By Godwin Igbinosa
On Thursday, 16th November 2023, the world lost a remarkable teacher, literary critic, translator, and promoter of African arts and culture, but I lost a wonderful mentor, counselor, teacher, life coach, and an uncle.
Prof Unionmwam Edebiri, also known as Union, was not just a Professor of French and a Barrister at-Law, but a shining beacon of intellectual, academic, and administrative excellence.
Throughout his illustrious career, Prof Edebiri received numerous honours, recognitions, awards, and fellowships that testified to the profound impact he had on his field. He was a giant in the realm of Francophone literature, leaving an indelible mark on the literary world.
They say that people come into our lives for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime. When I first met Prof Edebiri, it became clear that our meeting was meant to last a lifetime. It was in 1980 when I was invited to appear before a panel investigating student unrest at the University of Lagos, and he was a member of that panel. From that moment on, Prof took a keen interest in my growth and became my mentor, counselor, life coach, and so much more.
He was there for pivotal moments in my life, such as my wedding day. Prof Edebiri traveled all the way from Lagos to Agbor, Delta State to attend my wedding on July 4, 1998, where he even chaired the ceremony. From that day forward, he never missed a single wedding anniversary and would always be the first to call and remind us of our special day.
When my wife and I were blessed with twins, Prof Edebiri showered them with love and affection. Every time he traveled abroad, he would bring them beautiful and expensive clothes, showing his unwavering support and devotion to our family.
Even in my retirement from the Federal Civil Service, Prof Edebiri pushed me to keep growing and learning. Instead of simply staying idle, he encouraged me to enroll in a PhD programme, highlighting his belief in the significance of lifelong learning.
We remained in touch throughout the years, whether he invited me to conferences in Abuja or simply to catch up on life and discuss current events in our country. Whenever I called him, he would always return my call or make time to meet in person. Our bond was unbreakable.
However, in the weeks leading up to his passing, I grew increasingly concerned. I called multiple times, expecting to hear his voice on the other end of the line, but instead, I received the shocking news of his departure from this earthly realm. My heart shattered, and I mourned the loss of my wonderful mentor, counselor, teacher, life coach, and uncle.
May his soul rest in eternal peace in the bosom of the Lord. Prof Union Edebiri, you have left an indelible legacy, and I am forever grateful for the impact you had on my life. Adieu, dear Mentor, until we meet again.