I met my wife on a molue after she asked for space to sit –Adubifa
Eighty-five-year-old retired civil servant and water consultant, Mr. Olusola Adubifa, shares the story of his life with TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN
Where and when were you born?
I was born on February 23, 1933 in Lagos in a popular maternity home on Lagos Island. I am the first out of seven children. I am a native of Ogun State, born to the family of a Methodist church minister and a nurse.
Tell us more about your parents.
My father was a very lucky man, being the first to receive formal education. He started school at the age of 12 in a very funny way. He saw some schoolchildren matching to school and he joined them. On getting to school, the teacher gave them sugar and told all of them to return the next day. That was how he started school. There was an ifa (oracle) divination about him when he was born that he would be greater than his siblings, but he would never build a house. That was exactly what happened.
He went with two of his friends and they all became pastors in the Methodist church in Ikenne because that was where he was born. He became a catechist, minister and on and on like that. He ministered in many places like Imesi-Ile, Ilesa, Itagun and many places in Ijesha land. That is why most of my friends are Ijesa because we stayed there for long.
My mother on the other hand was a nurse trained in a Roman Catholic hospital in Abeokuta, Ogun State. She was a very good mother. Even our education, despite being missionary-based, could be mostly attributed to her. She ensured that we all got educated. If you look at most families, mothers play a huge role in the life of the children. By the time Chief Obafemi Awolowo came with his free education programme in 1956, I was already in secondary school.
Can you give details of your educational background?
I attended many primary schools because my father was constantly transferred as a pastor. I attended Imesi-Ile Methodist School, Osu Methodist School and Elekuro Wesley College practising school, Ibadan. I left there to Igbobi College, Lagos, after the entrance examination which I passed well. As of then, my family was in Ibadan, Oyo State. Many boys of my age, who attended the school, got good education and there are many people from the school, like Nigeria’s current vice-president (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) who is also my cousin.
My mother ensured that I went to England for further studies. Not many young people like me had the opportunity to school in England. My mother had to stretch herself financially to ensure that I went to England and I am glad I didn’t let her down. I studied Physics at the London University. After I returned home, I took up a teaching job before I got a two-year scholarship to Australia to study meteorology and engineering hydrology.
What age did you start school?
In those days, your right hand had to touch your left ear across your head to be admitted into school. I think the reason for that is to ensure that one was mature enough to start school. In a way, the teachers thought physical growth should precede mental growth. But the disadvantage was that people entered school rather too late.
Fortunately for me, I entered school at age six because of my parents’ support. My father was a minister in the church and was very friendly with the headmaster. He took me to the headmaster. I still remember I sat on the headmaster’s table and they took a photograph of me. I spent eight years in primary school.
Would you consider yourself an intelligent student?
Let me just say that I was only fortunate. For instance, the teaching job came through my father who was a minister in the Methodist. The church needed science teachers who would be trained, I applied and it was during my teaching career that the opportunity to travel to Australia came.
Did you return to your teaching job after your returned home?
No, but teaching was always part of me. I didn’t return to teaching fully. Like I said, I studied Hydro-meteorology. I went into water resources. I was in the civil service and I also operate as a consultant. I was doing that until I was invited to be the commissioner for water resources in Ogun State. That was a very huge responsibility. Unfortunately for me and perhaps for Nigeria as well, the military came up with a coup and took over from the civilians (when please?).
We neither supplied water nor drained. The law is that whenever you are supplying water, you must drain the waste water. Just like when you open the tap in the kitchen sink, there is a channel to drain the water; it’s an engineering thing. But it’s sad we are not developed in that aspect.
What did you do after the military coup toppled the government where you served as a commissioner?
Nothing much, I simply went back into my consultancy job. I was working with many engineers and I believe that I was fulfilled in life.
How would you describe education in Nigerian then and now?
The educational standard is not what we think it should be and it is very sad. Up to a point, the standard of education was ordered by the government and the missionaries ensured that the standard was high. Books were readily available. In primary school, we did arithmetic and in secondary school, the standard was okay. In my time, the standard was very high. I can still tell you some of the topics we treated in primary school. We did proportions and fractions. We didn’t do decimals but once you know fractions, you know decimals.
I remember when I sat for the entrance examination into Igbobi College, Lagos, the white lady, who was the principal, came to my school that she wanted to know the student who solved a particular problem. She commended me and told me I did well in my entrance examination. I remember when I carried my bag on my head with nobody to escort me to school; my parents only told me to do well and I did really well.
How much was your first salary?
The first money I earned as a graduate from my first teaching job was 69 pounds. Life was way better back then.
How would you compare employment then and now?
They are incomparable. Then, once you finished from school, jobs were waiting for you. When I completed studies in England and I returned home, I was told to resume the following week at Methodist High School, Ibadan. But now, there are no jobs; graduates would have to do a lot of odd jobs.
How did you meet your wife?
That is a very interesting one. I was travelling from Lagos to Ibadan. I went to collect my luggage from the airport. I boarded a bus (molue). I was seated in front and I heard a voice from behind that said, “You people are a nuisance.” I had to look back to see who was talking and she asked me if there was space beside me. Although there was no space, I told her that there was a space and she managed beside me.
I tried to start a conversation and we chatted from Lagos to Ibadan. In the course of our conversation, I discovered that she knew those I knew. When it was time to pay the fare, she wanted to pay her fare and begged me not to pay, but a man, who was listening to our conversation, pleaded with her to allow me pay. That was how I paid her fare not knowing that I just paid my wife’s transport fare.
How did you keep contact with her?
I got her address. I usually rode bicycle to see her at the University of Ibadan where she was studying medicine. There were no phones but we made good use of what we had then.
When did you marry?
We got married in 1965. The most difficult decision I had to make after our marriage was travelling to Australia because I had to be separated from my wife for two years. She gave birth to our first child while I was away. While I was away, I handed over my salary to her. She was the one receiving my salary while I was living on the scholarship fund. My mother was not so pleased with it. She wondered why I would leave my salary to a wife who could leave me at any time. But my wife was such a good woman and she would give my mother part of the money for whatever thing she needed to buy. I am glad that they got along very well.
Did your mother’s career have an influence on your choice of a wife?
No. In fact, my mother didn’t know my wife was a doctor until the day I introduced them to each other. The only thing my mother wanted was that I married an Ijebu lady and fortunately, I did.
How many children did the union produce?
We have three children, all alive and doing well. I have one male and two females. They are all overseas at the moment. My son works abroad. He is married and based there with his family. My first daughter stays in Nigeria but currently on vacation abroad, while my last born is also based abroad.
Daughters are usually more sympathetic; they check up on one from time to time but the son is always busy attending one programme or the other. They are the ones who find time to stay with their parents, especially their fathers. But they have all been good children.
Did any of your children follow in your career path?
None! None of them is also into medicine which I really would have loved. The one who wanted to go into teaching said she wouldn’t be well paid.
What is the happiest moment of your life?
That is a very difficult one to answer. Of course, my wedding day was one of such days. I really enjoyed the trust, love and companion of my wife. I won’t say that was the happiest day of my life. I have had a lot of happy moments in life.
What was the saddest day of your life?
That was the day my wife died. Although she had been sick for a while, but we had continually prayed that she came through but unfortunately, she didn’t make it.
What was the nature of the sickness?
In medicine, it is known as osteoporosis (withering of the bones). That was the first time I heard about that.
At 85, how do you feel?
Honestly, I feel ready to go. If God calls me today, I will gladly go.
If your wife were to be alive, would you have said the same?
I would have, maybe, because I had always told my wife that I should go first since I am almost 10 years older than her. But she always told me anything could happen.
What do you miss the most about her?
Her company; we have been together for a long period of our lives. I really miss her company. The fact that I was always trying to remember whatever she asked me to buy for her. She would tell me to buy certain things when coming home and I would forget. She would then question me. One day, I went out with our son and left him with a family friend. When I got home, my wife asked me where her son was and I had to quickly rush back to pick him up. That was when she understood that I usually didn’t deliberately forget whatever she asked me to get for her.
Who was stricter with the children between you and your wife?
I was stricter with the boy than the girls. In fact, I never beat my girls with a cane but I would give the boy a stroke of the cane whenever he offended.
I believe because of this, he wasn’t so close to me as a child unlike the girls. They were my good friends. It was when he grew a little older that he started communicating with me properly.
What was your position in the civil service before you retired?
I withdrew from service. I didn’t retire. In my department, we had meteorologist I, meteorologist II, senior meteorologist and principal meteorologist. I withdrew at the stage of a principal meteorologist before I could move to the position of an assistant director and director.
Why did you withdraw from service?
I withdrew because I felt I had worked enough. I had built my house and my children were all grown up. What more do I want? I was still doing my consultancy job and I had more time with my family.
Did you write any book on your field?
I authored books on physics, mathematics and further mathematics, but operational mathematics was included in secondary school curriculum which I considered too vague because I do not see the correlation. Operational research is a course for a bachelor’s degree or even postgraduate. However, the books were eventually published.
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