Looking energetic and healthy, Pa Olajide Akinyebo still engages in activities that belie his age. But at 86, it is his opinions on recent political events in Nigeria that show that he is not in anyway slowed down by age, as he remembers the qualities of the 1st republic politicians in the expectation that the new generation leaders will emulate them.
Recollecting how integrity and other socio-economic values were upheld when ‘men were boys’, the octogenarian said: “Before I left Nigeria in 1960, thing were done accordingly. Leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Sir Tafawa Balewa among others were interested in the growth of the country. There was also healthy competition among the three major regions in terms of development, agriculture and infrastructure.
“In those days, the three regions paid attention to the progress of one another and they were challenged positively. When the western region started the planting of rubber trees that have destroyed now, the eastern region followed too. Once you look at the economic situation of Nigeria today, you will know that the people governing us lack knowledge of the right thing to do.
They are confused and self-centered. If somebody goes for a three-week seminar and he becomes a senator, what do we expect from such a person?” The way forward, according to him, is to have core professionals in governance and not mediocre like the once we have in power presently. “If it were to be in the past, the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki would have resigned. Our leaders do not really care about integrity, they are desperate to be in power to amass wealth at the expense of the masses.
“And the leaders do not want to give other people the chance to rule and make positive impact; they want to be there forever and it is very wrong.”
He challenged the people in power and everyone to revisit how Nigeria was being run at a time.
“We should not rely on any foreigners to fix our country. All we need to do is to help ourselves and understand the root of our problems. In PHCN, the money people pay for bills are being squandered. The percentage of people that are not paying electricity bills is higher than those that are paying. We are not seeing the benefit of the tenement rate the government is collecting,” he added.
He also questions the morals parents teach their children nowadays, lamenting that they do not instill enough discipline in them.
“During our days, in schools, we had what we called black book and many students were cautious of it. Although, we had people who still went against rules, it was minimal. Today’s children do not even have fear for authorities or parents. Then, they would whip and detain students in the school premises till after school hours, but no one does that again,” Pa Akinyebo said.
Born in Iperu Remo, Ogun State, on October 2, 1931, he was not encouraged by his parents to go school. He opens up that his parents were not well educated and they wanted him to join their trade at the Obafemi market.
“My mother was selling stationeries, while my father was selling gunpowder to hunters in the village. When I wanted to resume school, my father did not buy into the idea,” he recalls.
But, Pa Akinyebo said that his mother was willing to make sacrifices for him to get quality education because some of her friends’ children were already in school.
After the sudden death of his father on July 25, 1947, his mother relocated to Iperu, Ogun State. For him, he says his brother took him to Baptist Grammar school, Ilesha, Osun State.
“I have always had interest in education. I read all the Yoruba books. On December 1948, I started standard 1 at Baptist School Grammar School.”
But when they moved to Lagos, the Olowogbowo area of Lagos Island, it meant he would have to move to another school.
He narrates, “We were living at Bankole Street in Olowogbowo, Lagos Island. After going through some tests at Edward B l y d e n Memorial Institute in 1949, I was admitted straight into standard 3. When the school was moved to another place in 1950, I changed to Ereko Grammar School for my standard 4. I finished in 1953.”
LIFE AS A TEACHER
In January 1954, Akinyebo was employed as a teacher at Ansa- UD-Deen Primary School in Idi Oro, Mushin, Lagos. At that time, he discloses that he was earning 25 Pounds 5 Shillings. He added, “I later switched to a government school, Methodist Primary School, at Agbowa Ikosi, when free education was introduced.”
In November 1954, he embarked on a mission to improve himself. After the training, he then joined St. Judes Primary School at Ebute Meta where he worked for four years.
Along the way, his girlfriend urged him to travel to London. By then, most of his colleagues had gone to a training college for teachers. He confessed that he was not shortlisted because he failed.
He added: “I vowed that that when they get back from the two years training course, I would have gone to London. I got a passport and took it to my principal. I had already saved some money from the daily contribution he coordinated. I was saving 10 Pounds from my 15 Pounds salary and also did private lessons for the children of policemen.” But his teaching career ended the moment he stepped out of Nigeria for London.
“I studied estate management at the West London College and later became a chartered surveyor. Afterwards, I worked with Board of Inland Revenue and I finally moved back to Nigeria in 1973.”
HOW HE MET HIS LOVE
Pa Akinyebo, speaking on where he met his wife, Victoria Ebunola, says it was along Yaba road, Lagos, in 1957.
“We were married in 1966 in London and she died in 1999, my birthday precisely. She was with the Lagos state government as a typist. All my four children were born in London.”
Though, he is from a Muslim background, he is now a proud member of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On getting to Nigeria in 1973, he recalls that many things had changed. According to him, the economy of the country he left behind, was very good and stable.