Nostalgic Memories Of My Alma Mater, 30 Years After

By Mark Longyen

It’s exactly 30 years ago this year, when I was admitted into the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife (“Great Ife,”) to undergo my undergraduate degree in International Relations in 1988.
The memories of my journey to -and sojourn in- Ife have remained indelible on my mind as though these events took place just yesterday.
I was an ambitious and intelligent young teenager admitted via JAMB on merit, straight from my secondary school, the famous CSJ Vom, after “clearing” all my 1987 WAEC subjects at one sitting.

The long trip to Ife was my first ever journey outside the shores of Plateau State. Naturally, I was overwhelmed by a mixed bag of anxiety, curiosity, excitement and trepidation. I boarded a bus of Salisu Adamu Fagge Motors on Bauchi Road in Jos, whose agonizing long route was Jos-Kaduna-Birnin Gwari-Kainji-Ogbomosho-Oyo-Ibadan-Lagos.

I still remember patiently waiting and watching from the windows of the old vehicle, which tortuously meandered its way through the guinea savanna vegetation of the North Central that gradually faded into the thick forest of the South West. I remember observing the gradual change from the chilly weather of Jos, to the hot, humid, almost suffocating heat of the South West. I also recall the dusty air of the North giving way to the wet, muggy embrace of the South’s monsoon-like climatic conditions. I arrived in Lagos just before dawn, prior to the connecting trip to Ile-Ife, the ancestral headquarters of the Yorubas, in another vehicle.

At last I arrived at the beautiful, imposing OAU gate on the Lagos-Ibadan highway and I was immediately hurled into a waiting bus specially arranged by the Students Union to convey “Jambites” on arrival day to the central campus.
We hit the popular Road One, the well-lit university dual carriageway that was decorated with beautiful flowers and lawns which leads to the main campus. The bus was blaring the then reigning Fuji music of, I guess, “Kolington” or “Barrister” to my discomfort. I surely would have been more at home with one of the familiar tracts of Danmaraya Jos.

I had read so much about Great Ife in magazines like Newswatch and the African Concord and had also read the great plays of Ife’s literary icons like Profs Wole Soyinka and Ola Rotimi, and had also learned that the then revered Ife University VC, Prof Wande Abimbola, was an Ifa Priest, a “Babalawo,” etc. “So, this is the campus where I’ll see all these “demi-gods in real life?” I thought to myself.

After my mandatory clearance and documentation, I was allocated a room in the Adekunle Fajuyi male Hostel. The Students Union later organized a welcome party for Jambites. It was great! I can’t forget that experience forever. Everybody was gorgeously dressed. I recall Yinka Odumakin, the then Students Union PRO, now Afenifere chieftain, stood out. The babes were extremely beautiful, perhaps as beautiful as the campus itself. There were so many beautiful girls that I was scared stiff of asking any of them for a dance.
(I love beautiful babes, but I prefer those who combine beauty with brain.) But I toasted none and danced all alone, even when my favorite tract, the then reigning “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue,” of Nu Shooz, was played intermittently.

The academic experience was exhilarating. What with my department’s panoply of world-renowned lecturers like Prof Olajide Aluko, Africa’s first professor of International Relations, Prof Amadu Sesay, the University of London-trained Sierra Leonian professor, Prof Alade Fawole, the American-trained George Washington University Doctorate graduate, who later supervised my graduation project with his “electrical brain,” Ambassador Olu Sanu, former Nigerian Ambassador to the European Union, Prof Tale Omole, France-trained and immediate past OAU VC, Prof Jide Owoeye, the Afro-Asian Relations expert, now co-owner of Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof Sola Ojo, the Middle-East-Arab-Israeli Relations guru, Prof Kayode Soremekun, International Energy Resources expert, now VC of a Federal University, among others. I also met some good classmates, and some seniors too, like Charles Ukeje, a senior and mentor of sorts, now a professor and Senior Lecturer in the same department, Olusegun Adeniyi, three years my senior and former Spokesman to late President Yar’Adua, senior Wale Adeniyi, immediate past Spokesman of the Nigerian Customs Service, and the late “campus comedian,” Segun George.

Social life in Great Ife was great. I can’t forget the days when we used to troop to the campus Oduduwa Hall Amphitheater, clutching our babes like our handbags to attend the live concerts of visiting musicians like Sina Peters, Majek Fashek, of the “Send Down The Rain” fame, etc. (I hope my jealous wife doesn’t get to read this part). One friend who influenced my social life the most was Wole Arisekola, son of the late Ibadan billionaire, Arisekola Alao, who later requested me to relocate from the hostel to his 2-bedroom flat off campus and we lived together till my graduation. At weekends we would visit our “Motherless Babies” of Mozambique Hall or the “Babyless Mothers” of Moremi Hall, just to catch some fun. Wole who now lives mostly abroad is into property, oil and gas business and is also the publisher of the UK-based “The Street Journal” online newspaper.

Established about 57 years ago in 1961 as one of Nigeria’s First Generation Universities, the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife (formerly University of Ife, nicknamed Great Ife) is, without doubt, Africa’s leading Citadel of Learning. It’s the breeding ground for African Arts, Science and Technology. OAU is without doubt the reservoir for Africa’s academic Intellectualism and Intelligentsia.

For instance, world-renowned authors and playwrights like Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and Prof Ola Rotimi of, author of the book, “The gods are not to blame,” among others, literally shook the world with their literary savvy while doing what they knew best at Great Ife.

Legal luminaries like former Gambian Justice Minister and Present Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, Fatou Bensouda, Femi Falana, SAN, Yusuf Ali, SAN, the Supreme Court’s Sylvester Ngwuta, among others, all had their tutelage at OAU.

Media gurus like Ovation’s Dele Momodu, ex-NTA’s and present Presidential Aide on Foreign and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri, ex-TheNews’ and present Presidential Political Adviser, Babafemi Ojudu, former and present presidential spokesmen, Olusegun Adeniyi and Femi Adesina, respectively, are all OAU alumni.

Present and immediate past Ondo State Governors, Rotimi Akeredolu and Olusegun Mimiko, both graduated from Great Ife.
Former governor of Lagos and Osun States, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, is an OAU alumnus. Former governors of Ekiti State, Olusegun Oni and Kayode Fayemi both graduated from OAU.

Former Nigerian First Ladies, Justice Fati Abdulsalam Abubakar and Stella Obasanjo, as well as former Lagos State First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, also attended Africa’s Great Ife.
Former Housing and Urban Development Minister, Amma Pepple, also studied at OAU.

OAU has also produced its fair share of billionaires in the Nigerian business circle. The list includes Forte Oil’s Femi Otedola, CEO of Global Fleet, Jimoh Ibrahim, Oil and Gas magnate, Wole Arisekola and ex-NCC CEO, Ernest Ndukwe, among others.

Also, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Worldwide, RCCG, Enoch Adeboye (bagged Ife’s Bsc Mathematics in 1967!), ex-Agriculture Minister and
present President of the African Development Bank, ADB, Akinwunmi Adesina, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, Communications Minister, Adeboye Shittu, are among some of the university’s notable products. The list is indeed endless.

Looking back 30 years, one is simply nostalgic about the amazing Ife experience. I’ve bagged postgraduate qualifications in Journalism, Law and Diplomacy in other reputable institutions but the Ife experience remains indelibly intertwined with my whole being like a set of Siamese twins.

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Nostalgic Memories Of My Alma Mater, 30 Years After

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