A retired principal of Eleyo High School, Ikere Ekiti, Pa Ayo Olujobi, tells ABIODUN NEJO about his career as a teacher and why Nigeria’s leaders should implement policies to improve the lives of the suffering masses
What type of family were you born into?
I was born on June 5, 1936, in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State. My father, Samuel Olujobi, was a farmer. He was the Baba Isale of Holy Trinity Church, Odo Oja, Ikere Ekiti, for many years before he died. My mother, Mary Olujobi, was a petty trader.
Why did your parents give you the name, Ayo?
It was because I am the first surviving son of the family, a polygamous family.
What type of childhood did you have in Ikere Ekiti?
I began primary education in 1944 at St Louis Primary School, now Holy Trinity Primary School, Ikere Ekiti. I lived with my parents; they took care of me and encouraged me to learn. After primary school, I got an opportunity to teach because of the influence of my father in the church. I was appointed a pupil teacher. After three years, I took the entrance examination to All Saints Teachers’ College, Usi Ekiti, where I obtained a Grade Three teacher’s certificate. After I completed my studies at the school, I taught for some years, and then I took the entrance examination to another teachers’ college, Ondo/Oyo Joint Provincial College, Ile-Ife, where I got my Grade Two certificate. I was very popular in the school because of my sporting prowess.
What type of sports did you take part in?
I was a footballer and a sprinter.
Why were you interested in further education when you were already working?
Education was on my mind right from childhood. I had it in mind that I would become a teacher because teachers were very popular then. I intended to teach after leaving school, but I studied further at the university level to improve my position as a teacher.
I studied privately to qualify for university admission. After attending the two teachers’ colleges, I studied privately for an advanced-level certificate and I passed. I took two advanced-level papers called GCE London. So, my admission into the University of Lagos was through direct entry.
How else did your father’s position as Baba Isale (patron) Ijo, impact you?
Because of his position in the church, I was forced to serve God, read the Bible, and follow the rules and regulations in the Bible because I didn’t want anyone to say, “Look at the son of a leader”. I was an obedient child growing up. Because of the position of my father, I was very serious about my studies.
What lessons did you learn from your father?
Endurance. He was very enduring. My father was not easily discouraged. He encouraged me to be strong in faith. My mum was a quiet woman. She was always on the lookout to make me happy.
When did they pass away and how did you cope with life without them?
My father died before my mother. That was long ago; I cannot remember the dates offhand, but I was already an adult and on my own before they died.
What was life at the university like?
Life was smooth and interesting at the university. I had many friends and I was very active in sports. People knew me in all departments as a good sportsman. It was during my first year at the university that I had my first son, now a medical doctor. When I was informed of the birth, I came from UNILAG to Ilesha where we were residing then.
How were you able to cope as a student and a father?
My wife had a job at that time; she was a teacher. Again, we had very good friends then in Ilesa, especially the Daramola family. They played vital roles.
What did you study at the university and why?
I studied Philosophy and History because my A-level papers qualified me to study the courses.
When did you graduate and how did you feel upon graduation?
I graduated in 1977, then I went for the compulsory National Youth Service Corps programme in Benue State. I was very happy with the status and that I was able to achieve my desire to become a university graduate. I am the first graduate in the Olujobi family.
So where did you work after graduation?
I was encouraged to come and teach because of my teaching experience. After my service year in Benue State, I returned to pick up a teaching appointment. I was posted to Adeyeri Grammar School, Owo, where I taught for eight years. There, I became a vice principal and I was later posted as principal to More High School, Afo, in the Ose Local Government Area in Ondo State. While at Afo, I assisted in the development of that community. I did a lot of things that brought government activities and presence there because I was very influential then. I used my contacts and position and they (the community members) all appreciated what I did for them. I also used my contacts to influence the provision of electricity in the town. The person in charge of electricity was my schoolmate. So, through him, electricity was extended to the town. After Afo, I returned to Ikere as the Principal of Eleyo High School, Ikere Ekiti. I retired there in 1994.
Having worked in the school environment for many years, what can you count as your gains as a teacher?
Many of my students are successful in their different fields because I encouraged them. I always advised them by telling them that they could get to any level if they worked hard in their studies and some of them took my advice and are successful.
How did you feel about retiring from a job you loved and gave so much to?
I was very happy that I had the opportunity to serve as a teacher in my area. I thank God that at the appropriate time, I retired as the principal of Eleyo Grammar School. After retirement, I came back to my house and have since been living happily with my family. God allowed me to train my children. Today, they are all graduates. I have the opportunity to serve God.
Did you join politics after retirement?
No. I had no interest in politics at all. I only attempted politics at the university, where I was a student parliamentarian with the likes of Ebenezer Babatope, popularly called Ebino Topsy at that time.
Why don’t you like politics?
I do not like it because it is very rough. I don’t know how to tell lies. I did not join politics because I cannot say A is B. Politicians are full of deceit. When you get there, they will influence you. If you refuse to join them, that can be dangerous, because they will see you as disturbing them from making money. So, I decided to stay away.
If you did not play politics, how did you become a member of the Hospital Management Committee of Ekiti State Specialist Hospital, Ikere Ekiti, after retirement?
It was because of my character and achievement. People knew I was transparent. They invited me because they wanted me to serve. I was nominated by my town, Ikere Ekiti, to serve there. For about 15 years, I was the chairman of the Hospital Management Committee as nominated by the town, and because of that position, I was a member of the Ekiti State Committee on Drug Revolving Fund, representing Ekiti South Senatorial District. I resigned voluntarily. I was the representative of the National Population Commission in the Ikere Local Government Area during the last population census conducted by the NPC. I was also a member of the committee that was in charge of the construction of the Ikere Town Hall. The community respects me; people like me and contact me to seek advice.
Why did you leave the hospital committee?
I voluntarily left the hospital management committee because of old age. Aside from that, it was a decision to give others a chance to occupy the post because I did not want to be there perpetually. I decided to give the chance for the appointment of another person into the position.
As a sportsman, did you represent your schools in competitions?
Yes. I was the anchor, i.e. taking the last leg in a relay race. I was the captain of the team at Ondo/Oyo Joint Provincial College. But at the university, I did not participate because I had to concentrate on my course, Philosophy.
Can you share a memorable experience that you had in sports?
There was a day my teammates carried me shoulder high because they felt I performed an unbelievable feat. My school, Ondo/Oyo Joint Provincial College, was invited to Imade College, Owo, for a relay race. I was on the last leg, my team was in the second position when the baton was handed over to me, but I outran the anchor of the leading team and we ended up taking the first position. My schoolmates could not believe it. They carried me shoulder-high rejoicing. They took the celebration back to school.
During your youth, polygamy was the vogue and you even grew up in a polygamous family. Why didn’t you marry more than a wife?
It was because of my experience. When I was young, I had spiritual attacks because I was the first son, but I survived by the grace of God. Also, in the house where I lived as a tenant before I got married, I had a bitter experience seeing couples in polygamous families frequently engaging in quarrels, divorce issues, incidents of death, etc. Even when I was in Owo, a man offered me his daughter for marriage, but I told the man to let her daughter find her rightful husband since there was no reason for me to betray my wife by marrying another woman. Even in Ikere, there were entreaties and moves to tempt me to marry another woman, but the bitter experiences I had of polygamy and my marital vow were fresh in my memories.
How did you meet your wife?
I had a friend when I was in Ilesa and it was in his house that I met my wife. She came from Ogbomoso to Ilesa. She was preparing for the General Certificate Examination then. She was a slim lady. She did not want to go home to avoid being worried by men, so she stayed with a lady who was teaching in the same school as her. The woman’s husband was my friend. That was where I met her. So, my friend told me that an Ekiti woman was in the house and encouraged me to go and woo her. We got married in 1974 and God blessed us with four children.
As a teacher, did you have cause to compel any of your children to go to school?
They are all graduates. I encouraged them, I enticed them. I did everything to motivate them. They all attended good schools. Three of them attended a Federal Government college and the last one had secondary school education at St Louis Secondary School. I am very happy now because I trained my children and they are now taking care of me. They make me very comfortable. I encourage parents to take care of their children and ensure they have a good education because our children are our future.
When you were growing up, things were smooth in the country, but today, there is hardship. When you look at the fuel price hike and the general increase in the prices of goods and services, what do you wish to tell the President and governors?
The authorities need to be very careful to avoid a revolution. They have to be very careful. They have to move in ways that will make lives easier for the people, and improve the standard of living of the people. They must act to avoid a revolution. Revolution is a very bad exercise that can involve unnecessary destruction and loss of lives. They have to be very careful in their administration. They have to do things that will make people comfortable, not things that will add to citizens’ problems.
At 87, what would you say keeps you hale and hearty?
I am a plain person and I am very careful about the oath which I took when marrying. I am very loyal because I made a promise not to flirt around and not to engage in extra-marital affairs. I stick to my wife. Since I got married, a third party has not had any cause to settle anything between my wife and me. Also, as a sportsman, I used to go for sports and exercise before now. I exercise my body every day. Again I am disciplined when it comes to food. I eat twice a day.
As I said earlier, people have to be honest with their marriage. People have to work hard to maintain their families. When you maintain your family, there will be no problem. All along, my wife and I never had a misunderstanding for hours. People should marry only a wife and raise their children. If a man marries more than one wife, I don’t think he will be happy.
Do you have any regrets in life?
In my family, I have no regrets. However, in my relationship with people out there, there are some areas where there can be regrets because when you are trying to be honest with them, they will be dishonest with you. They will like to cheat you, take you for granted, or use that opportunity to cheat you.
Do you have any experience visiting other countries?
I have been to the United Arab Emirates and America and we are preparing for Britain next year. When you get to Dubai, you will see the signboard, ‘This is the Centre of the World’. I was in Dubai for sightseeing. It is a good place to go because there are so many things to make you happy. It is a place you will not like to leave. I was in New York to visit my childhood friends, Dr Bisi Omotoso and Francis Ogundana. I enjoyed the place as well.