Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Osaze Osifo and the Other Guy with Certificates

“I noticed…how one's life could be summarised in numbers [after death]. I know in people's hearts; family and friends, [the individual] was probably more, and adjectives would be used to qualify [the] life. But to others [the] life was quantifiable in numbers. You see an obituary in the papers and below the person's picture was the name. Below that was usually numbers, date of birth to date. You could also see the list of certificates and awards but our interest was how many he was able to achieve. It was as if it was easier for us to come to terms with the numbers in the person's life than the type of life they lived and the legacy left behind. Or maybe most of us do not leave behind something worth writing about and only deserved prayers. “May His/Her Soul Rest In Peace”.” 

On the 9th of March, 2012 I was reading a copy of the day’s edition of the Punch Newspaper. I got to a page with an article “I Really Like This Guy Oz’ written by Poju Oyemade.  

I really like this guy Oz
I met Osaze in 1978, we both entered International School Ibadan (I.S.I) that year. As fate will have it we were both put into the same class 1C. I had just come from a primary school known as MaryHill Convent School Ibadan while Osaze came from Staff School University of Ibadan. MaryHill didn't have as many students enrolling as Staff School did in I.S.I at that time.
The first day his name dawned on me was through an announcement made by a teacher 4 weeks after we got into school, it was an announcement of the results of a just concluded test. The teacher ended by saying 3 students scored 25/25 and they are Osaze Osifo, Teju Oloko (now Alonge) and my humble-self. From that day we became friends.
I was later moved by the school authorities to another arm the next academic year : class 1D The students in that class appeared more brilliant than those in 1C with the likes of Funso Sobande, David Oyewole, Edward Okali and a few others. I had a glimpse into the thought process of Osaze from that early age of 12. He said he was going to approach the school authorities requesting that he be moved to that arm too. He felt it will be more intellectually stimulating for him.
Osaze and i later became roommates for 2 years in University of Lagos Mariere Hall . He was an absolutely brilliant fellow. Our life paths were divergent and i wasn't really in touch with him for a long period of time but i kept a tab on his progress. He was very determined and focussed. He was inquisitive about everything. He wanted to understand how things worked. Even as a Pastor whenever i sat to talk with Osaze, i always left wondering how he knew some of the things he said. He thought deeply about  everything. He was a friend whom whenever we talked i gained some insight. He was very conscious of life's journey and saw the big picture very early.
Some months back after a group of us classmates had lunch at Yellow Chilli he said some things in our 10minute chat that made me realize why his thoughts were so penetrative. Osaze did a lot of self appraisal and personal assessment. You could see his intellectual integrity, if he was wrong he would admit it to himself and make the adjustments. He was brilliant but didn't engage in self flattery. In our last discussion he said "you know when we were in our thirties we thought we knew it all". As much as his intellectual brilliance formed the core of his success he remained a learner and not a knower.
Osaze always tried to help everyone he knew particularly when you were qualified. He was true to his roots. Always willing to share knowledge. If anyone from our past mentioned that Osaze didn't offer a helping hand you were sure there were deeper issues at play than were being told. He genuinely loved his friends and devoted a substantial part of his emotional life towards them. I remember an old school mate who was looking for an old classmate of ours; we both agreed the one person who would know where he was was Osaze. If he didn't, no one else would.
If you were out there in the real arena of life as a leader, a builder, fighting to do something significant you found a soul mate in him. Osaze simply got it. He knew the emotions of the journey. He was a global thinker.
When last week Wednesday I saw a missed call from a mutual friend Tony Youdowei, with a text message saying, "when you see this Poju please call" it was quite unusual. I picked my phone and called, as I did Osaze's face flashed in my heart, that something might be wrong. His words were Osaze is gone. I dropped the phone absorbed it and felt i was okay. Two nights later I woke up at about 2am, sat on my stairs thought about him and broke into tears. I later on went to jog at 6am only to stop halfway on the road to cry. Then I realised that I really liked Osaze and I had lost a real friend and someone I loved.”

This had to be one of the most honest, heartfelt, obituaries [if I should regard it as one] I had read. I had no idea who Osaze Osifo was prior to that day and after reading that piece I felt like meeting him. The fact that I couldn’t make that happen made it more touching. It made me feel the world had lost someone. I flipped to the next page and read more obituaries dedicated to this man. The caliber of people that had sponsored pages made it evident he was influential and none had degrees, B.Sc, Ms.C, PhD, below his name. It gave the feeling his most valuable qualification was his name.

Osaze Osifo

Pages after I read another obituary. The type I was familiar with but opposite to the ones I had seen pages earlier. I didn’t know the guy as well and I ain’t trying to disrespect the dead but come on, all those certificates for what: PhD, MS.c, FCIB, FCIS, FNIM, FinstD, FiMGT.

The Other Guy

Fact is these people would be missed by someone and the best I can do was to say rest in peace and may Heaven accept you.


  1. I know both personalities above.
    In fact, I came across this piece while googling Osaze's name to see what people had written about him. I had done same for Femi Adekanye, the other too.

    Both were great men. In fact I used both in succession as my BBM DP and on FP wall, to show how touched I was by their deaths. I wrote a full page Tribute to Femi Adekanye too in Thisday newspaper. The later was my childhood mentor, the former of teh guys I so much respect in Corporate Nigeria and the sponsor of his obituary you posted up there is the person I currently look up to as role model. So you can see my connection with both.

    I however do not think there is anything wrong in listing their certificates as the later's friends did.

    Suraj Oyewale

    1. Thank you for your contribution Mr. Oyewale, Chartered Accountant & Public Commentator.

  2. Great men who have achieved a lot for themselves and their countries