Professor Olabimpe Aboyade (1935 – 2023)

DEATH struck on Friday, March 3, 2023, at the Ibadan home of the late Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, claiming his widow, Professor Beatrice Olabimpe Gbogboade Aboyade.

Her death was confirmed by her second daughter, Olufunke Aboyade, SAN. She was aged 87.

Professor Aboyade was the first woman in sub-Saharan Africa to gain a PhD in English Literature. She was a librarian and retired professor of library studies at the University of Ibadan. Described as a pioneer in Librarianship in Nigeria by the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, Aboyade worked in University of Ibadan and University of Ile-Ife libraries.

It is an exercise in futility to summarise the powerful presence and purposeful life of Prof Aboyade in a few short paragraphs. In truth, even several books would not do justice to her story because she lived a life that was layered, nuanced, riveting and full of fulfillment. 

A moment though in her presence was enough to understand the gift of the journey of her life, her conviction in the love of God, and her trust in the gifts of Jesus Christ. She was a blessing to everyone she came across. People often felt like they were the most important people in the world for the time they spent with her. 

Aboyade was born on August 24, 1935, on St, Bartholomew’s Day, in Agbole Lawusi, Italowajoda, ljebu-Ode, Ogun State, into the family of Omoba T. A. Johnson Odubanjo and his wife Adeline. She had her primary education at Christ Church Primary School, Porogun, Ijebu Ode. She proceeded to Queen’s College, Lagos, for her secondary education between 1948-51. Between 1952-53, she completed her high school at Queens College, Ede. She got her first degree in English from the University of Ibadan in 1960, then obtained further degrees from the University of Michigan in 1964. In 1970, she completed her doctorate from the University of Ibadan.

Aboyade worked in different capacities as a librarian in Obafemi Awolowo University and University of Ibadan. In 1978, she was made a professor of library studies at Unibadan and served as head of department of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the university. She also ran the Rural Development Information System (RUDIS), which increased information access to rural people in Africa.

Aboyade did not immediately become a librarian but spent a short time at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation before she joined the University of Ibadan library as an assistant librarian in 1962. Later, she took up a new position as chief cataloger at the then University of Ife in 1965. Three years later, she returned to the University of Ibadan to lead their Reader Services. In 1972, she began to teach there when she became a lecturer in the library science department.

In 1978, she was promoted from senior lecturer when she was made a Professor of Library Studies at the University of Ibadan, and she served as head of department of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the university. She also ran the Rural Development Information System (RUDIS), which increased information access to rural people in Africa. Her work with RUDIS revealed that Nigerian rural libraries primarily served a functional requirement. The library books were used to show how to improve utilities such as roads, electricity, finance and piped water. Readers would find out about non local employment opportunities as well as information about fertilizers and trading opportunities.

She was married to Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, eminent Economist, an erudite and distinguished scholar of international repute and a gifted administrator, until his death in 1994.

Their union was blessed with four children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The first child is an architect, the second, Olufunke Aboyade, is a prominent lawyer, journalist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, the third lives in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) where he runs his manufacturing business and the last, the intellectual amongst the fold and the only one with a PhD, lives in Ibadan where he teaches.

Notable among some of Prof Aboyade’s contemporaries and close friends are Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke, SAN and Professor Bolanle Awe.

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