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Sunday, 18 February 2024 10:20

[OPINION] Seventy Glorious Years of Fiditi Grammar School - Sola Omole

Like so many areas of our national life in Nigeria, education, particularly public sector education, especially the post primary level, has been buffeted by severe negative winds resulting in very poor output. The desire by parents for strong educational foundation for their children has led to the upsurge in the number of private schools at all levels across the country.

It was not always like this however. In the 50s, 60s and even into the early 70s, Nigeria could still boast of a high performing educational sector, particularly if one was thinking of the secondary education level.

One such high performing institution was Fiditi Grammar School. Founded in 1954, as a result of the zeal of the leading citizens of the small fruit town of Fiditi for the establishment of a qualitative secondary school in the town, it did not take long for the school to establish itself as a top tier secondary school.

Sola Omole, former NTA Director-General, is Chairman-Publicity & Publications Committee of the 70th anniversary

Some members of Fiditi Old Students Association

The early Principals and teachers were committed and focused on producing well rounded students in academics, sports and morals. Notable among these were an indigene of Fiditi and first Principal Chief Adebiyi Omowonuola Adeyi and Chief Alex Olu Ajayi from Ekiti State. He took over from Chief Adeyi who joined the government of western Nigeria under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The other prominent and long serving teacher and Principal was another indigene of Fiditi, Chief Deacon Solomon Ipadeola Ojelabi. These men, along with those who worked with them, created a high class academic and aesthetically pleasing environment.

As an example, Chief Alex Ajayi invited his friend, the budding and later globally recognized and famous poet Mr. Christopher Okigbo to teach in the school. Okigbo would go on to become the Vice Principal and sports master in the school. In those early days, Chief Ajayi would at various times invite academic members from the departments of Classics, Chemistry, Biology of the University College Ibadan to give lectures to students at Fiditi

Chief Ajayi remarked in some of his writings that this constant flow of intellectuals through Fiditi provided a most desirable and profitable interaction for the students and staff of Fiditi Grammar School. These were the beginnings of what would lead to teachers coming to the school courtesy of the Canadian Universities Services Overseas (CUSO) and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO of the UK). These teachers gave a proper grounding and educational foundation to the students. The results of these were to show in the educational attainment of the students and their after school vocational careers.

Creating an aesthetically beautiful and pleasing environment is an important part of ensuring that students were able to effectively engage and profit from the learning environment. Here is how an expatriate driving on the Ibadan-Oyo trunk A road passing in front of the school described it. She saw it as the most beautiful scene or spot in the south west of Nigeria… the green field is well maintained and distanced from traffic noise to allow students concentrate on their studies.

This was the environment created at Fiditi Grammar School which had students from Lagos, Ibadan, Ogbomosho,Igbeti, Iree, Abeokuta, Benin, Sabongida Ora, Oyo, Benin Republic, Jobele, Awe, Warri, Ijebu Ode, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano and Fiditi itself. Students from these far flung locations learned to live together, socialize, assimilate one another’s cultural norms and background, we even spoke languages other than our own.

How did this school located in the small food and fruit belt of south western Nigeria, 24 miles away from the city of Ibadan and 9 miles from Oyo town gain the attention of parents and would be students from all these disparate and far flung cities mentioned above?

The duo of Alex Ajayi and Chris Okigbo determined to utilize sports as a magnet to attract students to Fiditi. So Chief Ajayi invited Teslimi “Thunder” Balogun to the school as a soccer coach. There were already soccer high fliers in the school. Among them were the Odegbami brothers who as a result of their soccer prowess were fondly called ‘Key to Soccer’ These were the older siblings of Segun Odegbami fondly called ‘Mathematical Odegbami by Radio Nigeria’s late football commentator Ernest Okonkwo.

The Fiditi Grammar School team carried out exploits in western Nigeria defeating all the schools in the area on the soccer pitch, including the 1959 winners of the Thermogene Cup, the Ahmaddiya College Agege. The Thermogene Cup was an all Nigeria Cup competition for full fledged grammar schools, which Fiditi was yet to be at the time. The same team beat the University College Ibadan first eleven by 12 goals to nil.

It was the same with athletics. The school boasted of stars in both the sprints and long distance races. Abiodun Okusanya aka Abbey Lincoln was a champion long distance runner. He represented Fiditi Grammar School in racing events across Western Nigeria and beyond. He was always a winner.

In the sprints, we had Latunbosun Popoola aka “Sahara” whose fluid movements aided by his stride frequency and stride length was a wonder to behold as he tore through the 100 and 200 meter races like a gazelle or a cheetah, bringing glory and fame to Fiditi. He was reported to have made, in 1962, the hundred meters dash in 10.9 seconds.

In 1965, Fiditi Grammar School had a relay quartet of Mufutau Ojikutu, Oladele Runsewe, Gboyega Jokotoye and Edward Oritsejafor.

These four guys put the fear of the Lord in the hearts of short distance or relay race runners not only in the Ibadan-Oyo axis, but also throughout the western region. These glorious accomplishments in the field of sports put the school in the hearts and minds of many parents and their children in the late 50s and 60s.

The founders and early administrators of the school had the desire to train students who would ultimately attain the commanding heights of various sectors of life in NIgeria. From the first set of 19 students presented for the West African School Certificate examination who all passed, Fiditi Grammar School had consistently recorded over 90% success rate at the WAEC exams.

As to the attainment of leading positions in both public and private sector service, a short review of some of those who passed through the school and where they have been and where some are today will reveal that the objective had indeed be achieved.

There is the eminent Senator Dr. Bode Olajumoke who entered the school in 1957. He ultimately achieved a PhD in Law from the Edinburgh University. A frontline politician, he led the Imeri Unity Group which tried to resolve the lingering crisis and division within the Yorubas of Western Nigeria. He ultimately ran for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1998 under the banner of the then APP. A major contributor to many charitable causes across Nigeria, Senator Olajumoke was for 20 years the National President of the Fiditi Grammar School old students’ association (FIGSOSA)

There is Dr. Olatunde Oloko who was among the very first set of students admitted into the school in 1954. After a stellar academic career, the foundation of which was solidly laid at Fiditi, Dr Oloko went on to become a first class veterinary doctor with professional affiliation across many countries. Dr. Oloko is currently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of FIGSOSA.

A former President of FIGSOSA who held office for about a decade is Engineer Lateef Busari. A top notch electronics and electrical engineer, Mr. Busari rose to become the General Manager of the Television Service of Oyo State

The current President of the old students’ association is Prof. Adesola Ogunniyi who turned 70 recently. He entered Fiditi Grammar School in 1966. He is today a world acclaimed professor of Neurology and a consultant Neurologist. He recently retired from the services of the UCH, Ibadan.

Prince ‘Lola Omojowolo, a retired public servant of the highest cadre entered Fiditi Grammar School in 1957. He became a graduate teacher in the School, joined the western Nigeria civil service, rising up to the position of a senior permanent secretary, topping his career with his appointment as a Commissioner in the Federal Civil Service Commission.

The 70th anniversary lecturer Professor Adekunle Akinyemi is the Chairman of Council of the Ibadan Polytechnic and an alumnus of Fiditi.

Professor Adejare Agboola, is a professor of Applied Botany at the university of agriculture Abeokuta, Prof. Olufemi Durosaro is of the University of Ilorin, while Professor Samson Omotosho teaches at the University of Phoenix, Arizona, USA. All three entered Fiditi in 1965, the same year as I did.

In 1971, Bridget Omotunde Sokan now Prof. Bridget Sokan entered Fiditi, passing out in flying colours in 1975. She went on to higher studies ultimately earning a doctorate in Guidance and Counseling. She served in different capacities in the education sector before being appointed Education Commissioner in Ogun State.

Fiditi Grammar School has also contributed to the development of Nigerian military and police.

Major General Kola Ogunkoya (rtd) was a one time Director General of the NYSC, while Admiral Segun Egbedina (rtd) was a former Commander NNS Aradu, a flag ship of the Nigerian Navy.

AIG Lanre Bankole, only a few months ago retired from the Nigeria Police Force after being Ogun State Commissioner and then Assistant Inspector General of Police.

Fiditi Grammar School is very proud of these old students who continue to work assiduously for the progress of the school.

With the full realization of the impact of Covid 19, technological advancement in diverse areas plus their consequences, especially against the background of aggressive development of artificial intelligence, FIGSOSA, led by Senator Bose Olajumoke, have initiated a skills acquisition center adjacent to Fiditi Grammar School. The centre will train school leavers, even those without a formal education, in various trades such as information technology and allied trades, carpentry, fashion design, catering and culinary skills among others. This initiative is being undertaken in the belief that blue or white collar jobs are fast disappearing and only those who can create and sustain personal entrepreneurial initiatives will survive in the unfolding global economy.

This Centre, to be commissioned by the Oyo State Governor Engr. Seyi Makinde, will be the highlight of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Fiditi Grammar School.

Sola Omole, former NTA Director-General, is Chairman-Publicity & Publications Committee of the 70th anniversary

 

 

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