THE bells are still ringing in my head as they rang out powerfully on 5th September 2018…WORLD TEACHERS DAY.
There is no one on any rung of the ladder anywhere on earth today who did not have teachers who helped him to get there, who would not need teachers to help him stay on, or to move on. As a write this column, I look back towards memory lane, and see a long list of them, happy that I bore or I am bearing the right fruit and praying that the ink in my pen does not dry up, as we say. Who are your teachers?
On the last pages of my long list are not only those orthodox medicine doctors who taught me Alternative medicine but, also, people such as Senate President Bukola Saraki and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Whose political activities in Nigeria teach a variety of lessons. About those of Dr. Saraki, I wrote for this column when he became Senate President an article titled… TREACHERY, LIKE ALL FALSEHOOD, WILL INEVITABLY COLLAPSE.
This article was posted on www.olufemikusa.com. Before former President Olusegun Obasanjo secured his presidency, he promised former Kano State governor Abubakar Rimi (Now of blessed memory) that he would make him vice – Presidential running mate if he did. Obasanjo was to abandon his promise and swing off with Abubakar Atiku, a fabulously richer former controller of Nigeria’s customs whose grandest political ambition, then, was to be Governor of Adamawa State.
Abubakar was stupendously wealthy by his self-admission weeks ago that he bankrolled Obasanjo’s campaign for the Presidency. After they were sworn into office, Obasanjo did the obvious… he yielded control of the economy to Abubakar. Afterall, what did Obasanjo know about money-making in Nigeria that Abubakar did not know better? But they soon collided, politically. Obasanjo swore Abubakar would never become Nigeria’s President if he was alive. So far, he has successfully blocked Abubakar’s dream to be Nigeria’s President. But Obasanjo would appear to have shot himself in the foot ahead of next year’s Presidential election. Against all odds, Abubakar has obtained the go-ahead of the PDP to run for President on its ticket.
President Mohammodu Buhari would have been Obasanjo’s last joker against Abubakar. But he has striven for months to paint Buhari black and incompetent for the office, and begun to dine with the PDP, unknown to him that the PDP would anoint Abubakar. He had to make up with Abubakar, who was to make Gbenga Daniel, a fellow Yoruba like Obansanjo, his running mate. Since Obasanjo cannot stomach Daniel or any other Yoruba on level playing ground, he had to go East shopping for a running mate for Abubakar, who will do any thing for Obasanjo’s anointment. So far so good, Obasanjo is telling the South West that whether they like it or not he, and not Obafemi Awolow is their leader. The South West, too, are telling him – ‘‘the battle continues” .
The great lesson in all of these for Obasanjo, in my view, is that you don’t fight your battles like a deaf, blind and unthinking person. You must always think of a soft landing to not become like a dog trapped between its vomit left and right. Thus, that man is not a fool or simpleton who does not fight like a bull in a chinaware shop, eyes closed, teeth grinding, fists clenched, mouth foaming.
I move from Saraki and Obasanjo to my parents, and salute them for great parenting work. The story of how I showed interest in Alternative Medicine, and their roles in it, even when I was a baby, is told in www.olufemikusa.com.
I always doff my hat for Mrs. Brikesteth. She was my teacher in Primary three at St. Andrews’ Primary School in Ibara, Abeokuta, in 1958. On September 5, I listened to radio programmes in which many speakers spoke of how their teachers literally flogged daylights out of them. Mrs. Brikesteth was one of such teachers. As young as we were, she made us memorise Bible Verses. The ones I remember till this day is ROMANS 12:17-21. Your mother would weep for you on your return home, if you couldn’t recite her memory verses. When my class had to memorise Shakespeares MATBETH in secondary class four I remembered Mrs. Brikesteth with joy. Today, I say Mrs. Brikesteth thank you, wherever you are.
When I relocated to St. John’s Primary School, Agodi N5 in 1961, because my father a policeman, was transferred from Abeokuta to Lagos and from Lagos to Ibadan within there years, I became a pupil under MR. EYITAYO, My class teacher. He was great with all sorts of Nigerian maps i.e human geography, forest types, political etc. But I had no head for such things. My forte was MENTAL ARITHMETIC. He could say 10×2-20+14×0-5+185. Many of my classmates would be lost, and I would surprise him with the correct answer. There were three of us who always competed to lead the class. One was VICTORIA EYITAyO, Mr. Eyitayo’s niece. The other was ADENIKE OMAGE. I wonder where they are now. If they jumped into the lead anywhere else, I was sure to catch them up and then dust them up in mental arithmetic. I lived with a no-nonsense uncle who was a GRADE THREE teacher and taught at Sunlight Secondary Modern School, Agodi, Ibadan. As a primary school boy, I would not go to bed at night until Radio Nigeria shut down at 11p.m with the National Anthem. I had a time table I had to follow. I had to recite to him every weekend everything on the back of the exercise book. The TWELVE TIMES TABLE was not the ultimate for him. The benchmarks were the 13th to the 15th I had to know how many bushels made the gallon, or how many feet made one mile. Mr. Eyitayo was so surprised at my grasp of Arithmetic that he made me not only the school Librarian but the school’s post master as well. My teacher uncle was Mr. ALBERT OSHODIPE. He returned to school for his GRADE TWO teachers certificate, for the GRADE ONE certificate in Education (NCE) and, finally, for his Bachellor’s degree in Education from the then University of Ife. He was at one time the Games Master of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, where he was well known as SHINE. From there, I believe, he became the Principal of ODOPOTU GRAMMAR SCHOOL, near Erunwon, Ijebu-Ode. Although he is now of blessed memory, I always remember and thank him. If I slept off while studying at night, he would remove the books I was reading. He would move away from the house, call me and ask me what I was doing. He taught me never to tell a lie. If I said I was studying, he would ask me to bring the books. If they were not books he listed on the time-table heel would literally break loose. How could you give him another book when you were meant to be studying LACOMBE’S UPPER STANDARD?
I moved on to secondary school at Ibadan Boy’s High School in 1963 (Okusande House), too glad to be free of him, and almost messed up my life with ODEON or SCALA cinema houses almost every night. I hated the Latin teacher, and the conjugations (Amo, amas, amat… Agricola, agricolae) if it was time for his class and you could not conjugate, you were in trouble. I did not even know the meaning of conjugation or the principles behind it. So, after the class of Mrs. OGUNDIPE, the English teacher, some of us would exit the class through the window, into the Botanical Garden night beside it, while he waited in the corridor. My father wasted no time in relocating me to Olivet Baptist High School Oyo, through the help of Mr. Ogunkoya, an education officer in Ibadan at that time, who later founded PROSPECT HIGH SCHOOL, ABA-NLA, near Ibadan.
The years 1964 -68 in this school were eventful under many teachers who deserve commendation today. Rev. J.P.P. Lafinhan was the principal. He taught us not to loose our heads “when others are losing their” Mr. Teibo was the chemistry teacher. I hated mathematics despite good grounding in primary school. The problem came from the “big” boys in the class and the maths teachers. The big boys were graduate of Secondary modern schools, stop gap schools for pupils who were too weak to gain direct admission into secondary schools. By the time they had done three years of Algebra, Arithmetic and Geometry in modern school, they become high flyers secondary form one for pupils who came in directly from primary schools where they did not hear of or learn these subjects. They were about two or three steps ahead of the class.
I remember the maths teacher we nicknamed OPONPO. He was huge, almost obsess or shapeless. He stood in front of the class as it were, teaching only the ex-modern school fellows. He probably did not realise that many of us were not following. Mr. OKOYE came in after his “A” level in the school, preparatory to going to the University. He was livelier but too fast. He would write the ALMIGHTY FORMULA on the board in a jiffy. How he came by it and the proof, some of us did not know. But, I enjoyed my chemistry, Biology and Health Science teachers and classes. How I wish all teachers were like Mr. S.O Kolade (S.O.K) who took Health Science.
He did not mind taking the class in turns to the town’s abbatour to show them the various organs of the body in the carcas of a slaughtered cow. How would you see Tibia and Fibula or the Olecranum process or the Carpals and Tarsals or the Epiglotis or the Sinuses and not remember them in drawings and labeling or identify them among specimens? An equivalent of S.O.K.
I met at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, later on in my elective class, was Professor Humphrey Nwosu, who headed the electoral body under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida government.
Talking about my teachers at Olivet, I cannot forget my school father, AYO OJO, who later became a medical doctor owned many clinics in Lagos, and is now the Oba of ILARA MOKIN in Ondo State. At Olivet, he was the food prefect. He and I lived in Ibadan, at KINGS BARRACKS, Iyaganku. His uncle was a policeman like my father. One long vacation, he invited me for studies at the Youth camp. My father loved education and let me go. In any case, I was then a mere middle-of the class student. My case was compromised by an accident I experienced in July 1966. A taxi knocked me down and I suffered a femur fracture which kept me out of school for one whole term. When I returned to school in the promotion term, I had the option to go “on trial” to class four or to repeat class three. I would not hear of “repeat”. To be eligible for promotion, I had to score 55 percent in every subject I which to study in class four. Mr. Lafinhan was kind. He considered first term performance and sent me to class four on trial, with the provision that I would revert to class three if I could not pull my weight in class four. The first subject I knocked off my list was mathematics. It was not a compulsory subject, as it is today, when I sat for my school certificate examination in 1968. At the youth camp, Ayo Ojo coached me in the entire school certificate syllabus of chemistry and Biology. We had no time for any other subject. Back in school for class four, I found no difficulty at all with these subjects, being several lessons ahead of the class and went on to earn distinctions in Health Science, Biology and Credit in Chemistry and GRADE ONE in my WASCE. For this, I cannot forget Dr. Ayo Ojo. He was to hide me in his house when Gen. Sanni Abacha was after editors of the Guardian newspapers.
After I left the university and graduated from national youth service, I felt inwardly driven to work with some one who could light up a flame inside me. I wished to learn more about Life and existence, obtain authentic answers to unresolved questions. A serious out-of-Body-Expereince (OBE) before I went to the University and semblances of it in youth service had presaged the quest. Surprisingly then, the man I had always thought of, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was not to be on this bill. In youth service, I had been led to Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, of 12 White House Street, Calabar, through a book link from Edeke Bookshop in Uyo. The Andrews led me to Mrs. Edeke in Aba and Mrs. Edeke’s paths led me to those of Mr. Ibe and Mrs. Elizabeth Kafaru.
Any reader of Guardian Newspapers when I was the editor may now understand why and how Mrs. Kafaru began the first regular, weekly newspaper column on herbal medicine in Nigeria in 1988. Through these pathways, I was to link up with Chief Adeyemi O. Lawson, whose activities led me to my longed – for goal.
In a sense, therefore, I regard him as my spiritual father on his earth this time around, and all the people I have mentioned in connection with the journey to him as teachers and facilitators. I salute them all on TEACHERS Day.
There are too many people who helped to build each rung of the ladder which took me to wherever I am today. I cannot remember them all. My first job at ODUSOTE BOOKSTORES, on 177 Herbert Macaulay Street, Yaba, Lagos, exposed me more to books than I ever was. That job probably gave me my second job, as a trainee sub-editor of the Daily Times newspaper under the editorship of Mr. Henry Odukomaiya from 8 March 1971 until December 1982 when I resigned as Deputy Production Editor for the then upcoming the Guardian newspaper. Between Henry Odukomaiya and Martin Iroabuchi within 1982, I worked under a host of exciting and grooming editors, and among unforgettable colleagues.
The mentoring editors included Alhaji Babatunde Jose, editor of editors who was Chairman and Managing Director of the Daily Times group, I hadn’t spent more than six months with the Daily Times when he sighted me at bus-stop on Nnamdi Azikiwe street, one day, got the driver to stop his fabulous Mercedez Benz car and toke me to his family home on Olonade Street, Yaba, where he said Jumat prayers before he went home. He asked me about my plans for the future. I told him I wished to study at the polytechnics of Central London, or at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He preferred Nsukka. Thanks, Alhaji Jose, my first editor at the Daily Times was Olusegun Osoba. He was a reporter to the core. He, we were told, discovered the body of prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa after his killing in the January 1966 military coup. As deputy editor of the daily times, he was to defy the Dimka coup “dawn and get the newspaper produced against all odds. ..” Henry Odukomaya literally slept in the office. He was there at early as 9a.m for the first editorial conference at 10.a.m, went home by about four or five and returned by about seven, staying behind beyond ten or eleven when I left the office. Prince Tony Momoh was a workaholic like Odukomaya. He loved debate. I led debate on the sub-editors desk, and this exposed me to him. Oneday, he assigned my boos, Tunde Odesanya, on relief duty as Assistant Production Editor. Odesanya passed the job to me. Kunle Elegbede, the Assistant Production Editor, was on vacation. From vacation, he was sent to the Sunday Times on a higher appointment. To my shock, Prince Momoh gave me, not Odesanya, a letter to take over the desk vacated by Elegbede.
Apparently, he had been noticing who was doing the job while joining our debates. I took something along from him. George Okoro was a fantastic Chief Sub Editor who made even his flat a training school for young trainee subs the older ones did not wish to train in fear for their jobs. Tunde Oshuntokin (a.k.a ESBEE) was, arguably Nigeria’s best sports commentator and editor. He could give you one of his eyes if you lost both yours.
There was Lai Mabinuori as, I think, Night Editor. He helped to bring to limelight Dr. Olusola Saraki. Angus Okoli was features – inclined. I still remember one of his articles titled GOOD EVENING STREET, a report on the invasion by evening business women of posh residential areas in Apapa, Lagos. Clement Okosun, like Gbolabo Ogunsanwo and Tony Momoh, were among the first university trained journalists to work in or to edit the Daily Times. He brought some philosophy to the Lagos Weekend on which he and I worked. That newspaper, with a circulation averaging about 250,000 every week, was then Nigeria’s second largest, trailing the Sunday Times edited by Ogunsanwo (about 450,000 copies). Okosun kept a weekly column tittled THE TIME BEFORE THIS.
An article in that column I have not forgotten is titled A CHILD WITH A CHILD. It was lamentation that cultures had broken down and that girls who, literally should still be breast-feeding, were becoming mothers themselves. Another was STRANDED AND ALONE. It was about my departure to Nsukka from September 14, 1974, which left him with all the work. Sola Odunfa was a reporter and feature writer rolled into one. He taught me to be innovative. On the first day of our work together, he assumed I knew all ramifications of lay-outing. In the Daily Times title, sub editors worked largely on single pages. At the Lagos Weekend, I was confronted for the first time with a center spread. There was a five ems gutter I had to address without making the spread look untidy or unsightly. I slept in the office, wasting one sheet after another until he arrived next day. Gbolabo Ogunsanwo was a wordsmith. He edited the Sunday Times, as stated, galvanizing readership from the academia and the streets alike, to produce African’s largest weekly newspaper. I did not work directly with Sam Amuka (a.k.a sad Sam), but read his hilarious columns, one of which I always remind him about… WILD, WILD WEST.
A commentary on political violence in South-West Nigeria. Dipo Ajayi was amiable. If my memory serves me right, it was under him that the Lagos Weekend Cast headlines that almost tore Lagos apart. One of them was I WENT TO MECCA FOR FUN. Shade George, remember Ebenezer Obey’s standy Botique in Alaja lo Sobokun fun Alajala, said she, a Christian, went on pilgrimage to Mecca to please her boyfriend Olabisi Ajala. When she was asked on her return why she went as a Christian, she replied: “I went to Mecca for fun”. These days, the matter would not end there. Another violent headline was ALHAJI FADIYA.
Many readers did not understand the headline, reading it as though it were English. The story was about an Alhaji in his seventies who had carnal knowledge of an under-aged girl and caused her vaginal tear. The headline, was cast in Yoruba!
There are more teachers to mention… Alex Ibru, Stanley Macedua, Oyinlade Bonuola. etc.