Exit of a medical titan
by Tatalo Alamu
The Nigerian medical society shook to its foundation last week with the passing of one of its star professors and a medical colossus in every sense of the word, Professor Emmanuel Adeyemo Elebute, CON, former Provost of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos between 1977 and 1980 as well as Chief Medical Director of LUTH, 1978 to 1980. He was also Secretary of the Association of Surgeons of West Africa which was later converted to the West African College of Surgeons, a position he held between 1967 and 1971.
Snooper deeply mourns a friend of this column and a gentleman in the truest sense of that word. Exquisite breeding is difficult to hide even when it is coolly understated. There was always something of the old Public School boy about the distinguished professor. He was courtly, courteous and cultivated. Like a typical English country squire, he wore his hat and opinion lightly. He carried himself with the patrician grace and unruffled distinction of the old Lagosian coastal aristocracy. But he was an elitist and aristocrat with a sense of obligation to the society.
Perhaps as a result of this deep empathy for the plight of the poor and the underprivileged, the late professor’s generosity of spirit never ceased to amaze. It was pleasant to discover that this nobility of outlook is a gene that dates far back in the family. It was in his grandfather’s premises that Ijebu-Ode Grammar School took off in the third decade of the last century. Thereafter the colonial magnate and famed philanthropist donated the premises to the school.
Snooper has never wielded the surgeon’s scalpel. Any endeavor in that direction would certainly have ended in mass murder. But the late professor wielded both the pen and scalpel with dexterity and equal distinction. His biography of the late Marine captain Labulo Davies, a freed slave who was later to take active part in the naval bombardment of Lagos is destined to become a classic of its genre whenever civilization and a proper reading culture return to Nigeria.
Labulo’s life reads like the stuff of magical fiction. Like the late Prince Haastrup who was destined to become the Owa Ajimoko of Ijeshaland, Labulo was also abducted by slave raiders and sent on the journey of no return before his ship was intercepted by an anti-slave trade naval squad and forced to dock in Freetown. From there, Labulo as a young boy began to plot his way to the top until he became a leading light and plutocratic entrepreneur in colonial Nigeria having serving as an officer in the British Navy.
It was on account of this book that our path crossed. After reading a few pages, yours sincerely sat up all night to finish it. It was an engrossing read. Elebute wrote the English language with verve and arresting felicity. The late professor would easily have distinguished himself as a writer had he not chosen the medical profession.
The Nigerian medical professoriate actually boasts of closet literati; outstanding men of letters and distinguished writers. If snooper is pressed any further, they will be outed. The gifts of sensitivity and clinical detachment, the power of acute observation, are the hallmark of the outstanding medical practitioner as well as the outstanding writer. Sigismund Freud hailed Fyodor Dostoevsky as his master and pathfinder.
Professor Elebute was a master and pathfinder in his own right. He was one of God’s gifts to humanity. There was something quite touching and profoundly endearing about his exquisitely refined bearing, his civility, his politeness and his urbane diffidence. He leaves behind his equally distinguished wife, Oyinade of the famed Adenubi family of Ijebu-Igbo and four highly accomplished children. May his gentle and noble soul rest in perfect piece.