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Life Story / Obituary
As family and friends can attest, Professor Onaiwu Wilson Ogbomo was the heartbeat of wherever he went. He treated others as they would want to be treated in all things as his first thoughts were always of others rather than of himself. Onaiwu treasured his family above all else, and even his extended family members were near and dear to his heart. He loved nothing more than to bring joy and happiness to everyone around him, and he was always positive no matter the circumstances. Dearly loved, Onaiwu will be deeply missed by all who were blessed to know and love him.
It was on November 8, 1958, that Onaiwu Wilson Ogbomo was born in Oza-nogogo, Nigeria. He was one of eight as he was joined in his family by his siblings, Meeton, Florence, Albert, Magnus, Anthonia, Catherine, and Lucky. Onaiwu learned the value of hard work at a young age as his parents were hardworking farmers. As a student, Onaiwu had an insatiable thirst for learning and knowledge. His education began when he left his village of birth, Oza-nogogo, with his older brother Magnus Ogbomo. Onaiwu started elementary school in 1964 at Holy Cross on Mission Road in Benin City, Nigeria. He went on to attend Niblick Grammar School, now known as Oghada Grammar School, where he spent only one year in 1972 before transferring to high school at Gbendoba Grammar, formerly St. Columbus. At the time, this had been a boarding school.
After graduating from high school, Onaiwu was destined for greatness. He briefly attended Institute of Continued Education, located on Wire Road in Benin. In 1977, he was admitted to the University of Maiduguri to read history, although he hoped to be able to later go into law. Onaiwu graduated in 1981, and following National Service in the ministry of health in Lagos, he began his first job as a lecturer in College of Education in Igueben. He later moved to Ekpoma in order to work at Bendel State University, now Edo State University, when it first opened. During this time, Onaiwu completed his master’s degree from the University of Ibadan. He then went on to teach history at Edo State University until 1989, when he received a scholarship to a Ph.D. program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Though it was a long way from home, Onaiwu felt it was too great an opportunity to pass up. Thanks to the guidance and help of Prof. J.B. Webster, he graduated in 1993 with a Ph.D. in history. Later that same year, Onaiwu moved to University of Rochester in New York for post graduate fellowship under Prof. Enikori. He continued teaching in various universities across the United States including North Carolina Central, Allegheny College, and Eastern Illinois University, where he directed the Africana Studies Program. In 2006, Onaiwu joined Western Michigan University as the Director of Africana Studies. He later stepped down from that position in order to focus on teaching until his retirement in August of 2020, ending a successful and vibrant career in which he was well respected among both his colleagues and his students.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Onaiwu as he tirelessly worked his way through his education. While attending Bendel State University in Ekpoma, Nigeria, he met Queen Onoriobe, who proved to be the love of his life. Their mutual love of history created the first spark between them, but their love didn’t take long to blossom. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Onaiwu and Queen were married in Nigeria in 1989. The two were thrilled as their family grew to include their three beloved children, Efosa, Omoruyi, and Itohan. Throughout their marriage, Onaiwu and Queen continued going on romantic dates, though they often brought the children along as Onaiwu didn’t like to leave them home alone.
Never one to sit still, Onaiwu enjoyed keeping busy with several hobbies. His family always came first, and he loved planning summer trips and vacations. As a history teacher, Onaiwu always wanted his children to learn something from the places they visited. Memorable vacations included trips to Williamsburg, Jefferson Slave Plantation, and the National History Museum in Washington, D.C. With a deep devotion to others, Onaiwu was an influential leader in his community. He was a member of the African Studies Association, Historical Society of Nigeria, SCOBA Old Boys Association, and Oza-Nogogo Elite Club of Nigeria. Onaiwu was a lector at St. Catherine’s of Sienna Catholic Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was known to be very well organized, and he was often invited to be the MC of weddings due to his charismatic attitude and lively, fun-filled personality. In his free time, Onaiwu loved to read and research health issues in Nigeria. He also liked dancing to his favorite Nigerian artist, Fela Ransome Kuti. Although he was often on the go, he also enjoyed tuning into various news programs such as those on CNN. Onaiwu remained completely invested in his children’s lives, celebrating momentous events such as graduating from high school, earning bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees, and his son Efosa's memorable wedding. One of his proudest moments was becoming a grandfather later in life, and being with his grandson brought him the greatest joy he had ever known.
Over the years, Onaiwu was deeply loved by his family and friends. He could always brighten someone’s day in even the smallest of ways. In all things, he encouraged his children and loved ones to work hard and study harder, saying that education was the key to success. Onaiwu enjoyed teaching history and sharing his knowledge with others at every opportunity whether inside the classroom or in the outside world. It has been said that he was the embodiment of strength and determination, and even as he battled the struggles with his declining health he remained focused on serving and loving others. Whether he was joking with his kids by using a lobster at Red Lobster as a puppet like in Mrs. Doubtfire, to get a laugh out of his kids, impersonating political leaders using different Nigerian accents, or telling one of his crazy jokes, Onaiwu was always the life of the party and so much fun to be around. He was blessed with the ability to touch the hearts of those around him, whether family, friend, or stranger. Coworkers will remember Onaiwu as a team-builder and dependable worker, never one to turn down an opportunity or shy away from even the most difficult of situations. He loved helping others, no matter the inconvenience to his own life.
All who knew Professor Onaiwu Wilson Ogbomo can agree that he truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He treasured his family and worked hard to provide for his loved ones. Onaiwu was the quiet voice of reason, and his zest for life could easily light up burdened hearts. A stranger to none and a friends to all, he was always willing to serve others before himself. Though he will be forever missed, Onaiwu leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.