Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Final funeral farewells for former Petroleum and Energy Minister Prof Tam David-West, who died on November 11 at the age of 83 in a private suite of University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, have begun in earnest.
The final journey began on Wednesday with a commendation service at the University of Ibadan’s Chapel of Resurrection, which was attended by a powerful delegation of members of the Federal Executive Council that represented President Muhammadu Buhari on the occasion, and paid glowing tributes to the late professor of virology.
The delegation included his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, and Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva. Edo State governor Godwin Obaseki also attended the commendation service personally. The service was conducted by the chaplain of the chapel, Very Reverend Olufikayo Oyelade.
The University of Ibadan community was represented by dignitaries that included Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), Prof Adebola Ekanola, and Provost College of Medicine, Prof Olubunmi Olapade-Olaopa, as well as a renowned virologist, Prof David Olaleye, who represented the Virology Department.
Daily Sun gathered that the remains of David-West would be taken to his hometown in Buguma, the capital of Kalabari Kingdom, Rivers State, where he was born on August 26, 1936, for funeral rites. His remains would also be taken back to the University of Ibadan for burial in a week’s time. As gathered, his last wish was that he be buried in UI.
Speaking on behalf of President Buhari, Adesina said David-West was someone that the President had high regards for, who related well with people regardless of their class, saying: “So when David-West passed on, the President was genuinely grieved. They had a lot of things in common; integrity, incorruptibility, accountability and so many other attributes.”
Adesina recounted how the deceased believed in Buhari and how he used his personal resources to get many of his articles in favour of Buhari published in some national dailies, adding that David worked assiduously to get Buhari back into power.
He noted that the deceased was a patriotic and detribalised Nigerian, who stood for the truth during his lifetime, saying he also defended the President against religious bigotry in about four to five pages of a newspaper, which he procured as an advertorial to diasbuse the minds of Nigerians not to buy into the campaign of calumny that Buhari wanted to Islamise the country.
Adesina, who noted that David-West had zero tolerance for corruption, and was a stickler to time, betrayed emotion when he presented the tributes, saying David-West was very close to the Adesina family.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Sylva, in his tributes, urged that “Nigerians should learn how to be straight forward, how to have zero tolerance for corruption, that is what he stood for. And that is the kind of attitude we need from Nigerians. If all of us should imbibe what David-West believed in, Nigeria will make more progress.”
He described David-West as an icon that was looked up to for advice by many young people, saying: “For me, it was a departure of a titian. He was in the Ministry of Petroleum, I am now following in his footsteps in the Ministry of Petroleum.
“This is the time I had thought we really needed him. I personally needed him at this time to guide me in the discharge of my duty as a Minister of State for Petroleum. Unfortunately, he is gone but the Lord knows best. We are encouraged by the fact that he left beautiful and brilliant children that will continue to work with us.”
Edo Governor Obaseki described David-West as a nationalist, “You could describe him as freedom fighter who believed in the cause of Nigeria. He was a very principled man, a democrat, almost an idealist. He had no tolerance for corruption and he spoke his mind when it mattered most.”
Obaseki said he would support the endowment fund that the family of the deceased wanted to set up for the best student in virology at the University of Ibadan.
Prof David Olaleye of the Department of Virology, UI said of David-West: “He was one of the pioneers of Virology in Nigeria. He came at the early days of virology study and contributed so much in training, mentoring, research and particularly in building up virology study.
“You know how important virus is as an agent of diseases. He was in the forefront of the work that led to the discovery of a lot of new viruses in the country and we are grateful for this.”
The chaplain of the Chapel of Resurrection, UI, Very Rev’d Oyelade, in his sermon titled ‘Finishing Stong’, taken from II Timothy 24:7-8, charged everyone to live with eternity in view by discovering their God-given purpose in life and to stay true to them, adding that they should maintain holy living and know that death is inevitable.
“We are all pilgrims here on earth and every day of our lives is an indication that we are moving closer to our eternal home,” Oyelade said.
First son of David-West, Benibo, in his vote of thanks, said the family, in honour of the deceased, would start an endowment fund for the best student in the virology department of UI. He also appreciated the President and other stakeholders who have shown the family love since the demise of their esteemed father.