“There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.”

— Woodrow Wilson.

I had never met nor heard of late Rtr Jelili Ayanwale, until his sad demise on 30th January. But my not knowing him didn’t stop the tears from rushing down when I read the gruesome manner at which such a bright boy died. In situations like this, we are forced to wonder why bad things happen to the best people. Why a young man who is known for being cheerful as much as he is committed would have to die in the manner he did. And when you are religious, this becomes a problem, because why should you question your maker’s decision?

Jelili Ayanwale before his transcendence, (yes, transcendence because believe it or not, Ayanwale has moved to a higher realm) was the Vice President of Rotaract Club, UDUS. Known mostly for his commitment to the service of humanity—the core of his dear Rotaract, Ayanwale stood out from his peers. His love for books, writing and everything literature shined beyond his being a language student and so people normally associated adjectives such as “amazing”, “awesome”, “selfless”, “intelligent” among others in the description of his personality. So you can imagine the wave of gloom that accompanied his death, especially since no one saw it coming, but who sees death coming anyway?

Service Has No Timeline

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

— Mahatma Gandhi.

For me, what is most beautiful about Ayanwale’s life was that he realised the best way to live at such a young age; in service of others. 

Many a times we are lost in the vanity of this world; in our pursuit of selfish desires that we procrastinate what is most important. But who has assured us of a tomorrow? 

It is as though Ayanwale knew this, that he decided to live the most out of every second of his life. That was why he extended his service to the university community, which he was unfortunately only a member of for two years, but ironically impacted hundreds in such short time, including Prof. Sheikh, the former Staff Adviser of Rotaract Club, UDUS. Shaken by Ayanwale’s demise, Prof. Sheikh couldn’t hold back his tears in his tribute to the young soul, read to the hearing of all Rotaractors at Ayanwale’s initial memorial fellowship held in February. 

If Ayanwale was a nuisance to the society, or just an everyday average student, his death would not have dealt the blow it delivered. He would have sadly just been a number in the auto crash statistics. Especially since Nigeria has become a country with little value for human lives.

This goes to show us that age or societal status is not a limitation to service.

Ayanwale Lives On

The reward of service is priceless. The impacts you make in the course of your service stubbornly remain like a gorilla glue; they outlive you. 

Ayanwale left us in January. It is now June and yet a lot is still being said about him. Just recently, Rotaract Club UDUS held a two-day special event in his name. A literacy project which featured an inter-faculty debate named after him and a memorial fellowship. The club even went further to say that going forward the Ayanwale Literacy Project as it will come to be called would be held annually, immortalizing his memory.

One of my favorite Shakespearean sonnets has these lines:

“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

And to Ayanwale, I paraphrase:

“So long as your name resounds in our lips, or our senses feel your impact,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

Rest in peace, Jelili Ayanwale.

Uchenna Emelife,


Pen Press UDUS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *