Adamo D.T: Requiem to a Pan-African scholar of Biblical studies

Richard Elesho

One evening, in the last decade of the 20th century, may be in 1994, a conversation took place between me and one of my teachers. He was clutching a briefcase, heading for his office, when I had a chance encounter with him around Atsan Hall, Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka. Promptly, I made to collect the bag, which was most probably filled with research literature, as any respectful subordinate was expected to do.

He politely declined. Instead, with eager tones, he told me about the School Certificate Examination result of his daughter, Bolu, which had just been released.

“She had A, A, A, A, A…is it up to eight?” He asked in our Yagba dialect. “I don’t know sir.” I responded truthfully in the same native tongue, since I was not counting. “Any way, she had eight A’s and one C. I think the girl is a Genius and I am proud of her.” He said at last, with an air of fulfilment.

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That was vintage Rev. Prof. David Tuesday Adamo, humble, down to earth, yet jovial and a respecter of excellence. He celebrated and encouraged others to strive for the best at all times. It is instructive to note that Bolu wrote the said examination prematurely in Senior Secondary II, one full year, before she was due for it. She has since proceeded to study Medicine, and is now practising abroad.

The first time I met Prof (as he was popularly known) was in 1993. He had newly joined the faculty of the young DELSU, as a Professor of Old Testament, OT Studies. His specialisation was Ancient Hebrew, the original language of OT literature.

As the young scholar walked into the class to introduce himself and his archaic discipline, we were as confused as the children of Israel in the wilderness of Zin. But, Prof, always immaculately dressed in his trademark suit and tie, was a gifted teacher.

In three Semesters he took us through rudiments of the 22
Hebrew alphabets (Aleph, Bet, Gimol, Dalet, Heth to Yod), grammar, syntax and liberated us from the shackles of ignorance, where we had long dwelled. Prof impressed us greatly by his uncanny ability to recite portions of the scripture, in Hebrew. I still remember the ease with which he seemed to twist his tongue to let out guttural tones that enabled him pronounce Hebrew words in their original accents.

It must be a difficult burden for many members of that class like the now Ven. Dr. Badawusi Charles of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Stephen Odjugo, Chinyere Okorie, Stella Edesiri, Fidelis Emakoose and Malachi Okei etc, to learn of Prof’s sudden demise. He is gone on a journey, from which we cannot expect his return. Nor do we know, when, that is if, we will ever meet there.

Adamo was well known in both Campuses one and two of the University. Aged early forties, he was the youngest professor in the school, Founder and Chaplain of its Interdenominational Chapel, where aside academic duty, he toiled, day and night to lead souls to Jesus, the Christ.

It was difficult to pass through Prof, in any of his multi faceted engagements, notably academia, charity, counselling, pastoring or mentoring and not like him. He was in a class by himself. An authority of international repute.

He, and his wife (now also a Professor) were always willing, in fact, anxious to lend a hand. Adamo was later joined in DELSU, by his brother, Boda Ayo, now Prof. Ayodele Michael of Botany Department. Together, they facilitated the admission of many Okun sons and daughters. He was the rendezvous of all Okun, and Yoruba activism on campus, in those days. We had a friend in him. When Bro Tom, (Olumuyiwa Orunmbe) my cousin joined in Abraka, he effortlessly made Prof’s abode his second home.

Adamo invested heavily in learning. He more or less pioneered and popularised a new field of Afrocentric approach to Biblical Studies. He had books in virtually all fields under the sun. His private library on Religion and Philosophy was by far richer than many university libraries on the subjects.

“You know there are Professors and there are Professors” was the way another Professor rated Adamo’s towering profile. Indeed, our mentor was an academic giant. His enlistment in ‘Who is Who among African Americans,’ underscores this. His books, ‘Africa and Africans in the Old Testament,’ ‘Africa and Africans in the New Testament,’ and ‘Explorations in Biblical Studies’ are among the evergreen scholarly corpus that set Adamo aside, far from the crowd.

That Prof could make it to the top in spite of his humble roots in Irunda Isanlu, headquarter of Yagba East Local Governent, Kogi State, which even by the standard of today is rustic, can only be by the finger of God. So deprived was Prof that he did not attend Secondary School, partly because he was orphaned early. Little wonder, he was found of saying, “I am what I am by the Grace of God.”

There is another aspect of the Adamo enigma, to which I must briefly refer. Prof was always a rare and willing giver. He did not only impart knowledge, he would give his time, books, money and other resources to bring the learner to understanding. Like many of his students, I had on several occasions participated in meals at his table. He was always willing to know his students in their personal challenges. He once told me “let me do the little I can now, because you never can tell when it will be too late.”

Prof had good and bad experiences about different aspects of life. He remained calm in his response to them all. He had been in and out of sickness for a season. But he bore it with grace and courage.

Indeed, Nigeria happened to Prof. After a glowing career lecturing in world class universities in America, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, Kenya and Swaziland, he returned to plant knowledge in young people at home. At various times he also lectured in the University of Ilorin, University of Abuja aside his long years of service in Abraka and Anyigba.

Unfortunately, a Prophet has no honour at home. He was among the scores of Professors and Lecturers summarily disengaged by KSU, following an industrial dispute. The embattled teachers were still in court pressing for justice against the Kogi State Government, when Prof took the final journey home. He died with his head high, possibly as another victim-star of the struggle against injustice.

The last time I saw him was in April. I had visited in his Zango Daji home. He looked frail, though not diminished in character. He told me about his lingering sickness and plans to travel abroad for treatment. He told me he would long have gone but, for his concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic.

He was hopeful because his medical handlers told him his condition was not life-threatening. He however expressed frustrations about poor health facilities in Nigeria. He told me about his plans for a new Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy in a young University, emphasizing the conditional “if I’m not dead.”

Prof reminded me about his oftentimes repeated desire for me to have a PhD. I never knew it was his way of saying goodbye. To say the least, I was shocked when someone called to tell me about his passage on Wednesday, 22 June 2022. It was incredible. But other sources confirmed that an elephant had indeed, fallen. Good night to a great mentor. The one who supervised my first Degree project at DELSU and Masters theses at Kogi State University, KSU Anyigba.

N.B: Although Prof’s remains will be committed to mother earth at Isanlu, this Saturday10 September, I have just been reminded, he is not dead. He lives in Yomi, Bolu, David and Remi. He lives in his books, journal articles and other bodies of knowledge. He lives in our hearts, beyond the reach of death, at least, for now. Rest in peace, Daddy.