OLUMUYIWA AKINTOLA OLORUNNINYO AWE, Ph.D.(Cantab), F.A.S., M.O.N.
Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Ibadan
November 13, 1932 – May 3, 2015
Olumuyiwa Akintola Olorunninyo Awe was born to Pa Noah Abikoye Awe and Ma Sarah Wuraola Awe on Sunday, 13 November, 1932 at Okewata, Esie, Kwara State. He received his Elementary School education in Saint Michael’s Primary School, Esie and Saint Mark’s School, Offa. He was admitted to Government College, Ibadan, in January 1946 and passed the Cambridge School Certificate Examination in May 1951.
He worked briefly as a third class clerk in the Department of Marketing and Exports from 27 August to 10 October, 1951 when he passed the Entrance Examination to the University College, Ibadan, and enrolled for a degree course in Physics. In 1953, he was awarded the prestigious college scholarship, and at the end of the 1953/54 session he was awarded the college prize for the best performance in Mathematics. At the end of the following session, he collected three awards, namely: the College Prize in Physics, the College Prize in Mathematics, and the Faculty of Science prize for the most outstanding performance in the Faculty. The foundations of an exceptionally brilliant career were being laid.
As an undergraduate, young Muyiwa participated actively in athletics and other student activities in the University. During the summer vacation of 1955, he helped to set up the Science Laboratories at Offa Grammar School.
He would eventually earn the B.Sc. (General) degree in Physics, Pure Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, awarded, as was the custom in colonial days, via the affiliation with the University of London. This spectacular achievement at the end of the 1955 in 1st Class Division, made him the first person to obtain a 1st Class General degree in Science in the history of the (then) University College, Ibadan. He crowned this with another 1st Class Special Honours degree in Physics in June 1956, thus becoming the first person to obtain a 1st Class degree in Physics in the institution.
On the basis of his outstanding performance in the B.Sc. Special Examination, Muyiwa was awarded a University College Scholarship to pursue post graduate studies at Cambridge University, England. Between October 1956 and January 1960, he worked on his thesis in the area of ionospheric science at the world renowned Cavendish Laboratory. Upon completion of his studies the newly-minted Dr. Awe returned to his Alma matter and joined the staff of the Department of Physics University College, Ibadan, on the 1st of April, 1960.
In recommending him for this position, Mr. J.A. Ratcliffe OBE, FRS, who supervised his doctoral work, had this to say about him:
“He has more than held his own here among research students of several different Universities. I have pleasure in recommending Mr. Awe for appointment to a lectureship in Physics in Africa. He has worked with me here as a research student during the past 3 years and during that time. I have formed a very high opinion of his ability and his industry. In his research work, he has particularly impressed me by his power of self- criticism. Anytime he suspected some experimental results, he did not rush to report this until he has checked them by independent measurements, and he has been able to show that some result which we had thought reliable here were, in fact, not so.”
Professor N.S. Alexander, Head of the Department of Physics at Ibadan when Muyiwa was a student, in his own recommendation to the Registrar, University College, Ibadan, concluded his strong recommendation thus:
”His work here was outstanding throughout. Personally he has considerable charm of manner and was universally popular. If he has in any way fulfilled his earlier promise, he should be an ideal candidate for the post of a lecturer here.”
At the time Dr. Awe joined the staff the Department of Physics was in the forefront in research. It was, for example, famous the world over for its research activities in the area of Geomagnetism [headed by Professor Alexander] and Ionospheric and Radio Science, ably headed by Professor R.W.H. Wright and Dr. N.J. Skinner respectively, and later by Professor A.J Lyon. Ibadan was also a major centre in the tropics in a world-wide network for data exchange, involving other centres in England (especially with the Science Research Council, Radio and Space Research stations at Slough), the USA, Singapore, New Zealand, and India. Dr. Awe was a perfect fit for this dedicated team, and he quickly settled down to active research work of his own. As well, he was a member of the Federal Government delegation to the Commonwealth Conference on Communications by Satellites, also in 1960.
On Christmas Day, 1960, young Muyiwa married Miss Bolanle Alake Fajembola (now Professor Mrs. Bolanle Alake Awe) a gem among women, Professor of History for many years until her retirement. It is only a man of Dr. Awe’s characteristically analytical and critical mind who could have made what has turned out to be a perfect choice. In Bolanle, Professor Awe had a brilliant, devoted, homely and pleasant wife. It is the generally held view that Bolanle was the crown with which God Himself adorned his head. And they are blessed with children and grandchildren.
With peace at home, and opportunities at work, Dr. Awe quickly made his mark at Ibadan. He was promoted ‘Lecturer Above the Bar’ on 7th of June 1962, and ‘Senior Lecturer’ on 6th July 1964.
In 1962, he was a member of the Federal Government team that visited the United States of America to discuss Satellite Communications with various US officials.
Dr. Awe moved to the University of Lagos in September, 1965, as Associate Professor and Head of the University’s Physics Department. He was promoted to full professor in July 1967.
On 7 March, 1969, he returned to Ibadan as Professor of Physics and Head of the Department, the first Nigerian to occupy the post. No sooner did Dr. Awe rejoin the Department in 1969 than he began to map out a new orientation for developing research activities in other areas of specialization in the Department. This was to link the research activities there directly to the national development of the country. In promoting this noble ideal he provided much-needed leadership, as was often the case when he was involved in national assignments.
He was the recipient of a fellowship by the African-American Universities Programme to carry out a study visit with the Director of the Radio Science Laboratories at Stanford University in California, USA. He also led the federal government delegation of scientists to the United States for discussions on the satellite communication project, Syncom. Between 1969 and the time of his retirement, he had led the Space and Radio Propagation Research Group at Ibadan. Professor Awe was well known in this area of research which he helped to pioneer at Ibadan, and he produced many Ph.D. degree graduates in the area.
Ever the pioneer, Professor Awe was in the forefront of administrative leadership in science and technology, at both university and national levels. Few contemporaries were as blessed with such unique opportunities as he enjoyed throughout his career. Some of his accomplishments follow:
• He was the author of several physics textbooks that have been widely read in Nigeria.
• In 1960, he was appointed Warden of the Clinical Students Hostel, University College Hospital, Ibadan, and served in this capacity until 1962.
• From 1969 to 1975 and 1980 to 1983, he was Head of Department of Physics. During those years he helped to set up many programmes and new research specializations for which the Department is now well known.
• Between August 1971 and July 1973 he served as Dean of the Faculty of Science. During this period, the Department of Statistics was placed on a firm footing. In addition, financial allocations were made for new buildings in several departments and in the faculty, including the Dean’s Office Complex, and the Faculty Lecture Theatre.
• He contributed long and distinguished years on many committees of Senate and Council of the University from 1975 to 1977 and from 1979 to 1991.
• He was for many years the Chief Examiner in Physics for the West African Examinations Council.
• He served on the Board of the Nigerian Council for Science and Technology for several years.
• In 1973, he was elected the first President of the Nigerian Institute of Physics.
• He was a Foundation Fellow of the Science Association of Nigeria, as well as Foundation Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, serving as the first treasurer of the latter between 1977 and 1980.
• He was President of the Science Association of Nigeria (1978-80) and of the West African Science Association.
• He was Chairman of UI’s anti-cultism campaign committee from 1999-2009
• He served on various important committees in Kwara State and was at a time Chairman of the State’s Scholarship Board and later the Chairman of the State’s Library Board.
• He was a life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London, and was awarded Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) – a national honor – by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1981.
Professor Awe was known to be a strong advocate of freedom of expression which made him a very courageous and outstandingly literate spokesman on vital issues affecting the University system. In him was found the quality which William Cowper described as that of “a childlike sage.“ The aptness of this description was particularly evident when he would opine in lucid, emotionless, but fearless voice on sensitive and controversial issues on the floor of the University Senate and at other forums.
His 32 years of total commitment to the development of Science, and his dedicated and distinguished contributions to University education and research, as well as to the nation, is a most impressive legacy that challenges present and future generations. By the time he retired in September 1991 he had most assuredly left his mark. In 1994, he was appointed an Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Ibadan.
In 1982, he was honoured with the Chieftaincy title Otun Oba of Esie, in recognition of his many contributions (such as sponsorships, scholarships, and mentoring) to the development of his home town.
Pastor Muyiwa Awe
Professor Awe committed his life to Jesus Christ in May 1991. He attended the International Bible College of the Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Ibadan, between 1992 and 1993. He was ordained an assistant pastor in 1994, and a full pastor in 1996. In 1998, God led him to start his own ministry – Fullness of Christ Evangelical Ministry (FOCEM), a non-denominational Christian ministry. He later founded a church, Christ’s Temple in Ibadan.
His later years were spent preaching the gospel of His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In particular, he was very interested in “shining the light of the gospel to dispel the darkness that envelops those who are in cults”. This led to his appointment as Chairman of the University of Ibadan Anti-Cultism Campaign Committee.
He has published two pastoral books: The Fatherhood of God and Marriage and the Christian.
Professor Olumuyiwa Awe, Emeritus Professor of Physics, child and servant of God, passed away on 3rd May 2015 at the age of 82.
Rest well, and rest in peace, distinguished professor and teacher, beloved husband, father and grandfather, and man of honour.
You will always live on in our hearts. We miss you. We celebrate you, but as you always said, “It is well”.