A drive and will to succeed at times came from a supportive family. Throughout my childhood days, it was my parents, teachers and mentors who encouraged and motivated me to be up and doing, persevere and follow my passion and dreams. The tall dream of most children of my age was to become a medical doctor as if it is the only occupation in the world. What does a child of five years old knows about the Magic of Thinking Big and having a dream but we are all aware that we have a dream? “I Have a Dream” but I have never read or come across of these immortal words of Martin Luther King Jnr until my teenage years.
From the abnitio of my childhood days, I never dreamt to become versatile, a basket full of many eggs as to embracing a variety of subjects or have skills in many fields as one approaches broadcast engineering, information technology, media, publishing and as a history buff now. We cannot change the hand of fate in human affairs as it is always in control of our peregrinations in life…
One day, on the last day of the seventh month of the year, precisely on July 31, at the twilight regime of General Yakubu Gowon as the military Head of State of Nigeria over four decades ago. In the Ancient days, the maker of the heavens and earth bestowed on Ijero-Ekiti parents sojourning in Sagamu, Ijebu Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria, West Africa, the gift of a baby boy and a prodigy in his world.
One of my earliest memories was the birth of a baby. I have seen from my earliest years the birth of chickens, kittens, puppies, ducklings and other young domestic animals in our neighbourhood. I also remember the birth of a human babe who is now a grown-up cousin who was born in Christ ApostoIic Church (CAC) “Agbebi” mission house, Oke agba street, Ijero-Ekiti where I was given an Oxford ‘Sweetened’ Biscuits and ‘Nicco’ Sweets. We were living at a family house at Erijiyan quarters, Ijero-Ekiti. The house belongs to my paternal grandmother’s (Madam Ogunnike Alufa)senior brother, Late Pa Daniel Idowu Ojo (He was the father of Late Pa Olaofe Ojo, Pa Folorunso Ojo(Foluso Pools of Okelogbo, Ijero), Mama “Olobinrinle”, Mama Eji Adebayo and several other children. The family lineage was of AjanaOwa descent of Erijiyan, Ijero-Ekiti and ancestral lineage of Iresi, Osun State Nigeria.
As a precocious child, I could read and write before I started schooling. Thanks to my Aunties, Uncles and Parents who introduced me to chalk and slate, the Yoruba Language primer ALAWIYE series by J.F.Odunjo of illustrious memory and even other story books written in the English Language especially my favourite one, the Makers of Civilization by M.I.Potts.
This book, Makers of Civilisation helped me early in life to familiarise myself with the names of some famous men in history and their contributions to civilization and humanity.
The likes of William Wilberforce (the Slave trade abolition in the British empire), Abraham Lincoln(the 16th President of the United States who fought against black slavery in the United States), Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (who is better known as Mahatma Gandhi, the one man who fought the Indian independence without a gun, he died in January 1948), Famous Scientists like Isaac Newton(who discovered the Laws of Gravitation), Edward Jenner(a doctor who invented Vaccination against smallpox), Michael Faraday(the father of modern electricity), Haile Selassie (the emperor of Ethiopia), Vasco da Gama(He discovered a sea route to India), Florence Nightingale(a Nurse who was nicknamed “the Lady with the Lamp”), Han Christian Andersen(the fairy storyteller and author of the allegorical Ugly Duckling), George Stephenson(the inventor of the Locomotive Steam Engine), among others.
When I started schooling formally as a child, my father was a village teacher at Community Primary School, Ofigba, Ise-Ekiti while my mother was then a seamstress at the Market square, Ijero-Ekiti. Besides our shop is located in the Ijero Central Mosque which was also used as an Arabic Kindergarten School. I always heard the noise of the little children reciting Arabic alphabets every morning. I was familiar with little children of my age like Ahmed Adekunle Azeez, Adeyemi Anjorin, and one Fatimat (one of the daughters of a butcher in Ijero of Ilorin origin which I don’t know her surname till today)and others attending the Arabic Kindergarten school. Out of curiosity, I left my mother’s sewing shop one morning and entered the mosque, that was how I started my formal education at Mallam Ganiyu’s Arabic Kndergatten Class and he immediately welcomed me as his new pupil.
Starting primary school was an important milestone in the life of a child. I started my formal education at this “Magarantha”(a sort of Koranic Kindergarten class by Mallam Ganiyu)at Ijero Central Mosque, the kindergarten class was the precursor of the Ansar-ud-deen Primary School, Agbangudu, Ijero-Ekiti. Baba Ganiyu, our Koranic teacher had a big cane which he used to flog us all for our inability to recite the Arabic alphabets: Alif, Bah, Tah, Sah…
When I was growing up as a boy, I later knew Baba Ganiyu in his increasing senility as a genuine gentleman who could not hold a cane to flog a rat when he was living at his downstairs at Opeeleke street, Ijero-Ekiti. The house is opposite the three-storey building of late Pa John Komolafe Oke, a Lagos Baker and philanthropist of Ijero origin.
After few months of Schooling,the strokes of cane on my swollen hands and head made my parents changed my school formally to Saint Peter’s Catholic Primary School,Ijero-Ekiti where I met some of my earliest childhood friends and schoolmates like:Odunayo Kayode( a good creative artist till today),Gbenga Ojo-Alo,Ayo Ojo-Alo, Ayodele Dada,Sarafadeen Gbadamosi (now Bamidele Badmus),Rotimi Orilola,Tunde Adebayo(He was a good footballer),Yinka Lawrence Oluwole,Abiodun Adamu (now Abiodun Adams),Femi Omoboriowo,Bosede Boriowo,Taiwo Babalola,Tope Falusi,Dupe Adedeji,Kehinde Yakubu,Taiwo Owoseeni (alias Amugbabu),Ayodele Ilori,Funmi Alaasan,Rotimi Anjoorin,Odunayo Sogbonyo, Olaolu Owodunni, Niyi Owodunni (deceased), Fadeke Fadahunsi (deceased), Alaba Babalogbon (deceased), Sade Jegede (She was the most brilliant Girl throughout in my classes), Olumide Greene,Dapo Dosunmu,Idowu Abolarin,Idowu Ojo (now Idowu Michael Abuloke), Augustine Akwara, Janet Uwhokori, Philomina Ojotane,Lucky Ojotane (deceased), William Patrick Ogor, Matthew Patrick Ogor (deceased) and others.
At St. Peter’s Catholic Primary School, I was under the tutelage of the earliest and great teachers like “Baba Fas” (Pa M.O. Fasunloro, who was old to be my grandfather) class Teacher of Primary One A, Mrs Dada, Class Teacher of Primary One B (mother of Gabriel Oluyemi Dada and Hon. Abiodun Dada(former Chairman of Ijero Local Government Council)and one Mama Ope, my Class Teacher at Primary One C.
By the time I was in primary Two, Miss Akande (a native of Ijero-Ekiti) was my class teacher. Dapo Dosunmu was made the Class Captain and I was the Assistant Class Captain to record the names of the noise makers during our teacher’s short absence from class, collected her Lesson Notes on Mondays from the Headmaster’s office and submitted it back on Fridays. It was also the duties of the Class Captain and the Assistant to lead other pupils in the cleaning of the classroom to be in good hygienic condition after school hours.
Miss Akande left the school when she gained admission to Ondo State College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti (now, Ekiti State College of Education). I remembered that she taught us some lines of poetry like :
” Work while you work and Play while you Play,
To be useful and happy, this is a way.”
A valedictory song for the end of the session that she taught us was:
“On the Closing day, on the closing day
Miss Akande, our class teacher, goodbye
May God is with you, we thank you very much, goodbye”.
By the time I got to Primary class Three, Mrs Ajayi (a native of Ikole-Ekiti) was my class teacher. She was a disciplinarian who doesn’t tolerate nonsense. She introduced us to the reading of the Yoruba Bible during Christian Religious Studies (CRS)or Bible Knowledge (BK) as the subject was called in those days. It was in Mrs Ajayi’s class that I saw my examination scripts I scored 100 per cent in some subjects which was a great feat and a giant stride in my school year.
Flashback to 1983, I was in Primary Four. Miss Lawal was my Class Teacher. She was a politically conscious person and loved News and Current Affairs. I was mature in mind and the overall most brilliant pupil in the Class. I was used to reading News and Current Affairs from major Daily Newspapers at home. Mrs Lawal and I were converging at this point and she became my role model and inspirer of some sort.
It was on June 3rd 1983 that my paternal grandmother, Madam Ogunnike Alufa (nee Ige) (1901-1983) died at age 82. She was the first person to die before my very eyes and in the presence of her two children (my father and one of her sisters)calling the names of her ancestors before she gave up the ghost. This was one of the earliest mysterious moments I can never forget in life.
1983 was also the year I first celebrated my birthday with friends as a young child at my father’s house at Odooye Street, Ijero-Ekiti. Was year that I first witnessed the Igoke Olodo Oye Cultural Festival in June 1983.
The song of the Igoke Cultural Festival:
“Eyee yerere egeko, egeko, egeko” …
resonated into my audible ears for the first time.
1983 is a milestone in my Childhood as I was growing more prodigiously intellectually, emotionally, politically and spiritually. In 1983, I have known how to recite Psalms 19, 23, 24, 100 and 121,150 and some important Bible story passages offhand including the reading of the Catholic Church Catechism and other Church booklets. I have attended St. Peter’s Catholic Church occasionally on Sundays. I used to follow one of my deceased distant Uncle Kayode (alias Genuine) who was an Electrician to his workplace too. Many of his friends and people in the neighbourhood nicknamed me “Genuine Boy” after my uncle and mentor.
Around June and July 1983, I saw some of the protagonists of the politics of the second republic at Ijero-Ekiti during the electioneering campaigns, the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Former Premier of Western Region of Nigeria and National Leader of UPN), Alhaji Shehu Shagari (President of Nigeria), Dr Alex Ekwueme (Vice President of Nigeria), Chief Adisa Akinloye (National Chairman of NPN), Chief Akin Omoboriowo(Ondo State Governorship Candidate of NPN) and others.
There were other Three parties at the national level but we didn’t feel their impacts in my local setting, the likes of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP)led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the People Redemption Party (PRP) of Mallam Aminu Kano and the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP)which Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim its presidential candidate is known till today for the slogan “Politics without Bitterness”. The sixth and the last Political party to be registered at the tail end of the second republic was Dr Tunji Braithwaite-led Nigerian Advanced Party (NAP).
Of all the six parties, The progressive UPN led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo had its firm grip on the five Yoruba States then (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and the Ondo States) including Bendel State(today, Edo and Delta States). The impact of the UPN free education was felt in our primary schools in the old Ondo State with the distribution of free textbooks and “BIG EXERCISE BOOKS” which we the school pupils gave the acronyms “Bola Ige Governor Ede X Ede Remi C(K) oni Iya Odabo Odabo Kayode”…
The year 1983 is also very significant in Ijero-Ekiti local Politics in the old Ondo State of Nigeria because Chief Akin Omoboriowo, the erstwhile Deputy Governor of old Ondo State(now Ondo and the Ekiti States)was a native of my town, Ijero-Ekiti and a second cousin of my father. (His mother, Madam Beatrice Famoriyele Omoboriowo) was a daughter of Late Chief Ajayi Osigbaolode, the Saade of Ijero-Ekiti.)In 1983, Chief Akin Omoboriowo decamped from the state-ruling Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to become the Gubernatorial Candidate of the Federal Government controlled Party, National Party of Nigeria(NPN) in the Election 1983.NPN had a symbol of a House and two Maize plants (Corn) beside the house. The slogan of NPN was: “One Nation, One Destiny, One God”. UPN has a symbol of a map of Nigeria with Candlelight at the centre of the map.
Ijero-Ekiti was one of the epicentres of the 1983 Politics of old Ondo State because it was Omoboriowo’s town and sightseeing of plate number OD-J (Ijero Local Government Vehicle Registration Number) outside Ijero suburbs was the beginning of friendship to the new decampees (Party switching) of NPN but animosity to UPN political fanatics who saw Omoboriowo’s kinsmen as a new enemy of Governor Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his party UPN. There was relative peace in Ijero-Ekiti township throughout the political brouhaha of the 1983 Election in Nigeria because of the power of unity and purpose among the townsfolks irrespective of their social and political affiliations.
Through the grace of God and the traditional leadership of Ajero-in-Council under His Royal Majesty Oba Adeniran Eyeowa (alias Odundun Asodedero “the community tranquillizer”), there was peace in Ijero indeed as a land founded and stand on mutual thoughts and opinion. Late Oba Adeniran Eyeowa II (1901-1990) was versed in Ifa divination and he had the traditional power of the African ancestors which he used to support the Ijero people and the protagonist Omoboriowo during the political turbulence of 1983 before he, Omoboriowo could become a “Storm Rider”.
The name of Chief Akin Omoboriowo for Governor, Ondo State bestrode the land like a colossus.
Political leaflets of his portraits and campaign manifestoes, “AKIN OMOBORIOWO for GOVERNOR: MAN OF ACTION ” were dropped from “FEDECO Buses ” during the build-up and electioneering campaigns for the Ondo State Governorship election and Presidential Election of August 1983. We, the children were happy in collecting the political flyers.
I saw Helicopters always moving around the Ijero horizon for the first time in my life and later heard that the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) officer, Col. John Olympus Ayo-Ariyo (rtd.), a native of Ipoti-Ekiti, a town in Ijero suburb was in the air always.
Omoboriowo had earlier contested the Governorship shadow election(primaries)of the UPN with the duo of Chief Adekunle Ajasin (the sitting Governor) and Professor (Senator) Banji Akintoye (the present President of Yoruba World Congress) where he came second and lost the primaries ticket to the incumbent Governor Ajasin. Things fall Apart with Ajasin and Omoboriowo in the UPN camp when the latter decamped to contest against his former boss on the platform of NPN.
In Nigeria Politics of the second republic of 1983. At my age and locality, I know virtually all the names of the political actors like President Shehu Shagari, Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Dr Joseph Wayas (Senate President), Dr Olusola Saraki (Senate Leader) and political presidential candidates like Chief Obafemi Awolowo (UPN), Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (NPP) Mallam Aminu Kano (PRP), Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri(GNPP)and all of the 19 States Governors like Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin (Ondo), Chief Bola Ige (Oyo), Chief Bisi Onabanjo (Ogun), Alhaji Lateef Jakande (Lagos), Professor Ambrose Alli (Bendel), Alhaji Adamu Atta (Kwara), Chief Melford Okilo (Rivers), Dr Clement Isong (Cross Rivers), Chief Sam Mbakwe (Imo), Chief Jim Nwobodo (Anambra), Mr Aper Aku (Benue State), Chief Solomon Lar (Plateau), Alhaji Balarabe Musa (Kaduna), Alhaji Abubakar Rimi (Kano), Late Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa (Sokoto State) later succeeded by Dr Garba Nadam (Sokoto State), Alhaji Tatari Alli (Bauchi State), Alhaji Abubakar Barde (the then Gongola State) and others.
The politics and electioneering campaigns of 1983 especially in the old Ondo State were brutal and bitter. We heard the cases of many kinsmen who lost their properties in what the Ijero -Ekiti locals called “Ogun Ajasin-Omoboriowo” meaning “Ajasin-Omoboriowo Political War”. Many Ijero indigenes who were living in Akure and other major towns in old Ondo State which was UPN strongholds had their Cars got burnt or damaged because of Plate Number OD-J. Many political stalwarts of the Omoboriowo Group and NPN like Honourable Agbayewa, Honourable Olaiya Fagbamigbe (Publishers of Awo’s Trilogy books: Voice of Reason, Voice of Courage and Voice of Wisdom)and others lost their lives during the political crisis immediately after the announcement of Mr Dapo Alibaloye led FEDECO(Federal Electoral Commission)in Ondo State that Chief Akin Omoboriowo was the winner and the Governor-elect of Ondo State before it was challenged by Governor Adekunle Ajasin of the then United Party of Nigeria (UPN) at the Appeal Court in Benin City and later in Supreme Court in Lagos in his favour.
Chief Omoboriowo after losing the verdict of becoming the Ondo State Governor at the court was given a Ministerial slot by President Shehu Shagari which Omoboriowo vehemently rejected after considering the myriads of lives that were lost during the election of August 1983 but gave the slot to one of his staunch supporter and another Ekiti kinsman, Dr Bode Olowoporoku, who became the Federal Minister of Science and Technology between October to December 1983. The military government of General Muhammadu Buhari took over the reins of the Federal government on 31st December 1983 which brought an end to the politics of the second republic in Nigeria.
Before I entered primary Five, I familiarised myself with the current affairs, politics and issues of the day in the National Dailies available to me then: Daily Times, Daily Sketch, Nigerian Tribune, National Concord and other dailies available in “Baba Osundahunsi” (aka Omo Obookun) Newsstand at Palace Road, Ijero-Ekiti.
My school Headmaster, Mr (later Honourable) S.A. Owoeye (now of blessed memory) would call me to pick newspapers for him. In 1985, when I was still in my teens, I was the Library Prefect of my primary school and collected Dailies for the school from the newsstand. The cover price of Nigerian Daily newspapers was 20 Kobo (One-Fifth Naira) in 1985. We used to prepay it, in a month that has 30 days like (April, June, September and November) we paid the Newsvendor Baba Osundahunsi (alias Omo Obokun) the sum of six Naira (N6), for months which have 31 days (January, March, May, July, August, October, and December) we paid Six Naira and Twenty Kobo (N6:20K) monthly. It was only in February which has 28 or 29 days (during a leap year) that we prepaid Five Naira and Sixty Kobo (N5:60K) or (N5:80K). This was in 1985.
A national daily newspaper is sold between Two hundred (N200) and Two hundred and Fifty Naira (N250) in Nigeria today. Even how many villagers read daily newspapers like my childhood days today even where there is a shortage of electricity supply and when we will say “Never Expect Power Always” (NEPA).
Even now, print media has lost its glory and glamour to social media and online newspapers in our Internet age. Yet, how many villagers read news online when Radio remains the “Lazarus” media of the people who are poor and it is affordable to the grassroots.
In the 1980s, I was schooled and grew up in an Ijero-Ekiti community which was not such urbanised but we could compete with many urban Pupils from Akure, Ibadan, Benin, and Lagos because we were passionate about our education as Ekiti children that Trekked in Knowledge. I am passionate and well-informed since my childhood.
By the time I took the common entrance examination to secondary school which was conducted by the Ondo State Ministry of Education, I had Distinctions in the four subjects of the examination (Arithmetic, English Language, General Paper and Yoruba Language), each subject was marked 50 each where I scored 184 out of 200.
This was one of the top 15 highest scores in the 1985 Primary School Year in the old Ondo State (now Ondo and Ekiti States) and the best from St. Peter’s Catholic Primary School 1985 set of 88 pupils and the 3rd best to be admitted to Doherty Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), Ijero-Ekiti in 1985 in a set of almost 200 students after Adeyemi Anjoorin (now a medical doctor) who scored 188 and top the class, followed by Clement Ezejio for who scored 186 to came second.
I have learnt a lot from reading good books, having good teachers, great mentors, lovely friends and even from a variety of experiences. Life itself is a Teacher. I am still learning every day as one Sage once said: “The moment you stop learning, you start dying or you stop leading”.
Change itself is a spice of life. I am recreating myself every day. I thank God for the gift of the brain which is a passport to knowledge and Knowledge is the fountain of true wealth.
There are so many reasons to be Thankful to God and to be Happy for the Gift of Life.
Life is a Gift. I wake up every day to realize it with new dreams and aspirations.
I have never forgotten where I am coming from and who I am. In one’s journey in life, we should reminisce the past, to shape the present and future. You should never, ever forget who you are.
Although, It is always darkest before dawn. With Audacity of Hope and Constancy of purpose, there will always be a silver lining and light at the end of the tunnel. There were ups and downs, mountains and valleys, lacustrine faunas and archipelagos. There are always more Skies beyond horizons.
In my life peregrinations. It has never been a Bad Day for me. I have always seen grey skies at dawn before the new bright light of the day. I have taken risky and bold journeys from certainties and uncertainties adventures. I have ridden many storms and have had many winds in my sail, such is life and that of nature. I thank God for the Good, the Gracious and the Gregarious moments. In all, it was Never a Bad Day. I have seen another July 31 in the land of the living by God’s grace.
“Every memoir reminds us of the faraway and long ago, of loss and change, of persons and places beyond recall.”—Abigail McCarthy.
This short piece recalls my Childhood and Primary School Days in Ijero-Ekiti in the 1980s whose milestone is 1983.
Credit: The Book of Roots: The Legend of an Ekiti Clan (A Memoir) by Femi Alufa.
– Femi Alufa is a writer, civic innovator, social entrepreneur and history buff.