Tragedy of a Destitute PhD Holder


The sad and mysterious story of Dr.Olawumi Thorpe, a homeless man who lived on in a refuse dump and passed away on October 31 still sends a shiver down my spine at the heartlessness of human beings(especially those who are supposed to be his relatives).

The man who claimed to be 58 years old, a former journalist, son of a former Ambassador to Ethiopia and a retired Army Officer lived in a refuse dump around Fagba Bus stop, near the railway line in Ifako-Ijaiye, Local Government, Lagos.

Thorpe in the rubbish heap where he died.
Photo courtesy: Mr. Larry Happiday


Years ago in the mid 90s, when I was still living in Iju-Ishaga (which was not far from Fagba) there used to be another destitute who loved to dress up in ridiculous attire and move about with a cool gait.He also spoke impeccable English. We used to call him 'Ultimate' since the word was a trend to denote a person who had 'Swagger' back then. The story making the rounds about him then was that he was a wealthy businessman based abroad but was summoned by wicked relatives via 'jazz' (Nigeria voodoo or Juju) to come back home and somehow was eventually made to run mad. He was a regular sight and attraction to neighborhood folks who gave food from time to time and even jested with him.

Later he would disappear and never show up again in his regular locations. According to the news that went round, he had been hit by a car and died instantly. A sad waste of life that would have made impact in life.

Dr. Olawumi Thorpe's story reminded me of 'Ultimate'. But unlike 'Ultimate' who nobody could locate his family because his insanity did not allow for information dissemination, Thorpe was intelligible and able to interact with those that spoke to him. He revealed that he had a Bachelor and Master's degree in Mass Communication and a PhD in English language. He also revealed had children which meant he must have had a wife but didn't reveal information about them.


Thorpe, some days before he died.

The shocking fact was that he had phone numbers of some relatives who when called showed no interest in him. The head of the family who he named as Bode Thorpe, an Uncle of his,(who's number he had and whom the good Samaritans that found him called)  actually denied knowing him!

The two good Samaritans, Mr. Larry Happiday and Mr. Dele Adewale, who had been in touch with him had been trying what they could to evacuate him. A Lagos-basd NGO was even said to have taken interest in his plight but Thorpe died probably of some unknown sickness before he could be evacuated.

I keep wondering what manner of offence this man with all his training and pedigree had committed to end up suffering like this. That all his family members shunned him is a mystery and smells suspicious. People around the area had reported seeing a young man with striking resemblance starring sadly at him. There was also the report of a girl at one time looking at him. Could they have been the children he talked about?

The mystery surrounding Olawumi Thorpe may never be known. If his predicament was orchestrated by evil-minded individuals, they will never know peace but if it was caused by natural causes, was it enough reason to lose hope over him?

A sad story indeed that should provoke us all.

You can read Olawumi Thorpe full story here and here.


5 Screamer(s):

Real8 said...

A very sad story truly. The issue is that the Nigeria I know attach a stigma to the mentally imbalance. Relatives are left and forgotten on street corners and dusters because they are mad and no one can be bothered 2 foot the bill of the asylum. So to avoid the embarrassment through attachment and to also save their money the forget about them. Or they pretend the person is alright especially if the case is mild like bipolar.

Sykik said...

quite sad. I don't know what to say. Is it the country that failed him or his family memebers who deserted him? He must have lived a very lonely life.

simply mee said...

His soul rest in peace...and my heart ache for him..GOD only knows the truth.
The wickedness of man's heart can never be undermined, that is why we should always be prayerful...for our enemies are within our household.

jhazmyn said...

Wow, this is sad. We sure need more homes for the aged in lagos...:(

Blessing said...

Sigh, what a pity! May his soul rest in peace