I sacrificed my civil service career for writing, says Adenubi


Her life is one filled with an admixture of drama, sorrow, excitement, love and fulfilment. While still under 50 years of age, Mrs. Mobolaji Adenubi, now 75, took a step many would consider too risky in her career-she decided to retire from the Federal Ministry of Education, where she was already an assistant director, to eke out living from writing!

And since then, she has stuck to writing.

According to her, building her civil service career, marriage and motherhood left her with little time to write. So, at some point, she had to pull the plug on her civil service career.

Adenubi says, “I retired voluntarily from the Federal Ministry of education as an assistant director to write.

I had been writing since my student days in Britain. The acceptance and broadcasting of my story, ‘Strange Encounter,’ by the BBC in 1965, encouraged me to continue with writing.

“By 1989, I felt the push to do more writing, having taken a two-week holiday at IITA, Ibadan, to write. I discussed my decision with my husband. He tried to discourage me from giving up my job, also because I was not yet 50. Nevertheless, I sent in a six-month retirement notice and left.”

By 1989, I felt the push to do more writ- ing, having taken a two-week holiday at IITA, Ibadan, to write. I discussed my decision with my husband. He tried to discourage me from giving up my job, also because I was not yet 50. Nevertheless, I sent in a six-month retirement notice and left

For this octogenarian, money cannot buy the satisfaction she gets from expressing herself in writing, which is definitely not a money spinner. This dyed-in-the-wool writer believes that the art is so fulfilling so much so that she will continue to indulge in it even to her dying day. Infact, writing gives her the reason to continue to enjoy life, inspite of the fact that her meagre pension from the Federal Government has not been paid since 2012.

Adenubi’s first published book, ‘Splendid,’ was written in memory of her late son, Wole, who battled with complicated life-threatening ailments till he breathed his last.

She says after he received the second dose of his triple vaccine, Wole developed high fever and was hospitalised after two weeks with suspected meningitis. He had hydrocephalus, infantile spasm, which later turned into epilepsy. He became spastic with mobility problems.

“In the end, at almost 11, we were told he had brain death.

“In the meantime, he had a shunt inserted in his brain to drain the cerebrospinal fluid out of it; his epileptic fits, which were never violent, were controlled by drugs; his Achilles tendons, abductor and hamstring muscles were elongated; his spasticity was managed mostly by physiotherapy. By the time he died, Wole spoke fluently, with good diction and formidable vocabulary.

He was able to walk although imperfectly and he performed well academically at the University of Lagos Staff School that the headmistress assured us in the third term that he would win a good performance prize at the end of the school year. He was in Class 4; he died at half term.

“Wole was an inquisitive, brilliant young boy. He confidently called himself a genius, which many of us thought he was. You must read the book!” Adenubi says.

However, the foreword of the book cataloguing her late son’s life was written by Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, which remains a thing of pride to Adenubi.

One interesting thing is that the octogenarian writer had yet to meet with Soyinka before the manuscript of ‘Splendid’ was taken to him by her husband’s colleague and family friend, who is now Professor Olaiya Soboyejo.

Talking about her childhood, Adenubi says she was an introvert and quiet to the extent that her elder sister , Afusa, would tell visitors that she could not speak. Afusa did the talking for her most of the time. But, she is quick to add that she had a very educative childhood.

“My father exposed us to books and reading. We visited the CMS Bookshop on many Saturdays and were allowed to buy as many books as we wanted, provided they were not duplicating any we already had. He discussed the contents of these books with us at lunch, whenever he was able to join us for meal. These books were stored in book cases and we checked them out as if in a library. He also made us to write essays for him, which he corrected and discussed with us. He gave those of us, who went to boarding schools, writing pads, envelopes and stamps with which to write home to him weekly, and he replied these letters weekly, too,” she recalls.

It is, therefore, not a surprise that Adenubi also wrote a book on her father entitled, “FS – FS, The Man and His Times,” using the letters he wrote to her over the years. She strongly believes that her interest and passion for writing developed from those exercises given by her father while growing up.

A year after her f a t h e r died in 1936, her mother, Safu, married her father’s nephew, Folorunso. In the Yoruba traditional arrangement, the author of ‘Splendid’ says the deceased’s wife and children would be taken care of by his family.

“At this time, Folorunso was a medical student at the Yaba Higher College, Lagos. Folorunso was my mother’s second husband and I am their second child and daughter. I was born in Massey Street Hospital in Lagos on Monday, December 15, 1941, to Dr. Folorunso and Safu Salawu.

Folorunso qualified as a medical doctor in September. My paternal grandmother, Shanuola, gave me the name Mobolaji, which means born into wellbeing,” she says. Although she was one of her father’s 18 children, they did not get to live together. She explains that the older ones had the opportunity to travel abroad even before the younger ones were born.

“But somehow, my father, who was fondly called FS, lived with only two wives at a time and my mother remained one of the two until she died in 1975, leaving Tamu, the last and only wife.

“I was close to my parents, but when I came home on holidays, I always worked with my father in the consulting room or wherever I was needed, because he paid me at the end of the month. My mother claimed that whatever work I did with her was for my good in the future,” she adds.

In 1959, Adenubi travelled to England by ship, MV Aureol. Before going abroad to further her education, she went to St. Teresa’s College, Ibadan, for her secondary education, and Mingle End, in Great Shelford, outside Cambridge, for her “A” Level Examinations. For her tertiary education, she went to the University of Reading in 1961.

Reliving her stay in England, she says her father had arranged everything in pleasant ways for her and her sisters. “My experience in Britain was pleasant throughout because my father had found us an English guardian, Mrs. Ethel Murley, and we lived with her as a family.

I simply joined my sisters, Afusa and Sheri, who had gone ahead of me to Britain, because I chose to finish in St. Teresa’s College. I lived in a hall of residence, Mansfield Hall, at Reading University and I even joined the Operatic Society in my first year, when we put up the Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard.

Adenubi also discloses that while at Stanford University, a doctor asked her to try swimming, when she had a back pain and she registered at a community college for swimming lessons twice a week.

“As soon as I learnt to breathe while swimming, I made good progress and was even introduced to swimming in the deep. Later, I took two units of swimming at Stanford, when I had some free units, to improve on my swimming skills,” she says.

When she returned to Nigeria in September 1966, she started working at the Child Guidance Clinic in Yaba, Lagos, as the school social worker. It was a unit then under the Federal Ministry of education. But with the creation of states, it was later moved to the Lagos State Ministry of Education.

“In 1969, I traveled out again with my 10-month old daughter to California to join my husband, who was working for his Ph.D in mechanical engineering. I was admitted into the Graduate School of Education there and worked for my master’s in Social Foundation of Education. My husband completed work on his programme and we all returned home in 1972. I applied to the Federal Ministry of Education and I was employed as a lecturer at the then National Technical Teachers’ College, now the Federal Technical Teachers’ College, Lagos,” Adenubi recalls.