Monday 3 December 2012

Oba Sunday Ajiboye: This first class royal father sat for GCE O/L as king!

He is a perfect symbolism of the acclaimed 'can do' Nigerian spirit. His life is a testimony of the basic principle of life that with determination, man can achieve anything. His life story embodies the maxim that nothing is impossible for the willing heart. All these virtues, and many more, cooperated together to make the life of Oba Sunday Ajiboye, a lawyer-turned-first class king, the Onisan of Isan Kingdom in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, sparkle like diamond. An award winning author, the royal father stood tall recently as President Goodluck Jonathan bestowed him with the national award of Member of the Federal Republic, MFR.

A classical zero-to-hero story, Oba Ajiboye, as a child, had a long-running battle with poverty and a terrible sickness that stunted his growth and almost deformed him, threatening his future. Although many were the childhood afflictions of the royal father, he overcame them all. After becoming Oba, he had to endure school life to bag his Master's degrees and later qualify as a lawyer. He never allowed royalty to jeopardize his childhood desire of becoming a lawyer. Now, he wants to surpass his own expectation, and raise the bar for himself. "I want to have a PhD in Law," he tells ICON when asked his yet-to-be fulfilled ambition.

Born close to 60 years ago, the monarch, as a young boy, had to stop his education after his elementary school which he started in Ikere-Ekiti, rounding it up at his homestead, Isan-Ekiti, also the home town of the state's governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

Since his poor parents could not afford the meager fees required for his secondary education, he dropped out and reverted to the farm for a period of time. When the fortunes of the family picked up a little, he returned to school, Ajayi Memorial Modern School, Ayede-Ekiti, near his town. He worked for a brief period before proceeding to Ekiti Divisional Teachers Training College, Ikere, "which was free, being under the Universal Primary Education Programme (of the ruling Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, in the old Western Region)." And because trainee-teachers were also being paid N80 monthly at the time, he was able to save enough money to enroll for his General Certificate of Education, GCE.

After scaling that hurdle, he taught for three years in a secondary school before proceeding to the College of Education, Ilorin, Kwara State, for his National Certificate of Education, NCE, in English and Fine Art. "I taught for a while after this before I proceeded to the University of Ilorin to study English Language/ Educational Technology," Oba Ajiboye says. "I was already on the throne when I went to the then Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife for my Master's Degree in Education Administration and Planning.

"I put my crown in the palace, with all the paraphernalia of office, to pursue my Master's Degree programme at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. After my Master's Degree, I started pursuing my PhD but having been faced with local politics in the university among the lecturers, I had to leave. Despite my chain of degrees, I had no job satisfaction because it appears I had not reached my destination."

In 1999, he enrolled for Law at the University of Ado-Ekiti, now Ekiti State University. That initial attempt ran into a brick wall. But after concluding all registration procedure, he was told pointblank that he could not continue.

"I was screened out as having not qualified to read law," he says. "Professor Akin Oyebode just said 'Kabiyesi, I've seen and admire all your series of degrees. But, I'm sorry, this faculty cannot admit you to read law because you are deficient in mathematics. You didn't pass mathematics and mathematics is a prerequisite for any intending student who wants to read law in this faculty.' That was how he quietly returned my credentials to me and said 'bye-bye, good luck.'

"In all, we were 12 that were turned back. The remaining 11 decided to go to court but I refused to go to court even though I felt cheated because mathematics was not advertised as a pre-requisite when the form was being sold. Even mathematics was not specified as a prerequisite in the JAMB Brochure. I decided not to go to court because since he is the Vice-Chancellor of the University, and the founding father of the Faculty of Law, he knows best.

"In 2000, with all degrees, I went back to write my mathematics O/level. One funny thing about the whole episode is that, eight of those teachers who supervised me when I was writing that O/Level exam were my students at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ikere Campus. I can't forget that. They were taken aback when they saw me. Some wondered why, with my personality, I was sitting with them to write O/level mathematics while some others were saying that 'could this mean that this Kabiyesi (his majesty) was not qualified to teach us, or what?

"In fact, one Mrs. Olayisade from WAEC, whose husband was also working in WAEC office in Akure, said 'Baba why don't you leave the rest of the exam for your children?' But immediately she recognized who I was, she knelt down, right there in the exam hall. Every candidate writing the exam started looking at her. So, after finishing that examination, all the teachers converged to greet me, to extol my determination. To God be the glory, when the result came out, I passed brilliantly.

"So, I my mathematics and other papers back to Professor Akin Oyebode to show that I had passed the deficient paper. He shook my hand and said, 'this is the type of person I am looking for in this University.' So, I was offered admission to study Law. I read Law and passed with second Class Lower. I went to Law School and eventually I was called to bar. Still, I wasn't satisfied with LLB, BL, so, I pursued LLM. Again, to God be the glory, I have finished my LLM (laughs)."

Moral? Never say 'never'! And when there is a will, there is a way.

"Once you are determined in life," the royal father enthuses, "there is nothing you will not be able to achieve. When there is a strong will to achieve, the sky will not be the limit, it will be your stating point. I believe in honest hard work. I teach my children the virtues of honesty and hard work. I used to tell them that if, for instance, I want to read medicine now, I can go back to JSS 3 and pick-up all the sciences and still go back to read medicine. There is no age limit. This is what I keep telling them. Education is what you acquire from the day you came into this world till the day you say bye-bye to this world. It is a continuous exercise. I am still planning to go for PhD in Law. Now, I am a student of the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, undertaking a M.Sc. programme in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution"

Oba Ajiboye is not done. He shares more life experiences with this correspondent.

Childhood experience

He continues by adding up all his childhood experiences together, concluding, "I am a child of destiny."

"I am the fifth child of my mother," he recounts. "All those children that were born before me died. My mother told me that for four years I was unable to talk, unable to speak, unable to crawl and unable to speak. Neither did I walk for good four years. I was crawling like snake when they were battling with this problem. They didn't even think of having another child, especially my mother. Although at a point, they had to abandon me, and put me into the latrine and lock the door so that they could have the opportunity of having another child. But my mother refused. They won't do it. It was the father our present Governor, the late Pa F. Fayemi, that really rescued me.

"My mother also went to him at Iwo in Osun State for help. He helped a lot. It was him that sponsored me because as at that time, my father insisted that he couldn't spend a dime on me again. So, the late Pa F. Fayemi took me to a Catholic Hospital in Iwo then, and told me it was one Dr. Scott that diagnosed me and discovered what was affecting me. I was operated perfectly and it was this man (Pa Fayemi) that paid the hospital bill and my mother was with me until the operation healed up. I could perfectly remember a day when my mother did not have palm oil to cook soup. It was shear butter ('ori' in Yoruba language) that was used. She also boiled cow blood and used it as meat. So, I did not enjoy life when I was young, but God who created me knew what I would become in life, that's why he preserved me. I didn't dream of becoming an Oba then but everything has been pre-destined."

As an Oba, a lawyer, and a person with degrees in others fields, how does he see his national award? I ask the unassuming and amiable monarch. His reply comes automatically. "Well, I thank God," he says. "Some people use to say, 'as an Oba and a lawyer, do you want to go to court to practise or you are just wasting your time?' But I say, there is utility in all these things.

"When you have the intellectual power, wherever you find yourself you will be useful. For instance, I have not been found wanting among my friends. I have been able to represent the state at both national and international levels. Because of that utility, I have been appointed into many committees to represent the state, the traditional council and other groups. Therefore, the award is the Lord's doing. And I must thank God they said this award was given to me due to my contributions towards the upliftment of Nigeria, my state and my community."

How many are in Kaiyesi's harem?

"I'm a traditional man as you know," he says. "That is one area of my private life that I cannot discus publicly. I have Oloris and I have children, but I can't tell you the number."

What about his social life? How does he wind down? Does he belong to any social club?

His words: "As I told you earlier on, I came from a poor family. So, the idea of going to social functions was not just there, because I was then married to my father's farm. Again, the curriculum of teachers training college would not allow these social activities. And (on-campus) political activities were not in the teachers training curriculum. So, for you to bring in all these things, you have to work extra hard to be on the best track of teachers training. So, I had little or no opportunity to join any social club."

As an Oba, who was also a student, how did he find campus life?

"After my enthronement," he says, "I left for Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, for my post graduate studies. And as a first class Oba, I was anxious to attain the peak academically. So, I decided to hide myself. Onisan has, from ancient days, been one of the 16 paramount rulers in Ekiti. I was not just promoted. No. I decided to help myself. I was given a room at the post graduate hall, but I wouldn't know how Baba (Oba Sijuade, the Ooni of Ife) got to know. Anyway, the Ooni of Ife got to know that I was there and he sent for the Vice Chancellor, and told him that there was an August visitor in his school. That there was one important and highly placed Kabiyesi. So, the VC had to look for me.

"So, I was going to fetch water from a story building down, lifting

buckets with my shorts, I didn't allow anybody to follow me because I felt this was what I should be doing. It's supposed to be part of my training. So, I got to the room, the VC knocked the door and said they were looking for the occupant of the room. I said 'hope there is no problem?' And he said they were looking for the Kabiyesi living in this room. I pretended as if I didn't know what they were saying. But I couldn't hold it for to long. I buckled and I asked: 'what can I do for you?'

The VC was prostrating as he said: Ha Kabiyesi, the Onisan! He actually prostrated, saying: Kabiyesi. He became worried. He said: how could Ibe doing this? I had white singlet on, and white cap on my head. And I said well, since I am here to read, I must bury my pride. I must put all the paraphernalia of the office of the first class Oba somewhere in the palace so I could concentrate on what I am here for: a serious academic endeavour. That is it. So, he said Baba wanted to see me, and he would want to take me to Baba's office. I said 'no problem'. So, we went to Baba; and when I saw him, Baba embraced me. He was genuinely concerned. He asked if he could relocate me to a comfortable place. With all respect and humility, I said I was comfortable where I was; that I would be coming to greet him. So, I went back to my hostel. I kept myself seriously busy there, reading day and night, to ensure that I succeeded in what I went for. That's it.

Now when I went to the University of Ado-Ekiti, now Ekiti State University, to read Law, the course was very, very difficult. I found Law somewhat difficult, so I had to double my efforts, reading round the clock. So, that is what I was faced.

Law School was a different ball game. I have one or two problems when I went to Law School. Why? It is forbidden for me to open my head. In Law School, you must open your head. You must put on your tie. You must wear your shirt and every other thing. When you are called to Bar, you must put on your wig. So, for two or three days, I was not allowed for lectures. And when you are in Law School you have very limited number of days that you can be absent before you can be allowed to write the exam. If you are absent more than 20 days in a year, you will not be permitted to write the exam. Whenever you are going for lecture 8:00a.m., you will sign in. Whenever you are coming out 4:00p.m., you sign out. And the daily register is always kept with the officers, and it goes on and on like that. And you cannot beg anybody to help you sign because they will continue to verify your signature.

So, it was this Director-General, Chief Abayomi, that helped me so they allowed me. So, I was only person that was allowed to put anything on his head. So, all my fellow students, more than 3,000 of them, whenever I was coming in, they got to know me as an Oba.

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