Oyesina and sons
How IBHS’s old boys honoured Founder’s memory, vision
By Pelu Awofeso
I was invited by Taiwo Obe to handle the Facebook Live streaming for the 80th anniversary of the founding of Ibadan Boys’ High School. He had recommended me to the Publications/Publicity Committee, which he’s a member of. He himself had since 27 April been running the IBHSAt80 Page on Facebook.
This is how it all went.
Hours before the Old Boys’ Association of the Ibadan Boys High School would round off three days of events commemorating the school’s 80th year of founding, I visit the one-storey building in Oke-Bola where in 1938, the founder, Timothy ‘Lajide Oyesina, aged 34, taught the first set of pupils.
“There were just three boys at the onset and they sat over there,” Tunji Laditi, an old boy and a captain in the Nigerian Army tells me, pointing to a wooden door on the side of the building, padlocked. “It was more or less like a lesson at the time. The place was simply called ‘Ibadan Boys’ and that’s what everyone called it.
It would be years later that Oyesina would have enough money to buy land on which he built the first block of what was then the Primary Department of Ibadan Boys’ High School. Laditi adds that Oyesina was close friends with the late Premier of Western Nigeria Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who lived next door and with whom he discussed many things, including his vision of educating Ibadan’s young boys. For a boy to be admitted into primary one in those days, he had to put his hand across the top of his head and touch his other ear. “If you couldn’t, you were sent to standard one,” he says.
When Oyesina died in May 1975, he had established five additional primary schools and a commerce-oriented secondary school. “For my dad, it went beyond just setting up schools–it was a passion,” says Engr David Oyesina, the founder’s second son. “Education was a passion for him. Money was not the motivation. For him, It was allowing more children to get access to quality education. IBHS filled that gap in a remarkable way.”
So, it is no surprise that the thousands of students who have passed through the school over the past decades chose to honour Oyesina’s memory and vision in a remarkable way when the school turned 80. The three-day carnival was the marked by activities including the unveiling of Oyesina’s bust and the commissioning of projects funded by the school’s Old Boys Association, running into tens of millions of Naira: a new gate/gate house, elevated perimeter fence, paved driveway, a sick bay, ICT Room, an E-Library, boreholes and water reticulation, drainages and a multi-purpose sports court, among others.
At the commemorative thanksgiving (Cathedral of St James The Great) and Jamaat (Ansar-Ud-Deen Mosque) services, the officiating ministers praised the old boys’ thoughtfulness and commitment to seeing to it that their alma mater regains its lost glory.
However, some of the old boys’ interventions are intangible, chief of which is seeing to it that the school regained its original name after it was changed to T L Oyesina Boys High School by a previous administration.
“If that name had remained, we won’t be all here today celebrating, because we didn’t attend a school by that name,” says old boy and current Principal, Alhaji Abubakar Olasupo. “The old boys say that passing through the school in their formative years contributed a lot to their success in life and they are only giving a little back. If not for them the school would have gone into oblivion.”
Apart from that, the old boys have instituted various scholarships to indigent students. There is an existing scholarship funded by the Robert Okogie Foundation and a new one named after the late playwright Adebayo Faleti for Yoruba studies. Most recently, one of the old boys — Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) — footed the bill for 100 students to sit for both WAEC and NECO, which cost more than two million naira in total.
Over the three-day festivities, hundreds of the current students’ population, all wearing the trademark white-on-white uniform, revelled in the anniversary spectacle. With colourful commemorative badges pinned to their chests, they cheered every activity and danced jubilantly.
“Today is one of my happiests days as a student of IBHS,” says Senior Prefect Abdul Rahmon Moshud Olalekan, at the end of activities on Day One. “What our old boys have done makes us proud of the school and we are happy to have them as our old boys. We thank them very much and may God reward them abundantly.”
On the street and in surrounding communities, the mood is no different. Locals are awed by the newly redesigned gate and gatehouse, a telltale pointer to the developments going on behind the school’s walls. “Every time we pass in front of the school, we pray for the old boys who are responsible for the new look in and out,” says a resident riding past on a motorcycle. “It feels us with so much joy.”
The anniversary was attended by old boys from around the world, from all walks of life and from graduating sets as far back as 1940s. Pa Richard Olaitan Oyenuga, 96, believed to be the oldest old boy alive showed up with his wife. Some of the old boys were seeing one another for the first time decades after passing out.
As expected, there was a lot of surprised gazes, firm handshakes and warm hugs; there were the usual boyish banters and reminiscences of happenstances on the school premises. At the fundraising and awards night, to wrap up the celebrations references were made to Mr Akin S Laseinde, principal for 17 years, who would flog students on their backs and bottom. “If you move,” he would announce, “I will start all over again.”
The hall burst into laughter.
Then there was Iya Ayo Elewa, who sold beans behind one of the hostels and to whom the boys would always go to buy by scaling the school fence. It was delicious by all accounts. “If you did not scale that fence, then you were not a student,” says Journalism Teacher Taiwo Obe of the 1972/76 set and a member of Publications/Publicity Committee.
While the chemistry laboratory was being commissioned, an old boy screamed in excitement as he recalled standing over a white formica-topped table and titrating, while he stole glances at the boy next to him, who seemed to be getting the experiment right.
There were indeed more screams of excitements all around during the three days.