A Celebration of Life: Tribute to Late Chief Dr. Simon Oyinlola Adegoke (1950 – 2007)

“Hello Dad, compliments of d season. I learnt U were a bit down n was admited into d hospitl. Pls and pls don’t be in a rush 2get back 2 work! But take time 2 rest and recuperate 4rm the illness. We need U 2 remain fit n well. I guess U n Mum need another break in the UK 😉 Greetings to Mum n all others. 4rm Bell, Canterbury

These were the words of a text message I sent to Dr. Simon Oyinlola Adegoke in the early hours of Thursday the 13th of December 2007. Only to receive a phone call couple of hours later and informed that my dear mentor had transcended this sinful world to the great beyond. My God!!! What is this life all about? One minute a man is here and the next he’s gone. What’s the purpose of existence in the first place? Why all these struggles and toil in life anyway? What’s the essence of even studying to attain several qualifications and achieve so much, only for everything to come to an abrupt end?

I couldn’t comprehend these thoughts and I kept wondering why death was the ultimate destiny of all flesh. That was a very sad day for me and I was very moody in the office. I silently wished in my heart to receive another call telling me that it was only a “December Fool’s day,” but the call never came; or that the angels should send him back saying his time was not yet ripe. Immediately I got into the office, I switched on my computer, went online and started listening to all the Nigerian songs I could find that talked about life on earth and the final destiny of every mortal, death. I listened to Celestine Ukwu’s tracks like Onwu Bu Ugwo, Ije Enu and Ndu Ka Aku among others; switching on to Orlando Owoh’s tunes like Modupe and tributes to Lates Awolowo, Gbenga Adeboye and Gabriel Jejeniwa; and then to Patty O’Basseys sonorous tunes like Eligwe Bu Uno Anyi, Olebe Ka Nsopurum Di and others. All these were in a bid to put myself in that mood of sombre personal reflection on what life is really all about.

I only knew Dr. Adegoke for about 9 months, but within this short period, he made a very significant impact on my life. I met him and his wife in April 2007 in the UK, on their yearly holiday break. But before meeting him I had heard a lot about him from a daughter of his who happens to be a friend and I looked forward to meeting him when I heard him and Mum were coming for holiday. After Dr. Adegoke and his wife returned to Nigeria, I kept constant touch with him because I had told him I cherished his personal ideals and values, and I wanted him to mentor me, which he gladly accepted, saying “Oh yes, that would be fine, no problem.” So we frequently communicated via emails and phone calls irrespective of his very busy work schedules.

Dr. Adegoke was a highly detribalised Nigerian, a man of the people (MOP) who lived his life for the people. He was a seasoned medical doctor and consultant who hailed from Oyan and built a very successful medical practice in Ikirun (Ibukun-olu Hospital), both in Osun State, Nigeria. He was born in Ghana and spent his early childhood and teenage years there before returning home for further studies. He attended Nigeria’s premier University, the University of Ibadan, where he trained and specialised as a general medical practitioner. He was finally laid to rest on the 4th of January 2008 and is survived by his lovely wife, five children and an uncountable number of adopted children and mentees, including yours sincerely.

When first I met him, I was absolutely gobsmacked by his resounding sense of humour and humility. He had a way of creating a lively and relaxed ambience that could charm anyone meeting him for the first time and dispel any fears previously nursed. He was indeed a peoples-person and I was astonished by the sort of simplicity exhumed by this great man who had accomplished so much in life. I was also amazed by the fact that he chose to establish his medical practice in a little town as Ikirun, without considering the juicy appeals of the big cities or travel overseas like many of his contemporaries. When I asked him about this, he just smiled and replied “If you are very good at what you do, it doesn’t matter where you are located, people would seek you from far and near.” This immediately struck a chord on my perception about settling down in one of the big cities when I return home to Nigeria.

He understood at an early age that he was cut out for charity and that his calling in life was service to humanity. He explained to me that this inspired his desire to study medicine, because he reasoned that through the study of medicine he would have the opportunity to touch many lives and help the needy. I reckon that this was why the almighty endowed him with immense intelligence and made him a very bright student, who on clearing all A1s in his A-Level exams got a scholarship to study through the university.

I believe that in many ways, his legacies and values have rubbed off on his family, as his children are also very willing to help others in need and are natural givers. One of his children explained to me that Dad always made it succinctly clear that none of them should put their trust on material things such as properties, riches etc, but that they should be committed to the service of humanity at all times.

He taught me never to put riches or wealth first in life, but to put service first and these other things would follow naturally. Emphasising that there are no short cuts to success and that I must be ready to apply my 3Hs (Head, Heart and Hand) to attain true success. He stressed the need to properly think through whatever I want to do; to consider how it would improve the lives of people and that I must be ready to work hard at it. These I reckoned were his personal keys to success.

Dr. Adegoke inter alia mentored many doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers; treated and operated thousands of patients for free and highly subsidised rates; paid the school fees of many students; sponsored a few abroad, and his home in Ikirun was a sort of Mecca for the needy in his community. His residence has been used to shoot a number of Christian movies and as a normal life practice, he regularly visited orphanages and other homes for the less privileged. His seeming kindness had even led to a few people taking advantage of him over the years and when I asked him about this, he explained that he didn’t really expect anything in return from people he helped, but just felt obliged to do the will of God.

On issues of life, he explained an ordeal he had sometime ago when a number of the landlords in his area gathered against him because they thought he was spoiling business for them by renting his properties to tenants at very affordable prices. He told me his response to them was that he didn’t build houses to make money, but God told him to build houses to help people. He built blocks of students’ hostels at the Iree polytechnic in Osun State and was the only developer renting rooms to students at the most affordable prices, that made all students jostle to get a place in his hostel.

Another trait of Dr. Adegoke that attracted me to him was that he was an avid reader. He read books, newspapers, magazines and other materials from whatever field. He was a well rounded individual and could discuss issues from any field of endeavour. Though a simple man, he lived a very modern life and both his Ikirun hospital and residence had access to all latest communication technologies such as Internet, Skype, Cable Satellite, Thuraya phone and he even possessed lines of all the GSM networks operating in Nigeria. These were infrastructures that many residents our so called big cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt considered as luxury items. This made him very current with both international and local trends and happenings.

He loved to read the Guardian, Punch and Tribune newspapers, relishing the writings of the likes of Reuben Abati and Sonala Olumense. Sometimes we would exchange views via the email about a particular Abati’s article or other issues pertaining Nigeria. We always discussed about the ideal Nigeria, where people had access to the basic necessities like food, good housing, consistent power supply, better road networks, sustainable jobs for the unemployed, and a proper social welfare system among others. He loved intellectual discussions and always longed to see youths excel in academics and other areas. To this end, he encouraged me to carry on with my PhD studies and was always very concerned about my welfare, when he considered the strain of doing all sort of odd jobs to pay the student tuition and bills in the UK.

Ironically, while Dr. Adegoke was concerned about the welfare of the people and the betterment of the society, he never ever considered politics or the need to vie for any political office. Although he noted that several friends and associates tried convincing him into politics, stressing that the people would support him due to his good works, but he turned down all such offers.

Dr. Adegoke was strictly a one woman’s man and this made his wife his best friend, babe, lover and everything. He explained to me that he probably wouldn’t have achieved all he did without the help of his wife. She was someone who had always believed in him with all her heart and supported him both spiritually and physically to achieve all he did. My heart goes out to her at this time, because he was all she ever knew and I can’t really comprehend how she would cope. Mum if you ever get to read this tribute, please I want you to cheer up and be glad because Dad ran a good race and has been immortalised by his works of service. He told me that having only one wife and staying focused on her at all times saved him from more troubles in life than anything else and advised me to stay focused on my wife too.

In recognition of his service to humanity and dedication to the medical practice, Dr. Adegoke was awarded a Fellow of the Association of General Medical Practitioners of Nigeria. He was also conferred the prestigious chieftaincy title of Baasegun of Iree by the Aree of Iree for his outstanding contributions to the development of the community.

I couldn’t wait to return to Nigeria to see him face to face again and discuss a number of life bordering issues that I didn’t think could be properly thrashed out on phone or via emails. I had planned to travel to Ikirun to spend a whole week with him in his “paradise” (as I used to calling his residence and he would jokingly reply “You mean my little hut?”), where I would have had the opportunity to glean much wisdom under his feet. I remember ringing him up in the morning of the 9th of October to wish him Happy Birthday and I could hear the joy in the tone of his voice when he said, “Oh Bell, so you remembered my birthday… oh thanks…” I learnt he later jokingly teased his daughters when they called him later in the day, telling them that they were only just calling, after his son Bell had already rang in the morning.

Hmm!!! This world na wa ooo!!! The name, Chief Dr. Simon Oyinlola Adegoke may not ring “big bells” like those of our politicians and other public office holders; nevertheless, this consummate medical practitioner, titled chief, philanthropist, fan of Arsenal football club, devout Christian, ardent listener of the music of Evangelist Ebenezer Obey (both in his secular and gospel spectrums), community leader, patron to several religious and non-religious organisation, friend of the youths and member of the humanist club has touched many lives traversing the length and breadth of the country. Indeed, good people never last very long as they say. The medical profession, our nation and the entire human race have lost a rare gem, a good spirited Nigerian, an epitome of servant-leadership, a true humanist and above all a man of God. I wonder if there are still more true patriots like him out there.

Everything still seems like a dream to me…, I guess I need a hot slap to awaken me to the reality that it’s not a dream. I’m sure it would soon dawn on me that my dear mentor, father and friend is no more. He has transcended to the great beyond and has been immortalised. I was recently told that one of his children opened his dairy and found a list of his 2008 plans and at the top was the quote “Invest more in people” and she broke down and burst into tears. I hope he would be glad to know that he has made such a tremendous impact on my life and that he lives on because his works, ideals and what he stood for still lives in the lives young chaps like me and others he mentored. From the account I heard about his last moments, I guess he knew he had finished his journey on earth and very well. In all, while I thank God that he has lived a much fulfilled life and risen above this earth to the great beyond without any agony, my only regrets are that I didn’t know him much earlier and couldn’t tap much more from him before he transcended. Yet, my life has been transformed into “Living for Service.” Adieu Adieu Adieu Chief Dr. Simon Oyinlola Adegoke!!!

Written by
Bell’ Ihua
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5 comments
  • Hmm… what a tribute… I wonder what his family – wife and children- think about this piece… I guess they would say “here’s a man who really loves our daddy”… Well done:-)

  • Bell, you must love this your mentor to immortalise him like this…. very nice piece… If he was really as you say he was, then be sure he would be in heaven right now…

  • You asked: “My God!!! What is this life all about? One minute a man is here and the next he’s gone. What’s the purpose of existence in the first place? Why all these struggles and toil in life anyway?”

    Those are very good questions. They are also few of the questions that have tormented humanity for ages. While the answers to them are neither elusive nor do they require a degree in philosophy to be properly understood, mankind continues to ignore the obvious answers because the stubborness of heart.

    But going through your article, it seems to me as if your beloved mentor knew the answers and lived them!

    Since he is described as a Christian in your article, may I offer what may be to you a consoling Biblical verse:

    “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15.