Posted by News Express | 1 June 2020 | 1,729 times
By BERNARD BALOGUN
To many, she defied comprehension but to her she understood her purpose in life. She had, and still has, a dream, a purpose in life. In fact at a point in her nascent life she was called ‘tom-boy,’ meaning a boy in a lady’s skin. And to compound that irony, (was it really an irony?), her biological father once wrote her a letter while in Teachers’ College in Idah, in the present Kogi State.
However, at that time, Idah was part of old Kwara State, thus: “Dear son....” For her dad had reasoned, she was a boy in a lady’s skin. And she gave a bite to this notion because she undertook, voluntarily, tasks that were naturally assigned to boys of her age in her native town of Okene in Kogi State. She rode bicycle as the boys. She accompanied her dad to cinema house in Okene, a rarity at the time, in an outfit designed only for the boys. She played the ‘Ayo’ and ‘draught’ games and she displayed an amazing skill, considering her age. Strangely, this was at a time it was thought the place of a lady was in the kitchen.
In a nutshell, this is a brief background into the life of the celebrant, Professor Angela Orengwu Okatahi, born June 01, 1950 and who retires gleefully and to the glory of God, after a meritorious service to the University community in Nigeria and abroad, a service that spanned over 40years. From June 01, 2020 therefore, her service comes to an end, having attained the mandatory retirement age of 70. She is a Professor of Educational Psychology from the prestigious University of Abuja, in 2006.
I first came across Professor Okatahi in the home of the Adabas. This was on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary in December 2016. She came in like every other guest. However, when she stood to speak, it was different and that gave her out. There was strength in her communication. Her words were simple but penetrating and of course, she dropped this. “...teacher Tom Adaba.....was my teacher in primary school. He taught me Arithmetics....” That is the woman we celebrate today – a blend of urban and rural configuration.
Within the space of her 40 years in the university, she had produced 54 post graduate students and mentored a number of people, some of whom are Professors and Senior Administrators in various Institutions/Organisations in Nigeria and abroad. Her 51 years of teaching career, have produced and touched the lives of many captains of industries, such as CG, Rtd Generals, and many other high networth personalities.
At a time, her services were extended to other Federal Parastatals, which included Board Membership. She was also one of the eight pioneer members of Kogi State Government Council in 1992 when she was eventually appointed Special Adviser. She was saddled with the responsibility of establishing the Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, which recorded astounding success.
Hear her: “Wherever I went, North or South, East or West, especially at the airports, someone would always walk up to me and say, ‘Prof, l know you, don’t you recognise me anymore? You taught me in Ahmadu Bello University many years ago.’ “For me,” Prof continues, “this is an earthly reward that cannot be quantified or bought with money in the market.”
She has held numerous leadership positions in the universities including deanship and has many national and international researched publications to her credit. She has been awarded many academic awards and chieftaincy titles, including one from the Council of Chiefs in Ebiraland, which she cherishes so much. That title is – ‘Ometere of Ebiraland’ (Daudu), meaning ‘one who does good’ and another Christian title bestowed on her by St Paul Anglican Church, Okene Diocese in 2010 titled ‘Oniwoji Iragu’.
I asked her, “what would you be doing in retirement? You do not look even three scores.” She promptly replied, "l run a community-based service under the name – Okatahi Foundation, which offers, among other humanitarian services, award of scholarships to indigent students and empowerment of youths and widows. Wow!!
Prof Angela Orengwu Okatahi was married to late Rev Dr. Stephen Okatahi in a holy matrimony in 1970 and blessed with five adorable children, six adopted children and eleven grandchildren. Each of these children is doing well in their respective chosen disciplines.
Prof. may not want me to say this and that underscores her humility and unassuming posture. But l shall take the risk. Do not say l told you though.
Prof Okatahi was the first female to have obtained PhD and consequently a Professorship in Ebiraland. Her hobbies are cooking and visitation to orphanage homes.
As Prof retires from active service, though not tired for she is as strong as a unicorn, in line with the mandatory retirement age, l join her immediate family, her students across the globe and well-wishers to rejoice and celebrate with our erudite, elegant, delectable, precious mummy in wishing her many happy years in retirement. God’s choicest blessings in good health, increase in strength and wisdom shall be your portion. Amen. Congrats, Ma.
•Bernard Balogun writes from Wuse District of Abuja and could be reached via 0803 787 9275
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