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‘How Nigeria missed it with Secondary School education system’

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Octogenarian Second and Third Republics frontline politician, Chief Tunji Arosanyin, is Chairman, Central Planning Committee (CPC) for Titcombe College Egbe 70th Anniversary. In this interview with RALPH OMOLOLU AGBANA, the lawyer and close associate of the late Turaki of Ilorin, Dr Olusola Saraki, relives his background as a secondary school student, life as a politician, and challenges with the secondary school system in Nigeria.

Arosanyin


Who is Chief Tunji Arosanyin?
OLATUNJI Arosanyin, as my mother called me, but Tunji Arosanyin as missionaries and politicians call me is a man of grace. I was born in Egbe, Kogi State 86 years ago. I attended all my education institutions in Egbe; from kindergarten to ECWA Central Primary School and I went to Titcombe College. I am a lawyer by profession. 

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You were a household name during the second and third republics, could you share with us your political background and experiences?

By accident, I met one man called Dr. Olusola Saraki and we became friends before politics. He was a medical doctor, I was and I am still a lawyer. At a point, we decided we were going to form an association in Kwara State; I am talking about the Kwara State of the olden days that consisted of present Kwara State, parts of the present Kogi State and parts of Niger State. We went round all the major towns in the then Kwara State and we decided to form a political group.

When it was time to form political parties during the Olusegun Obasanjo military regime, we aligned with other people in the country; we formed the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) at the national level and brought it to Kwara State. I became the General Secretary of NPN in Kwara State and Assistant National Legal Adviser of NPN now defunct. Alhaji Shehu Shagari emerged as our Presidential candidate; we campaigned around the country and in Kwara State and I want to say that to the glory of God, it was in my house in Egbe that the entire entourage of the presidential Candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari took lunch. It comprised all the known NPN chieftains in Nigeria led by our national Chairman AMA Akinloye and our Vice Presidential candidate, Dr Alex Ekueme.

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We won the 1979 presidential election and I became the first Chairman of Delta Steel Company, Aladja for three years, successfully; president Shehu Shagari was there during the commissioning. Like my mother used to say, ‘Igba loni gba ndu’ (we enjoyed the time we spent together).

How would you say Titcombe College influenced your journeys in life?
Titcombe College made me completely. When I took my entrance examination and I passed, there was this debate as to whether I should be admitted or not because of my age; I think I was above bar. But later on, God intervened; I was admitted and I became a student. My life in Titcombe has been my life till today. I remember, from Form 1 to Form 6, I had always held one important post or another. I was house captain, school’s football goalkeeper until I became the Head Boy or Senior Prefect of the school.

Titcombe taught me honesty. I remember our principal Rev. Harris Pool was looking for somebody the school management trusted to go to Ibadan and purchase books for the school and I was chosen. Then, I went to Ibadan, bought the books. I asked for the rebate, which they gave me. I brought the books to Titcombe and the white people were amazed.

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Later, a year after I left Titcombe College, the colonial government was looking for somebody that is honest and reliable who can be the first registrar of Kabba Division Court and to the grace of God, I was chosen; I was in Zamaru Kataf, Southern Zaria teaching when I was recalled to serve as a Registrar, Kabba Divisional Court through; a letter that took three months before it got to me. I am saying this because it was the basis of my becoming a lawyer.
 
Following my appointment as court registrar, I was sent to study Diploma in Law, where I met Chief Solomon Lar, who later became the governor of Plateau State. Lar and I became roommates and we started trusting in our brains that we could advance from Diploma in Law to do degree. That was how we proceeded to Jos University to do LLB and we qualified as Lawyers. So, Titcombe is my life, my life is Titcombe.

What makes the 70th anniversary of the school unique?
I thought that it is God’s decision for someone like me who is dying out to be alive to celebrate TC’s 70th anniversary. I am of the third set of TCE after the establishment of the College in 1951, and if you look at set one, set two and set three, only a few of us are alive. So, for me personally, I think it is God who decides that I must celebrate the 70th anniversary of Titcombe College before I die.

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I am not saying I am going to die tomorrow. If it is the will of God, I can clock 100 years and if at 86 I die, I think I have had my chance. So, I think of 86, if I die, I die. So, for some of us who are old, I think it is the right time to celebrate TC at 70. For you and other young people, you can celebrate 100 centenary anniversary or 90, but for me, 70 is very important. Even if I am not 86, if Titcombe is 70 years, I know I am 70 plus.

As Chairman of the committee, can you tell us what to expect of the anniversary?
We are blessed in TC; we have young vibrant old students. Even if we older old students want to do it, we don’t have the capacity in terms of energy and technological know-how; there is no agility. Then, these young boys and girls came in and said, ‘okay, our daddies, you have tried, just sit down, just give us direction.’ I am being informed about their activities on WhatsApp; everything is going on well in the various committees. They sent me reports and I always pray for them and thank God for their lives.

Some of them are our grandchildren; my children’s children have finished from Titcombe. Some of them, don’t even know the history; they do it by faith. We know who is called Dowdell, we know Rev. Pool, we know Joseph Lang, Matron Marion… these boys may be hearing those names, they don’t know them. For example, I was nicknamed ‘Black Magnet’ in my days at Titcombe College, because I was the school number one goalkeeper. They hear these names, but what do they know about the history of Titcombe College?

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Of course, they are wiser than us now; they know technology. All I know about the phone now is to say ‘hello.’ They know about Whatsapp, they know about Twitter, they are geniuses, but they may still need to know one or two things. So, we are very happy everything is going on well and I am constantly briefed.

In your opinion, at what time did things start to go wrong with the secondary school education system in Nigeria?
There is one erroneous belief that private schools were taken over by the government; the government never took over Titcombe. I was in the meeting with the first military governor of Kwara State, Colonel David Bamigboye when he read out the policy and he told us clearly (I was a member of the Governing Board of Titcombe College). He said the government was not taking over; all the government was trying to do was to see that they helped the missionaries to pay teachers equal salaries because what was paid in ECWA was different from what they paid in Baptist and so on. So, they wanted to unify and harmonise salaries, but they never ever took over.

Unfortunately, there was a combination of economic downturn and the government’s inability to sustain funding of the schools; that was the beginning of trouble for all those schools because the old adage says, ‘he who pays the piper, dictates the tune.’ The government paid the salaries and they wanted to decide how the schools were run. But in Titcombe College, for example, the government cannot appoint a principal without the consent of the old students association.

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And if you look back, with the exception of just one principal, all past and present principals are ex-students of Titcombe College. We always want principals to be ex-students of the College who have imbibed and will carry on our traditions of TC. The proprietor, which is ECWA, to date, the government cannot do anything without informing them. So, it was never a takeover. The problem was that government couldn’t play their role effectively the way the missionaries did. Government would say they don’t have money and that is the beginning of the fall in standards of the secondary school education system. Teachers not motivated; no control. So, teachers do what they like. Now, it depends on whom you know.

During the days of the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M), the founders of Titcombe College, you did not need to know anybody; every appointment, every responsibility was by merit. The only person you needed to know is Jesus Christ and if you don’t know Jesus Christ, you go. In my school, Christ was our master; if you don’t want to know Jesus Christ, then go, because we don’t want you to import bad habits to come and infect disciplined, children of God.

Why are the missionaries today not building on the effort of the missionaries of yesteryears?
There are no missionaries anymore worth that name. The only town you can get foreign missionaries now, I mean in Kwara and Kogi states, is Egbe and it is because of the legacies the father missionaries have laid down. So, their children who do not want their fathers’ legacies to be in vain, returned, called back by God to continue the good work; to build on the legacies of their parents.

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Like Egbe Hospital, they took it over; they have spent over N1 billion to revitalise the hospital and the College of Nursing Sciences. In fact, the airstrip that S.I.M used to fly to and fro Jos, Plateau State and Egbe in those days (Jos is headquarters of SIM/ECWA), they are now making it an international airport and they are working on it. If you go to Egbe today, it is a beautiful job they are doing there. 

Tell us about the features of the 70th anniversary of Titcombe College; the Computer Based Training Centre set to be launched during the 70th anniversary, the Gala Night and the TC Compendium?
The compendium is a compilation of the history of Titcombe College conceptualised so that the unborn children of old students of the College and other prospective students will get to know the history of Titcombe College and they can keep for their children’s children.

The Gala night, in which I am the host, is a thing of joy where everybody reunites from all callings after decades. I don’t think I am going to see any of my classmates at the Gala Night; those who are not dead, are incapacitated and cannot afford to travel down to Egbe due to old age or one sickness or the other. The Gala night will afford old classmates and colleagues the opportunity to meet again, share ideas, hold set meetings and all that. It promises to be a night to remember. 

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The third feature is the CBT Centre. The outgoing leadership of Titcombe College Old Students Association (TCEOSA) decided that it is high time we had something permanent in the name of TCEOSA, this is without prejudice to sustained class sets projects. This includes reconstruction of new blocks of classrooms, donation of computers, reconstruction of school gates and toilets, repainting of the administrative blocks and remodelling of the massive sporting complex and so on, which are projects embarked upon or completed by the various class sets and individual old students. 

Now coming back to the CBT Centre, when we saw that It was former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Samuel Afolayan (a product of Titcombe College) who single-handedly rebuilt the collapsed Auditorium, we now came together to reason that we must emulate Afolayan by doing something collectively for the permanent benefit of our children and grandchildren who are coming behind us. And that is how we came about the CBT Centre and I am sure our younger old students too will join hands with us to make it a reality.

We approximated N70M and above to achieve that, but I believe it is subject to revision. We have asked old TC students who are architects, surveyors in the project committee to do the real cost estimate; they are working on it. The N70M launch tag is tentative because, by the time you build the structure, you installed air conditioners, you buy computers, chairs and desks… which’s a lot of money. For example, for an examination involving about 300 students, you need 300 computers and 300 desks.

Don’t forget too that these days, you hear plenty of money, but very few things to buy with it due to inflation. So, it is subject to revision. What we just want to do now is to lay the foundation and then everybody, including the government and churches will be called upon to make their contributions. After all, the missionaries that did all that they did for us were non-citizens of Nigeria.

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