By Gbolahan Balogun
He was nine when he was enrolled in primary one and had already grown to a height where the hand was already touching the shoulder from across the head as against the ear as was the requirement at the time.
Born precisely on Friday 12th August 1927, but although both parents, Prince Monmodu Oyawoye Adegboye and Alhaja Selia Amoke were of royal descent, they did not see a need for their only son to acquire Western education until Providence gave the push.
It would take a special intervention of the headmaster before he was admitted. Even as he did, he would also contend with the Qur’anic school’s attitude he was bringing to the school. Here was a pupil who would read the Queen Primer, the elementary reading text of those days as he would at the Islamiyat, shouting and disturbing everybody else.
But the headmaster had by his admission, lit a little light that has burned brighter, illuminating not only the path of his overgrown pupil and one that will lead the Offa blueblood to become Africa’s gift to the field of Geology and petrology.
Three decades after his encounter with the headmaster, the boy, Mosobalaje would be cited as the pioneer of Precambrian Petrological Research in Nigeria and one who coined the mineralogical word, ‘Bauchite’ to describe a coarse plutonic fayalite-bearing rock found in Bauchi in Northern Nigeria. The word has remained in the lexicon of geologists to date as a variety of Chanockitic rocks. His work at the time elucidated the space relationship and structural position of Bauchite and other Chanockitic rocks as the core of the older basement complex in Nigeria. It was a result of his PhD thesis at Durham University in the United Kingdom.
Two years later, precisely in 1960, he was employed by the nation’s premier university, in Ibadan and a in a record six years became the first African professor of Geology in 1966.
From his early childhood years through his sojourn at Washington State University to Durham University, to the job at the University of Ibadan and on to his exploits in shark-infested waters of the Nigerian boardrooms, Professor Jamiu Mosobalaje Oyawoye rode the crest wave of life’s storms. In all these, his most familiar turf is Offa and her development in all spheres.
To the first-time acquaintance, he cuts the image of the old man next door; lively, exuberant and ever humorous with his trademark white withering beards. Fondly called Soba, he is touted at once as an outstanding academic and an unapologetic fundamentalist.
Although Oyawoye did not serve the full career span at the University of Ibadan, as he resigned his appointment suddenly in 1977, protesting the Military Government’s encroachment on university autonomy and the authority of the Senate, he left behind major achievements which stand out as monuments to his leadership, initiative and dedication. Foremost is the Department of Geology, University of Ibadan. The department was transformed within a few years, from being the smallest in the Faculty of Science, to one of the most important departments at the University. The magnificent Geology Department building at Ibadan, financed from grants raised from the Petroleum Industry by Professor Oyawoye is a tribute to him.
His generations of students have over the many years, dominated executive positions in the Mining and Petroleum Industries. Among them, Federal Ministers and Advisers to Presidents; several succeeding Group Managing Directors and Executives of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); several present and previous Managing Directors and Executives of NNPC subsidiary companies; Vice-Chancellors and several of Professors of Geology in Nigerian Universities till today. It is therefore not surprising that he is often fondly referred to by his students as the “Father of Geology” in Africa.
The second monument left by Professor Oyawoye was the University of Ibadan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, which he initiated. Professor Oyawoye was solely responsible for the preparation of the project document submitted to the Canadian Government International Aid Agency and for all follow-up activities leading to the establishment of the Institute. He naturally became its first Nigerian Co-Director.
Another major achievement of Professor Oyawoye at the Ibadan University, was the University College, Jos, which later became the University of Jos. The Project, which was his brainchild, was brought to the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adeoye Lambo, as a major initiative that the University should take and which could provide unique research and teaching opportunities in Geology and Agriculture in view of the unique petrological setting of mineral-rich younger Granite, and the cool climate of the Plateau. He later assisted Professor Lambo to pilot the project successfully through a suspicious UI Senate and hesitant Council of the university.
As he paid attention to the Petroleum Industry, maintaining very close and cordial relations with the industry, so he did with his students, seeking and facilitating higher education and employment for them.
Being well-known internationally, Professor Oyawoye brought Nigeria recognition, respect and admiration through his professional activities. As Chairman of the OAU Team of Experts on Inter-African Centre for Earth Sciences, he promoted the awareness among African Countries, of the economic importance of a strong Geological Survey, staffed with indigenous Geologists, particularly in those Mining-dependent Eastern and Southern African Countries. His most important contribution in this regard was the establishment of the Zambian School of Mines in the University of Zambia, which he initiated and pursued personally with the then Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda. He guided the newly established School of Mines to reality in 1976. As a mark of honour and appreciation, he was appointed Roving Visiting Professor at the University of Zambia, with the freedom to go and come as he pleased, for 3 years.
Professor Oyawoye initiated, organized and established the Geological Society of Africa (GSA). In recognition and honour, he was elected the founding President and the first Fellow of the Society. He was the first African Member of the Board of International Geological Correlation Programme and was elected Vice-President of this prestigious body. He was a positive inspiration, serving as External Examiner in Geology at several Universities including University of Ghana, University of Kenya and University of Sudan.
It was not surprising that in recognition of his contributions to the study of geoscience, his mentoring of students, personal achievements and general upliftment of the University of Ibadan, he was conferred with the Honourary Doctor of Science of the institution, in toll with another from Durham University, where he earned his PhD.
In his home town of Offa, Kwara State, he devoted a great deal of his time to community self-help projects and youth counselling. His contributions to Offa Town are many. To mention a few, Olalomi Comprehensive School, which later became the Federal Polytechnic, Offa, was planned and guided from inception by him. He is the only person who had served both as General-Secretary as well as President of the Offa Descendants’ Union since it was founded. He established through his foundation, Monmodu-Jamiu Oyawoye Foundation Gte/Ltd, Offa City Transport Venture- a poverty alleviation programme by which beneficiaries operate and pay-to-own tricycles. Likewise, in 2012, Maryam Olabisi Oyawoye Children’s Home was established to care for children whose mothers died while giving birth.
Prof Oyawoye, though not a member of Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, championed the establishment in Offa, of Summit University owned by the society. In late 2006, he established an action committee and actively sought donors within Offa Community, to work on getting the university built and ready for approval by National University Commission (NUC). The license to operate Summit University was finally granted in late 2015.
He is a devout nationally respected Muslim leader in Kwara State, where he has served as state Chairman of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI). In recognition of his contributions to Islam, Professor Jimoh Mosobalaje Oyawoye, was in April 2011 conferred with the title of Baba Adinni of Kwara State by the Emir of llorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sull-Gambari, CFR, in his capacity as the Chairman Kwara State Council of Jama’atu Naril Islam-the first to be so installed by the Council.
It is Baba’s 95th birthday. A unique birthday because it falls on the day of his birth, FRIDAY! As the drums are rolled out this week to celebrate one of Africa’s finest icon, Midlandpost, one of Baba’s major collaborators in the publication of his bestselling autobiography, Path of Destiny, digs into its archive to bring our readers a major conversation with this scion of the Anilelerin ruling house
The interview, conducted by GBOLAHAN BALOGUN and SUPO BALOGUN is an elucidating excursion into the inner recesses of Africa’s most enigmatic character, who have nevertheless remains at heart with Offa people. It offers a deep introspection on the Oyawoye persona and best termed … the world of Oyawoye. It is profound.
TRADITION IS STRONGER THAN LAW… IF EXPLORED – OYAWOYE
We want to congratulate you on your birthday. Let us look back at your life from the beginning. How was it in your growing up years?
As was typical of a boy, you either die before you reach four or five years or you were the only one left for your parents or perhaps, two. Abiku would have taken all the others away. In the circumstance, I think our parents then, valued seeing us alive. I mean any child. And of course, there was always the concern and anxiety about whether one will survive or not. That means that sometimes they were constrained. They didn’t want you to do this, they didn’t want you to do that. But the way it was, boys must be boys. If you look at people of my age, there is nobody without scars all over the legs and some other parts of the body. It’s either you climbed a tree, rode bicycle and some other things that at end of the day, you sustain injury.
There were always some risks which made mothers scared. But I think the most important thing that I used to consider to be a miracle then was how we survived. Imagine one with no knowledge whatsoever of something like tetanus and others and when one got wounds bleedings, we used to find sand and rub it on the wound to stop the blood from flowing with all the danger of possible infection. Sometimes one got infected and died and they then said it was Abiku. There were so many risks in those days. Then, we lived in a world of where we feared egungun. You know when they came out, it used to scare one. I remember growing up as a child was a game of luck; looking, running trying to get home after leaving Qur’anic school in case you suddenly met one egungun in a corner. I grew up here as a child in Offa. I didn’t start school until I was nine years and, even then, I went to school at that age as a matter of accident. I had a quarrel with somebody and one of my uncles that intervened to separate us told my father that the best thing to do was to allow me to go to Methodist School at Ode-Olomu. So from morning till about 2’00 clock you will be there, then from 2 0’clock you will be in Quranic School. By the time you came back by 6’o clock in the evening there would be no room for hanky-panky games.
How come you started school very late?
Because I was not supposed to go to school at all to start with. I am Omo Olofa, what do I want to do with school? Not many people were going to school at that time. Certainly, not Muslims. The Muslims were not going to school and you will see that up till 1940s-50s, all the educated leaders in Offa were Christians. A larger number of Muslims were not going to school. I just went as a matter of an accident. As a matter of fact, I shouldn’t have been admitted to the school at nine because there was a Ministry of Education’s regulation about being under or being over age. If your hand didn’t reach your ear across the head, you are under aged. If you grow up to certain height then you are too big. So when I was taken to school, the idea was that this one looked over aged. Then they begged the headmaster who asked for my age. When they said 1927, he responded that being too old the Ministry of Education would query us. So, he advised that they take three out of my age. They recorded my age as 1930. Meaning that I entered the school at six years; about the year that I should be in primary one. And I remember my first day in school. I thought it was like the Qur’anic school, so when they gave me the book-that is ABC with the ABDEE, then went to 1 2 and 3 at a time- I didn’t find anything difficult because I just read as we used to do in Qur’anic school and disturbed everybody else. The person I remember now clearly who was in the school with me at that time was Dr. Kola Olafimihan. We called him Lambe.
Why the name Lambe?
That is Abiku name. But I was there for only one year. More so, I was the only child of my father, mother and my two grandmothers. So, my mother for some reasons, was driven to think that I would be spoilt and that I was better off living with somebody else. Fortunately, our cousin, Papa Popoola was just coming out of St. Andrew’s College and was a teacher. So they said that I should go and be with him and he took me to Ede. When I got to Ede, I was faced with different types of discipline than I faced at home. At Ede, I read primary 1 and 2, then the Methodist Church Primary School, Esa-Oke till primary 4. To go further, one needed to go to another Methodist school at Ilesa which is Lapete. So I took the entrance examination and passed. But then, they sent for me from home to say that Isioye had nominated me for Offa Grammar School and that they were about to start. That is why I came back home and joined others as a foundation member of Offa Grammar School (OGS).
Which of the training between Offa, Ede and Esa-Oke impacted on you most?
Ede and Esa-Oke changed my life altogether. First, it interrupted my Quranic School education. Two, I came under more strict discipline and I had to do some domestic work. Then at Ede, I had somebody that was senior to me in the house but when we were in Esa-Oke, I was the most senior. The other person was my brother who later became Olofa Olanipekun. He came to Esa-Oke as a small boy to start infant class. There, I had to look after him as well as cook our food and some other things like that. Later in life, these became very useful for me because when I was in the university abroad, getting my own food ready was not a problem at all. I think I lived at cheaper rate compared to most people because I always had surplus money, even after I went to Durham University for post-graduate education. We had our own house and my wife was with me. I was the one doing most of the domestic works because she was expecting a baby and when the baby arrived, they told her not to do any hard work. So, I had to cook for them, which was very easy for me.
Sir, one would have expected that with your royal background, your passage through life and education would have been easily laid out with some edge but it’s like your growing up was like that of any other kid.
You know the environment of that time was a peculiar one. It was during the Native Authority. Offa did not benefit much in the set-up. Very few Offa people went to middle school and fewer went to higher school like Katsina Teachers College and some other schools like that. I think generally even at that time, Offa had always been an underprivileged minority. What they did of course was not totally bad because the typical Offa self-reliance arose from that. It was one of the things that gave birth to Offa Grammar School (OGS). For example, when they allocated space in the middle school-may be 30 people for the then Ilorin province which extended to Kabba-we will either get one or not get anything at all. But then, I heard of Oyediran, who was the first Offa graduate. He had a doctoral degree from Sierra Leone. You can imagine what we thought of him then. Of course, we had people who had gone to St. Andrew’s and came back- Rev. Olafimihan, Papa Popoola and others. These were the people who thought of Offa Grammar school as a solution to the number of people who would go to school and decided on the way forward. You will see that when the school was established, the influence of the church was very strong. The first set of teachers at Offa Grammar school was just coming out of Wesley Teacher’s College.
You know, we always felt disadvantaged in one way or the other and it had influenced us tremendously. And I think it turned out to be an advantage. For example, in the former Northern region as a whole, the chance of Offa person getting political appointment was almost nil. What then happened was that we tended towards areas where it was your competence that determines your progress. So we then went into engineering, medicine, education and so on. And by the time we got self-government in the North, you then discover that apart from Dr. Dikko we had Dr. Soleye as the most senior person as permanent secretary and others. You will see a lot of Offa people in all other technical areas. The printing press is largely Offa and Nupe people. In engineering, we are there. Later, Offa realized the advantage of private sector and then you find a lot of people going into accountancy and in all other technical areas. Some of the earliest accountants in Kwara State were Offa people. I am talking of people like Onawola, Omitayo, Oyeleke, and Adekanye. There are many of them. And the same thing in Kaduna.
Later, these shifted to Lagos where the commerce and the private sector were booming. Offa Grammar School prepared people for these opportunities. Even up to about 1960, if you see Offa people occupying highest positions, he is a product of OGS. So, that is how it happened. It is a response to the political and economic environment that drove us far and this awareness that we are a minority, unlikely to have a godfather. It drove everybody to do something. But there is also the native attitude of Offa people themselves that influences all of us as young people. You know, traditionally, Offa is small. Because of that they closely interrelate in one way or the other. So we have never quarreled with each other really in a serious way or grudged each other. But there is always competition. When Dr Soleye became a doctor, every family at the time wanted to have a doctor in the house. At a point, we had the highest number of medical doctors in this part of the country as a single community as we have professors across the globe today.
Offa people like competing but they do not grudge. If you build a good house, you will see Offa saying I will build a more beautiful house, better than that of your own and will really pursue the effort to do it in a serious and practical way. This is Offa people for you.
Offa people are really misunderstood. People who hate us say they are proud. But that is not true. We are not proud but very independent. Offa does not just take dictation without asking questions and so, they are misunderstood. Even when they accuse us of being proud they cannot substantiate it in terms of whether it is in terms of what we did to somebody else. Offa is not arrogant. As a matter of fact, generally we are humble. And it is because of our environment, because we are very close and we are driven by a tradition. As you know, the significance of Offa among the Yorubas as once the head of Ibolo-Yoruba people, is forever engraved in Yoruba history. Our sensitivity to fairness and justice, laare, which we demand from others as mas ourselves, is a well-known aspect of our cultural identity and also our social and political philosophy.
You know, tradition is stronger than law. For example, when we were growing up, the tradition we knew was that it was a bad thing to be a debtor and people look down on it. That is strictly an average Offa thinking. We find it difficult to borrow money even from the bank, even when he or she has good reasons and good project they want to execute.
Taken in another direction, if someone is based in Lagos and had no house in Offa, this is somehow shameful to Offa people. This is a kind of tradition that forced us to want to just move.
Sir, you were in the academics, I remember you left in the 70s. One would say you left at an age when you should still be contributing to knowledge. Could anything have been the problem at that time?
You are right. I shouldn’t and I didn’t want to because there is nothing I enjoyed more than being a teacher. I really enjoyed my work and I worked very hard both at my research and of course on my students. I love my students and I have excellent relationship with them till today. All the people who have come under me, any place where I show-up, they treat me as a king. And this is because of honesty, because money didn’t mean anything to me. Also, my taste in dress, food and all the things you call pleasure. I try to be humble in my outlook and I do not go for expensive things. I still find it difficult to return to it even now. So, as a teacher, I was not rich but I enjoyed the job. I don’t know may be you heard about these. After Oba Isioye returned and died and, after the enquiry, they then asked us to go and bring candidate for Olofaship. I turned it down. The reason was really that my work as a teacher was more important to me than that. But also, I think I didn’t see my life or rather, style of life tallying with that decision.
(Cuts in) Perhaps you want to talk more about this. How could you have refused Olofa’s throne?
I did, absolutely. My style of life does not fit sitting down in one place without moving. Being an Oba is not a pleasant thing, I don’t think so. You know they sent delegation after delegation. The family itself. Papa Oyeladun was the head of the family. He was the one to nominate who and when. They tried to get somebody before I came back. I changed it on the ground that the person they chose was not educated enough. Eventually, I was told to go and bring somebody. And Baba Oyeladun used to say “Eni ti Soba ba mu wa ohun ni ma a fi owo si” meaning “anybody that Soba nominated is the person I will endorse” His signature was very important and there was pressure on me to find somebody. You will think that this is very easy even though there were so many places to find a candidate. But it was not easy at all. I couldn’t find the correct person particularly after I’d dictated the criteria to be used: One, there is need for that person to be rich so that the palace which had so much deteriorated would be renovated and he wouldn’t ask us to contribute money to buy him car. He would be able to buy himself a car. The second condition I put was that the chap must be educated, so that what happened to Isioye, signing letter he couldn’t read will not happen again. Which was what got us into the mess with Isioye. And the third one is that let’s choose a young person so that he would be there for a long time.
It looked very easy as I said, but it wasn’t. We were on it for three weeks when Baba then gave me ultimatum that if in two days I could not get a candidate, he would put my name and sign it and whether I like it or not, I would become the Olofa. And that was the problem. I had to say in Offa for more days. It was very interesting that the day he gave that ultimatum, the man who would become Oba Olanipekun came to Chief Olawoyin’s house where I was sleeping at about midnight to tell me he was interested in being Olofa. Now, the point is that we had lived together as children with Papa Popoola. I then asked him whether he had money and he said he had money; he said he was rich; that when I get to the palace tomorrow I should tell anybody who wanted the position to bring 50,000 pounds that he would put his own down immediately. Then I said, “Have you got a car?” He responded he had a Mercedes Benz, Opel and he named something else again. And he had business- he was in tobacco distribution. Anybody who lived with Baba Popoola must be educated. And I didn’t know anything more because I left for Ibadan Grammar School and from there to United States. I hadn’t seen him for a long time and I thought this was a perfect solution. Though, we had other candidates even among my immediate family. I am Adeboye and he is Ariwajoye and there was another candidate from the Esuwoyes.
But a very interesting thing is that there was a candidate who was qualified by any standard but he never came to us in the palace and say he was interested. Instead, he was competing for the post through Chief Adewusi, the then Police Commissioner. It was military government time and he had influence with the military Governor. Then, there was another who was also vying but came through Aderibigbe, who was very influential with Bamigboye. The thing of course is the criterion required that only a candidate nominated by Baba Oyeladun could be considered even by Government. So there were other candidates but they were doing the wrong thing or they didn’t understand what we were doing about it.
What did you mean earlier on- inferring that tradition is stronger than law?
I made example that the average Offa person finds it difficult to borrow money; that the tradition in Offa is that debt is inhibiting and …..
(Cut in) Are we still holding on to this in this environment?
I don’t know whether you have gone out of it among your age group, but those of us who were born and steeped in it, we couldn’t get out of it. I have never found it easy to borrow money for anything. Even though after many of us realised the economics of it- that in fact, it is sometimes better for you because the interest you pay is much lower than the inflation rate, but there was this inhibition that I cannot be a debtor.
The same thing I mentioned to you about the fact that an average Offa man even though he knows that it makes economic sense to put his house in Abuja or Lagos where he would get higher rent, he will come and build at Offa first. There were so many other things that we do. There is tradition in Offa that has tremendous influence on what we are. I have never been able to look at an older person in the face and not kneel down when the answer to what he is asking is no, I will be going round and round. We were brought up in that tradition that an elderly person is an elderly person; that an elderly person is your father, that every elderly person is you uncle if you are in the same compound.
You have made a success of the boardroom. I know many of your colleagues, now retired would look at you with envy and probably regretting that they didn’t leave the service when you did. Can you relate this to the recent crisis in the service?
You know I didn’t finish the story of how I left the university but it is directly related to that. I came to be in the boardroom particularly because of a peculiar situation I found myself in Ibadan University. All I really wanted in life was to be a university teacher till retiring age. But then, I had to leave suddenly when I couldn’t cope with it in the sense that I came to Ibadan when it was part of London University tradition and the way of life. We had freedom to travel, express our views and we didn’t need anybody’s permission to write for newspaper for example to say something anti-government. Nobody in the university will query you for that kind of thing. Also, we became stuck to the tradition in the London University that the Senate runs the place and we run it through committees. The Vice-chancellor was not anybody’s boss. He was just the person who coordinated all committees. Suddenly, all these traditions that had made Ibadan University the envy of many other institutions came under military pressure by way of interference. And the funniest part of it, you know, started with the university refusing to give honorary degree to Haile Selassie. The government said “give him” and the Senate said “we have prerogative on whom to give”. To cut the long story short, we refused and Gowon was furious and he eventually told Ahmadu Bello University to give the man the honourary degree.
We refused on the ground that he was presiding over a nation that was so poor; that if you come out even during the day, you are besieged with swarm of beggars. What will be the citation for giving a man like that honourary degree of Ibadan University? But that was not the concern of the military government. An interesting thing is that Ahmadu Bello duly obeyed and gave the honourary degree of Doctor of Law and before he left Zaria he was deposed at home.
But the point was that out of that, they now started giving us regulation after regulation. The worst of it all was that we were now civil/public servants as they called it. Making us civil servants was unacceptable to many of us but not all of us were willing to do something about it. But I couldn’t stand it. The day we received the circular saying that from now on we’ve become part of civil service, that we cannot travel on conferences… things like that, without the permission of the minister of education, I said what nonsense, I turned the circular over and wrote my resignation letter on the back of it and gave it to my secretary. I was then already a professor of Geology. Then I went to my normal lecture. When I came back, the chap had not typed the thing and she said, “Aah you can’t mean it, sir” And I said, “When did I start joking with you, I gave you something to type and you will type it”. Then the chap burst into tears (laughs). When she calmed down, I told her I meant it. That was how I resigned.
When I got to the house and told my wife I had just resigned, she said, “What are we going to eat now” (laughs). So, I said God will provide. I said at least we can go to Offa, eat sweet potato and we all laughed.
But after she asked that question, I thought of it. What will I do for a living? In fact I didn’t need to worry. That was because I had been very active in the university and the public service generally. At that time, I was serving on federal boards, various boards and committees of the federal government. More than four or five. I was on Federal Capital Development Authority, I was on Science and Technology, then, Kaduna Refinery, then West African Examination Council, and I was chairman. You see, under their new law which I rebelled against and resigned, I will not be entitled anymore to get the regular allowances because now I’m only entitled to my travelling claims. So when I added all the boards’ allowances together it was even more than my salary. So we got on fairly well, reasonably well.
From there on, things started changing because then I had to set up my own company, as a consultant and from there on to other business that eventually got me into Guaranty Trust Bank.
A while ago, you talked about the trait of an Offa man and the spirit of competition; rivalry without grudges. Can we still say this of the present generation?
It’s in average Offa man, even if time is changing everything. You see, Offa is comfortable with competition. We imbibed and talked about it when we were small. As we grew up, one of the things that molded us of particular is wrestling. Our pastime is wrestling. You know, we’ve spoilt our town in many ways. One of these is that when you have about three or four compounds there would be one large open space called Ojude. We had one near us in our own Ile Akinale. We had Ojude Olomu at the back. We had Ojude Ajia on another side. Those are the spaces where our children would play in the night particularly when the moon was out.
Now, when you are wrestling and you are defeated, you go home, eat your pounded yam and sleep. There was no grudge in that. Now institutionally, I don’t know how it worked. All the evidence we can see, Offa is instinctively merit driven. They want the best. You see, there are two things in your life- which many of you don’t think about- We talk of Offa Omo Laare”. If you don’t Oba nii ko won loro. You know Laare means divide it equally. Anything you want to divide, divide it equally. You can write volumes on that because it also means giving equal opportunity to people. Having been given equal opportunity, accept the result.
Then we talk of Ijakadi loro Offa, the kind of Ijakadi they have in mind- which is the one on the ODU crest- puts two people wrestling in exactly the same posture without conferring advantage over the other. When you are gripping in that position and they say “go”, you must now use your brain to decide how to get that man down. You have equal chance with the other man and then the result shows the better person.
When our forefathers founded Offa Grammar school, even from the foundation admission, they brought people from Lagos, Ijebu and all the towns and villages around us. They didn’t say this school is only for Offa. But even better than that is the fact that some of you would probably experience Osanyin as principal. Osanyin as a principal would not admit somebody who did not pass the examination. He would use his entrance examination result in the order that they passed.
Now, Offa is at home with competition. If everything is fairly done… Osanyin was never queried in his admission policy because he would never look at anybody no matter how big you are. You will also remember that when Adelowo was there, it was the same. We had other Offa who were teaching in Kaduna or somewhere who could be principal and we gave them a chance. Chief Morounfola competed with Adelowo. There were so many other people who competed with him but Adelowo had an edge because he had masters or something in education from Oxford. Then he was coming from Olivet High School Oyo and, at that time, Olivet Oyo had one of the best results in this area. So we thought this is the man we should take. And when he was taken nobody queried anybody for not taking Offa man.
Offa at the time would always fish for the best principal. If he happened to be Offa, very good but if not, very good as well. There are very few people like that in our country you know, group of people who by natural instinct will do that. They are very few but if we have to do with Offa Grammar School what we did, we will still do that all over again. The reason is that we found that it was advantageous for us. Everybody from Offa who entered knew he passed the examination before he was admitted. He cannot tell it was because somebody spoke to the principal or the Olofa spoke to somebody. In later years, some of the none-Offa admitted to Offa Grammar School had more than average brain and other capacity. So that is why apart from Offa people who went to Offa Grammar School- we had Gen. Jemibewon, Gen. Akinriade, Oba Olashore etc- is it not very interesting that some of these people feel more strongly about Offa Grammar School that even some of our indigenes who took what we got from Offa Grammar School for granted.
Sir, still on his issue of rivalry particularly with regards to the long-festered Offa crisis some years back. True, rivalry is healthy but when grudges creep into the rivalry among the leaders it becomes unhealthy and that was what was attributed to that crisis. Do you believe so?
I think the interpretation is wrong. What happWetuation where the crisis was prolonged because all the Offa institutions for dealing with this kind of crisis failed. And the one that was particularly debilitating was the ODU failure. You see in a typical Offa traditional way of going about things, Olofa will never emerge to be controversial in anything that enters the town. He will not be a party in any controversy.
How would that work?
The institutional thing failed because the chiefs failed to maintain their status and insist that Olofa do things as dictated by culture.
Okay, if that one failed there was still an opportunity. We’ve had previous experience before. There is still the ODU. And typically, when two leaders in Offa are fighting, or had any misunderstanding with Olofa, usually ODU will come in. In fact they would hire one person from Kaduna, one from Lagos. They all were people highly respected and they would come to Offa to settle this matter. Sometimes they spent two days, sometimes three days, but they will settle everything before leaving, and everybody will accept their judgment.
But that one failed too, well because of Olofa became a party of the actual cause of the crisis. I wept because something touched me instinctively that there would be crisis and that we were not prepared to manage the crisis. Now, if the leadership didn’t fail, we would still be able to come out of it and stabilize Offa.
Do you have any specific regrets on the Offa crisis as it lingered?
Well, regret is a different type of word. Since then, I have been extremely sad that it happened.
Sir, I was at a Unilorin lecture where you delivered a paper and then talked about the leadership crisis at Offa. People’s reading of you at the venue was that they were probably seeing a new, re-invented Prof Oyawoye, so to say. Were they right?
No. That is not true. You see, what they should have said is that they were beginning to understand this Oyawoye because my own policies and principles remain unchanged. My background in Ibadan University as a teacher and as a scientist, when I am convinced of a principle, I don’t violate it, I don’t throw it away. Generally, I accept the thesis that Offa, being a minority, we must all work together and that has guided me in everything that I do. Even throughout that crisis, I never see a potential person that would contribute to Offa development and not warm up to him because of the day I will go to him and say bring money for this.
When I want to decide on any issue or anything, my instinctive question is: is it in the best interest of Offa? You see, as a university teacher, I react to situations based on the best interest of students which would also be in the best interest of the university. The same thing I do with respect to Offa matters. I said to some people and they were surprised, that there is no Offa doing something wonderful that I don’t like or won’t want to help to do better because my instinct tells me that it is in the best interest of Offa. So what had happened is that I had to take decisions which I believed were in the best interest of Offa but which other people didn’t agree to. But it is also normal. People might not necessarily agree on how things should be done. It was what we quarreled about; how you decide to go this way or that way.
What do you want to be remembered for?
That I was born at Offa; that I lived there till my last day. If there is anything I want God to do for me now, it is not long life but that whenever He is ready to take my life let it be when I will be in Offa, let it be here that I will be buried in the place that I have chosen. Source