David- West: Rivers And The Academic Community Thrown Into Mourning

By Stephen Ubanna

The people of Rivers state, south –south Nigeria , Academic Community and Human Rights Organizations , appear  to have been thrown into mourning  over the death of the 83-year old  David- West , and a professor of Virology at University o ,Ibadan Teaching Hospital, Oyo state, south west Nigeria, on  Monday, November 11, 2019 .

  In Rivers state, particular, from  Buguma, his home  town, Abonnema,  Okirika to Port Harcourt and other major towns in the state, wherever  two or three people had  gathered, the death of the erudite    Professor, who had served  the state and the country  at various capacities, dominated their discussion.

Indeed, given his contributions  to the development of Education in the Oil rich state, many expect , Nyesom Wike,  the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governor of the state , to declare  a one day –public Holiday for him , without  bringing politics into it by thinking  that   doing so will mean being  sympathetic  to the  cause of the All Progressive Congress,  APC, to which he had  his   undeclared support because of the involvement of President Muhammadu Buhari, his close ally in the party.

Described as an indomitable Spirit by the Katsina state born Nigerian president , who was said to have beoame one of his closest  allies when he served   as Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources and Energy,  in his government  as a military Head of State between December 31, 1983 and August 25, 1985.

F Until his death last Monday, the late Professor, was said to have  been suffering from an undisclosed disease over the years , thus making him  a regular patient of the University  of  Ibadan Teaching Hospital . The sickness  was  said to have also reduced the Human Rights activist and social critic public appearance.

Family sources disclosed that prior to his death, on Monday,  he had already  spent   11 days at the Teaching  Hospital battling for survival. The University Medical Doctors attending to him in his private Suite  were said to have done everything within their medical knowledge   to keep him alive but that was how far they could go. He died. Toye Akinrinola, the  Teaching Hospital , Spokesperson,  reportedly  said that the’’ cause  of the death of the former minister  remain unknown’’.  

Many believe that the Hospital Authorities and the family members  may have  kept the  late Professor’s sickness a closely guided secret to avoid  drawing  public attention to him and making it a national issue. The late Professor may not have also  helped matters as he was said  to maintained a sealed lips to his kind of ailment  until death came calling, which he could not resist because of old age.

University of Ibadan sources confirmed that  none of his Children were with him  on the Hospital bed when  he breathed his last as they were all based in Port Harcourt. They were said to have made  their  way to Ibadan , when information filtered to them about his death .

Idowu Olayinka, a Professor and Vice Chancellor, of the   University  of  Ibadan, where the  Rivers state born Professor of Virology, had died  at his  Teaching Hospital  but  who could not hold back his  deep seated  feelings lamented  that the death  of  David-West was a ‘’ big loss  to the  academic family  all over the world’’  noting that  the’’ vacuum created by the deceased  would be difficult to fill’’.

 A Statement  by Olatunji Oladejo, a Professor and the University Director of Public Communication , described the Late Professor  as a ‘’mentor  of many generations   of Virologists  all over the world’’. The Statement  further stressed  that even at retirement ,’’ he was still  very useful  to the academic family’’.

Deji Omole, a Professor , and Chairman , Academic  Staff Union of Universities, ASSU,  University  of Ibadan, Chapter,  disclosed that throughout his life time, he was a supporter of the Union.  The University ASUU Chairman, pointed out  that the late Don’’ knew and articulated  a clear  vision   of what a University ought to be ‘’ and which had been imbibed  by the Universit Community.

Wike,  the governor o Rivers state, who could not hide  his feelings over the death of the Professor  of  Virology   described  him as a ‘’huge loss to the people of the state’’. The ruling APC, on its part , noted that with the Professor’s death  ‘’ the country  has lost a progressive voice  and social critic  who spoke truth to power. There is no gain saying the fact that  the late Professor during his life time had held past and present leaders  accountable on issues relating to ‘’good governance’’. 

Until his death,  the erudite  Academician  was said to have written  many  accademic  papers   on Virology  that had appeared in many International and local scholarly Journals  such as the Journal  of Pathology  and Bacteriology , 1966,  Transactions of The Royal Society  of Tropical Medicine  and Hygiene, 1973, Intervirology , 1974 and Journal of Hygiene, 1974.

His other scholarly works  include Philosophical Essays : Reflections on the  Good Life, 1980, a book in which he was said to have described himself  as a follower of  the British Social  Critic and analytic Philosopher, Bertrand  Russel.

He was said to have written  two Books on his friend, Buhari, which were never made known to him.  One of the books  was : Who Really is  General Muhammadu Buhari and the  Sixteen Sins’ of General Muhammdu Buhari. The first book was said to have been  published in 2009 and the second book in 2010, ahead of the 2011, Presidential election in the country.  Buhari had lost the election to former President Goodluck Jonathan.   There are several  other  published  works of the late Professor, which are too numerous to itemize.

Born in 1936,  in Buguma, Kalabari, Davis-West,  received his  tertiary Education  at  then University College, Ibadan between 1956 and 1958 and Michigan  State University , United States,1958 – 1960 where he  bagged his Bsc. He was said to got his MSc Degree  at Yale University, of the prestigious Universities in the world between 1960-1062  and a PhD  Degree   at Mcgill University, 1964 -1966.

He had returned to the country 1969 after his studies  and took up appointment at  the  then University  College, Ibadan, now University of  Ibadan, as a Consultant Virologist  and senior Lecturer. given his prolific writings and presentation of academic  papers,  he was subsequently promoted a Professor  of virology in 1975.

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