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Peace of mind, happiness, key to good life — Aina

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Sir Dr. Wilberforce Olumide Aina

As Sir Dr. Wilberforce Olumide Aina celebrates his 80th birthday, he has a lot to be grateful for in life. Not only has he made a mark in his medical profession, he has also lived a fulfilling life.

On this sunny day, he is looking good and fit. What’s the secret?

“I thank the Lord, Who has kept me till this age. No matter what you do, you must grow old, though some age faster than others. I’m grateful that I can climb up and down the stairs. I still see and can go out by myself,” he said, smilingly.

“I try as much as I can to live a peaceful life and not harbour things in my mind. The mind is the powerhouse. So, I avoid hating and getting worked up. I think all this has helped me to live longer.

“When I was younger, I represented my school. I threw javelin, discus and did long jump very well. Staying fit is good but that is not all. You have to do those other things I mentioned above.

I try to get rid of stress or anything that will disturb my peace of mind.

My most memorable moment was when I finished my postgraduate in surgery at the University of Edinburgh. On the day I was given accolades that I had passed, I was so happy and felt that I had arrived because I could now take my place among surgeons.

“At 80, I feel blessed and fulfilled having served humanity and retired meritoriously. I unwind by singing church hymns and songs and watching football matches on TV.”

He was born in Abeokuta in 1938 to Mr. Williams and Mrs. Victoria Aina on the same year his father retired as a railway master.

His mother was a trader, who was into buying and selling of clothes. Upon his father’s retirement, they relocated to Kajola Station in Abeokuta, which is close to Ifo, where his father had some farms.

He had his early education in Abeokuta and completed his standard six at New Africa School, Coats Street, Ebute Meta and later Abeokuta Grammar School.

Reminiscing on his childhood experiences, he said: “I remember being very close to my father. I would wake up as early as six in the morning to go to the farm with him to pluck cocoa, cassava and other edible things, which were usually prepared by one of his wives. We hardly bought things outside.

Ours was a polygamous family, where my father had four wives and children. My mother was the second wife. And as far as I know, he married two other wives after my mother. We all lived happily without problems and we were well taken care of. I guess we didn’t have problem living together under the same roof, maybe because my father was educated.

“My father ensured that all his children were educated and instilled discipline in us. He flogged us whenever we did the wrong thing.

I learnt the value of education from my father and the act of caring for people. He encouraged people to go to school and supported them financially. The relationship between my parents and I was very cordial. My siblings and I are close. So, I was brought up in a loving and caring family.”

Narrating how he ended up studying medicine, he explained that after completing his Standard Six at New Africa School, Ebute Meta, he wrote his school certificate examination in 1958 and stayed another two years for higher school.

“In 1961, I was admitted to study zoology, chemistry and geology at the University of Ibadan, but after one year, I changed my mind.

I was told that if I could pass chemistry, physics and biology, I would be granted admission to study medicine at the University of Lagos.

I passed the subjects and also met the conditions of entry in 1962. Medicine was the course I wanted to study initially, so it was a dream come true for me.

“In 1967, I graduated as a medical doctor and did my internship. I worked with Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and proceeded to University of Edinburgh College of Surgeons for my postgraduate degree in surgery.

I did my part one and two exams, which qualified me for fellowship in surgery in 1974.

I worked in Lagos hospitals from 1967 to 1998, when I officially retired at the age of 60 from Lagos State Health Management Board as a surgeon.”

After retirement, however, he still felt he had a lot to give society. So, he took a job at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) College of Medicine, where he taught anatomy for 14 years. He retired finally in 2012.

He said: “I am taking my rest now. A lot has changed in the medical field from when we started and now. We were really lucky. When I was in England, we were competing with each other and were not treated differently. They were very glad to employ us. Now, the standard of medicine has dropped.

Can you imagine that at one time Lagos State government forced the Medical School to employ 500 medical students in a year? It is not done, even in saner climes. I don’t know of any medical school that has done that, not even in England.

“The teaching of medical students shouldn’t be very expensive. It takes a lot of time and medical students don’t even have periods of rest. Secondly, more qualified teachers are needed in medical schools.

Therefore, government should pay more attention to training more teachers in field and research. It is not easy to do examination for medical students at all, but things are picking up.

“When I was teaching anatomy at Lagos State University College of Medicine, my son was studying medicine there. He passed all his exams at a go. He is now a medical doctor and is based in Canada.

Our healthcare system is not so bad, though it is not where it is supposed to be. There is always room for improvement. Doctors are poorly paid.

“I think the best way to move the healthcare system in the country forward is by giving states full autonomy to take over their medical services.

Even if the Federal Government wants to come in, it should be on certain aspects of medicine. Imagine the Federal Government saying it needs medical centres in all the states. I don’t think that is necessary.

The Federal Government believes it is trying to help the states. The issue of government trying to do primary healthcare in all local governments is unnecessary. There is so much interference, which is not in the best interest of the healthcare sector.”

What are his views on marriage? Does he support polygamy?

“Although I came from a polygamous home, but ours was a close-knit family,” he explained. “Polygamy has its own issues, but how many men stick to their partners without having extra marital affairs and children outside their marriage?

Before, hardly would our fathers approach a woman they were not interested in marrying. But what you see these days is men going after women they don’t want to marry and having extra marital affairs.

“Polygamy has its advantages in the sense that everybody is brought in and they know each other. Monogamy has its own challenges because some people don’t stick to their spouses, but have affairs outside. How many men or women can stick to their spouses without looking outside? I know there are still some good men and women. I’m a man and I see what the boys do all over the place.

“I’ve been married for many years now and have two children. What has kept my wife and I together in this marriage was patience, tolerance and understanding. I think the secret to a successful marriage is endurance, communication, understanding, support and patience.”

Asked what he feels about the situation in the country, he said: “It is pathetic. It is so sad we are nowhere as a country. The country’s political structure is nothing to write home about.

I am not happy with the situation. When Buhari came into office, I thought things would take shape.

But from the statements he has made on different occasions, his body language shows he is not interested in the restructuring of this country. How could someone who heads the country come out and say things that make people swim in despair?

“We are not talking of independence but restructuring. This is the way we can make progress as a nation. The issue should be taken seriously.

In the area of security, we are also nowhere. It follows that in a country with bad leadership and corruption, it is very difficult for anyone not to be affected.

Even in other areas, we are still struggling. We really need to pray for prosperity and call for positive change that will contribute to the growth of this nation.”

What is his advice for youths?

“Education is very important and should be made the number one priority. Someone who is properly educated will be disciplined. My advice for parents is to be interested in whatever their children are doing, so that they could guide them.

“For those who would like to study medicine, it is a nice course. It takes hard work and dedication. You must let passion be your driving force. You must be focused, do your best and be respectful, if you want to succeed.”


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