B.M. Idowu

Union Diagnostics and Clinical Services, Yaba, Lagos State, Nigeria


Adelola Adeloye (formerly Rufus Bandele Adelola Adeloye) is the second Nigerian doctor to qualify as a Neurological surgeon in 1967, having trained in Nigeria, United Kingdom and the United States of America. He worked with the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital, Ibadan as an academic Neurosurgeon and honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon, respectively from 1968 to 1995. He subsequently took up appointments in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Malawi where he served in various capacities. He garnered panoply of academic and professional qualifications in the course of his career, matched by an equally prolific array of scholarly publications on diverse subjects. The high points of his career would include the landmark description of the Adeloye-Odeku disease in 1971, helping to institutionalise local Neurosurgical training in Nigeria, helping to set up a Surgery department in the then fledgling Medical School in Malawi, his election as an honorary Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and honorary President of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, as well as his appointment as an Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery by the University of Ibadan. An altruistic and far-sighted man, he ensured that the first Nigerian Neurosurgeon who died prematurely and other Nigerian/African pioneers of Medicine/Neurosurgery are properly immortalised by a painstaking and selfless documentation of their lives and contributions. Biographies of Prof E. Latunde Odeku (Nigeria’s first Neurosurgeon and the first Black Neurosurgeon trained on US soil), Dr James Africanus Beale Horton, and other such writings are testament to this.

Keywords: Adelola Adeloye; Neurosurgery; Nigeria; Adeloye-Odeku disease; Congenital dermoid cyst of the anterior fontanelle


Dr. B.M. Idowu
Consultant Radiologist,
Union Diagnostics and Clinical Services,
37 Tejuosho Street, Yaba,
Lagos State, Nigeria


If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

As with many other African countries, the pioneer Nigerian doctors trained abroad. The first Nigerians to qualify as medical doctors were Dr William Broughton Davies and Dr James Africanus Beale Horton, who graduated from King’s College, London in 1858.1 The first Nigerian (and the first West African) female medical doctor was Dr Agnes Yewande Savage who graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1929.2Similarly, the first Nigerian surgeon, Dr (Major) Richard Gabriel Akinwande Savage, Yewande’s brother, obtained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeon of Edinburgh in 1934.3

Local medical education in Nigeria started at the defunct Yaba Medical School (1930 – 1948)4,5 and continued later at the University College, Ibadan [started in 1948; then affiliated to the University of London; now University of Ibadan (UI)]. The Kano medical school which started in April 1955 with 12 students was closed down in 1959 on account of many difficulties, majorly being too expensive to run. Emeritus Professor Adelola Adeloye, Nigeria’s second Neurosurgeon, is an alumnus of UCI, and was one of the first group of UCI medical students to complete their entire 6 years medical education locally in Nigeria in 1960 (Hitherto, after preclinical training in Ibadan, UCI students were sent to various teaching hospitals in the United Kingdom for the clinical years).6 This article describes the genius and humanity of Prof Adeloye whose life fully exemplifies the Yorùbá aphorism of “Bibi ire ko sef’owo ra” (Good pedigree is priceless), and also instantiates the need to intensify the quest for poverty eradication in every society.

Adelola Adeloye (Fig. 1) hails from Ikole-Ekiti in Ekiti State, present-day South-West Nigeria but was born in Ilesa, Osun State (also in South-West Nigeria) on July 18, 1935 to Ebenezer Ajayi and Elizabeth (Ajisomo) Adeloye.7,8,9His father, whom he described as a “Village genius”, started out as a pupil teacher but later opted to be artisanal mechanic (invented cassava grater, double grating cassava machine, and cotton wool spiner) and subsequently, a traditional medicine practitioner.10

Adelola attended the St. Paul’s CMS (Elementary) School, Ikole-Ekiti, Ekiti state (1941-1946) and Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state for his Secondary/High School education from 1947 to 1952. At Christ’s School, he was the Government Scholar (1949-1952), School Prefect (1952) and the Football/Soccer captain (1952). Poverty nearly waylaid his educational aspirations early in High School as stated succinctly in his autobiography: “I found it impossible to get my school fees of 17 Pounds per year paid in 1948. We struggled to pay only apart of it.”11,12 He went on: “The Native Administration helped as much as was financially within their means with scholarships and bursaries. Mason judiciously used the funds to keep the Ekiti children in Christ’s School. Some 50 boys were assisted in this manner in 1949 to the tune of 780 Pounds Sterling and another 60 boys benefited with the 870 Pounds Sterling raised in 1950.”11,12 Thus, a destiny at risk of truncation was rescued. He passed out of Secondary School in 1952 with a Cambridge School Leaving Certificate (Grade One) and several prizes to boot.