Dr Bolaji Ajenifuja, the foremost pediatrician who has treated past Nigerian presidents’ children clocks 90 with special prayer

Nigeria has many intellectuals, professionals, inventors, legal luminaries who have contributed their quotas to human developments across the globe. Though, many of them are not celebrated in the country, some still diligently work towards the growth of our dear nation. One of these illustrious Nigerians who have distinguished themselves since the colonial time clocks 90 on July 1, 2019, as old time friends and colleagues gathered at his Victoria Island residence to celebrate him. Dr. Bolaji Ajenifuja, who was a foremost Nigerian Pediatrician, had treated children of Nigerian Heads of State, from General Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Muhammed, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, former Lagos State Governor, General Mobolaji Johnson and quite a lot of other state governors. His services to top Nigerians include children of President Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, General AbdulSalam Abubakar, General Muhammedu Buhari and others. The United Kingdom (UK) trained physician from Sheffield University did not only worked with big names but has touched many lives who flocked his V.I. residence to celebrate his ninetieth birthday.
The serene environment of his Victoria Island house looked calm on the outside, the interior even looked deserted. The duplex housing Dr. Bolaji Adenifuja was in a quiet and neat setting, the foyer and living room was carefully arranged with upholstered cushion chairs, supplemented with jelly chairs. The white painted walls were adorned with portraits of the nonagenarian in his active days, brightly reflecting rays from the incandescent bulbs.
The spacious kitchen and dining corner were arranged with silver wares and table utensils. Young catering service men and women in formal wears were busy arranging dishes. Soon, dignitaries in companies of their spouses majestically strolled in. They took their seats quietly and exchanged pleasantries in low tunes. It didn’t take long before a group of Islamic priests, led by Alhaji Yakubu Saheed, walked in. The ten-man cleric team took their position in front of the seating arrangement. Suddenly, the guests rose to their feet as the birthday boy appeared from the stairs.
The bespectacled nonagenarian, supported by his walking stick, slowly walked through the standing guests who looked at him in admiration. He shook few hands and smiled at others as he took his seat. Alfa Yakubu Saheed’s voice came aloud in the cozy apartment, as he welcomed everyone to the thanksgiving and prayers for Dr Bolaji Ajenifuja.
Alfa Saheed gave a brief speech about the achievements of the host and eulogised his commitment to the teachings of the Holy Koran. While the cleric speak on, he described Dr. Ajenifuja as a great healer, a remark that spurred the celebrant into reaction by correcting the cleric that he only treats, only God heals. This reaction brought many guests into chuckles. The Islamic priest then led his acolytes into a rigorous session of Quranic recital, their rhythmic reading of the Arabic scripture dominated the room for forty five minutes. During this time, the celebrant was also reciting Quranic verses by heart. Other guests who were Muslim faithful also spread their palms in recital mood. When Alfa Yakubu ended the prayer he narrated how he first met Dr. Ajenifuja and why the physician has earned his eternal respect. The cleric narrated that at age sixty, the physician picked interest in studying the Holy Qu’ran and diligently follow through in his extramural classes. The cleric attested that Dr. Ajenifuja also introduced the knowledge to his close associates and clientele who visited him. After the sadaqat, the cleric declared the prayer session over and prayed for more fruitful years for the celebrant.
The foyer and living room was filled to the brim as distinguished guests from various walks of life, mostly retired, jostled to pose with the celebrant for the cameras. Dr. Ajenifuja surprised many guests with his impressive remarks about some of his old time friends, pointing to the aged Justice Y.O. Jinadu, he said: “This is my very good old friend, we’ve been together since the sixties.” Everyone smiled at the aged Justice as he grinned. He moved around the tables, thanking and praying for his guests. His close friend and longtime colleague Dr. Abosede Emmanuel, a Gynecologist, sat close to other old time friends. “Here is my old time colleague, a veteran pediatrician, Dr. Emmanuel. We started together in the sixties as young practitioners.” the celebrant also narrate short incidents of when he met some of his friends and colleagues.
The first course of food was fried shrimps and apple fruits. The waiters passed trays of seafood around the table, taking orders from the guests. The celebrant wasn’t pleased at the pace at which the waiters were serving the food, his voice suddenly came aloud, calling on them to bring food for his guests. That spurred the waiters into action as they went in serious conduct taking orders and serving food. Trays of yam porridge, Amala and soup, fried and Jolof rice, and other assorted food were passed round the tables. The celebrant soon looked around in satisfaction as his guests were been attended to.
His children and grandchildren took turn to pose with him for the camera, while his close friends and other well-wishers also took photographs with him. Dr. Ajenifuja finally took a seat with his friends for a chitchat. New guests who arrive would prostrate, kneel and bow in respect for the celebrant, after which they would take photograph with him. Other childhood friends like Chief Femi Okunu, Chief Olola Fredrick Olabode, Justice Y. O. Jinadu, Dr. Abosede Emmanuel, and Ambassador Ladipo sat with him.
Past chairman of the Yoruba Tennis Club, Mr. Dele Martins, who was so fond of Dr. Ajenifuja, hugged baba and expressed his joy over the birthday celebration. Mr. Dele Martins described the celebrant as a great man who has touched many lives for good. He said, “Baba is straightforward man who embraces people, he is a no nonsense man with an aura of unapproachable, but the irony lies in his kind heartedness, once Baba accepts you into his affairs, he becomes so generous to you and encourages you to aspire for greater heights. He is also very religious and takes the teaching of the Holy Scriptures seriously, even in his mid-age, he took classes in Arabic and Qur’an studies.”
Honourable Justice Aishat Opesonwo Oniru, who was delivered by Dr. Ajenifuja, said many wonderful things about the celebrant. “Dr. Ajenifuja delivered my mother of me, and he treated me and my siblings as children, he also delivered me of my children. That’s about two generations. But most importantly is the fact that he is a true father in the word. He is exceptional, warm, embraces people even when they’re not his blood relations. Dr. Ajenifuja helps people build their careers and encourages them to follow through on the right path. For me, he has helped reshaped my career and always advise us to preserve our integrity and dignity.” She smiled and added, “Dr. Ajenifuja is a man you would always count on, a man you will remember at your home and feel happy you have someone you can lean on. At times, I would feign ill and visit his clinic just to have an interactive session with him. I thank God for keeping him with us and pray that he live longer.”
Sekina Ajenifuja, granddaughter of the nonagenarian and celebrant, a graduate of law from Sheffield University UK, was excited as her grand dad is celebrating his ninetieth birthday. “My grandfather is a warm and kindhearted man. I wanted to surprise him, so I didn’t tell him I would be coming today. During my graduation in the UK, he surprised me when he came.” She giggled. “There are many admirable qualities he exhibits, he is a hard worker, persistent in his goals and would always advise me not to leave my tasks to the next day.”
Dr. Bolaji Adenifuja is a man of repute who has contributed to the society in many ways. Aside treating First Ladies and their children in his heydays, Dr. Ajenifuja has helped established the paediatrics practice in Nigeria and Africa. During his active service days, he was the pioneer president of the Paediatrics Association of Nigeria (PAN) in the late eighties and early nineties. He instituted the Distinguished Pediatrician Award (DPA), the first recipient of the DPA award was Professor O. Ransome-Kuti. He was also member of Royal College of Surgeons England; member, African College of Physicians; Royal College of Physicians and former president of Union of African National Paediatrics Societies. Sometime in 2004, the Federal Government gave Dr. Ajenifuja the national honour of Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR).
Dr. Bolaji Ajenifuja started his elementary school at Methodist School, Ikorodu, in 1936-1943 and went to Baptist Academy, Lagos in 1944-50. He moved on to Norwich City College, UK, in 1952-53 and later at the University of Sheffield Medical School, 1953-59. He had his postgraduate programme at the Medical School of London 1962-64.

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