I regret to announce the passing of an eminent African, Professor Jabez Ayodele Langley. He was a great man and a great African, hence a great many of us consider it a privilege to have known him; and indeed, a great honor to call him a friend, confidant, and mentor. He enriched our lives with his wisdom and humanity. His door was always open to all those who needed him — basking in his cathedral of knowledge and simplicity.
Professor Langley’s mission was simple: to make the world, especially Africa, better. In so many ways, he succeeded. And in spite of where he has been, he was never egotistical or power-drunk. Even at odd and critical times, he was always joyous; eager to live life to the fullest. Even in his twilight years, there was always a simplicity and serenity about him: always calm, always gentle, always insightful, and ever a teacher. As a teacher, he never allowed willful emotion to cloud his judgment; his teachings were based on facts, up-to-date scholarly materials, relevant theories, and a profound understanding of the continent and the world. That’s the manner of man he was.
To the very end, he was an Africanist, but with the world as his theoretical playground. In other words, he saw both the big and the small pictures — and everything in between. To say he had a sharp and penetrating mind is an understatement. To say he was a kind and loving man is also an understatement. He was all that and much more. Professor Langley loved his family and his family loved him more; he loved his country, and his country loved him too. Wherever he went and whomever he met, the perception and reality of him was always the same: he was singular in every way. He was Africa’s gift to the world, and the world appreciated him. His passing was therefore a loss not only to his friends and family, but also to a continent in need of giants who are reasonable, able and useful.
Professor Jabez Ayodele Langley received a Joint B.A. Honors in Modern History and Politics from the University of Wales, (Magna cum laude), and a Ph.D. in African History, from the University of Edinburgh. Until his passing, he was well respected, well-loved, and a sought-after scholar at the Department of African Studies, Howard University, Washington DC. At the time of his passing, he had three highly anticipated scholarly books in the pipeline: “Readings in Public Policy and Development in Africa;” “Biography of W.E.G. (Kobina) Sekyi of Ghana, 1852-1956;” and “Colonialism, Culture, and Development: The Political Thought of Kobina Sekyi of Ghana, 1892-1956.”
Before segueing into the academic world, Professor A.J. Langley was the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development for Gambia (1974-1982), and was appointed the Secretary General of the Government of the Gambia, Chief of Staff to the President, and Head of the Civil Service (1982-1988).
He was, at various times, an Executive Director at the World Bank; Gambia’s Acting High Commissioner (Charge d’Affaires) to Nigeria; a Short-term Expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; a Senior Associate, New Transcentury Foundation, (Development Management Consultant in Zambia and Ghana; and a Senior Research Fellow, The Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University.
In recognition of his singularity he was accorded several recognitions, amongst these are Member of the Order of the Lion (Senegal); Commander of the Order of the Niger (Nigeria); and Commander of the Republic of The Gambia (Gambia). But more than all these and other academic and non-academic recognitions are the love and appreciation of his friends and family, colleagues and students, and the admiration and appreciation of all those whose lives he touched and made better — including mine!
After a life well spent, Professor Jabez Ayodele Langley exited to the world beyond on Sunday, June 10 2007. May God grant him eternal rest and joy; and may those he left behind — especially his loving wife of several decades, Mary, — find strength and comfort in the grace of the Lord. And may his ancestors — in all of Gambia and the African continent — welcome him home.