[I do not want January to pass before using this essay, though a bit belated, on the 10th anniversary of its first airing which was on January 5, 2003 – a date that was the 100th anniversary of St. Andrew’s College. The Comet on Sunday for which I wrote weekly essays at the time, generously granted me a full page on request but even in spite of that wide room to roam, I had to compress paragraphs which placed often unrelated ideas in the same para. Those paragraphing errors have been corrected on this personal platform. I’ve also added (in parentheses) information that are necessary for this blog’s many readers who reside outside Nigeria and are non-Nigerians – to understand and enjoy the essay better. Thanks, Tola. January 18, 2013.]
A pleasant, safe and very happy new year to us all.
This is a book review, (of sorts) History of the Premier Institution in Nigeria, by T.A. Ogunkoya, a former student, a book which was published by the University Press Limited in 1979. I said “of sorts” because it is intended as a tribute to St. Andrew’s (hereafter referred to as Oyo); there are also information from facts outside the book because a look at Oyo is really a look at Nigeria’s educational, historical and colonial past. Those extraneous facts are referenced here.
A short note on the author. Ogunkoya, was Principal, Ijebu Muslim College, Ijebu-Ode and later, Founder/Principal, Prospect High School, Abanla, Ibadan. The author did not wake up one fine morning and tell himself that “I must get a book written on my revered alma mater so that I can make a bundle!” After all, in the manner of this era, Andrians would have flooded the “launching” at which zillions would have been realized. Reading through the book, one would find an old boy in love and awe of his educational cradle. “The completion of writing the history of the college” in his words “was assigned to me” during the 20th Reunion in 1976.
Even though Oyo, a successor institution, had been founded much earlier at Abeokuta (we’ll get back to it) in the fourth decade of the 19th Century, it was in “January 1903 that the first reunion of old students was convoked.” If there is a Nigerian institution that is loved by its old students AND the public at large, it has to be Oyo.
I must say right here that I believe that by the time the late Canon Akinyemi (father of Professor Bolaji) retired from principalship of his alma mater, damage to its effectiveness through government interference, was well on its way. Popular as mission schools’ bashing is these days especially since the military era, successive Nigerian governments have piggybacked their ways into whatever little success they have achieved on Christian mission schools before turning education to its present shambles and the road turned cratered. Oyo, (and therefore Nigeria’s educational foundation) was made possible through missionary work and the generous cash donations of philanthropists like “the Misses Emily and Serah Gardom” of England.
There is hardly any educated Nigerian who has not been touched by Oyo, and I make that statement with a sense of responsibility. As the List of Students from 1896-1978 appended to the book shows, there were non-Yoruba entrants despite the school’s location in the heart of Yorubaland as far back as 1901 when Eastern Nigeria’s A. Onyeabo matriculated as Student Number 39, and L. Nze as Student Number 51. Of seven students admitted in 1908, three were non-Yoruba: Okiwe, Mbanego and Olali while there was an A. Miller, Number 90, 1906 (I’m sure of ‘The’ Millers of the North). The Niger Province area was already represented by A.A. Spiff, Ibeneme, Mafe and Dimieri (later Bishop) by 1908.
Here are some great names in Nigerian educational arena, Andrians, all. I’ve put the two that I know to be living first but beyond that, there is no order:
Oga(s) Alayande and Omigbodun (principals of my better half both of whom entered in ’29); Ogunkoya (author of this book); Bishop A.B. Akinyele; Odujinrin; Awokoya; Efunkoya; Canon Adeyemi, 1898 (founded Ondo Boys’ High School, and the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, was named after him); Imoukhuedes; Canon Banjo; Odukunle; Lafimihan (JBP); Ajasin and Adeniran (SF). This list is not exhaustive because I am hampered by age – too young (!) and I’ve only listed names heard in my youth.
Okay, none of these gentlemen touched your lives?
There were Andrian ‘travelling tutors: my father-in-law, [the late Ataoja of Osogbo, Adenle I] worked as one in then far away Benin, and my oldest brother [late N.K. Adamolekun, first Nigerian Registrar of Nigeria’s premier university], taught at Sabongidda-Ora (Holy Trinity Gramms).
May be an Andrian founded and headed your school or the school that a relation or your teacher attended? Here is a list: RSS [Remo Secondary School]; Molusi College, Ijebu-Igbo; Imade , Owo; Urhobo College, Warri; Osogbo Grammar School; Ijebu Muslim College; Oduduwa College and Kiriji Memorial College.
Oyo also educated many crowned royal heads of an era long gone: Ewi of Ado, Oba Aladesanmi entered in ’24 and was ‘fag’ (go-fer) for Ataoja Samuel Adenle! Ogoga of Ikere and Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo [died in the 50s plane crash] were also Andrians.
On a personal level, the List of Students almost reads like a list of names from my religious and educational backgrounds as well as family connections. A beloved teacher who got me interested in singing and Music in Primary School (Adefila, died 1958) matriculated in 1954. Much earlier in 1920, my father-in-law, as earlier noted Oba S.A Adenle, and the Anglican priest who baptized me, the late Canon M. Otenaike (later to be known as Canon M. Adebanjo) both entered Oyo as Students Numbers 378 and 380. Retired Bishop Akintemi, then Canon Akintemi, Matric Number 1070 of 1941, performed my wedding ceremony in January 1970 at Ondo St. Stephen’s when he was provost of the Cathedral – and I am not even Egin! (Ondo town indigene). Of course I love Oyo but did not know it at the time.
Most Ondo province (as then known) families of old prided themselves on having kids at Ado (meaning Christ’s School) and Oyo. Two older brothers ‘went’ to Ado and Oyo, the first (the UI registrar), born in 1919 matriculated in 1939 as Student Number 999! One of my kids has even managed to snare the son of an old Ondo Province Andrian, Z. Ogunmola who matriculated the year I was born, thereby having an Andrian father-in-law like me. Young kids do understand things despite oldies’ belief around the world!
Most early Andrians, as was the practice, generally became priests even when they taught schools, and there are many old Andrians of old Ondo Province origin who went that route. No wonder the top hierarchy of the Anglican Church was, for a long time, heavily-laden with ‘up-country’ bishops, including the first Primate of the Province of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), late Baba Archbishop Olufosoye.
Names of those who built present-day Church of Nigeria dance across the pages of the History of the Premier Institution in Nigeria. I have been so fascinated with the book since I picked up a copy for a song at a UPL [University Press Limited, formerly Oxford University Press] sidewalk sale seven years ago  that I decided to share this short-length book but with massive contribution to recorded history.
The different priests whose names feature in the history of the college is quite a Honor Roll.
Bishop Crowther was on the Niger Expedition team in 1841 “to examine the possibilities of evangelizing on the river” and by 1843, the first missionary, the Rev. Henry Townsend entered Abeokuta. By January 1845, these two clergymen and some other helpers arrived from Sierra Leone to settle.
Leslie Gordon Vining, the first Archbishop of the Province of West Africa is, not unexpectedly, in Ogunkoya’s book.
As Bishop of Lagos, he performed the burial ceremony of the founder and first principal of Oyo, Bishop Melville Jones at Oyo. He also performed the wedding ceremony of Miss Batley to the widowed Canon George Burton whose wife, Hanna Burton (Miss Hewitt of Kudeti Girls’ School Ibadan, 1899 to 1901) had died at Oyo. The ceremony took place at the UMC [Nigeria’s pioneer all-female educational institution, United Missionary College], Ibadan. Memorials to Vining, including the church at Ikeja, abound all over the Nigeria. [A plaque in his memory is at the first St. Stephen’s Church, my home parish at Iju in Akure North of Ondo State where I was born as WWII ended, and baptised.]
And there was the patrician Bishop Melville Jones who was the first principal of the Oyo-located St. Andrew’s from its Lagos location. We’ll come to that and what happened at the first location, Abeokuta, shortly.
When Melville Jones arrived at Oyo in 1895 (“by canoe, in hammock, and on foot”), which “in those days was a journey covering eight days” – a distance of under 150 miles!), the Rev. Samuel Johnson, Ayinla Ogun, author of The History of the Yorubas, was the pastor in charge of the church at Oyo. Melville Jones was dedicated (like most missionaries), hardworking and a real visionary and a meticulous record keeper.
As a window into the past, this book has tied many loose ends as well as explained relationships and other whys-and-hows, especially in the Yoruba southwest.
For example, I had always wondered why or how there could be an Anglican Bishops’ Court at Osogbo long before its diocesan status; the premier Anglican Church in the town became a Cathedral only sixteen years ago . Yet, I had been aware of an Osogbo Bishops’ Court from the Sixties and understood it had been there even much longer. Ogunkoya’s book brought it all together:
“In August 1940, the Bishop of Lagos, Melville Jones … (1919-1940), retired from active service. He had spent a total of forty-six years in the service of education and religion in Nigeria. By January 1941, the old bishop passed to his eternal rest at Osogbo where he had retired. He was buried the same day in the chapel grounds of St. Andrew’s College, Oyo …” – about 50 miles from Osogbo. Bishop Phillips, one of the early Nigerian Bishops of the Anglican Church and a former tutor at Oyo as well as Archdeacon McKay (popularly known in Osogbo of that era as “Bishop” McKay), also lived in that “Bishops’ Court” which, indeed, the place was, regardless of non-episcopasy status.
Other Who-is-Who in the Church history of Nigeria who had appearances at Oyo (at Abeokuta, Lagos and Oyo) as students, tutors, etcetera: Archdeacon Delumo and Rev. E.W. George; Rev. Sowande; Rev. Atanda Alalade (first senior student and later titled ‘Daodu’ by succeeding generation of students” [in Yoruba, traditional naming system, Daodu or Dawodu is the first male child]); and the following ten Anglican bishops, I believe, all late, who have dormitories named after them at their alma mater: Dimieari; Awosika; Osanyin; Jadesimi; Agori-Iwe; Okusanya; Idowu; Falope; Olufosoye and Segun.
And then, there was Seth Irunsewe Kalẹ̀, who, though not an Andrian by training, deserves a special mention.
Kalẹ̀ was the first Nigerian principal before he became the Bishop of Lagos, and he not only took the college out of a string of particularly-difficult headships, but also made a name for himself as a selfless and dedicated leader. While, like most Andrians who rose to become canons, archdeacons or bishops, he had no parish as such and was promoted a canon of the Christ Church Cathedral, Lagos from principal-ship by L.G. Vining “in appreciation of the good and imperishable work he had accomplished …” He succeeded A.W. Howells as Bishop of Lagos, but it was first as Chairman of Oyo Provisional District Church Council that Kalẹ̀ acquitted himself as a honest and selfless leader, much unlike those at the helm of affairs in Nigeria’s political, social and religious life these days.
Henry Dallimore also deserves a special mention even though he made his mark in Ondo Province, especially at Christ’s School whose old boys may not enjoy reading of his role at Oyo where he proved to be “too big”. Oyo’s loss became Ekiti’s gain.
According to Ogunkoya, Dallimore was nothing but trouble for Oyo and was not allowed to assume headship but was shipped (by foot and hammock, I guess!) to Ekiti in 1929 after seven years at Oyo. As Archdeacon in Ekiti – to quote the author’s words – “Here may be observed an inherent good in something that was regarded evil in the disaster that occurred at Oyo in the night of November 1928. Dallimore turned this setback into success …”
Christ’s School (Ogba Dallimore, i.e. Dallimore’s Premises) is a lasting legacy to a man who started his West Africa’s missionary work as CMS Grammar School Principal at Freetown before being posted to Nigeria, and after his retirement, became the Ondo/Benin Diocesan Commissary in England.
Oyo had initially started at Ikija, Abeokuta as CMS Training Institution and remained there from 1853 –1867. The earliest students lived and schooled under the same roof as their teachers and principal, The Rev. Paley, a graduate of Cambridge and his wife.
Many of the students who entered ‘Oyo’ had never learnt to read or write and yet by 1862, there were glowing reports of students mastering among other subjects Geography (Asia), General History up to the 13 Century AND Greek as well as thirteen other subjects. As more students entered, teachers were needed to be trained to meet this need and Oyo showed it was up to the task.
I must digress to what later became an important part of Oyo tradition, music which, as mentioned earlier, I benefitted from through an Andrian elementary school teacher. The author paid tribute to Rev. Buhler, principal at Abeokuta (died at 36) who started the students on the simple harmonium.
“Whatever of music there is today in this country, it might be claimed that the foundation was laid” at Abeokuta. Some of the students in Buhler’s time were later Bishop Phillips, Revds. Daniel Coker, Samuel Doherty, Matthew John Luke (what a name!), Samuel Johnson, David Ogunsola Williams and Robert Coker. So thorough was the music education that just about ALL Andrians (of the old school) could play the organ/piano.
No wonder, of all college anthems in Nigeria, I think the well-rhymed “Andrians all, your voices raise …”, composed and scored by Rev. Evans a tutor at Oyo, ranks as the best in terms of lyrics and music.
Manuwa, Sowunmi, Howells, J.F. Peters, J.J. Olumide; Bickersteth, Akinbileje, Leigh, Sowande, J.A. Williams, A.B. Akinyele, etc. are some great names at the institution before it moved to Oyo, first from Abeokuta and then again, from Lagos.
Why did it have to leave Abeokuta, Nigeria’s citadel of Christianity?
Not unlike the scare that happened in my youth once in a while in southwestern Nigeria when there were claims of super-evil men who could take away other men’s manhood simply through looks!
“The Ifa priests [Ifa –eefa – is a Yoruba traditional worship] had circulated it abroad that any black man who touched a book might be so enfeebled as to become impotent and women might become barren”!
Of course the students scattered, and in addition, residences of the staff were destroyed. Tried as the staff might, students could not be recalled, and the institution was moved to Lagos where admission also suffered. After 1896, no new students were admitted and the institution “was shut down at Easter 1899.”
Oyo welcomed St. Andrew’s at the turn of the last century, and work of training mission workers as well as educators started again in earnest.
How much do Andrians love their alma mater? I’ve kept George Burton’s name till here to show their love.
Archdeacon Burton was vice-principal from 1907 to 1919, and principal from that year to 1948, a period of educational and spiritual growth at the institution. A great visionary like his predecessor, he instituted the Grier (athletics) Cup which used to be a fiercely-competed-for trophy in Anglican secondary schools up till the 60s. Although he died in England, old students did try to fly him to Nigeria for burial but were unsuccessful.
It was after reading this book that I guessed how a private secondary school in Ilesa years ago must have come by the name ‘George Burton Memorial,’ a lasting tribute to a beloved principal.
Discipline, the hallmark of Oyo, was not only preached but shown and taught. So was responsibility and dignity of labor. One incident must be mentioned here despite what it says of Nigerians once they believe they are far removed from lowly situations.
“Manual labour continued to form a special part of the students’ training … above all the carrying of bricks from the wharf … the carrying of bricks was repellent to the students … Bricks were arranged on boards for easy carriage, but on one occasion the students preferred to carry their loads in bags. As a typical object lesson in the dignity of labour, the principal and the Rev. Henry Townsend (yes, the one and only Henry Townsend of our history books), pioneer missionary and the founder of the Yoruba Mission, decided to carry the bricks openly from the wharf.” This was when the college was at St. Paul’s, Breadfruit, and later Simpson Street, Lagos, a distance of up to five miles.
What sacrifice! What leadership by example!
These men of old gave and gave but took nothing back; their names live on. Imagine! A Cambridge graduate, even during the early part of the last century, coming to live at Oyo under thatched roof!
Men of the moment think their stolen wealth guarantees their descendants everlasting control of their destinies. We will not be around, so how can they tell?
All descendants of William Shakespeare are no more, yes, but who does not know Shakespeare, including Nigerians (at least of my generation) who might never have studied any work of the Bard’s, but can quote copiously from Julius Caesar’s Mark Antony’s immortal speech or Twelfth Night’s opening, “If music be the food of love …”?
This book is a must read not just for knowledge but also for entertainment. I found the names of the early students, especially their initials very strange, though interesting and instructive in the way of colonialism.
For example, the creativity in naming a child Matthew John when the father’s name is ‘Luke’ is astounding, or the man-child naming himself such – as I’ve heard often happened back then! The initials are something else: zillions of students with first names starting with the letter ‘Z’, including a Z.B. and Z.O. in a particular class of ten in 1932! There were also M.C.; J.T.O.; J.T.B.; M.S.B.; M.A.T.; E.S.A.; E.O.J.; W.R.B.;S.C.O.; S.C.A; B.W.; T.V.; S.A.G; S.C.A; L.J.P. R.S.A.; S.M.K. These initials all belong to Yoruba students [whose language has no ‘zee’ sound].
What an era! Happy Centenary anniversary to the Andrian Family.
TOLA ADENLE, The Comet on Sunday, January 5, 2003.