Samuel Tunde Bajah, Professor of Science Education, like all mortals bowed to death on February 23, 2008 at the age of seventy-three years. The sorrow of his death gradually gave way to consolation for the quality of life he lived. Bajah not only left a good name but also an immortal legacy. He poured out his talents in the many books he wrote. The latest being Teaching Science in Primary Schools the ELSSA Way published by Spectrum Books Ibadan (2008). I write not so much as to review the book but to highlight the material immortality Prof Bajah attained by writing and teaching.
Like most of my contemporaries, I knew S. T. Bajah through his Chemistry textbooks. It was therefore an honour when I was assigned to do the editorial work on Bajah’s Teaching Science in Primary Schools the ELSSA Way. One of the few privileges that a book editor enjoys is working with some of the beautiful minds of this country. My first meeting with Prof S. T. Bajah took place in Spectrum Books, Ibadan. Prof Bajah walked into the conference room in a white kaftan, with his characteristic grey afro hairstyle. Apart from his imposing presence which one could not avoid noticing, Prof Bajah was the reversal of the usual characteristics of some Nigerian academics. In spite of being an institution, he was full of humour and extremely humble. His ambiance was so contagious that he kept us at ease; he actually thanked me for the corrections and changes I made! This may sound ludicrous, but having worked with other authors, I have come to the conclusion that there a few who gladly accept changes in their work. This is especially so when the author feels that (s)he is an authority in his/her field and would therefore not allow a bloody editor to dictate to him/her. As someone pointed out, intellectual arrogance is one of the principal vices of university teachers.
This was the beginning of my professional friendship with Prof Bajah. We had subsequent meetings after that. On some occasions, I had to see him in his house in Bodija. It was in January and the harmattan was in its prime. Prof went out of his way to prepare a cup of coffee for me, seeing the layer of cardigan I was wearing. A week before he died, I showed him the cover design of Teaching Science in Primary Schools the ELSSA Way, which was almost completed. He made his observations and I left with the promise of seeing him later to give him the blurb. The rest is now history.
Death is a mystery which has and will continue to stun the human race. Using a national lore, it’s not how long that matters but how well. This is especially important in this country where the craze for the acquisition of material wealth is the benchmark of measuring ‘success’. Our society seems to cherish what a person has as against what he is. The emphasis is unfortunately in having and not in being. The world of bequeathing ideals that shape millions of people is a very scarce commodity in these parts. Little wonder we are still underdeveloped.
In To Serve is to Live, the author, Patrick Utomi gave some examples of those who have been able to achieve material immortality. Utomi noted that William Shakespeare has been dead for many centuries, yet his books continue to shape minds till date. Mozart’s classical pieces are still rendered with great reverence many years after he died. Certainly there were many wealthy people and politicians who wielded great influence in their time, but who remembers them now. Even when these people are mentioned, it is with a dint of notoriety. Bajah has joined the league of great men and women who will certainly not be forgotten in a hurry. From his grave he continues to teach and instruct generations yet unborn.
Bajah noted that, Teaching Science in Primary Schools the ELSSA Way “… is therefore written as a guide for primary school science teachers to build up their confidence in teaching the subject. Science is here presented as a way of finding out about things in our physical environment.” Although “Teaching Science in Primary Schools the ELSSA Way was written for all those who teach in primary schools and those in Teacher Training Institutions”, I have no doubt that young parents will certainly find it valuable.
Professor Samuel Tunde Emiko Bajah is dead but he continues to live, for he has acquired immortality. He may not have left a fat bank account for his wife and children, but he has engendered a good name, one which they are proud to bear. For people of faith, the greatest level of immortality is that of seeing God face to face. Bajah was a man of faith; we pray he gets the eternal reward of contemplating his Creator. For one to achieve this height, it also presupposes the acquisition of the material one.
Professor Samuel Tunde Emiko Bajah has left a worthy legacy for his family and country. He seems to have echoed the words of the late General Musa Yar’Adua to his son: “I would have achieved nothing if after I am gone all I leave behind for you are empty houses and some bank accounts – for these are nothing – they can be acquired by any idiot! I want to leave for you something you would be proud of. A legacy of public service and sacrifice which would influence our country for good, which you will be proud to inherit and which I will be proud to pass over.”
Egbunike is a book editor in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Published: Vivante’s Viva, November 2008.