By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
The veteran school principal, teacher and Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Jeremiah Dermot O’Connell has passed away in his country home in the Republic of Ireland where he had returned to after his long sojourn in Nigeria spanning over five decades as school principal.
Reports streaming from Ireland confirmed that the veteran school principal died in the early hours of Wednesday, 14th, March, 2018 following a failing health condition.
He was 85 years and was the longest serving school principal in Niger State and Nigeria before he retired from the services of Niger State Government and returned home late last year.
He had arrived Nigeria in 1967 as a missionary and first worked as a Catholic Priest in Calabar before he relocated to Niger State shortly afterwards where he was engaged as school principal at the Government Secondary School, Minna.
Fr. O’Connell was in the twilight of his last days in Niger State, bestowed and conferred with the traditional title of Jagaban illimin Minna by the Emir of Minna, Alhaji Umar Farouk Bahago at a brief but colourful ceremony held at the Palace of the Emir.
At 84, Fr. O’Connell was still teaching and administering the school with strength and wisdom to the admiration of many. He was an indefatigable old man with rare character of capacity building of young persons.
He was popular amongst parents and educationists in the state and beyond and was known for his high intelligence, retentive memory and good grasp of the local languages including Hausa, Gbagyi and Nupe.
Rev. Fr. Jeremiah Dermot O’Connell would also be fondly remembered for his ability to know all his students by their names and was popular amongst parents who acknowledged his principles and leadership intuition and ability to impart on students of the school.
In it’s immediate response, the management of the school ordered the immediate suspension of the finals of the school’s sports festival.
Principal of the school who took over from Rev. Fr. Jeremiah O’Connell, Malam Muhammadu Liman, paid glowing tributes to the late sage, Priest and school Principal.
As at the time of filing this report, the state government was yet to make any statement concerning the news of the demise of the octogenarian Priest, veteran school principal and administrator.
The late school teacher/Principal had received the National Honours award of Member of the Federal Republic, (MFR) from the federal government and was a recipient of several national and international awards during his service years for his meritorious services and contributions to the Nigerian education sector and humanity.
The Niger State Government had honoured and immortalised him at the farewell reception by renaming the Government Secondary School after him as Fr. O’Connell College, Minna.
The Speaker, Niger State House of Assembly, Hon Ahmed Marafa had at the reception in March last year, said the Irish Catholic Priest had made world history by breaking world record as the longest serving principal of a public school.