By Remigius Akinbinu
Last week marked the 97th year of existence of the oldest secondary school in Ondo state, Ondo Boys High School, Ondo, which school I attended and left in June 1982.
The memories I had about the school which richly linger on are such that I always want to share.
My admission into OBHS in September 1977 was, to me, a dream come true. Not because it was the school in particular i had wanted but because it was one of the two schools I had always dreamt of attending as an innocent and naive primary school pupil.
The only other school in the vicinity that I had wanted was St. Joseph’s College (SJC) because it was a Catholic school which accorded with my catholic background and more importantly, it was the school that my two elder brothers who I’ve always seen as role models attended.
OBHS, on the other hand was also my choice because it was the more popular school back then being the oldest in the then newly created Ondo state and one of the four oldest in the old Western State of Nigeria. Perhaps football and Sports in general also played a big role in my choice of the two schools having watched them excel in this regard on several occasions.
Founded on the 13th of January 1919 by a certain Canon Moses Craig Akinpelumi Adeyemi, one of the earliest Ondo town citizens to have travelled overseas, OBHS was not only a school with checkered history by reason of its age, I t is a school with so many enduring tradition and memorabilia that have stood the test of time.
From the rhythmic School song “There is beauty all around”, the school motto “Righteousness Exalteth A Nation” to the seemingly unchangeable school uniform of white over white and so on, OBHS is a story of evergreen peculiar identity.
Cannon Adeyemi was said to be, not only a foremost academician and educationist but also a philanthropist, a great man of God, an altruistic personality and a consummate visionary.
We were told of how, in the fledgling years of the school, he moved round Ondo town and the surrounding towns to persuade reluctant parents to release their children for school.
The story was always told of how he moved as far as Egbira land in the present Kogi state to persuade their king to release to him some of his numerous children who he only used for his vast farming vocation.
After much persuasion, the King released two of his children to the cannon and they were given automatic admission.
This later culminated in the admission of more than ten other Egbira Princes to OBHS in subsequent years. The current Attah of Egbiraland, King Ado Ibrahim was one of them. He entered OBHS in 1939!
Although,history told us Canon Adeyemi was also the first principal of the school before the Akinreles, Awosikas, Akintemis and so on took over, Reverend Ariyo (now a Canon) was the school principal when I entered in 1977. He was also a shrewd disciplinarian who took particular attention in punctuality, cleanliness and students’ adapting quickly to the school culture and tradition.
Canon Ariyo will never take it kindly with any student who cannot sing all the verses of the school anthem off hand. Beside the school motto of “Righteousness Exalteth A Nation”, his most common saying was “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.
By the time I left OBHS in 1982,it was another principled Principal that was at the helm of affairs. Mr. Ade Iluyemi ensured that the flag was kept flying.
The teaching staff in those days was a mixture of foreigners who sought greener pastures in Nigeria and Nigerians who took their teaching jobs so serious because they appeared to be very comfortable with their wages and other conditions of service. The foreigners consisted mainly of Indians, Phillipinos and Ghanaians.
I can still remember vividly Mr. Erasmus who was Vice Principal,Miss Varughese who taught us mathematics, Mr. Skinkandarajah (Physics),Mr. & Mrs. Thanabalasinga (Chemistry & Biology),Miss Maligaya (Mathematics),Professor Isoh (Literature) Mr. Kahmran (Chemistry) Mr. Khan (physics) and the Ghanaians Mr. Blay (Geography) Azare (History),Aidoo (Biology),Kofi Noonoo (English) among others. They seemed to have outnumbered Nigerian teachers in those days.
Those were days when foreigners were trooping into the country for greener pastures in such a manner that made us feel Nigeria was Paradise. You cannot but wonder now, why and how the nation got to this sorry pass and if those days will ever come again!
Initially, there were four different Houses to which students could belong. They were School House (colour Red), Osemawe House (colour Blue), Bishop Awosika House (colour Yellow) and Adeyemi House (colour Green). In our form three,a new House was created in Akinrele House (colour Purple). I was in Adeyemi House.
For reasons I still cannot understand till this moment, School House always emerge tops in the school’s Annual Inter-House Sports.
OBHS in those days made good use of its closeness to the Township sports stadium to excel in Sports. The school,which was mixed briefly in the 80s, produced in those days, great athletes like Princess Dupe Adetuwo (State & AIONIAN Table Tennis Champion),Sprinter Bankole Desmond Eke (Now Chairman Royal Birds Hotels),Olanrewaju Akinnibosun (Sir Emperor) State & AIONIAN Champion in many track & field events and Akinlolu Igbekoyi (Thick Leather, Games Prefect 1981/82) who, to me, was one the most gifted players I ever came across.
Besides Sports, the school was also noted for excellence in Fine Arts and cultural dance. In 1979,we won an African Fine Arts competition in Egypt through one senior Fatai Akinnuoye whose picture on the front page of the Daily Sketch got the whole school excited. The school’s Obitun Dance troupe powered on by a certain phenomenal drummer called Baba Olopade was also very formidable in those days as it was severally adjudged among the best in National cultural dance competitions.
Assembly of all students took place every 8.AM in the School Assembly Hall. One of the most important features of the Assembly was the singing of Christian hymns from a small song book which was compulsory for every students to have. It was called “Songs Of Praise” fondly referred to by students as ‘S.O.P.’ My two favorites song back then were SOP 3 which read in part: “Lift your hiding faces, ye who were afraid, Here’s a golden story, here’s a silver news. We have found a father, we have found a son… Halleluyah! Halleluyah!….” and SOP 29 : “Forth in thy name, O Lord I go, My daily labour to pursue. Thee only thee, resolve to know, in all I think or speak or do…”
Being one of the oldest schools, OBHS was a founding member of the AIONIAN group of schools which was a group initiated and founded by Cannon Adeyemi to foster friendship and unity among the South Western schools in existence before 1940 or thereabout.
The other members of the group which used to feature prominently in the popular AIONIAN Games were Victory College, Ikare, Imade College Owo and Manuwa Grammar School Iju-Odo (all from Ondo state) Ibadan Grammar School,Ilesha Grammar School and Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife (from the old Oyo state) Ijebu-Ode Grammar School ,Abeokuta Grammar school and Egbado High School (from Ogun state).
The football Gold medal of the Games which eluded OBHS throughout my five year sojourn in the school was later won in 1987 by the all conquering Felix Akinyemi-led OBHS squad which included Femi Orimolade (Embassy) who later played for Unilag at the NUGA Games 1989/90.
The second week of January of every year always witnessed the Founder’s Day celebration to mark the School’s ‘birthday’ anniversary. It used to start with a candle light procession from the very bungalow building were the school kicked off in 1919 at a street called Idim’alo through Igunrin and Odotu streets to the present school location at Idimoge street.
1979, when I was in form three, witnessed the School’s 60th anniversary fondly referred to as The Diamond Jubilee, celebration of which was an academic-free, week-long flurry of memorable activities .
Prominent old students thronged the school from far and near to felicitate with us while many other schools across the south west were invited to participate in some of the activities. I also could remember vividly that food was served freely to all OBHS students during the week.
The 1979 Diamond Jubilee week was a week that will remain unforgettable to all OBHS students of that era. And indeed, like Thomas Jefferson said “the bulk of mankind are schoolboys through life”, each time the sweet memories of my days at OBHS flip through my mind, I feel like a schoolboy all over again.
As the school clocks 97 last week, the only school that can brag of such in this part of the country, I’m wondering what must have transpired, how the 95th Founder’s Day must have been celebrated and if the age-long culture and tradition are still being maintained.
The last time I visited OBHS was sometimes last year, when the new, ultra-modern School Administrative building built by a gracious old boy after the ancient building was destroyed by fire, was commissioned by the state Governor.
And what I saw was a perfect display of the first line of the famous school song: There is beauty all around, when there is love at home!
Long live OBHS, my alma mater!