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Professor Anya Oko Anya @ 80 ― By Olusegun Adeniyi

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“It was the first moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, the very Reverend James Ukegbu who observed at the Independence Day Interdenominational service in Lagos in 1987 that if God did not judge Nigeria, He, the Sovereign Lord, may have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah. 

“It was a powerful and apt dramatisation of the then fast deterioration of the social and moral situation in Nigeria. More than 15 years later, I believe most of us will agree that things are much worse in our country.”

When Professor Anya Oko Anya said the foregoing in 2002, he could not have imagined that in another 15 years, the situation in our country would be far worse than at the time he was quoting the cleric. 

Like many of the few men in his generation who can boast of making positive contributions to our country without being part of the rot, Prof Anya was always agonising about Nigeria in all the private sessions I have had with him since 1997 when his son, Chidi, and I met at the University of Lagos and became close friends.

With that, I also became a member of their family.

A Chartered biologist and one of Nigeria’s foremost intellectuals, Anya had a distinguished career as a University lecturer before his remarkable stints in both the public and private sectors where he played pioneer roles.  

He is also one of the first set of intellectuals to bag the Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) which rewards “citizens for their demonstrated ability to innovate and invent for progress of the country, and also for the promotion of excellence in the academic system towards that end.” 

He was awarded his NNMA 25 years ago in 1992 and was for several years chair of its governing board.

Incidentally, Prof Anya actually clocked 80 on 3rd January this year and I missed being at Abriba in Abia State, for a family event. 

I felt bad that I also could not be in Lagos last week for the ceremony, especially since I am sure Prof would say that confirms my status as a “prodigal son”. 

But he has many more years to celebrate and I promise him that at 90, by the grace of God, I will lead the celebration.

The Verdict by Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

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