• July 22, 2019

VCI @ 70: An old boy’s declassified file By Louis Odion, FNGE

Late Air Vice Marshal Mike Okhai Aigbe, a Victorian till death

Even as a rookie reporter with Concord
Press
 back in 1993, I did not have to scale any big hurdle to see
legal icon, Chief Gani Fewinhinmi,
SAN, that very first day. Once the receptionist at his Anthony, Lagos chambers
announced via the intercom that the visitor was “from Victory College Ikare”, I was immediately led
upstairs and ushered into his expansive office.
To his feet, he sprang with
child-like excitement and locked me in a bear-hug like long-lost friends, even
though he had graduated from VCI a
decade before I was even born. Without hesitation, he gave me an extensive
interview and, at the end, was patronizing enough to personally see me off to
the reception, holding my hand, proudly introducing me to everyone on the way
(including Festus Keyamo) as “My fellow Victorian”.


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Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (R) with ex-EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu….His love for young Louis Odion started immediately he knew he was a ‘Victorian’. Gani Fawehinmi is a product of VCI
Such was the talismanic effect of
the “Victorian” invocation
among those bonded by its heritage and weaned on its twin transcendental values
of laboramus (workingand expectorante (expecting). The
school’s colors are white and navy blue.
But that spirit of kinship would be
tested precisely a decade later when the great Gani took up a brief from THISDAY against
this writer, Dr. Amanze Obi and The
Sun 
newspaper in the now celebrated copyright case. He won the suit
for THISDAY. Even before the legal fireworks opened in court, Gani was empathetic enough to call me
privately and utter these comforting words: “Fellow
Victorian, please don’t be angry that I took up this brief against your
interest. It’s a just a point of law, nothing personal. I believe you’ll
understand”

The Author, Louis Odion….Declassified Information on Alma mater

The “people’s lawyer” was only one in a long list of greats VCI sired who individually have extended
the national frontiers in various spheres. Like former second citizen, now late
Admiral Mike Akhigbe; late Chief Ade Adefarati (one-time Ondo governor); General Alfred Aduloju (former
Secretary, Supreme Military Council during Murtala/Obasanjo regime); and Justice Akintan (retired Supreme Court
Justice).
We also have Professor Michael Faborode
(former Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University); both the Olukare of Ikare and Owa Ale of Ikare, Oba Akadiri Momoh and Oba
Adegbite Adedoyin
respectively; Bishop Mathew
Owadayo (retired Anglican Bishop of
Egba Diocese); and one-time VCI principal and presently the Secretary
General of Afenifere, Bashorun
Seinde Arogbofa
.

The GDA with Chief Nduka Obaigbena, Publisher of THISDAY NEWSPAPER who hit Gani Fawehinmi’s head against that of a junior VCI, Louis Odion

The younger generation of alumni
include retired General Jones Arogbofa
(Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan); present Osun Deputy Governor, Mrs. Laoye
Tomori
Senator Ajayi Boroffice
(representing Ondo North); Segun Abrahams (aspirant on APC platform in
the Ondo 2016 governorship race); Jiti
Ogunye
(Lagos-based lawyer) and award-winning journalist, Akin Orimolade.
Next week marks the 70th anniversary
of the premier college founded “for culture, for
science”
by a missionary, Lennon
Jubilee
.
Week-long activities marking its
illustrious history open on Monday (February 20) with a public
lecture as the grand finale on Saturday.

The GDA with late Admiral Mike Okhai Akigbe, an Old Student of VCI

Indeed, as generations of old
students begin to regroup this weekend in the ancient town of Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State ahead of the platinum celebration, emotions will
certainly overflow.
Old memories will come alive. Of the
tolling school bell summoning the morning devotion. Echoes of the school band
playing as the assembly dispersed. The wet smell of grass during Labour Hour as pupils descended on the
school farm with cutlasses and hoes. Classmates bursting into hot tears on
graduation day, afraid they might never see again. Moist enveloping distant Ikare hills at dawn and haze during
harmattan… 
For my generation, it will
particularly be sentimental. If the 80s
have been described as the twilight of the ferment of Nigeria’s intellectual
culture and the 70s its apogee, then we probably then qualify to be addressed
as the children of transition. The last of the analogue before the digital age.

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida….His regime eroded the culture of intellectual fervor…

With the supplanting of the 6-5-4
with 6-3-3-4 system in 1984, Nigeria’s academic complexion would not be the
same again. And with the ethical realm systematically taken apart with the
permissive culture of the cancerous Ibrahim
Babangida regime beginning from 1985,
the roof literally began to leak on the nation. 
I attended VCI between 1983 and 1988, incidentally when now septuagenarian Chief Arogbofa was principal. (The
present principal is Mr. Ariyo Bode.)
Beginning from 1982, the college was re-designated as “boys only”.
Were we always good boys? Not all
the time. We played naughty sometimes. We had our favorite teachers. Those who
liked carrying canes about like staff of office were naturally hated. We
invented ugly nick-names for them. As revenge, we would mimic their mannerisms
beyond the earshot or eye-view of the authority.

Can Buhari & Osinbajo bring back the burning Pre-70s intellectual fervor again?

 


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The sophomore years are usually the
age of impression, when young adolescents begin to adopt monickers in an
attempt to express a new sense of awareness. One day, a classmate ran into a
big trouble, necessitating his mother, a complete illiterate to be summoned to
the school from a neighboring village.
Seeking clarity first, the
interrogating teacher began by asking what inspired the old woman to name her
ward “Reverend Poison”. She did
not understand the English name. So, the tutor transliterated it to Yoruba: “Alufa Majele”.
Instantly, she, waving the right
hand round her head and casting the report away in a supreme African gesture of
denunciation, thundered in anger: “Omo temi ki she Alufa Majele. Segun
ni mo so omo mi.
 (My own son is not Reverend Poison. I named him
Segun.)”
So, to sustain sanity across the school
sitting on vast swath of land, Principal
Arogbofa never spared the rod and
encouraged teachers to be as generous.
Tall, slim-built and ever smartly
dressed, the principal demanded of the teaching staff excellence not only in
the way they taught, but also the way they appeared and carried themselves. As
a tutor, woe-betide you if you came to his office in shabby attires. So much
that a rather apocryphal story was often told then of a teacher who, apparently
not knowing how else he could dazzle, entered Principal Arogbofa’s office tucking in his “conductor’s” (French
suit)!
Overall, while we passed through VCI, emphasis was not placed only on
grooming students academically; it extended to encouraging us to take more than
passing interest in the School Chapel events, sports as well as
extra-curricular activities. For instance, the School Press Club offered me the
first platform to explore my writing talent. I did amateur boxing on the
side. 
Principal
Arogbofa
always called everyone his son. His
relentless counseling rooted in deep Christian values of perseverance and
modesty made me have faith early in hard work, stand firm for my conviction and
embrace a work ethic that treasures good name over gold and silver. 
Same value obliges us never to, even
for a moment, forget the son/daughter of who we are. And instill in us a deep
sense of brotherhood and solidarity, never to succumb to temptation to betray
or abandon our friends in trying moments, however dire the circumstances. 
Once, a classmate was slapped with
an unusually heavy sanction for an unruly conduct by being asked to cut tall
grasses almost half the size of a soccer pitch. He was not expected in class
until the bush had been cleared. In solidarity, words were soon passed around
in whispers that class members should stay back after school hours. Once the
school became empty, we the volunteers descended on the field with our
sharpened cutlasses like locust and within an hour, the thicket of grass had
been mowed down.
The following day, the class master
could not believe his eyes. Having perhaps gone to bed the previous night
reveling in the malicious pleasure that the wayward boy had been given
something to keep him busy for a long time, the teacher now found himself
confronted by what seemed a First Testament miracle. 

Ex-Ondo & Lagos MILAD turned Vice President Mike Okhai Akigbe…On Old boy of VCI

Following the boy’s continued
insistence that he cleared all the vast weeds all by himself even as the
conniving classmates looked on in a cliff-edge fright, the teacher then took a
second unbelieving look at his little quarry and finally, to our relief, only
shook his head in a knowing silence.
A pity, he had no evidence to
implicate anyone. 
Truly, as stated in the school
anthem we daily sang, VCI is the “foster mother of us all”.
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