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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tribute: As Baba Victor Adetunji Haffner sleeps in the Lord



The United States of America commenced research into space with the establishment of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, in 1958 and by 1960 scientists had realised that radio relay points could be established in space by satellite above the equator at an altitude of some 22,300 miles (35,900km) and travelling eastward direction such that it would have the same rotational velocity as the earth and so it appeared to be stationary.

An experiment, called SYNCOM PROJECT (1963) was the first American experience in launching a satellite into space. It was launched at the Lagos Marina, a harbour close to where the NECOM House is now situated where the US Naval ship, KINGSPOT, berthed to serve as launch pad. The ship was linked to Goddard Flight Space Centre in USA via the Nigerian External Telecommunications Ltd (NET) network provided by NET engineers under Mr Victor Adetunji Haffner as General Manager.

Once the launch was concluded and communication was established with the Satellite the Project supervisors put President J F Kennedy online for a ceremonial congratulatory greeting with Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

The above was one of the pieces of information I mentioned in a welcome speech when in September 2011 about 50 CEO’s of Nigerian Telecommunication Companies had breakfast with Mr Victor Adetunji Haffner to honour him as the first CEO of a Nigerian Telecom company. He was the General Manager of NET from 1963 to 1975 and the breakfast held on his 92nd birthday. Dinners at the event posed several nice observations and questions one of which came from my good sister, Mainone’s Funke Opeke. ‘My President, if all these happened in those days, where did we miss it?’ Funke shot the question at me while I passed it on, in a whisper, to Baba.

Baba knew I was being mischievous as he said ‘Titi, now you get my pledge’.

I had, in an earlier engagement with Baba, tried to extract a pledge to write so that a few of the milestone engineering events of his younger days which I had stumbled on through some of my research work could be documented by the actual players so we could authoritatively refer to them.

In April 2014, a publisher’s representative told me on phone he needed to see me and few minutes after he was in my house with a disc containing Baba’s transcript which he had insisted should be passed to me with his request that I wrote a Foreword to the book. With the script, baba had gone as far as telling where we missed it. Later in the year on November 5, 2014, I, also on Baba’s insistence, did a co-review of the book at its Launch in Lagos.

I got another invitation in August 2015 that I should eat lunch with Baba on his 96th birthday on September 1, 2015.  There I also mischievously slotted myself in between two iconic engineers for a photograph which I had earlier posted on Facebook.

What I did not say in the Facebook posting was that there was a history behind my reason for chosing the photograph from among the several truly distinguished Nigerians that were present at the birthday lunch. I only mentioned that Baba was registered Engineer No 00001 on the Engineers List while Dr Newton Jibunoh was only said to have crossed the Sahara desert, by road, 3 times.

Story is: Mr Victor Adetunji Haffner conceived the NECOM House, a tower block of 32 levels which stands as tallest building in Lagos, arguably even today. It was designed to have a rotating restaurant on its 32nd Floor. Mr. Newton Jibunoh, the first and only human being who has crossed the Sahara Desert three times was the Engineer who designed the soil mechanics for the building in 1972.

November 5, 2015 anniversary of the book launch of 2014, Baba slept peacefully and permanently in his house in Lagos.

May his good soul rest in the Lord.

Memory lane: Engr. Haffner, Engr. Toe and Engr. Jibunoh
*Contributed by Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu is the Managing Partner of Telecom Answers Associates and former president of Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
 
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1 comment:

aliya seen said...

This is really sad news but what we can do now. RIP Engr haffner. biomedical engineering statement of purpose

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