Diamonds are Forever
Authors: Professor D.A. Ogunmekan & Professor M. Adebisi Sowunmi
Reviewer: Tola Adenle
Publishers: BookBuilders *Editions Africa, 2012.
Availabilty: University of Ibadan Bookshops
A hundred years ago this month, Late Bishop Jadesimi, then 11-year old Gbekel’Oluwa Jadesimi entered Ijebu-Ode Grammar School as a foundation student, thanks to a determined, progressive and single-minded mother, Madam Sarah Makominise Odubela, a 19th Century early convert to Christianity.
By the way, I-Ode Gramms has just marked its Centenary this month and it ended last Sunday, January 20 with a church service.
In this vintage 1945 picture taken at St. Peter’s Vicarage, Faji, Lagos, then Rev. & Mrs. Jadesimi pose with their children, wards, Madam Odubela & her sister, Madam Talabi Taiwo and domestic help. Of particular interest are the “kids” sitting on a floor mat in the front row: L to R – Sina Taiwo, Buki [retired Medical Professor D.A. Ogunmekan];Margaret Clark; Oyinade Odutola [now retired medical Professor Auntie Oyin Olurin], and Bisi [now retired Archaeology Professor Sister Bisi Sowunmi]. The baby and toddler in the second row are Bimpe [a retired Senior Health Sister], and Ladipo [a businessman in banking, real estate and Oil & Gas]. Extreme right at the back is Gboyega [Papa’s “Dawodu”, Yoruba terminology for first son, now Professor Isaac A. Jadesimi]. The names in bold are Papa & Mama’s children.
At the funeral of Yeye Jadesimi in 2001. Yeye was first cousin to late Ogbeni Oja of Ijebuland, Chief S.O. Odutola (father of Professor Oyin Olurin & others) and also belonged to the Awujale Jadiara lineage. Yeye attended Ijebu-Ode Girls’ High School from 1920 – 1926.
[The “Segun” performing the dust-to-dust second in the above photograph – dressed in same alaari aso oke as the children – is Late Professor Segun Sowunmi, retired professor of Mathematics at the University of Ibadan, Professor Bisi Sowunmi’s husband. Professor Segun Sowunmi was nephew to Late world-renowned Fela Sowande, Nigeria’s foremost composer and musicologist. The Sowunmis & Sowandes are, of course Egbas from Abeokuta in Ogun State of Southwestern Nigeria.]
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The depth and wealth of Diamonds are Forever – Diamonds – mesh relationships in old Ijebu-Ode and a bit of Abeokuta with cultural practices of the early days of Christianity as well as shed light on part of the educational development in Nigeria, especially Yorubaland of Southwestern Nigeria.
If a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, then those in Diamonds could be said to be worth millions and millions of words, and more than their individual weights in gold!
Where would the following photographs belong if not in any of: The National Archives, a crying-to-be-founded-&-funded Ogun State Museum of History/a Yoruba Museum of History, a CMS/Anglican Church Museum or a University of Ibadan Archives:
- A picture of Master Jadesimi in his English Public School-type school uniform as he seemed to look towards the future as a foundation student of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School exactly 100 years ago this month (1913)?
- What value would a photograph containing an Ijebu wedding in 1933 at which Dotun Degun (later a top Western Nigeria civil servant) served as a page, and Late Bishop I.O.S. Okunsanya was JUST a Reverend gentleman – add to artifacts of an Ijebu/Ogun State Museum of History?
- Where, but a Yoruba Museum of History and/or The National Archives does a particular photograph belong, a photograph that shows that many pioneers in the field of education and religion remained very nationalistic enough – despite the stifling colonialism of the 1940s – to wear our traditional clothes, have their British guest in our traditional clothes AND have their kids dressed up in traditional clothes in an age when educated people and their kids dressed in Western style clothes?
A photograph in Diamond shows the definitely nationalistic Jadesimis did not stop at getting their kids and wards dressed [sort of] half-way in traditional clothes but ensured the boys had fila (caps) – always a mark of Yoruba formal dressing – to top the aso oke dansiki; even Little Buki in a dress has a gele (head wrap – and my, what a wrap!) to top her dress. The gele is a necessity for women’s formal dressing.
- There are many more iconic photographs in Diamonds, but one that I must fit in is a jewel: where does a 1945 photograph with the following children sitting on a mat – the furnishing usually reserved for kids in photographs way back – at the feet of Revd. & Mrs. Jadesimi: Professor D.A. Ogunmekan (co-author of this book), Margaret Clark [her sister, Agnes stands next to Mama], Oyinade Odutola (now retired medical Professor Oyin Olurin) and Bisi Jadesimi (co-Author and a retired Professor Bisi Sowunmi) – belong if not a museum anywhere in Yoruba-Southwestern Nigeria?
Pictures that “speak” loads of words about deep Ijebu relationships & names that have featured in Nigeria’s political and commercial history abound in this jewel of a book.
Cultural practices that enriched the lives of less-endowed families, especially in Southwestern Nigeria dance through many pages of Diamond.
Up till the 1960s, many families would send their kids – some as young as six, seven or eight – to live and school with educated family members or even friends or townspeople living elsewhere. These kids were not domestic helps even though they and the kids of couples they went to live with had household chores that must be performed before school every day.
For instance, the present Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, a Moslem and son of the reigning Alaafin [King] of the era, was sent to live and school with Anglican Bishop Adelakun W. Howells. Such inter-relationships is perhaps one of the reasons the Yoruba Southwest, despite having millions of Moslems and millions of Christians enjoys relatively peaceful co-existence between what has now become a deeply religiously-polarized country.
Sending kids to live with families like the Jadesimis enabled the young charges not only to go to school but also to get proper supervision in their studies, get moral training and learn about [then] modern ways. In home settings that were a bit like boarding schools, these children and wards were raised as brothers and sisters who often bonded together so much that many went/go through life as close family members.
Bishop Jadesimi and Yeye Jadesimi – both of blessed memories – the subjects of this biography had six children of their own but right from the time they set up home in the late 1930s, their home, always vicarages: at Lagos, Zaria in Northern Nigeria, Ilesa, etcetera, was always filled with young kids whom they mentored. In one picture (and also corroborated by tributes in a section of the book), there are more than a dozen kids in the Jadesimi home all of whom are now older men and women who attribute their successes in life to Papa and Mama.
By 1945, there were the Clarks from Northern Nigeria – William, Robert (whose legal achievements are showcased by Nigeria’s Senior Advocate of Nigeria honor), and their sisters, Margaret and Agnes. There was Ladipo Ogunmekan, now a medical doctor whose brother would become a Jadesimi son-in-law.
There were many others whose recollections of the times Papa & Mama mentored them point to great childhoods of studies, memorizations of day’s collects that would be tested, pranks like all kids love, to trick Papa & Mama, appointed look-outs to warn others of Papa and Mama’s approach, Sunday happy meals and general happy times. Nigeria of that simpler era saw rice in the huge Jadesimi household beings served as lunch; this was a big deal as many kids did not eat rice – a luxury – until boarding schools or during Christian or Moslem festivities!
Among those privileged kids were Adejoke Fadina (nee Odutola); Engineer Yomi Onayemi; Jumoke Bako (little Jumoke Onayemi) who was on the Jadesimis’ “expeditionary” team to St. George’s Vicarage, Zaria. Much later, the adult Jumoke would marry the child of a deceased pastor of Northern Nigeria origin, Rev. Bako, who had once been in charge of the same Vicarage before the Jadesimis. What an interesting connection and the mysterious ways in which God works His wonders.
Dr. Olusegun Koya, Venerable Oluwagbemiga Onyemi, Adepeju Onayemi, Dr. Busola Onayemi, Architect Kunle Onayemi, are all part of the high-achieving kids who went through vicarages with Papa and Mama at the various stages of their transfers.
I must mention that the labor of these two people of God – Late Bishop & Yeye Jadesinmi – was well rewarded. They were not like some educated Nigerians of the past who might have succeeded in life but had many under-achieving children because of their lack of proper home training, being taught right and wrong and the dignity of labor.
Not the Jadesimi kids. Of their six children, there is no slouch as they are all chips off the old TWO blocks – pardon the twist. All six are very successful in business and the professions, including the two authors of this book, (Buki) and Bisi.
That is a long-gone era. In Yorubaland, parents who are unable to send their kids to schools or those who can afford it but would not be able to afford the time for supervising the kids are no longer in the habit of having the kids live with others to ensure better tomorrows.
But that perhaps the greatest grace for parents was granted these two late pioneers is best summed up in the words of one of their grandchildren, Dolapo Ogunmekan, who describes his grandfather as “a general in the Lord’s army”, a general who lived to old age, and whose meticulous and creative, iconic Mama Parsonage of old who survived the Bishop and had all their six children who are still all alive, around when she got to the end of her earthly journey at 91 years of age.
What could be better legacy than doing that for which we are placed here on earth and then leaving kids, including Professor Sowunmi, a Lay Canon in the Anglican Church, who with her sisters and brothers continue to carry on their great heritage of service to their fellow man, which was their parents’ Calling.
Professors Ogunmekan and Sowunmi’s book adds immensely to the growing body of literature – still scarce – on pioneers in education, Christianity and cultural development of Nigeria.
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The book also contains some selected sermons of Bishop Jadesimi, including one in his own handwriting but the one I will briefly reference here is the one that is close to this coming Sunday, January 27. And with claims of miracles by modern Nigerian Pentecostal ministers – (Use ‘search’ in this blog’s home page for two essays and a forum discussion on “Pastor Adeboye … petrol miracle”) – I cannot but touch briefly one of these.
On the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, 31 January 1965 – forty-nine years ago – Bishop Jadesimi preached at the 10.00 a.m. service at the University of Ife about Christians being assured of peace during storms no matter how great the storms is in their lives.
“Modern man in this scientific age tends to be doubtful of the authenticity of our Lord’s miracles as being, according to him, contrary to the laws of nature as he knows and understands them. … we say that modern man will be the first to admit that there are probably other laws of nature of which he is yet ignorant, so that he has to admit that rather than acting contrary to the laws of nature, our Lord, in the miracles of the Gospel, was employing certain laws which modern man has yet to know and understand. Nevertheless, Jesus was not a wonder worker or a magician who was out to win people by a display of supernatural powers. [Emphasis mine.]
Bishop Jadesimi referred to the feeding of the multitude with a few loaves of bread and how Jesus disappeared thereafter, very unlike the posturing miracle workers of religion as entrepreneurship that pervades today’s Nigeria.
He warns about worries: “worry for ourselves, worry about the unknown future, worry about those we love. … What is your own problem? Whatever it is, submit it to Him and He will help you solve them.”
There are many things to enjoy and take away from this well-produced this delightful publication, another feather to the hat of Ibadan-based BookBuilders.
TOLA ADENLE, Ibadan, Nigeria. January 25, 2013.