Tribute to A Great Mentor and Scholar – Prof. Eddy Omolehinwa

Yomi Sanni

My long and close relationship with Prof. Eddy Omolehinwa (aka ‘for the masses’) began in my second year in the accounting department of the University of Lagos, in 1978, as one of his students, just after he came back from his MBA programme at the Columbia University, U.S.A. He shared an office then with another young colleague, Dr. Tony Imoisili, who was also my lecturer. Both of them and an older lecturer, Mr. J. P. Lawrence, became my mentors and motivators-in-chief. They all encouraged me to work harder and realize my potentials as a first-class accounting graduate.

Bagging a first-class degree in 1980 set me off on a fast and upward career trajectory. At that time only few students were able to achieve that feat – there were only five (5) of us in the entire Faculty of Business Administration (with two of us from the Accounting Department). With that privilege and honour, I was very determined to excel and make a difference in any role I found myself in life.

My relationships with my two young lecturers became even stronger, after I left the University. However, whilst Dr. Imoisili travelled abroad for his PhD programme, immediately after my first degree, Prof. Omolehinwa was around a bit longer, in Lagos, to encourage me to apply for post-graduate (PG) degree programmes abroad. He reviewed my first CV and PG applications and also drew up the list of offshore Universities to apply to. In the event, I got a direct admission for a PhD programme at the London School of Economics (LSE), with a Federal Government Scholarship into the bargain. In the end, for personal reasons, I chose to remain in Arthur Andersen to continue my professional career, rather than switch to academics.

A lesson that was not lost on me was the selflessness of Prof. Omolehinwa. Here was a lecturer who was yet to begin a PhD programme, working assiduously to assist a fresh graduate student of his to secure admission for a direct PhD programme abroad.

Another intervention in my career, by the duo of Prof. Omolehinwa and Dr. Imoisili, was the encouragement they gave me to undertake the Executive MBA Programme in University of Lagos. I heeded their advice and completed the Programme in 1994.

Prof. Omolehinwa has been one of my referees from 1980 to date. He also tried to bring me back into academics, after my retirement as a Partner and Chief Operating Officer of KPMG Nigeria, in September 2016. I thank him immensely for his invaluable contributions to my academic achievements and the sound foundation for my professional accomplishments.

My personal rapport with Prof. Omolehinwa, post-University, was much deeper than the academic relationship. I was a frequent visitor to his residences from 1980 to date, beginning with his first place of abode on Bariga Road, later Joseph Harrison Street off Iwaya Road and lastly his current residence on the University campus. I recall visiting and staying with him and his family, for a few days, in Manchester, during his PhD programme, in the early 1980s, after attending an offshore training course. His late wife treated me like a family member and all his children are well-known to me. He is also well-known in my family and has visited me in my residences at various times. My late mom’s final burial ceremony, in Ijebu Imusin, on 22 February, 2020, was probably his first real social party since the death of his beloved wife in December 2018.

He was fond of using my name in tutorial questions given to students he taught after my set, as his way of expressing his affection for me. Some of my nephews, nieces and ex-staff in KPMG, who were his students hold me in high esteem on account of his attempt to ‘immortalize’ me in his tutorial questions. Ours was a genuine, unconditional and blossom relationship between a lecturer and a grateful former student.

I wish my great mentor and illustrious teacher a happy seventieth birthday and an enjoyable and enduring retirement. May the Almighty God keep him healthy and productive in the next phase of his life. May HE protect and guide him, his children and his grandchildren. Ameen!

Best wishes,

Yomi Sanni