This moment in the history Nigeria is the worst it has ever been. These difficult times are because of political and economic corruption which has severely decreased the quality of life for many people and because of this, many students are unable to go school to better their life and communities. I understand that Nigerian university teachers have been on strike for months now with no hope that the students will be back in school soon. I hope people who hold political power read this and support education in order to make Nigeria a better place.
his is the story of My Grandfather, late James Odaibo who comes from Ogori, a sleepy town that lies in a valley surrounded by three hills. Ogori has a long, steeped and distinguished history. It is located in the extreme South West of Kogi state of Nigeria. The uniqueness of this town not only lies in the tripartite crossroads of its culture, the language called Oko; only spoken by the people of Ogori/Magongo communities in the planet, the importance the people attach to education as well as being the birthplace of my grandfather. The people of Ogori have a precocious affinity for education to a point that it has produced, in relation to its size and population, the largest number of Professors per square kilometer in Nigeria!
The activities for children at that age in Ogori centered around either helping with planting and harvesting the cash crops or food crops and other economic activities, or in his own case, helping and assisting his father, Chief Aiyecheme, as the Otaru of Ogori and a kingmaker involved in the administration and governance, as well as the traditional and cultural aspects of the people of the town on a day to day basis. My grandfather would have been involved in carrying his father's stool and other paraphernalia of office to all the avenues these activities and meetings are taking place.
Young James at 11 years of age found life very boring in Ogori in the 1920's doing these chores. He decided to leave for the big city, Lokoja; then the administrative capital of the British Colonial government after the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates into Nigeria in 1914. The first governor General of Nigeria Lord Frederick Lugard ruled the new nation from Lokoja which sits at the confluence of the Niger and Benue river. So, everybody gravitated there for a better life. That was what young James wanted when he packed his few belongings, said goodbye to his family and trekked the odd 70 miles from his village to Lokoja, seeking for a better life. Upon getting to the town, he was tired, thirsty and hungry and as fate would have it, he found a boy of his age group on a mango tree. He requested that he pluck some and throw it down to him. Not only did the truculent boy on the tree refused to give him a mango, but also called him a 'bloody fool' for daring to ask him for mangoes! Young James hardly spoke any English and in his native language asked the boy on the tree , "What does bloody fool mean?" The boy on the mango tree snapped back, " You go to school, if you want to know the meaning of 'bloody fool."
That became the driving force for young James education. He sought the help of a teacher, Mr. Jegede, took up the last name as his, and he became known as James Odaibo Jegede. He worked for him as a 'house boy' (house help), cleaning dishes, washing clothing and keeping the house clean in exchange for tutoring, feeding and lodging. My Grandfather learned very rapidly until he learned to read and type. He was a brilliant and first achiever of Junior Cambridge examinations. He then applied to the School of Agriculture in Samaru, Zaria and graduated and started working for the government so that when the British left Nigeria, their generation continued to run the Nigerian civil service.
While working for the government he met a little boy and took him in since the boy did not have any money to pay for schooling. This boy worked for several years and eventually became the first indigenous Vice-Chancellor of the largest university in Nigeria and the first Pediatrician in Northern Nigeria.
My Grandfather had many great achievements in his life which were not stated earlier.
- First to build a story building in Ogori (1954)
- First to have electricity in Ogori (1958)
- Bought his first car: Peugeot 403 (1961)
- Retired as Agricultural superintendent at Osara (1966)
- Served as Ogori Development Union Chairman from ~1966-1976.
- Served as supervisory counselor for finance for Okene local government from 1976-1979;
- Served on Kwara state (old) scholarship board from 1979-1983
Because of what my Grandfather did and what he taught his children all of his descendants are Professors, Medical doctors, dean in universities, Computer scientists, Mathematicians, Engineers, Nurses and business people all over the world! I have been to Nigeria several times and feel that the heritage of Nigeria and Nigerians is being wasted and may be destroyed completely at the present pace of lack of development and progress.
References: 1. Professor S. K. Odaibo.
2. Dr. F. S. Odaibo.