammed (1979), as federal minister of petroleum and energy under General Muhammadu Buhari (1984–1985), and as minister of mines, power, and steel under General Ibrahim Babangida (1986). He was eventually removed as minister and arrested by the Babangida regime for allegedly contributing to the economic adversity of the country; He was discharged and acquitted of these charges by Nigeria’s Special Appeal Court on 8 August 1991.
David-West was an outspoken and controversial critic of Nigerian government policy since his purge and arrest under the military regime of General Babangida. David-West criticized the unconstitutionality of the advisory council established by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, and he voiced caution against government unreservedly opening its doors to United States intelligence. Although he was not affiliated with any political party, David-West supported Chibuike Amaechi of the right-wing-leaning People’s Democratic Party for reelection as governor of Rivers State.
David-West is the author of academic papers in virology that have appeared in scholarly journals such as Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology (1966),Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (1973), Intervirology (1974), and Journal of Hygiene (1974). He also wrote the book Philosophical Essays: Reflections on the Good Life (1980), in which he describes himself as a follower of British analytic philosopher and social critic Bertrand Russell. David-West’s lecture in philosophy “God, Nature and the Universe” (1981) was delivered at the University of Ibadan.”
PROF TAM DAVID-WEST died at the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, on Monday, November 11, 2019 at around 11:05 am as confirmed by the hospital’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Toye Akinrinlola, at the accomplished age of 83.
ALEXANDER OPEYEMI AKINYELE, popularly known as Alex Akinyele, was born 1938 in Ondo town. His father was a teacher but later served in the West African Frontier Force during World War II.
Akinyele had to wait for his father’s return from the war before he could begin his education. According to Wikipedia, he started his primary education at All Saints School, Ondo and completed secondary studies at Gboluji Grammar School. He then attended St Andrews College, Oyo to obtain a teacher’s training certificate. At St Andrew’s, the principal was Seth Runsewe Kale, who took a liking to Akinyele and appointed him a receptionist prefect, an ambassador for the school to receive visitors. After graduation, he taught briefly at his alma mater, Gboluji, before earning a degree in English language from the University of Ife. His degree was partially sponsored by a secondary school in Idanre and after obtaining his diploma, he returned to the school to teach English for a number of years.
In 1967, Akinyele transferred services to the Department of Customs in Lagos. While staying in Lagos, he found time to work with a group of writers of the Village Headmaster.
On the recommendation of Customs director, Etim Duke, Akinyele became the Public Relations Officer of the department. He worked in that position until 1978 when he joined a cosmetic company.
Akinyele was an investor in Newswatch magazine and played a role in negotiations between the federal government and magazine when the latter was proscribed in 1986.
In 1995, Sani Abacha appointed Akinyele as head of a National Reconciliation Committee with the objective of opening dialogue with interest groups in the country to support the democratic transition program of the government.
He also served as Minister of Information and Chairman, Bational sports Commission.
Akinyele is fondly remembered for being at the helm of sports affairs when the Super Eagles of Nigeria qualified for their first ever World Cup tournament after a 1 – 1 draw in far away Algiers.
He died on November 15, 2019 at the age of 81.
Prof David-West and Chief Alex Akinyele gave their best in the service of the fatherland while they lived. May their souls rest in perfect peace.