Mourning Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo: Celebrated UI Vice-Chancellor Passes Away at 90

Mourning Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo: Celebrated UI Vice-Chancellor Passes Away at 90

May, 25 2024 Gareth Montague

Mourning a Giant of Nigerian Education: Remembering Professor Ayo Banjo

Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, an eminent educator and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI), has passed away at the venerable age of 90. The news of his departure on Friday, May 24, came as a profound loss, occurring just 22 days following his lively 90th birthday celebrations. It marks the end of a significant era for many in the academic sphere, particularly those familiar with his monumental contributions to educational development in Nigeria.

Born into the family of the late Reverend Samuel Ayodele Banjo, an esteemed educationist and teacher, Ayo Banjo's journey began in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, where his remarkable life’s work would commence. His early education was foundational, with academic beginnings at St. Andrew Anglican Primary School and Christ Cathedral Primary School in Lagos. His exceptional intellect blossomed further at Igbobi College, Lagos, setting the stage for a series of academic triumphs.

Academic Excellence and Global Pursuits

His sterling academic trajectory was punctuated by a British Council Scholarship, allowing him to pursue a Master of Arts in English Language at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. His intellectual curiosity and dedication saw him further his studies with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education and English Studies at the University of Leeds. This thirst for knowledge didn't stop there, as he was also awarded an American State Department scholarship to advance his understanding of linguistics with a Master’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles. His academic journey culminated with a Ph.D. in English Language from the University of Ibadan, solidifying his status as a scholar of international repute.

Throughout his academic career, Prof. Banjo's contributions to the development of the English curriculum in Nigeria were unparalleled. His seminal works and textbooks are still foundational in primary and secondary education across the country. His advocacy for recognizing and promoting Nigerian varieties of English was ground-breaking, ensuring that the uniqueness of Nigerian English had a place in both national and international discourse.

Leadership and Legacy at the University of Ibadan

Banjo’s tenure at the University of Ibadan was marked by an unwavering commitment to academic excellence and administrative innovation. Starting as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, his leadership qualities soon propelled him to serve as the Acting Vice-Chancellor before his appointment as the Vice-Chancellor. His seven-year tenure as the Vice-Chancellor is notable for being the longest in the university's history, a period characterized by strategic advancements and a bolstering of the university's academic reputation.

His leadership extended beyond the University of Ibadan, serving in significant advisory capacities such as the Chairman of the National Universities Commission and Pro-Chancellor at the Universities of Port Harcourt, Ilorin, and Ajayi Crowther. Through these roles, his influence and visionary leadership reshaped higher education in Nigeria, leaving an indelible legacy of excellence and rigour.

A Life of Teaching and Scholarship

Even after concluding his epoch-making term as Vice-Chancellor in 1991, Banjo's passion for teaching never waned. He returned to lecturing, imparting his vast knowledge and wisdom to students until his retirement from the University of Ibadan in 1994 at the age of 60. His dedication to nurturing young minds and fostering academic curiosity continued well beyond formal retirement, emphasizing his lifelong commitment to education.

Over the years, Prof. Banjo authored more than 50 scholarly publications, many of which continue to serve as invaluable resources in the field of English Studies. His textbooks are widely used, bridging the gap between theoretical linguistics and practical application, and remain staples in classrooms across Nigeria.

A Luminous Legacy

As the academic community comes to terms with the loss of this towering figure, the legacy of Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo endures. His extensive contributions to the development of educational standards, particularly in English language studies, laid a firm foundation that continues to shape future generations. His advocacy for the recognition of Nigerian English opened pathways for more inclusive and representative language education practices.

In celebrating his life, it becomes clear that Banjo’s influence transcended academia—he was a beacon of intellectual and ethical leadership. His life’s work was driven by a profound belief in the power of education to transform society. As friends, family, and colleagues gather to mourn his passing, they also reflect on a life that was extraordinarily lived, marked by a commitment to advancing knowledge and fostering academic excellence.

Professor Ayo Banjo’s passing undoubtedly marks the end of a luminous chapter in Nigeria’s educational history. However, the seeds he planted and the foundations he built will continue to nourish and support the growth of education in Nigeria for many years to come, ensuring that his legacy remains an enduring testament to his life's work.