Last year August, the University of Ibadan clocked 70 having been established as a college in 1948. Just reflecting on my personal growth, I realize my own foundation too was laid on the soils of UI having attended it’s junior staff school, Abadina School between 1973 and 1978 exiting at primary five to start secondary school in Abeokuta, Egba High School precisely. In this reminiscence, I pay tribute to the UI managers then who deemed it fit to establish a standard school for children of its junior workforce.
Some nine years after the establishment of The University of Ibadan, that is 1957, Baami then in his early or mid 30s left Abeokuta in search of job to sojourn in Ibadan. Employment was facilitated for him at UI by a brother-in-law married to one his cousins. Mr. Oduwole, a middle level staff in the carpentry section of the maintenance department , Maami UI’s husband was Baami’s gaari tira for his employment at the painting section. So began the history of my Ibadanness.Nine years after Baami settled in Ibadan, I was born, destined to be a UI product in some way.
At age seven in 1973, Baami brought me to Abadina School, University of Ibadan where I started my primary education , although I had been exposed to some three to four years preage jeleosinmi at oke foko, where I was born in 1966 and at oke bola, a sort of transitional coaching class. Liberty Preparatory Coaching Class popular called Lesini Eda in Ojimi area of Oke Foko was like my Nursery School where I had learned everything a primary one or two pupil should know. But I was under seven.
Initially when I was enrolled, Baami takes me daily from Foko to UI, quite some distance, on his mobylette bought from the Udoji pay of 1972. But it was risky. So Baami’s cousin Aunty Adunni also known as Iya Ikimo Oloole advised that I reside with her at Abadina Community, a large quarters of junior and middle level staff of UI who came from all over the country. The initial arrangement was to be spending weekdays at UI and the weekends in Foko. Eventually, I became a permanent UI resident of Abadina.
Abadina was a vibrant multi cultural community which represented the Nigerian ethnic fabric. We lived and made friends at Abadina, some even had intercultural marriages. I was a witness of the silver jubilee anniversary of UI in 1973 which the three staff schools on campus were involved. Staff School, Abadina School and International present playlettes under the brightly decorated glowng Christmas trees around the area that has now been fully developed as the Religious Zone. We had fun at UI at 25. Special uniforms were sewn for pupils in commemoration of the anniversary.
During my five years at Abadina I indeed blossomed as a little scholar. Class was not an issue at Abadina as children of artisans and those of professors and senior staff of the university who could not afford putting all their wards at School School where you also had children of expats, awon omo oyinbo, had no complex mingling. Hardly was I ever floored in any examination by a son or daughter of a professor, phd holder or director in my class.
Abadina shaped my dream to be a scholar and be married to a scholar as I was always fascinated by the name plates or addresses of homes Baami was regularly assigned to paint around the campus. Dr. & Dr. Mrs. Prof. & Prof etc..From Abadina, I knew the value of the Library as i regularly visited the Abadina Resource Center at our second gate to read and loan books especially the ladybird series. I remember the Gullivers Travels for instance. Oh. The treasure island too. Many, of my friends at Abadina were children of academics, I remember Bayo Akintobi, Oyefunke Oyewole, Abiye & Mina Amakiri for instance.I also had Emeka Okoye, Karimu Musa, Donatus Utuks, Lamidi Yakubu, Opeyemi Owadayo and one of the princesses of Oba Lamidi Adeyemi as colleagues. Growing up in such a diverse setting where neither class, creed nor tongue was an issue was indeed exciting.
Towards the end of third term of our primary 4 in 1977, my class teacher advised Baami to obtain the National Common Entrance Examination form for me. We did the exam early in our primary five. Egba High School Abeokuta was my choice. In primary five too, I obtained the oyo state common entrance examination too, applying for Government College Ibadan.
When both results were released, I passed, although for my Oyo State common entrance, my choice was changed to Fatima College, a Catholic secondary school in Ikire. Well Egba High School was already secured. At Asero Abeokuta I resumed in September 1978 exactly 40 years ago to begin serious schooling.
My five years at Abadina University of Ibadan was a solid foundation for my education as it also defined my cosmopolitanism. As pupils at Abadina UI we luxuriated in all forms of adventures, entering bushes during break time to pluck almond fruits, iyeye and obi edun. There is no student residential that our escapades did not take us. We were regular visitors to the zoo and the botanical gardens. We always go to UI Conference Center, the staff club and its swimming pool as well as the bookshop for sight seeing.
We knew all the nooks and crannies of UI and whenever there was crisis on campus our escape route was the third gate which separates UI from The Polytechnic, Ibadan. Since leaving UI 40 years, I never had real opportunity of return as my education at Ibadan stopped with Abadina.
My secondary was between Abeokuta for O level and Iwo for A level, while I completed my University in Lagos, exactly 10 years after I exited Abadina, a junior and middle level staff primary school at the university of Ibadan. Nonetheless those five years between 1973 and 1978 in the UI campus are essential to my total makeup.
In August last year, I returned to UI for a function in the iconic Trenchard Hall of UI,. I used the opportunity of return to my schooling roots to savor some of my childhood breathe on campus. Despite age I found UI still retains its verdant landscape. Years and generations of students have not really tampered with its virginity. I could still vividly recollect our campus trails of more that four decades.
On UI at 70, I salute its past and present managers for their fidelity to the tradition that has given UI a cutting edge advantage, although I cannot trade away my UNILAG pride for Akoka where I trained as a journalist is where I was fully bred or refined in academics and professionalism. Up UI, Great Akokite. Alhamdulillah!
*Abdulwarees Solanke, FCIPDM
Director, Media & Strategic Communications, Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC Nigeria
Strategic Planning & Corporate Development
Voice of Nigeria