By Olutola Daramola

It was a befitting farewell for the first female Professor of Classics in Sub-Saharan Africa, Professor Folake  Oritsegbubemi Onayemi as both town and gown gathered to bid her goodbye at all the programmes held in her honour.

Earlier on Friday at the Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan, family members, colleagues from the academia as well as friends and well-wishers filed out in their numbers to pay their last respects to a towering figure in the field of Classics.

At the funeral service held later at the Christ Jubilee Church, Occupy World Outreach Ministries (OWOM) Oke-Ayo, Ring Road, Ibadan, the pallbearers lifted her brown casket which had on it a wreath of flowers, and her insignia of office as the Ỳeýe Èkólérè of Ondo Kingdom into the Church sanctuary for the last time.

In a message titled “The Biblical concept of Death and Resurrection” the  Preacher, Apostle  Nicholas Osameyan noted that for Christians not to experience the Resurrection to death but rather the Resurrection to life, it was important for them to give their lives to Jesus Christ, live right and also prepare for death.

While describing the deceased as a great daughter of Africa and a true and committed child of God who gave so much for the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Apostle Osameyan advised everyone to live a life of impact.

While giving his tribute, the International President of  the church  she attended for about thirty years, Occupy World Outreach Ministries, OWOM,  Apostle Victor Amosun  recalled her many sacrifices and impact  especially as Head of  the Children’s Ministry, referring to her as an Educational missionary.

Others who extolled the sterling virtues of late Professor Folake Onayemi included a  Lecturer of Classics from the University of Ghana, Legon, an institution where she helped resuscitate the Department of Classics as a visiting Professor between August 2009 and December 2010 as well as August 2013 to July 2014 and August 2018 to July 2020. 

In his remarks on behalf of the Nigeria Academy of Letters, Professor Solomon Oyetade described her death as a great loss to the body to which she contributed immensely.

In her emotion-laden tribute, the sister to the deceased and former staff of Radio Nigeria, Ibadan, Dr Omolola Tosan Akinwole said she would miss the true love of a sister who was not only a sibling and friend but a mother too.

Also in attendance at the funeral service were chiefs of the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Adesimbo  Kiladejo who represented the monarch.

Born Folake Oritsegbubemi Akinwole to an Ondo Father, Festus Akinwole Olapetun and an Itsekiri Mother, Patricia Akinwole on 4th October 1964 in Ijebu-Jesa where her father was a teacher at Ijebu- Jesa Grammar School in the old Western Region.

For her primary education, she attended Mount Olives Primary School Bodija and later Sacred Heart Primary School Odo-Ona both in Ibadan 

She attended Our Lady OF Apostles Grammar School, Mary Way, Odo-Ona, Ibadan from 1975 to 1980 and thereafter Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo from 1980 to 1982. She gained admission into the University of Ibadan in 1983 and graduated in 1986 with a Second Class Upper Division Degree in Classics.

Professor Onayemi began her academic career at the University of Ibadan in July 1994 as an Assistant Lecturer and Rose through the ranks to become a full professor on the 1st of October, 2008. Upon attaining this post, she became the first black woman Professor of Classics in Africa, South of the Sahara.

She distinguished herself as an eminent literary scholar whose works have shown deep insights into Classical and African cultural evolution.  She wrote and published books, poetry collections and several peer-reviewed journal articles.

Professor Folake Onayemi organised talks and Outreaches for Youths, with particular attention to making them impactful and balanced adults who can make the right choices in their lives, homes and society.  She also loved many aspects of the African/Yoruba culture, among which is the “oriki”. She was in fact fond of rendering the oriki of her lineage 

In recognition of her outstanding academic achievements as the first Female Professor of Ondo origin in the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, she was conferred with the honorary chieftains title of Ỳeýe Èkólérè of Ondo Kingdom by the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom, Oba Adesimbo Victor Kiladejo on the occasion of his 70th birthday and 15th coronation anniversary in November 2023.

Professor Onayemi belonged to many associations and learned societies such as the Nigeria Academy of Letters, Classical Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Representative, and the International Federation of the Societies of Classical Studies among others.

Professor Folake Oritsegbubemi Onayemi( Nee Akinwole) died on the 14th February, 2024 and is survived by siblings, children and grandchildren.

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