Tribute to Olu Anthony Arigbabu, Professor of Surgery and Traumatology

Professor Olu Anthony Arigbabu 


Adesuyi Leslie Ajayi

Olu Anthony Arigbabu MD, FASOG, FAFCS, FAFUC retired Professor of Surgery and Traumatology, and Head Department of Surgery , Obafemi Awolowo University, transits to eternity.

He died at Ile ife on February 27, 2024. He was in his mid 80s.

This is the transition of a pioneering and great impact maker, on the clinical program and hospital services of the Obafemi Awolowo University and its teaching hospital.

Then Dr Arigbabu was the second MAC Chairman ( CMAC), taking over from then Dr Ogunremi. Prof Arigbabu was responsible for equipping the surgical theaters, both at SDA and ISH hospitals in 1976/77.

Professor Arigbabu returned to Nigeria after completion of his medical education (MD) and specialty training in Germany ( FAFCS) , bristling with patriotic intent for his home country.

He returned with a fully loaded , state of the art ambulance, to assist with medical services to ife.

Professor Adesuyi Leslie Ajayi

Dr Arigbabu taught us, his medical students, in surgery and I was later his house officer in surgery.

He was a versatile surgeon. He trained as a surgical Gastronterologist / Endoscopist and traumatologist.

At a time , he was the only Nigerian Fellow of the American Society of Surgical gastroenterology, by election.

He helped train the earliest surgical residents of the then Ife university teaching hospitals complex, in the late 1970s to early 1980s.

Some of them later became professors in surgical specialties and Chief Medical Directors of OAUTHC Ile ife.

He pioneered and trained both Medical and Surgical lower and upper gastro intestinal endoscopists at ife, who later became professors of medical or surgical gastroenterology at OAUTHC, ile – ife.

His research focus was on characterization of colonic neoplasms and large bowel disease in Nigerians, with non western dietary practices. He also researched and published on Helicobacter pylori in ulcerogenesis and gastric neoplasia.

I remember assisting him as a surgical house officer, at SDA hospital along with others, for a successful craniotomy, in a child with brain abscess from a depressed skull fracture.

His oft quoted dictum ” UBI PUS EVACUO” ( evacuate any pus ) remained with me, both as a medical and as a general life’ s philosophy.

He was the ” *Go to surgeon*” because other consultant surgeons had cause to call on him, for surgical assistance in challenging life/ death surgical situations.

He was kind, decent, tolerant of “never surgeons” like us. A man of good integrity who did not exhibit or engage in favoritism to anyone, but acted on the merit of the matter.

We had deeper personal historical familial connections, that he himself revealed to me after graduation, when i joined the faculty at the ife medical school.

My father taught him in secondary school at Ijebu ode grammar school in the 1950s , and he was delighted to have an opportunity to teach his teacher’s son, in return.

When I was elevated to a chair, he and his hunting buddy and close pal , Prof Roger Makanjuola, held a party of Suya and beer for me, at Prof Arigbabu’s home.

Such was the generosity of spirit he exhibited in all aspects, of the lives of his close associates.

I was thei “sorcerers apprentice” to Professor Arigbabu and Prof Roger Olatokunbo Makanjuola , even as a faculy and later professor at OAUIFE.

I learnt tremendous life lessons , all over again as a pupil, at the feet of masters, who were great philosophers and human beings.

May the kind and generous spirit of Professor Olu Arigbabu rest in peace, and may God increase his tribe. Amen

Since a ” Teacher for a day, is a father for ever ” ( Chinese proverb) , Prof Olu Arigbabu was indeed a father to many scions.

” Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but foot prints”
– Chief Seattle

*Professor Adesuyi Leslie Ajayi, former Welcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow, Department of Medicine at Queens Medical Center Nottingham, is a public affairs analyst