United in grief again (3)

In retirement, he rekindled his interest and devotion to the Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN), which he had initiated as the Senior Science Master of King’s College, Lagos in 1957. On the occasion of the 24th Annual Conference in Akure, Ondo State in 1982, he was conferred with “Fellow of STAN” and was fondly referred to as the Father of STAN. He wrote the following words barely 6 months before his passing; “…and I here assure that my personal interest in and close association with STAN will continue to the end of my mortal life by the grace of God.” On 18th February 1997, STAN conferred him with the posthumous award of Distinguished/Sustained Service to Science Education (DSSE).

As a father, he treated all his children with friendly dignity, and by personal example emphasized to them the values and importance of integrity and modesty. He was a thoughtful father and took an interest in all they did. His personality seemed to be shaped by what he would wish for them. At their birthday parties, he would personally organize the games. During family holidays he was involved in all activities. The last of these family holidays was in August 1995 when his wife, children, and some of his grandchildren spent a month-long eventful vacation in the United Kingdom. During this holiday, he took his family to see the 100th-anniversary performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest” a play, which he had seen and enjoyed as a student in London in the mid-1940s.

In his younger days, he was a keen cricketer and a good swimmer. His children grew up hearing mythical tales about his prowess as a swimmer. His two sons (one of whom was a medallist of the British Amateur Swimming Association) regarded themselves as fine swimmers and continually challenged their father to a race. This he always politely declined until one Sunday afternoon to their great excitement, he decided to demonstrate to them that he could indeed swim. The result of this event ensured that the deference that Soboma and Odein had for their father’s swimming ability was passed on to his grandchildren. Needless to say, thereafter, family swimming contests pointedly excluded him!

Read also: United in grief again (2)

As a husband, he was most companionable, kind, and extremely courteous. In his wife’s words, “Feni was one of nature’s gentlemen. His life was one of quality and substance. He had a commendable, agreeable disposition, disciplined and devoted, consistent and committed. He was gentle but firm. I like to think of him as a good husband, a good father to my children, a man of integrity. He made my life richer in quality and experience. I am a better woman for having been married to him.”

He loved his nine grandchildren dearly and was happiest in their midst especially during the last holiday they spent with him in Port-Harcourt in October 1996. His trip to Lagos in November 1996 was especially to see and be with them.

Professor Claude Ake:

Claude Ake (18 February 1939 in Omoku to 7 November 1996) was a Nigerian political scientist from Omoku, in Rivers State, Nigeria. Ake (pronounced AH-kay) was considered “one of Africa’s foremost political philosophers.” He specialised in political economy, political theory, and development studies and is well known for his research on development and democracy in Africa. He was professor of political economy and dean of the University of Port Harcourt’s Faculty of Social Sciences for some years in the 1970s and 1980s after having taught at Columbia University, where he earned his PhD in 1966. He held various academic positions at institutions around the world, including at Yale University (United States), University of Nairobi (Kenya), University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), and University of Port Harcourt (Nigeria). He was active in Nigerian politics, a critic of corruption and authoritarian rule in Africa. His permanent home was in Port Harcourt.

Before becoming a dean at Port Harcourt, he taught at universities in Canada, Kenya, and Tanzania. Afterwards, he held a variety of posts, at the African Journal of Political Economy, on the Social Sciences Council of Nigeria, and elsewhere.

At Yale, he taught two political science courses—one, called State in Africa, which was for undergraduates and graduate students, and another for undergraduates, about aspects of development and the state in Africa. While teaching at Yale he lived in temporary quarters on the Yale campus.

He wrote in 1985, in an essay on the African state: “Power is everything, and those who control the coercive resources use it freely to promote their interests.” George Bond, the director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs, said: “He was one of the pre-eminent scholars on African politics and a scholar-activist concerned with the development of Africa. His concern was primarily with the average African and how to improve the nature of his conditions.”

David E. Apter of Yale said of Ake: “In the very short time he was here, he developed a following among the students, both graduate and undergraduate, which was truly extraordinary. There were graduate students who wept at his death. Everyone was really shocked. It was an amazing testimonial to the man.” Apter said that Ake had “crackling intelligence and an outspokenly severe view of African politics and nevertheless, underneath that, a quality of understanding which was remarkably subtle and complex. But he was able to communicate the complexity in a straightforward manner.” He added that Ake “was not only, in my view, the top African political scientist, but an extraordinarily courageous person. The Nigerian Government was often at odds with him, but nevertheless, they recognized his stature.”

As regards the crucial issue of grief, even the English got it wrong. There is no such thing as “good grief” (even as an expression of being utterly perplexed).

Thankfully, the front page of the “Daily Trust” newspaper of October 27, 2021, has provided us with the proof of evidence by the witness-In-Chief.

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