Today, I remember my academic mentor and Professor of Public Finance back in the day at Nigeria’s premier University in Ibadan. Prof. Dotun Phillips was one of the greatest academic minds who understood and explained complex issues in a very easy to understand manner. This genius of economics was one of the simplest and humble personalities that you could ever come across.
Being in the department of economics was considered to be a source of pride in the faculty of Social Sciences. The University of Ibadan (The School) as it was widely acclaimed was the place to be. Therefore, being admitted into Nigeria’s premier institution and being allowed to major in the unique Science of Scarcity and academic discipline of Keynes was a thing of joy and pride. The elitism of the university town and being amongst giants was overwhelming. I remember being lectured by the late Professor Aboyade, the HOD. He was ably supported by Professors Emmanuel Edozien, Owodunni Teriba and Dotun Phillips. It was a dream to be in the company of these geniuses. I first ran into Prof. Dotun Phillips when I was to make the hard choice between being in the Development economics section and Monetary economics. I asked for guidance in making that tough call. I had never met him but he was so approachable. He said, “young man the choice is yours but in economics every course is important and interesting”. Those words swayed me and I was determined to take his course in Public Finance.
In the two years of my studying Public Finance, I always yearned and looked forward to his classes. I always learnt something new, and it was an experience to be guided by such minds. I recall distinctly his lecture on the Canons of Taxation. He would say how many of you have read Adam Smith’s work “The Wealth of Nations”. He would go further to say that the thing is that everyone knows these 4 canons but no tax will address them all. In other words, most or every tax must conflict with at least one of the canons.
As I reminisce on what was one of Nigeria’s best times, the era of intellectual purity and distinction, I cannot forget the teachings of this genius who was always too shy to blow his own trumpet. He would insist that you read the books of Hicks, Pius Okigbo and others. His days as a student in the highly reputable University of Manchester left indelible marks on his impressionable mind. I am happy that he taught and nurtured many economists like me. It is too bad that in this year alone we lost all three great thinkers Professors Edozien, Teriba and the Indomitable Dotun Phillips. The world and indeed Nigeria has lost the irreplaceable. May the wonderful and gentle soul of Professor Dotun Phillips rest in perfect peace.
Bismarck J. Rewane