By Professor Adedeji Badiru
I still find it hard to believe that my scholarly partner and research buddy is gone. Gone forever. This is a sad twist of life. The only comfort I can derive from this sorrowful event is that Oye lived his life his own way but left an indelible positive mark on the society. His lessons of life will continue to benefit humanity for ages to come. His untimely death is a monumental loss for the scientific and engineering communities around the world. Yes, around the world, because Oye touched many parts on the world and left his scholarly imprints everywhere.
Our intertwined stories of educational, scholarly, and administrative collaborations go back to when we first met at the First Africa-USA International Conference on Manufacturing Technology (MANUTECH) at Sheraton Hotel in 1993. Over the next 1,400 weeks until his death, we communicated almost every other week.
On October 30, 2020, he sent me a text message to inform me that he and Professor Ayo Ogunye were online to attend my Lifetime Award investiture by Taylor & Francis. On November 26, 2020, he emailed me about his search for a reputable book publisher for the manuscript he was working on about the History of Ijeshaland.
We exchanged several text and email messages on that topic for several days, during which period I informed him that I also was thinking of writing a personal account on Epeland, where I hailed from. My wife and I suspected something might be amiss on December 25, 2020 when I sent him a special WhatsApp message about my wife’s 65th birthday and I never got a response back from him. The next day, my wife asked me if I had heard back from Prof. I said “no” and put off the question by suggesting that our world-traveler Oye might be out of the country and could not get my messages.
I sent him another generic email message unrelated to the birthday inquiry just to check if he was following any of his messages. Still no response. The shock of my life came on December 31, 2020, when my nephew in Dallas, Texas, Mr. Olu Durosimi, a close friend of Oye’s son, Bambo, called me to deliver the sorrowful news. I prayed that it was a cruel hoax. Alas, it was true. I was shocked, drained, disoriented, and sleepless for the next two days. My last WhatsApp message to him is now frozen permanently at 8:30am (USA Eastern Time), on December 25, 2020.
I have spent countless hours since then reflecting on how closely tied I had been to Oye’s scholarly pursuits over the past 27 years. Professor Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe was so intellectually curious and scholarly restless that he drew everybody around him into new technical pursuits. His favorite words included systems, control, research collaboration, innovation, development, technology, and other technically challenging lexicons.
Although he was an exceptionally accomplished professor, each new opportunity to collaborate made him look like a kid in a new candy store. He got excited about everything. He never declined any opportunity to collaborate intellectually. Upon all of these, he was such a simple man with simple needs. Amidst our many social pleasantries, we engaged in many, many high-level ruminations on how to use our scholarly tools to facilitate a sustainable development pathway for Nigeria. He was an ardent patriot and ambassador of Nigeria’s development and advancement.
Oye had a unique talent of working with diverse cadres of people both horizontally and vertically. This ability enriched his life and made it possible for him to go anywhere and interact professionally in multiple ways. When I was at the University of Oklahoma, he came to present a distinguished guest lecture, and we ended up creating a Unilag-OU International Academic Exchange Program.
When I was at the University of Tennessee, he came to present another distinguished guest lecture, which led to the creation of a Unilag-UTK International Academic Exchange Program. It was through this partnership that Associate Professor Sunday Asaolu came to the University of Tennessee as an exchange scholar. When I moved on to the US Air Force Institute of Technology, Professor Ibidapo-Obe came to present a seminal paper at a high-profile Air Force symposium on the topic of mathematical modeling for emergency response operations. He carried the banner of Unilag so widely and prominently that an American colleague of mine at AFIT referred to him as “Professor Unilag,” probably because he could not pronounce Ibidapo-Obe.
His technical worldwide contributions, for which I had first-hand knowledge, could span a multi-page manuscript. For the purpose of this brief tribute, I point to only a few of his scholarly products, as conveyed pictorially on the following pages. We wrote two books together, in collaboration with our dear friend, Dr. Babs Ayeni. The cover images of the books are included in the embedded photo below. Also, in the cover images are the two Festschrifts written on Professor Ibidapo-Obe, one at Unilag and one at FUNAI. He insisted I must contribute chapters to the festschrifts, which I did. In his characteristic altruistic simplicity, he ceremoniously autographed a first copy of the Unilag festschrift to me, shown in an embedded image below.
Tributes to the immense scholarship of a distinguished Professor There can never be another professor of the caliber of Professor Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe. Earlier on, on May 3, 2020, Oye sent me an outline of a new book he wanted to write. Echoed below is what he had in mind:
“Big Data, Fuzzy Models, Systems Controls and Artificial Intelligence Simplified with Applications”
2.0 Big Data
*What is Big Data-the Law of
Large Numbers (Smirnov-K)
*BDA (Big Data Analysis-Statistics and Inferences, Missing Data)
*Big Data and IT and AI
*The transformation journey From Big Data through AI to ETs (Emerging Tech)
3.0 Fuzzy Models
*Modelling and Imprecision
*Fuzzy Sets Realisation
*Fuzziness and Big Data
*Robotics and Drones
4.0 Systems Controls
*Control and Fuzziness
*Navigation, Guidance and Control
*Systems (Direct/Indirect) and Models (Materials/Math
*Robotics, Adaptive and Stochastic Controls
*Control and AI
5.0 Artificial Intelligence
*The transformation journey to AI
*Big Data and AI-The Interplay
*The present and future of AI
*Wrapping It All Up
He concluded by saying “These are just my early thoughts. I am expecting a rigorous update.”.
.I had been planning to ask him how far he had gone with that book idea at the end of 2020. Unfortunately, I never got to ask him that question. I don’t think he had completed the book. If he did, he would have informed me. If any of our publishing colleagues, particularly Professor Sunday Asaolu, Professor David Olowokere, Professor Abayomi Ajofoyinbo, and Dr. Babs Ayeni, are aware of this book project and the status of it, I would be interested in partnering to ensure that the book is completed in the honour of Professor Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe. He deserves it. Similarly, if his Ijesha colleagues could move forward to complete his planned book on the History of Ijeshaland, it would be a lasting legacy in his memory. We will all miss Oye Ibidapo-Obe forever.
Professor Adedeji Bodunde Badiru writes this piece in honour of late Prof Oye Ibidapo-Obe