It is with great sadness that we report the sudden and tragic death of Olije Wakdok. Olije was a Chevening Scholar on the Department's HPPF programme in 2017-18 and rejoined the Department as a PhD student in 2020.
This space provides a place for LSE colleagues, acquaintances and friends to post their memories of Olije, and their condolences to her family.
If you would like to send a message for this memorial page, please email it to email@example.com.
The relationship between Olije and the London School of Economics and Political Science lasted for close to half a decade. We had the privilege of working with her during her MSc programme beginning autumn 2017. From the onset it was clear that Olije was not willing to go the path that was pre-established – she wanted to mark her own journey in researching on financing health care in Nigeria. She successfully completed her dissertation on a study that assessed willingness to pay for health insurance among informal sector employees through the ambitious means of primary data collection. Following the successful completion of her MSc, we continued collaborating on framing her PhD proposal.
On 12th of May 2020, she interviewed for a PhD position at the Department of Health Policy. There she was, sitting in front of her camera, on our screens, with a half empty bookshelf to her left. A few months later this bookshelf would be filled. Her proposal was detailed, clearly communicated, with strength in her voice, knowing too well what this opportunity would mean for her career path and for her life far away from home. And of course, we made her an offer almost instantly. Her interview was at 10 am that day and she received an informal e-mail confirmation at 11:06, naming Prof Mossialos, Dr Kanya and Dr Friebel as her supervisors. We were truly excited to work with her and enjoyed the little time that we had together.
The past six months have been intense with shaping her PhD research. Together, we have worked tirelessly with frequent and long meetings. We were struck by Olije’s professionalism, she was always super well prepared, and demonstrated an ability to address constructive criticism. In these six months, in a humorous way, Olije has taught us a lot about Nigeria and we were all looking forward to a country visit. Influenced by her upbringing, and her work as a physician, Olije had an inherent drive to move the needle for the betterment of society, to improve people’s life in a way that leaves no one behind. It is not surprising that her PhD was titled “Leaving no one behind: tracking Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria”. We are convinced that if she had the chance to complete this PhD, she would have ultimately impacted health policy in Nigeria and similar settings. It is important to remember that things such as the pricing of medicines, or the use of private and public health care may be well studied in the UK – however, better than most of us, she understood that things work differently in Nigeria, and that it requires robust research that can then be translated into practice and impact on the lives of millions. As a student researcher we admired her sharp intellectual and excellent interpersonal skills.
No one could have done the role of class representative better during her MSc program. She was always available to support her fellow students and raised issues that mattered to them, the Department and the two institutions, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and London School of Economics and Political Science. Olije is an exemplar on how to be a fiercely passionate person. She stood up for the wrongs in health policy through her work, but also did not shy away from confronting any wrongs encountered at a person level. We envy her courage.
At a personal level, we will especially remember Olije as the extremely caring person that she was. She cared deeply for her family and friends. She felt with them when they struggled, or experienced poor health and she tried everything to alleviate some of their pressures. Unfortunately, Olije has passed away far too early, a great loss to everyone who knew her - her family, friends, patients and the academic world. We wish everyone who knew her strength to get through these difficult times, in particular Sebastine, her husband and best friend for many years, her parents and her siblings, comfort at this time. We will miss Olije dearly and will remember her for the rest of our lives.
Rest in perfect peace Olije.
Prof. Elias Mossialos, Dr. Lucy Kanya & Dr. Rocco Friebel, Olije’s PhD supervisors
There are no words to appease the shock of Olije’s passing. It is extremely difficult to come to terms with Olije’s untimely death.
Within the department we do retain many fond memories of Olije. From the time of her arrival from Nigeria in 2017 as a Chevening scholar on the MSc programme in Health Policy, Planning and Finance (HPPF), which is run jointly across the LSE and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), to her later years as a PhD student working on Nigerian health care policy. Right from the beginning it was clear that Olije was extremely passionate about her work and would always defend what she felt was right. I know this well from her time as a student representative for the HPPF programme cohort of 2017/18. She was also a very practical person. Maybe this reflected her first degree, where she had qualified as a medical practitioner in Nigeria. Certainly, it was embedded in her ambition to eventually return to Nigeria, to face the various problems of health care delivery within her country and offer improvements.
Her passion and ambition will be sorely missed. Olije will be missed by all who came into contact with her. We all mourn Olije’s passing.
Professor Alistair McGuire, Head of the Department of Health Policy
It is with a deep sense of sadness and shock i learnt about Olije’s sudden and untimely death. She was a very brilliant and hardworking public health professional, who was very committed to improving Nigeria’s health system by addressing policy issues around sustainable healthcare financing, particularly the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF).
Olije and I got introduced by our mutual academic advisor: Dr Lucy Kanya ( her PhD supervisor), we had a very interesting chat about her research and burning desire to strengthen the fragile health system in our dear country - Nigeria. During our meeting, I instantly connected with her deep passion and commitment to social justice and equality.
My thoughts and prayers is with her husband, family and friends, I pray for God to grant them the fortitude to bear the huge loss.
Suleiman Yakubu, LSE HEPM
It is still extremely difficult to think about Olije in past tense. The news of her death was really difficult to bear on the day and this is still raw.
I had the privilege of supporting Olije during her MSc studies in 2017/2018 and most recently as one of her PhD supervisors. We also worked together on different research pieces on the AHOP project and others.
As a student and researcher, Olije had extraordinary intellect, was brilliant, diligent and meticulous in her work. She was a focussed health researcher who thoroughly understood the issues facing the health system in Nigeria and the gaps in evidence that needed to be plugged in steps to address these. Olije was passionate about her PhD research which was timely for Nigeria and our African region as countries work towards ‘Leaving No One Behind’. Through her research, Olije was pushing boundaries which needed to be pushed, treading on new ground, a challenge that she did not shy away from. Through her enthusiasm, Olije carried those of us who interacted with her academic and research work along with her. As her teacher, Olije taught me to teach from my heart and I will always be grateful for this. She is an irreplaceable colleague, student and friend.
Olije did not shy away from addressing inequalities, injustices and any form of unfairness in our society. She burned with passion for fair play and the need for a safe environment in which everyone can thrive. Olije stood for the truth and this candle will burn on. While working through her own studies and mapping her research pathway, Olije readily supported others who needed it. She had big dreams, great potential to bring change and impact many positively. Olije’s untimely death is a great loss to her country, the African continent and the world at large.
Outside of academia, Olije was a loyal friend and sister, dependable, selfless, humorous, loving, honest, a great listener, a pillar of support and always optimistic. In my mind, I continue to freeze as many memories of our times together as I can and draw on these to cope with her loss. These memories are souvenirs that I will cherish forever. Olije had a natural knack of pulling people together and connected her friends to each other. It is from this community of Olije’s friends that we encourage each other during these tough days.
Olije was a devout Christian and it was a great delight to share our faith. I will miss hearing her ‘Amens’ interspersed in our conversations. My deepest condolences to Olije’s husband Sebastine, her parents, siblings and the entire family. As a fellow believer, I draw some comfort in knowing that we shall meet again on the other side. I am grateful for the time we shared here, loved Olije in life and miss her immensely.
Shine on your way sis and continue to rest in perfect peace.
Dr. Lucy Kanya, Olije’s PhD supervisor and friend
It was with great sadness and disbelief that I received the news of Olije’s passing.
I am incredibly grateful to have had a chance to converse multiple times with Olije over the past year, something I always looked forward to, and something that was made much more difficult given the circumstances.
From our first in-person meeting at course enrolment, Olije was a joy to talk to. She was incredibly warm and friendly. It was immediately apparent that she was incredibly smart, but it was when she started to let us know about her research and Nigeria that I was first able to grasp just how determined, hard-working and dedicated she was.
Olije spoke fondly to me of her husband and her family. My thoughts are with them in this incomprehensible time.
Amritpal Rehill, PhD student and Research Officer, CPEC
Olije - it still feels like a bad dream. One that I hope to wake up from. I can’t believe you are no longer with us. In the last couple of years, beyond the official staff – student correspondence, we became friends. Whenever we ran into each other within LSE or talk on phone, it was illuminating conversing about work, family, state of affairs in Nigeria and next aspirations. You started your PhD with an enthusiasm that inspired me too.
I keep seeing your smiling face every now and then. You are an amiable personality, full of positive energy and promising career in health service. This news has been really sad for me. You will be missed but never forgotten!
My condolence to your family back home, especially your husband. I pray for strength and fortitude in this very sad period.
May God rest your soul Amen.
Muheez Busari, Postgraduate Programmes Manager, Health Policy
It was with disbelief and then great sadness that we heard the news of Olije’s sudden passing.
We are very grateful to have known Olije: somebody whose life was clearly driven by a huge passion to leave a better world behind. We will remember her curiosity and her drive to pursue her PhD, her sharing her experiences as a young GP in Nigeria and her humor, warmth and laughter.
Our deepest condolences go to her husband and her family. Olije, you will be dearly missed.
Simon Brassel (MSc International Health Policy (Health Economics) 2017/18) with Diana Omigie
I still cannot believe Olije is no more and my heart aches.
Olije was original! She did not pretend yet was such a good friend to many a classmate of our MSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing cohort. In many ways she exemplified what LSE stood for – rigorous intellectual inquiry for sustainable development, respect for diversity, gender equality and a questing passion to leave a mark in the world.
Olije was also very kind. She never missed an opportunity to help, whether as our Course Representative or when hosting us, her coursemates, in their lovely home to tasty African delicacies. Her unaffected act of kindness drew us closer to her dear husband and further made me know more about her family in Nigeria.
She was a key member of our multiracial – ‘United Nationlike’ – study group and never missed or messed up a task. I will always remember her, ensconced in her corner on a sofa at the graduate floor of the Lionel Robbins library studying for long jaw-dropping hours.
I am not surprised she returned to pursue a Ph.D. at LSE because she had bigger dreams to stimulate change in her country. I believe her demise has cost Africa and the world a future Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), also a Nigerian.
My deepest sympathies to her husband and family.
Dr. Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, Former Minister for Communications, Ghana (MSc HPPF, 2017/2018)
The news of her untimely death was very devastating to me as a family member. Right from childhood, Olije showed the promise to take the responsibilities of her parents in old age. This promise was realised and proven in her academic and professional pursuit. She was intelligent, an exceptional scholar, loves humanity, loved and served God.
She was a candle in the wind. Her candle burned out long before her legend ever did. I am grateful to God for the opportunity of having you in the family. I am deeply saddened at your untimely death. The voice of man the say is the voice of God, then I am confident that the angels will herald your welcome. Heaven just got another good soul.Adieu Olije, ‘cash madam’ Maikudi’ and all those pet names I used in hailing you while you were with us. Adieu! Till that resurrection morning, 'Uncle Goddy’ as you always hail me.
Prof. Godwin A. Abu, Department of Agric. Economics, University of Agriculture Makurdi
It is difficult to make sense of a world where people like Olije suddenly disappear.
Olije, I had just gotten to know you, and already I felt connected to you. Such is the impact you had on the people you met. I appreciated how you shared your life with me in the candid conversations we had. There was so much still to discuss and experience together, and I was really looking forward to finally meet and hug you in person.
Your passion for health policy was infectious, your kindness was radiant, and both were reflected in your dedication to help others. The way you talked about your work and your ambition reflected such brightness and intellect. There will be a feeling of emptiness in the programme left by your absence. You will be so missed, Olije. I wish we could have had more time.
I want to extend my condolences to Olije's friends and family. I am sorry for your loss, and my thoughts are with you. With love.
Camille Bou, PhD student
Olije’s death is such shocking news – so sudden, and unexpected.
Olije was so passionate, driven and kind. She burned with a sense of right and wrong and was determined not to let injustice go uncorrected, whether at the level of international policy, or among us, her peers.
Olije often talked about her family, particularly during and after her recent visit Nigeria. Although she was modest, it sounded like the visit hinged on her medical and logistical skills, as well as her caring nature. If this message is read by Olije’s parents, siblings and husband – you must be devastated by the loss, and my thoughts are with you all.
I felt lucky to know her, and that she is no longer with us is so sad and incomprehensible. She will be missed.
Sam Rickman, PhD student and Research Officer, CPEC
I am deeply affected by the tragic news of Olije’s passing. Olije and I were collaborating on a research project looking at integration in the health and social care system. From the time she joined the team, I found Olije to be extremely bright, with an outstanding ability to grasp new concepts and ideas, as well as an absolute delight to work with. I was struck by her positivity, eagerness to learn and passion for research and for making a difference to the lives of those with care needs.
My thoughts are with her loved ones.
Jose-Luis Fernandez, Director, CPEC
I had the good fortune to first chat with Olije before she had her interview for the PhD, and also to have heard her present her research ideas once she had begun the PhD, and one thing that was clear from the start was her conviction and passion for her research and the impact she hoped to make with it. Her focus was always on helping others and I am very sorry that we have lost her as a colleague and as a friend. My deepest condolences to her husband and family, in this very difficult time.
Genevieve Jeffrey, PhD student
I only met Olije a few weeks ago, and only on Zoom. And yet I have such a vivid impression of her, of her intelligence and courage. The news of her passing comes as a shock and it is unbearably sad. Those who knew her better than I did will have ways of imagining how she would have changed the world with her research, her passion and her resilience.
My thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to her husband and her family, as well as her fellow students and teachers.
Professor Rita Astuti, PhD Academy Director
There are no words to describe the passing of someone whose ambition and grace touched the lives of so many. Olije and I shared a couple of classes together during our MSc. She was always an easy conversation and stimulating intellect unafraid to stand up for what she believed in. I particularly remember at our graduation, she saw me for the first time after a few months, walked right up to me, and gave me a hug without hesitation and a smile on her face. She had a kind soul and made you feel welcome in any room.
If her family and friends are reading, I send you my deepest condolences. May Olije rest in paradise and your hearts rest easy.
Natasha Jakac-Sinclair, MSc International Health Policy 2017/18
I only interacted with Olije through setting up arrangements for her Research Assistant position within the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CPEC) and did not know her well. But I always found her to be very pleasant and nice. Her colleagues and friends have spoken very highly of her, and I know they will miss her. The news of her sudden passing is extremely sad.
Words don’t seem enough but I would like to express my condolences to her husband and her family, as well as her colleagues, students and friends.
Anji Mehta, Centre Manager, CPEC
Olije was a valued member of the PhD community in our Department. She was always friendly and positive and had such a great impact on our cohort. Olije's passion was evident by the way she spoke about her research. It is beyond sad to know we won't get to witness the realization of her ideas in Nigeria and beyond.
I am grateful to have met Olije! My thoughts are with her family in this unimaginable time.
Iva Parvanova, PhD student
I first met Olije when she joined the Department as MSc student in 2017. She volunteered to be a student representative for her cohort – a role she carried with passion and determination, and with great care for those she represented. There is no doubt the improvements to the student experience which she helped put forward made a difference to all students in the Department. I was very happy to see her back in the Department when she returned in 2020 for her PhD.
It is difficult to put in words the shock and sadness at the news of her death. Olije will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with her husband and her family at this most difficult time.
Milena Vasileva, Department Manager, Department of Health Policy
I would like to pass on my condolences to Olije’s family on her sudden passing. I was fortunate enough to get to know her when she was a student representative for her Masters degree, as well as during her PhD. She was always a pleasure to work with, will be greatly missed.
Justin Parkhurst (joint Programme Director, MSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing)