I find it extremely difficult to write this tribute to my boss, my friend and my mentor, Emeritus Professor Festus Aghagbo Nwako (Obataobie), the doyen of Paediatric Surgery, who departed this world on Sunday, February 16, 2014. I have not recovered from the shock when I received a telephone call informing me about his death.

Sometime in October, 2013, I called Emeritus Professor Nwako’s number, as I did occasionally, but there was no response. I sent him a text message but contrary to his habit, there was no reply. I felt that he may have travelled out of the country. Yes, he travelled out of the country,as I was later informed, but not for holiday. He was ill. I was also later informed that he had returned and was recuperating at Abuja. Little did I realize that  all was not well until I received the devastating news of his demise.

I came in contact with Emeritus Professor Nwako in 1964 at Aba, Abia State. I was at that time, an undergraduate student at the University of Ibadan. He was a Senior Registrar in Surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan after his return from the United Kingdom where he won all the academic laurels in Surgery. He gave me a ride from Aba to Ibadan and ever since then we had been close friends. He loved sports-football and lawn tennis- and we often discussed the successes and failures of the football teams, Vasco da Gama which he supported and Rangers International which I supported.

Emeritus Professor Nwako was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in the 1991/1992 academic year. He nurtured the young University on a strong academic footing with the motto: Discipline, Self-Reliance, Excellence. I served under him at various times as Head, Department of Biological Sciences (1992-1995), Dean, Faculty of Natural Sciences (1995-1997), and Director, Academic Planning (1997-1998). He ran a very transparent administration and judiciously utilized the little funds given to him in running the University. He paid staff salaries very promptly and regularly, not later than the 25th day of the month, and he treated all his mail overnight. It is gratifying to observe that his successors as Vice-Chancellors of UNIZIK have maintained these legacies bequeathed to them.

We will miss him but we shall always remember him for his genial disposition, his philanthropy an academic prowess, especially his surgical dexterity in separating conjoined twins (Siamese twins).

Adieu Emeritus Professor Festus Aghagbo Nwako. We love you but God loves you more. Please rest in the bosom of the Lord. Amen!

Rob Egwuatu (Emeritus Professor of Applied Entomology)

From Unizik Bulletin,  February 24, 2014 (Vol 7 No 8, pg 2)


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