A Noble Nigerian In The Change Milleu
84th Founders' Day Luncheon And Merit Awards Ceremony Of The Igbobi College Old Boys' Association

Feb 7, 2016 - Dear Students, Presidents, Officers and Members of the Igbobi College Old Boys' Association, eighty-four years after a seed was sown, its roots and branches have spawned many fold.

There are very few fields of human endeavour where you will not find an old Igbogbian exerting his influence and excelling therein.

Indeed, if there is such a field of endeavour – and I doubt there is – it must be one that is incompatible with the ideals of nobility which underpin the core of the character and learning formation of young boys who were moulded into men within the precinct of this real estate that is bounded by Yaba, Somolu and Onipanu.

It is a treasure trove of ideas, of human capital and of capacity. It embodies the story of Nigeria and her inherent greatness.

All of the credit must undoubtedly go to the founders in whose honour and memory we gather today.

A few weeks ago, I was part of Mr. President's entourage to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, to attend a conference on renewable energy.

They spent a large part of the 90 minutes dedicated to the opening ceremony paying tribute to their founder, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Indeed, the entire event was named after him.

They featured a documentary showing their past as fishermen and nomads; to their evolution and far-sighted vision of Zayed, who dreamt great dreams, and to how they have become the world's favourite destination for sports, entertainment, medicine and education in the middle of the desert.

Instead of Europe, it is in this desert that Europeans, Asians, Africans and representatives of other continents gather to discuss the future of the planet and how to use energy safely.

Who could have dreamt this when only up till 1971, they were a British colony? But they left no one in doubt as to whom the credit for their current status belonged. It belonged to their founders, typified by Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

He did not live to see all what he dreamt about, but his people have lived his dream and more because they were not frightened to acknowledge and celebrate him.

They did not destroy the path he set out for them simply to show that they were better than him. Instead, they walked the same path with honour, courage, faith and an unshaken belief that not only will they get to where he dreamt to take them, they would exceed the destination he foresaw.

Today, therefore, not only must we just remember that it is founders' day, we must acknowledge that is the memorial of sacrifice day.

It is the anniversary of the day when some far-sighted patriots dared to dream so that you and I can have an education.

It is the anniversary of the period when the family of Madam Efunroye Tinubu gave up this land so that you and I, and many before us, can have an education.

They could have converted it into personal homes and sold them. Indeed, the original land was a commercial land, a kola-nut plantation that was yielding revenue and it was from this that the college derived its name, "Igbobi".

In the event, that such a monumental sacrifice was not made, I probably would not have met some of the great men and boys who in one way or the other as teachers and friends, shaped my life.

Today is not only founders' day or sacrifice day, it is visionary day memorial. The founders had great vision. They chose to build the character of their students on nobility. They dreamt and they asserted in very strong belief that whenever you saw an Igbobian, you would see a noble Nigerian.

They could have chosen to create rich Nigerians, tall Nigerians, strong Nigerians; instead they settled for 'Nobility' and I feel truly indebted to have been privileged to partake of this dream.

Nobility is not an event, it is more than that. To be noble, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary the 6th Edition, is to have "… fine personal qualities that people admire, such as courage, honesty and care for others."

If therefore you are still wondering why the Igbobi College brand is so strong and globally appealing, it is because it is underpinned by values that money, brilliance or sheer strength cannot confer. It is the value of Nobility.

That value and those related to it, such as sacrifice, honesty, hard work, care for others, respect for constituted authority are the things that gave you and I the opportunity to partake of what we did not build.

They are values that are urgently required in Nigeria in the change milleu.

They are the values that turned fishermen into global competitors within a few short decades; they are the values that will take Nigeria to its undoubted promise in the shortest possible time.

They are the values that make you and I proud about Igbobi College.

For keeping these values alive, our gratitude to the founders of the Old Boys' Association, successive presidents and executive members who have been great torch bearers is deep and profound, and we say thank you; especially to our current president, Mr. Folusho Phillips and his team.

Before I leave you, let me share with you how unconventional the creation of this school was, and how enduring it has remained in its unconventional and monumental achievements.

I had asked Mr. Supo Shasore, SAN, who was himself an old boy, to assist me with a summary history of the founding of this school when I was preparing this speech. He graciously agreed and promptly responded.

I will share with you what he sent to me:

"Without sounding cliché this institution – "Igbobi College" from its inception was unique unconventional and pioneering it was designed to produce students that would survive – no excel - in any system in the world under any circumstances they would find themselves.

First the unique and unconventional ecumenical collaboration of its creation is something of a miracle. A co-operation between the Church Missionary Society (the Anglican Communion) and the Wesleyan Church (the Methodist Church) at the time was unheard of. This unique effort produced 'The United Missionary College' 1928 at Ibadan in the then Western Province of the Colony of Nigeria. The decision to jointly found a school was pioneering. The stated objective of this collaboration was to "give a well-balanced secondary school education to boys in an environment adequate for the purpose" it was at the time and possibly has been since – unprecedented.

Learning for boys was already in progress within the old Lagos colony province, the other schools – 'the Grammar school' and that 'other school at Obalende' were already there. But the pioneers had to remain unconventional they sought and found lush vegetation towards the north of the colony Province – 32 acres of 'bush' - part of a Kola Nut farm said to belong to Madam Efunroye Tinubu once acquired it became in the stated objective the "environment adequate for the purpose."

As we all know school populations emerge from the younger classes increasing as the students grow older as they populate the entire school. But ever unconventional and pioneering Igbobi students were taken from existing Anglican and Methodists schools to fill all the six year classes as the first in-take of students for the new school.

So that on Tuesday the 2nd of February 1932 the old Kola nut farm site then christened "Igbobi College" opened with 55 boarders and 95 day students with an average of 25 students in a class but with students in all six year classes of the school! The school emphasis was and still is a national prerequisite - "Training for leadership" - much of this training style has become part of the schools tradition imparted in the class rooms its corridors and dormitories – the early boarding houses were Aggrey; Freeman Oluwole and Townsend.

Maintaining the same breach of convention and breaking ground was the uniform of 'cotton drill' known as 'Khaki'; the founding teachers were carefully selected Reverend W. Waterton was the first principal from CMS while Reverend Allen Angus then principal of MBHS was made the Vice Principal it must have been a formidable team.

With the progress of World War II, the British called on all colonies in the Empire to support the war effort and Igbobi was requisitioned under Defense regulations.

The school was evacuated to Ibadan specifically at Kudeti (where Yejide Grammar School can be found today) and remained at Ibadan from 1943 till 1946 when it was restored to this present site to continue as that "environment adequate" after the Reginald Parker almost- decade as Principal. Again Igbobi established itself as pioneering and unconventional by appointing its first Nigerian principal the Cambridge educated Mr S A Babalola in 1958. His appointment was part of the pioneering effort of early Nigerian teachers such as the now famous author of 'Forest of a Thousand Demons' O.O Fagunwa; C. O Ekwensi, another celebrated writer who taught English Language, S O Ighodaro, later Justice of the High Court and D W Emuchay who taught Biology.

Always a pioneer, I understand from Professor Ayo banjo's contribution to 'J F Ajayi 'His life and Career' states that Igbobi College has produced nine Vice Chancellors – unique and unprecedented in the academic field for one school – Professors Oritshejolomi Thomas; Ayo Banjo; Ade Ajayi; Kwaku Adadevoh; Oye Ibidapo Obe; Dele Falase; Afolabi Olumide; Enitan Bababunmi and Bode Bamkole. They were taught by the best and the let the world know it by their achievements!

This unconventional beginnings, this pioneering spirit has created a national treasure and a bond amongst men in the words of a distinguished ICOBA past President Prof J Ade Ajayi: "The Igbobi tradition is an attitude, a manner, a spirit, a legend that develops from the past"

We must now translate this glorious past into catalysts for Nigeria's promising future."

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear students, I leave you with this question:

"Eighty-four years after some great men did an unconventional thing to give Nigeria a storehouse of Noblemen, what will you give to Nigeria to fulfil her promise in the change milleu?"

Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Minister for Power, Works and Housing