AMBASSADOR SEGUN IJAOLA OLUJIMI OLUSOLA mni
BIRTH –SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING
I asked questions much more later on why I was named Olusegun and I picked up the information that my late father and my mother also now late, had had some quarrel and nobody thought that they were going to get together again. Daddy was going to break away and do his own thing. Then suddenly, I arrived. The only name they thought…it was a natural name. That if after this confrontation mummy and daddy had, they were still able to make peace, and able to come together again, and they could have this baby boy, his name would be Oluwasegun, (Victor; God is Victory) That the Lord has made this victory. And the alternative name they gave me which I don’t use often is Ijaola (Quarrel of Honour). Those were the circumstances of my birth
My father is a prominent carpenter. He was the leader and ran the town’s Wood Workers Cooperative Union. He trained some working class boys in woodwork. He had this reputation of managing recalcitrant children. Young men who came from all over Nigeria, as diverse places as Nupe country from up north. People would tell loafing youths to go to “Baba Carpenter”. You will learn the trade and you would be disciplined. My father was a great disciplinarian.
My mother was a Mat weaver.
We had our home at the popular Junction at Iperu-Remo where the Ijebu Ode – Abeokuta Road crosses the Ibadan – Lagos road.
My father (due to persistent pressure) took another wife – and this second wife was special. She was a princess of Iperu-remo. She was a matured woman that never had a Baby. And there are many who said if she gets into the home of the carpenter, chances are high, they would not only get on fine, they would have a child. So we now had another lady in the homestead. And we all call her Mrs. Meaning ‘Woman Teacher’. Unfortunately she never did have a child of her own.
As Olusegun I came as a Resolver of whatever conflict there was between my father and my mother.
There were only two boys in the family – an older brother who came before me. Brother Tunji. He has since passed away, but his children are very much around. I am the only one they recognize as father. Before me there are senior sisters, some of them still alive. After me there was one girl. Now she is a remarkable one. She was born 1: 1: 39 – 1st. January, 1939. The story was told of her birth. I had been taken to the church for the New Year’s Eve Night watch church service. And it was said that just as the bells were ringing at Midnight, ushering in the New Year, she, Biodun was born. She is 70 years old now. Mother of boys and girls. As luck would have it, she then became the keeper of the Home stead. She has had two, three husbands and she had children for them. Since the elder women had since passed on, there was the indication at home that somebody should look after, be the keeper of our homestead. Our home at Station, at Iperu Remo.
Religion is taken seriously at home. My father was a leader at the Methodist Church. I still maintain my membership of the Methodist Church against all manifestations in other directions. I still go to church when I am home at Iperu Remo. It has become a tradition. How would it be that any member of the family of Olusola the carpenter would not be a member of the Methodist Church. Much against even early inclinations. When the Roman Catholic Church was started in Iperu Remo in 1941, for one reason or the other, I was registered there. We were the foundation students. They all coined a name for me because of this. They call me “Padi” including our ‘Mrs’ in our home. I was there till 1945. I got so involved in the school that everyone thought I was going to become a Catholic priest. My father had to pull me out of the Catholic school and took me to the Wesley School
When I grew up and came into Broadcasting, I became much more open to Religious influences. I was born into Methodism. I had started out my education as a Catholic, I felt nothing compelling me not to relate with other Religious bodies either on the basis of my own personal interest or because my friends were there. Much more later in my life, I became a Crossbearer. In the sense that I became an adherent of the Grail Message – a philosophical and religious organization. Introduced to Nigeria by Chief Adeyemi Lawson. The Lord God Almighty is the Master. In my view it should be the Religion of ALL persons. There is no harsh and binding believe that you must be this or that. One thing I cherish in the Grail Message which incidentally is also found in the Bible is the phrase:
DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT YOU WANT TO BE DONE UNTO YOU
It speaks of the GodHead. Why we should live together in peace. Why we should not discriminate. We have a Temple at Iju Hills, near Lagos. Chief Adeyemi Lawson is also a leader of the Anglican Church – until he discovered the Grail Message.
On one occasion which I still remember as if it were yesterday. I was a Television Interviewer. In the studio with me were Chief Adeyemi Lawson and Dr. Bolaji Idowu who was the patriarch of the Methodist Church at the time. I had a recorded dialogue with them. They went on to discuss the Godhead. They went on to discuss other very important matters of Religion. They got into each other’s way. It seemed as if we were comparing Religious organizations. We were comparing things that really should not be compared. And it came to pass that it seems one person was boxed into a corner. And when you compare Religious leaders, the discourse would go beyond just a dialogue on the way of the world. I consulted Chief Lawson who did not request for a cancellation. It was the patriarch of the Methodist church who very generously requested for it to be cancelled.
I still reserve my reverence for the Traditional Religion. The worship of the Lord God Almighty does not stop me from respecting and accepting the traditional obligation of the average Nigerian in terms of Religious philosophy. I would enter into a shrine and join them and wish them well. I would receive them. I appreciate them. But of course I do not go to worship at any traditional shrine. I worship at the Temple of the Grail Message. But I would attend service anywhere in the world. They do not stand in the way of my Recognition of the Lord as the head of all as preached in the Grail Message.
I did not come with a silver spoon as such. But my father was hardworking. He was able to buy a property at what was called the ‘Reservation Area’ then. The prince of the land, the Okupe also had a property there. And the Ope-Odus – all magnificent people. The first generation of literate leaders.
If there were any negative turning points in my life, I had a way of rationalizing events that came my way. For me the good and the Not-so-good are parts of the human experience.
I entered secondary school – Remo Secondary School. Sagamu in 1948. It was the only viable secondary school in the whole of that area. The first and only co-educational institution in the whole of West Africa. It was established with the support of Methodist, Anglican and even the Muslim communities. Revd Canon Odusanwo was the Principal of the School then. The late Revd D. O. Dada took over from him. I spent six years there. I ended up being the Secretary of the Literary & Debating Society (L &DS) of the School. Everybody says: “this boy doing very well reading the bible very well would be a good BROADCASTER.
I don’t run away from any habit simply because someone says don’t. I will do anything within limits. Then if I don’t like it, I will stop it. Bantefa, a family friend introduced me to beer which I enjoy. I still enjoy an occasional beer even now.
After Secondary School, I went to Ibadan. I worked as Account “Assistant with the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (the then ECN) in 1954. However, next door to the ECN was Broadcasting House, Dugbe, Ibadan, Radio Nigeria the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (Oxford House). I sought opportunities to go and work there. I go there occasionally to read stories for broadcast. Until they gave me a job in 1955.
First as a Studio Manager. Then as Features producer. I was producing programmes with great names – the likes of Deinde George, Emmanuel Omatsola etc. the head of features at that time was Cyprian Ekwensi (the renowned author)
When Television was first introduced in Nigeria and in Africa for that matter in 1959, I sought and got appointment as Television Producer. So it came to pass that I became the First Television producer in Nigeria and indeed in Africa in 1959.and 50 years on, I have not left Television. It is in Television that I got my satisfaction, professional ideals. Television has been my life. I have no other business, no other passion other than television.
FIRST MARRIAGE-WITH ELSIE
It was in Television eventually that I ran into my first wife, Elsie Eniowoette Thomas-Nkune. Her father is Efik. Her mother is Itsekiri. We met in 1960 when I came back from the US. When I was passing through London, I had been told that there is one young woman working in Television in Nigeria and that if I see her, I would fall for her. She had been a freelance reporter with the BBC in London. She was recruited by WNBC. We liked each other. I told her I want to marry her. She did not believe me. She was evasive. Many times she shunned me off: “Don’t touch me o”
Later when we got on fine for sometime. Then she said “Look don’t tell anyone I did not warn you o. I already have a child before now. I had the child in my last year in London, a baby girl. Don’t say I did not tell you o. Do you still want to marry me?”
I told her “Not only do I still want to marry you, that child you had in 1959, I will adopt her as my own child” the child, Eniowoette (whom we gave also Aderonke) Olusola, lived and grew up with us. Together we had Olujimi in 1962, and Oluwatoyin in 1964. Oluwatoyin is now a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in London. She lives in the UK. Will be 50 years old Sept. 21. 2009. All three children – Aderonke, Olujimi, and Oluwatoyin – lived with us in Victoria Island, went to school in Nigeria. She trains Nigerian children in Britain how to live Nigerian lives, and they would ask me to come and talk to them now and again.
Elsie was not my first love. You could not be in Remo Secondary School Sagamu, a co-educational school from age 12 to 18 as I did, and not have a relationship. I had a number of relationships which did not amount to much. Except one special one with a young woman who was close to me. We thought we would make it together. But we did not. Because of my television experience. And because, Elsie was so frank with me. I and Elsie relate very well together. Even when I was at Addis Ababa as ambassador, when Elsie comes and she spends say 6 weeks, the whole of Ethiopia would know that she has been around. She is a noise-maker. Very loud.
ELSIE AND I
It’s amazing you describe me as conservative. Well, conservative in the sense that I do not ruffle feathers. Elsie was a Noise maker, loud, very active. The challenges to the marriage were well contained. Work and our mutual interests in Television sustained us. I was in Television and Elsie enjoys Television tremendously. We had our first child together, Jimi within one year of our marriage. Both of us working in Television makes the relationship quite unique. We enjoy being with each other.
Elsie’s mother was extremely conservative. But she accepted me. She said. “I did not think my daughter would get someone to marry her because she is too noisy.” She is a little noisier than I would have liked. Her social life was very open. Sometimes Elsie and I would go to a Reception, even an official Reception. And when it was time for me to leave the reception and to come home, Elsie would still not be available to come home. She would be enjoying herself. I would leave. And she would later come home to me. People would wonder: you and your wife going out to a place and coming home separately?!
She was close to her Isekiri mother and rather distant to her Efik father. I then made a point of getting her closer to her father’s roots. I was in Enugu then. We would drive to Creek Town, Calabar. Her father had properties there. Elsie and I had an enjoyable relationship. Nobody abandoned his/her character for the union.
If I could have stopped her from smoking cigarette, I would have. But she never stopped smoking in her life. She was a public person. What you knew of Elsie was what I knew of her. Yes we had friction (e.g. due to going out and coming home separately) but we would talk about it. In any case, the following week, we would have another occasion to go out together, another reception.
Also, she is a versatile Television actor and producer. I needed her to continue performing in the Village headmaster series. We must go on living with each other. If you have a problem in a marriage, sit down and resolve it. You won’t get married every year. If you can’t resolve an issue, take it as your lot in life. She brought up our three children very well. She is very strict and disciplined. Our children went to boarding schools here in Nigeria. They went to Universities here. She was the anchor and the one monitoring their educational life very closely. Elsie was good company
Every stage of a man’s life is unique and has different purposes. At the time I married Elsie, she was just what I was looking for. We lived happily together form 1961 till her death in 1991.
MY SECOND MARRIAGE
After Elsie died in 1991, all my three children came to me and said they do not want me to continue to live alone. They have heard the story of the woman I knew way back in my Remo Secondary School days whom I never married. Fehintola. They said they know that she is not married. Although she has had two children – Oluwatoyin, a girl and Samuel, from two different fathers.
“Why don’t you ask her to be your wife?” my children said. We invited her. She agreed.
Fehintola and I were married in 1992 one year after Elsie’s death. My current relationship with my current wife is a different stage of life entirely. It is like going back home.
We have our rough edges here and there. I adopted her two children. She started living with me. The first duty we did as husband and wife was to marry off her first child, a daughter, Oluwatoyin. She is now working in Nairobi, Kenya.
The two relationships are different. There is no question of comparing.
NIGERIA’S POLITICAL HISTORY
Nigerian communities had been trading together before the 1914 Amalgamation by the British. Nigeria was a product of British hegemony. They did it to have a bigger market.
There is nothing specifically antagonistic between the North and the South in Nigeria. As a 75 year old man, I sincerely do not think Nigeria would have had anything to gain if we had refused the amalgamation. We have everything to gain by coming together as one country.
I do believe that every community, every nation would pass through the experience that Nigeria passed through and is passing through .
The Badness or goodness of the congregation, of the country, in my view has nothing to do with who was your boss, who was ruling you. We were all still Nigerians. We decided to be Nigeria. I do not believe that the suffering we underwent was so significant that we should be regretting the fact of our amalgamation, the fact of our coming together. I would still give kudos to those who designed, whether because of their own interest or whatever, that Nigeria should be run as one country. I have travelled widely round Nigeria. I have really been priviledged as a producer of feature programmes for Television, as a leader in broadcasting, as a diplomat and more importantly now in my current role as a PEACE MAKER. What I do now, is to ensure that using the African Refugee Foundation (AREF) as a vehicle, to ensure we do not go back to the days when we do not recognize Nigeria as belonging to ALL of us. I would hate to go back to the days when Nigeria was developing as different entities – the North, the East, and the West. It is too late in the day now to contemplate that. There is a lot more to lose fighting for that. There is a lot to gain in our coming together.
I want to thank those people (WHO THINK THAT NIGERIA OUGHT TO BE GREATER THAN SHE IS NOW) for their optimism . I don’t agree with them! No nation can grow smoothly, all the way without the kind of bumps here and there as we have. And I plead with people who believe that Nigeria should have been miles ahead of who? in Africa. Even with the Arab nations of North Africa and the Republic of South Africa, Nigeria is still among the 4 or 5 most developed countries of Africa. We are often too noisy about our not being the leader anytime South Africa takes a step that seems to be overtaking Nigeria, I don’t agree. Nigeria has the resilience. Alright there are some sections of people who feel cheated because they had arrived at a level of development before the others. These others must be accommodated. If Nigeria belonged to all of us, don’t let us make a situation that because you are there first, you should be there all the time. How would you look at the educational development of Nigeria? We all know that because of Awolowo’s Free Education at the time, the rate of education in the old Western Region is far ahead of the rate in other regions. But we are not going to stop them from catching up with us – or at least making progress. And because of the progress we in the West have made, we are not going to be a loner in the field. We are not going to be the only philosophers, the only metallurgists, and occupy all the great positions in the country. Let us share with, and accommodate those who were sleeping when we were sending our children to school. But now we are one country, let us relate together.
RECIPE FOR NIGERIA’S DEVELOPMENT
I would urge that the government pay serious attention to education – particularly education at the lover levels. If every Nigerian is exposed to Teacher Training, or Secondary level of education, the changes would be overwhelming. The PhDs, the engineers etc we may not have them equitably in all states of the Federation. But wherever we have them, let their services be available to the whole country. I do not see any wisdom in going to Malaysia, or India to recruit science teachers when you have science teachers in Ikenne, in Lagos, in the southern parts of the country. Let us encourage a mixing and exchange of services and let Nigerians wherever they are in Nigeria be available for service to all. The government which introduced the National Youth Corps Service (NYSC) scheme was applauded. Because the changes that it has brought about in the minds of the young people are admirable and beneficial to the nation as a whole.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH POLITICS AND PROMINENT POLITICIANS
Politics of one’s community, of one’s country, or continent is an integral aspect of one’s life. I cannot divorce myself from it. I had been a keen observer of Nigerian politics at close range. I lived with the politics. However, I was not a registered member of any political party.
Iperu Remo is just 5 kilometres from Ikenne, the hometown of (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo. And with Awolowo setting up free education in the old Western Region, how can it be possible that I will not admire such a personality?
I met (Dr. Nnamdi ) Azikiwe in his latter years and I was surprisingly impressed when he remembered me while I was a little Television producer several years back. And we talked at length.
I was close to Awolowo. But it was not necessary for me to be a registered member of his party. Bola Ige, an Awoist taught me latin. Bola ige’s wife, late Justice Atinuke taught me English at Remo Secondary School.
Alhaji Maitama Sule and I worked together at the Nigerian Art Council. If I go to Kano today, I would be lodged in the inner recesses of Maitama Sule’s house.
Babangida was my principal. I was appointed as an ambassador during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida. He is a thoroughbred Nigerian. So I relate very well with political leaders.
He lives with me for days whenever he came to Addis Ababa. He is a thoroughbred Nigerian. Whatever else he might have done or done wrong, he still was a thoroughbred Nigerian. I was very proud to have him as my principal when he appointed me.
Some weeks before he appointed me as ambassador, I, as a member of the Alumni of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) criticized him publicly. I had said in the company of some colleagues: “On this business of declaring assets, Mr. President, why don’t you be the first to do it and let the people see”. People were surprised that I was making the statement in public about the president. I said yes, I was in a privileged position as the Vice president of the NIPSS Alumni then. I made my views known. Now he did not because of that (My criticism) say : “I am not going to appoint this man as an ambassador”.
I didn’t know enough about late General Abacha. We respected each other – let’s put it that way
I feel very very sad recalling Abiola and what this country, and what Africa and Black peoples of the world lost when Abiola failed in his bid not only to serve as President, but also passed on. Because this man called me to a particular cause that for me was even greater than the cause of leading this country. Abiola appreciated the centrality of Reparation – compensation for the Slavery that all Black people had suffered. And in our encounter, we made him (Abiola) see why it was important that this cause should even be greater than the cause of leading this country as the president. We satisfied ourselves that perhaps if he became president he would be able, as reigning president to put the idea of Reparation on the front burner to the Americans to the British and to all of those countries that benefited from the inhuman exploitation of the Black peoples on the Slave trade. We wanted them to review the Slave Era and pay Reparation in current terms. Reparation is that you have done evil to these people and you ought to do something to recompense. Abiola bought the idea. And I was privileged to have worked with him on that idea. And if because of that alone, I had great expectations on him.
I said to him just before they perpetrated the act against him: “Look why you don’t just take on the Reparation issue and sell the issue to all Black governments”. His answer was: “But, my friend, if I can become president I would be better able to sell the idea of Reparation”. But unfortunately, we lost him. Some of us are thoroughly disappointed that we could not have him lead this country and therefore market the Reparation idea. But I still believe that we can sell the idea to any African political leader when the opportune time comes. Those who perpetrated slavery owe us reparation. And this can only come in terms of trade that we now negotiate
It will take me sometime to evaluate him. I have not seen his act. However, he seems to have started something on the country’s civil service.
The civil Servants had locked themselves up to the extent that the political leadership did not understand that we were simply working and slaving for a core of top civil servants of this country. And if it is true that the present leadership has seen the light and decided that there should be changes in the structure of the civil service, then I wish him well. It took a long time for the leadership to realize that the Civil Service had become a government of his own – a parallel government. The real political government has been set aside. If it is true that Yar’Adua wants to politically lead this country, then it will be a good development.
EXPERIENCES FROM ETHIOPIA
The Ethiopians are a disciplined, long-suffering people. And based on the hours they spent praying, it is impossible for the Lord not to answer their prayers. In the time of Mengistu, there was a recession. But things are getting better now
FULFILMENT IN LIFE
I did not think I would live to be 70. Anyone who knew me while I was 30 and thereabouts would not expect me to live beyond 30. The Lord had helped me so much. Yes, I have God to thank for it all. You observed that at 74 plus, I read without glasses. I had achieved quite a lot. All the years I had spent over 30 had been spent overtime. So if I am approaching 75 now, 45 years had been spent over time. Also, I am an actor. Because I look healthy does not mean I am healthy.
PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
Nothing you do in this earth-life is forgotten. You are going to reap it many fold in any other shape. This earth life is not – cannot be the end of me, or anybody else for that matter. So we had better think well, plan well, act well, because we are going to reap it thereafter. Now I don’t know what that Hereafter is, and I don’t want to bother about it. But we cannot be living like this and think that when we quench, we quench and that’s all. No we are going to live again.
HEAVEN AND HELL
We are already going through the concept of heaven and hell here on this earth. I am not disturbing any religion, but I believe that heaven and hell, I think we are living through it already. And we can encourage ourselves so there will be more of heaven than the hell.