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Ogunbambo: Oladotun Odunuga : A quintessential college principal


“Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful , for thou art not so. For those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow, die not. Poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

    From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, much pressure, then from thee, much more must flow. And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, rest of their bones and souls deliverie.

      Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men, and dost with poyson, warre, and sickness dwell, and poppie , or charmes can make us sleepe as well, and better then thy stroake ; why swell’st thou then ;

        One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, and death shall be no more ; Death, thou shall die. “

THIS sonnet by John Donne written around 1610 and first published posthumously in 1633 brings back the fond memories of my Principal at Multilateral Grammar School, Okun-Owa in Ijebu, Ogun State. Chief Oladotun Odunuga whom we, his former students, fondly call Papa, passed on peacefully on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at his 9, Agbon Odumosu Street residence in Ilese-Ijebu, a town he fondly calls “a city of the black, sacred cat ,”  at the age of 84.

    It is not his demise that brings about the memories of this literary giant, but his professionalism. As our Principal, he also combined the administrative job with the teaching of Literature in English. A vibrant teacher, he recited poems with a lot of drama and this particular poem was his favourite. Without any prompting, most of us, his students, memorised poems and the quotable quotes in all Williams Shakespeare books we read. No wonder many of my classmates in the Literature in English class ended up as journalists, lawyers, theatre practitioners and university lecturers, apart from the fact that the school produced professionals in all areas of science, arts, commerce and technical works.

    Papa Oladotun Odunuga who resumed duties at my school on September 1, 1975 when he was posted from Mac-Job Grammar School, Abeokuta, served my school meritoriously for seven years until his retirement on August 31, 1982.

 A thorough bred professional, a disciplined and principled mind, Papa Odunuga made his teachers to engage in extra classes after official hours and on Saturdays, at no financial cost to our parents. We were thoroughly fed with words of God and good moral upbringing. A handsome Principal and a choice dresser, Papa Odunuga like typical teachers of that time, did carry cane, like a military officer carrying a swagger stick, but hardly applied it on students.

    We all love him and respect him because our progress was uppermost in his heart. Because of his exemplary leadership, all teachers toed his line and the college did not only excel in academics but also in sports, drama, literary and debating activities. We were all made to cut grasses and do little farming, just to shape us up. He engaged labourers to use mowing machines to do the grass cutting, when what we call stubborn grasses, becomes cumbersome for us to handle.

   Many would have thought that his dedication to duty and determination to excellence in studies must be due to the fact that one of his children, Mopelola (now a top bank manager) was one of us, the final year students, when he resumed at our school. This impression was removed when he sustained the tempo throughout his tenure at Multilateral Grammar School, Okun-Owa. The result of his commitment came out with some of the students having Grade one in the West African School Certificate examination, after a long deficit in that particular grade.

     What really stands Papa Odunuga out was the fact that he was always ready to spend his personal money to advance the cause of his students. He purchased the Higher School Certificate entrance form examination at Remo Secondary School, Sagamu for this writer and he refused to accept a refund from my mother. He was instrumental into the school granting scholarship to brilliant, indigent students. He motivated a lot of us to acquire university education as he had already stimulated us with stories about his days at University College Ibadan (now University of Ibadan) where he obtained a degree in English with History and Religious Studies awarded by London University on November 17, 1963.

    We the Old Students had planned to add to his numerous honours as the College clocks 50 years on March, 19, 2015 but death has robbed us of this much desired appreciation.

    As one bade farewell to the mentor and role model of many students, who are now great leaders in Government and private sectors, the food for thought is for our modern day Principals and teachers to imbibe from the legacy of Papa Odunuga.

   This great soul, humble and peace loving personality  will be committed to mother earth on Wednesday , February 11, 2015 after a funeral service at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Ilese in Ijebu, Ogun State. However, his legacy to humanity can never be buried as he has etched his name in gold. Adieu, Papa Odunuga. Rest in perfect peace.

•  Ogunbambo, a journalist and public affairs analyst, was a student of Papa Odunuga.

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