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 1929.2 Similarly, 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.7,8,9 His 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

Fig. 1: Prof Adeloye in his office as Head of the Department of Surgery in Malawi

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 toget my school fees of 17 Pounds per yearpaid in 1948. We struggled to pay only apart of it.”11,12 He went on: “The NativeAdministration helped as much as wasfinancially within their means with scholarships and bursaries. Mason judiciously used the funds to keep the Ekiti children in Christ’s School. Some 50 boyswere assisted in this manner in 1949 to the tune of 780 Pounds Sterling and another 60 boys benefited with the 870 PoundsSterling 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.


After a stint with the public service of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria (February to September, 1953), Adelola bagged the Western Nigeria government scholarship to study medicine at UCI (1953 – 1960), obtaining the MBBS (U. London) degree in 1960. He was the youngest in his graduating class of 1960,6,13 a College Scholar (1956 – 1960) and the best student in Chemical Pathology.13,14

He completed his mandatory housemanship postings in various hospitals in Nigeria and the UK from December 1960 to March 1963. Subsequently, he took up appointment as a Demonstrator and Postgraduate research student in Anatomy at Bristol University (1963 – 1964) which he later discontinued in order to concentrate on Clinical Surgery. He was a General Surgery resident at the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, London; had neurotrauma training at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford (under John Potter); Neurosurgery training at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, Stoke-on- Trent (under Eric Newton) and at the National Hospitals for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London, (under Professor Valentine Logue and Professor Symon).13,14

Adelola passed the Membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP Edinburgh) with Neurology as his special subject in July 1965 and Fellowship examination of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (FRCS) in November 1966. As a result, he prefers to refer to himself as a Neurological Surgeon (a Neurophysician who operates on the Nervous System) rather than a Neurosurgeon.15 With that double qualification in Neurology and Neurosurgery, he became one of the very few Nigerian doctors with such distinction (Physician and Surgeon), like the legendary late Sir Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa (who was the second Nigerian doctor to obtain a specialist qualification in Surgery – FRCSEdin 1938 and also had MRCP, FRCP, and FACS).

Adelola returned to UCH, Ibadan, Nigeria where he was employed as a post-Fellowship Senior Registrar (under late Prof E.L. Odeku) from December 1967 to July 1968. UCH appointed him as Consultant Neurosurgeon (August 1968 – 1995) while UI appointed him as Temporary Lecturer (Aug 1968 – Nov 1969), Senior Lecturer (Nov 1969 – Sept 1972), Professor of Neurological Surgery in October 1972, and Head of Surgery (1974-77).13,14 He was Rockefeller Research Fellowin Experimental Teratology at the University of Cincinnati, USA (1972 -73) and Ratanji Dalai Scholar of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1973-74) for the study of CNS malformations (especially Spina Bifida Cystica).He obtained a Masters degree in Surgery (MS) of the University of London in 1973, with a thesis on Neurosurgery.13,14,16 While at UCH/UI, Ibadan, Prof Adeloye was involved in training neurosurgeons, administrative duties, clinical research, and clinical surgery.16

The simplicity, thoughtfulness, far-sightedness, and excellent relational skills which Prof Adeloye brought to bear on his administrative duties are underscored by the testimonies of two other eminent surgeons who worked under him at UCH. First, Prof S.A. Adebonojo (Cardiothoracic Surgeon):

“I must make special mention of Professor Adelola Adeloye who was the Head of Surgery when I arrived at the University College Hospital, UCH, in April 1974 and I later broached to him the idea of establishing a facility for Open Heart Surgery at UCH. Professor Adeloye was very enthusiastic and requested a special grant from the University of Ibadan to procure the remaining surgical equipment we needed. Without this assistance and support, we could not have recorded the landmark achievement we made at UCH in 1978”.17