By Zakariyya Shu’aib Adam
It was the first Monday of the first semester in 500 level in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto [U.D.U.S]. As usual, all students who successfully passed 400 level were happy because they have now acquired “stay apparatus.” By stay apparatus, I am referring to the mechanism that enables horses to rest for a long time and have a nap while standing. In this context, it means 500 and 600 level students will no longer be withdrawn from the faculty regardless of the number of courses they failed. In other classes, once a student fails seven courses in a session, he will be asked to withdraw to another faculty.
The first lecture we had in 500 level was on Anaesthesiology. We were expecting a familiar lecturer from the Department of Surgery and Radiology when an agile old man dressed in a knee-length kaftan with a lab coat entered the class. He was averagely tall but wasn’t familiar to anyone of us. Morning lectures usually begin at 8:00 am but this old man was in the class before the time. When latecomers came, he allowed them entry to the class but spent some minutes grumbling as usual of an old person. He disallowed us to jot, yet emphasised on listening to what he was saying. We noticed his name on the chest pocket of his lab coat. Wow! He was the famous professor John Bayo Adeyanju, the great veterinary surgeon talked about by our lecturers.
When he was done with the lecture, the Head of Department of Surgery and Radiology, professor A.S Yakubu came to the class and gave us a brief highlight of Adeyanju’s academic life. He told us that Adeyanju was his supervisor at P.G level and that he taught virtually all professors and doctors in the faculty including the highly cerebral professors A.I Daneji, U.M Chafe and L.B Tekdek. He was one of the early graduates of D.V.M from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He acquired his MSc and PhD in the United States and was a fellow, College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria. Adeyanju was one of the founding fathers of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in U.D.U.S. He was one time the Head, Department of Surgery and Radiology and the Director, Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He was a professor for more than three decades.
He taught in many Veterinary Colleges and Universities in Nigeria. He had practiced surgery in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and the United States. He outclassed many professors in both academics and practice. He was arguably the best veterinary surgeon in Nigeria. We were told that whenever he was to perform a surgical procedure, he would not administer any postoperative antibiotic as it is routinely done because he was sure of the sterility of the surgical site and the surgical environment. However, he advised us to give aggressive postoperative antibiotic because in Nigeria, due to the sorry state of our universities and health care systems, it is difficult to evade postsurgical wound infection without antibiotics.
Before his return to U.D.U.S on contract, we heard many tales about him. It was said that he was forcefully retired from the academia by the late Gen. Sani Abatcha as a result of a dissension they had. Although Adeyanju was old (almost 80 years old at the time of his death), he was always punctual to the class. He never missed class. Whenever he noticed that there was no lecturer in the class, he will enter and teach. In his class, every student must dress formally. Lab coats must be fully buttoned and must carry nametags. Clinical students (500 and 600 level) must carry along their thermometers and stethoscopes at all time for emergency purposes.
Professor J.B Adeyanju was a man of wisdom. His method of teaching was unique. He gave little notes and spent much time explaining. He made sure we understand a topic before he moved to another. As an elderly person with an ocean of experience, his teaching hours were full of admonishment. He spoke in parable with an authoritative voice and will often repeat his sentences. That was why many of us memorized most of his favourite quotations. At the beginning, many of us were not at home with the way he did things because we felt that his complaints were much, although it was typical of old people. As time goes on, he became the students’ favourite lecturer.
The great Adeyanju was a conscientious old timer. He always wanted to see things right. One evening after clinical posting, I pulled off my shoes and wore slippers. I equally unbuttoned my lab coat and loosened my necktie. Unfortunately, I met Adeyanju on my way to the hostel. I greeted him but he kept mute as if he did not heard me. When a classmate who was in a formal wears greeted him, he answered, smiled at him and said: “Good boy, you look smart.” A classmate told me that he met Adeyanju with an unbuttoned lab coat. Adeyanju called him and said: “My friend, button up your lab coat. You do not have a broad chest.”
Although Adeyanju may be seen as a strict person, he was equally simple with a good sense of humour. He was used to saying that surgeons speak with their hands. During a surgery practical, he caught a student talking. He came to the student and said: “You talk more than an average woman.” We bursted out laughing. After some time, he came back and saw the student quiet. He sighed and said: “I have sedated him.” He once saw me yawning in the class and thought I was sleeping. He asked me to come out to the stage and spell my name while doing waist twisting. As I began, Adeyanju giggled and the class laughed hysterically.
When we were in Small Animal Clinic, a cat was presented with a complaint of laceration on its right hind limb after it got attacked by hoodlums. I took the history of the case from the client. When Adeyanju came, he summoned us to his office. He asked me to brief him on the history of the case. When I began, I noticed that he was staring at me. I got confused and forgot the correct word to qualify the wound. I said “the hind limb was chopped off by hoodlums”. He furiously shouted at me saying: “Can’t you speek English? Oya! Say it in your native language.”
Adeyanju was a caring teacher. When our teacher M.S Abubakar became professor, he was extremely happy because Abubakar was his former student. He hugged him and asked students to snap them together. He was very close to professors A.S Yakubu and Salisu Buhari. When they completed their fellowship, they were unable to attend the ceremony in Abuja. Adeyanju graced the occasion and brought their certificates to Sokoto. He handed over the certificates to them on a ceremonious day.
Few weeks later, he fell sick and was hospitalised at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital [U.D.U.T.H]. It was said that he drove himself to the hospital. Professor A.S Yakubu took us to the hospital to see how he was doing. We were frightened when we discovered that the agile and energetic old man could not talk but waved his hands. We prayed for his quick recovery and left the hospital pitifully.
Baba Adeyanju (as we fondly call him) passed away in the evening of Thursday 23rd December 2021. His body was laid to rest but the knowledge he imparted will remain with us and shall be passed to the next generation.
Adieu to the best veterinary surgeon in Nigeria.
Zakariyya Shu’aib Adam is a final year veterinary medical student and writes from City Campus, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org