Reverend Akin Adesola – Bright morning star dimmed at noon
Leading citizens of Nigeria particularly from her South-West geo-political zone were always oriented outwards, first towards Lagos and later in pursuit of the golden fleece, towards outside of Nigeria even as opportunities for educational advancement were narrow and fitful.
These Lagos denizens appear as informed and cosmopolitan in outlook as their fellow compatriots in the outlying parts of the Nigeria country.
The substantial Lagos elite was thrifty, ambitious, and moralistic in the orthodox Christian manner. Their comportment, graciousness and softness of speech distinguished them from people lately descended from the hinterland.
Visitors found the men and women kind, hospitable, refined and educated. This is the social milieu in which the Reverend Akinwunmi Akinwale Adesola of blessed memory was born and nurtured.
Akin Adesola was stern in countenance, pronounced in conviction and exacting as a schoolteacher and administrator. He was generally respected for his fairness. He disdained emotionalism and abjured lame or any exculpating excuses. He was enamoured of words; studious in logic and flaming in forensic reasoning. He quizzed his pupils rigorously, explained seemingly difficult or obscure passages and was illustrative regarding abstract propositions. He larded his speeches with adverbs, adjectives and classical allusions. He laboured to imbue in his students his own ideals even as they had resumed school as raw or unrefined materials. Adesola was unmatched in the Lagos educational circles for ease of delivery and flow of words.
Recognising that idealism was not enough, he injected a full dose of practical solutions to everyday challenges.
For about 20 years, Rev. Adesola was married to his lovely wife, Funmilayo, who was his opposite in all but the strength of character.
The story of their first meeting and eventual falling in love culminating in their wedding is now in the annals of modern antiquity for regaling young consorts with how to fully appropriate the blessings of a God-ordained relationship.
Both husband and wife found satisfaction in the conviction that the great throbbing heart of lovers is kept in touch or alive when confidence and respect are mutual or common.
Mrs. Adesola was austere and severe in countenance but could be gay and gregarious in certain circumstances. She was tough-minded, strong-willed or self-possessed.
Perhaps the eternally memorable and infinitely rewarding assignment of Reverend Adesola was his headship of the now 128-year old Eko Boys High School, Mushin, Lagos. A great turning point in the history of the school was reached in 1963 when an agreeable, demonstrative man (whose zest for life and generosity of spirit are notable or distinctive) was head-hunted to be its Principal.
Alternately profound and playful, the Rev. Adesola had been Senior Tutor and Acting Principal at Igbobi College, Yaba. On assumption of office, Adesola’s method and approach lifted the soul of Eko Boys High School.
His period may well be described as the golden age of the school. If to achieve success in one’s charge or instruction is to be great, that adjective or epithet may not be denied Reverend Adesola. One thinks of him with reverent affection, and the school and generations of its students owe him a debt beyond their power to repay.
The school’s cultural life is firmly rooted in Christian values and programmes – Lenteen, Easter, hymn singing, Christmas, carols, Bible study, a chain of prayers, sacrificial giving (exemplified in the Self-Denial Fund campaign), etc – received a new and refreshing boost or impetus. Sporting activities or prowess in them gave the school a distinctively peculiar image or colour. Students attended classes dutifully even as they lived in cheerful anticipation of resounding success in their Cambridge or West African School Certificate examinations.
Adesola’s reputation as an astute school administrator grew like wildfire. Many parents sought his assistance in reining in their recalcitrant or wayward children. Even as Eko Boys High School was at that time not running boarding or lodging facilities for its students, Reverend Adesola provided in his out-house a small boarding facility for a dozen or so children who had gained admission into the school and whose parents preferred Adesola to be in loco parentis to them. Adesola admirably discharged his instruction. The children lived under his care and guidance and turned out to be a special breed of rules-obedient, hardworking and self-reliant adults. Many of them luxuriate in the Nigerian business, political and professional landscape today and are easily identifiable as belonging to the Adesola ethic.
So successful and popular was the Adesola patent that the Lagos State government could not ignore its originator or patentee. The Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson administration of Lagos State could not deign or consider it condescending to specially invite Rev. Adesola into the Executive Council of the State.
He was appointed Commissioner for Education in an age when the government took the education of young people seriously. Adesola fitted the bill appropriately. It was, for Adesola, an appointment that excited mixed feelings. He had to give up the headship or the deft steering of his pet project, the Eko Boys High School, if temporarily. The school itself was rueful.
Many feared the Adesola magic may not be easily replaced. The Vice-Principal, Mr. G.I Momah, walked in the shadows of Rev. Adesola throughout. An accomplished physicist and a great believer in the infinite possibilities of a science-led life, Mr. Momah was administration-practice shy.
He preferred the drudgery of his laborious laboratory search for solutions to mechanistic challenges. The mantle of the headship of the school, albeit in an acting capacity, fell on him inexorably.
Against his “wish or desire” Mr. Momah became the Acting Principal of Nigeria’s oldest indigenous secondary school even as the Rev. Adesola laboured to straighten up matters at the Ministry of Education. Adesola reportedly brought professionalism, purpose, civility and poise into his assignment.
Lagos’ peculiar geo-social relations circumstances notwithstanding, Adesola creatively conceived the idea of equalising a high standard of instruction across the board in schools and of the provision of evenly-spread modern physical facilities. The regular training, promotion and discipline of teachers and the provision of purpose-built school buildings were some of the legacies of the Adesola era at the Ministry of Education.
The government of Lagos State was so enamoured with the stellar performance of Adesola at this frontline ministry of government that he was invited to help replace the perfunctoriness or passivity that had become the operational methodology of a sister agency of government – the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture.
Adesola’s methods may have been strange to his new posting. He may have been received with suspicion. A ministry that typified the mythical requirement to go on with age-long practices of the culture of our progenitors as if the rest of the world was static may not be deemed ready to accommodate the block-blustering sense of mission of Rev. Adesola. He could not do much there as his light was painfully put out by death which aftermath grief was too much to bear.
Death where is thy sting; grave where is thy victory?
Rev. Akinkunmi Akinwale Adesola lives on as even 50 long years of his translation have failed to obliterate his achievements, which remain sterling and are still shining bright. Iku p’ola ti!
• Rotimi-John, a lawyer, is an old boy of Eko Boys High School.