DAWN Commission celebrates Pa Adepoju Akomolafe, the first Principal of Ekiti Parapo College, Ido-Ekiti on the Occasion of his 103rd Birthday Anniversary on Sunday, 5th April, 2020.
Early Life and Education
For Prince Adepoju Akomolafe, a prince of both Ido-Ekiti and Oyo, having been born to parents from the royal lineages of Olojudo of Ido-Ekiti and Alaafin of Oyo, the circumstance of birth appeared to have been of great essence. Born in Ido-Ekiti, Ekiti State, to the family of Prince Daniel Oni Asaolu and Madam Dorcas Omoniyepe of Iyedi Compound, Ido-Ekiti, Pa Akomolafe, however, strove and achieved greatness by sheer dint of determination.
According to him, Western education expanded his attitude to life and influenced his perception and worldview. He was fortunate to have been sent to school at a very early age. He was born on April 5, 1917 started school in 1926, at the age of nine. His maternal uncle, S.K. Familoni who was brought up by the missionary and trained in college picked him up at a young age.
In 1925, Mr Familoni of blessed memory, passed out of the famous St Andrews College, Oyo as a qualified teacher. He was immediately posted to teach at the Saint David’s Anglican School, Ijomu, Akure, Ondo State, thereby giving the young Akomolafe the golden opportunity his parents had been waiting for, to have him educated.
His uncle took him along and enrolled him at the school to continue his primary education. In January 1926, Pa Akomolafe also followed his uncle on transfer to St Andrews Primary School, Warri where he completed his primary education. It was at St. Andrew’s Primary School, Warri, where Akomolafe’s uncle was the headmaster, that he began courting other great men. For instance, his class teacher then was a former Governor of Ondo State and renowned Action Group chieftain, the late Pa Adekunle Ajasin.
After the completion of his primary education, Pa Akomolafe enrolled at the Ondo Boys High School, for a four-year education course that qualified him for a junior teaching appointment, which he took up at St Paul’s (CMS) Primary School, Igbara-Oke in January 1934. Not satisfied with being average, the youthful Adepoju Akomolafe had two years after, enrolled at St Andrews College, Oyo, for a teacher’s course, which he completed in 1939 and by 1940, he had returned to the classroom, where he would continue in a ministry of shaping lives and contributing to the future of the yet-to-be-independent and the post-independent Nigeria.
He became a trained school master at St John’s (CMS) School, Sabongida Ora, Edo State, and was there till 1943 before leaving to teach at the Christ Church Cathedral School, Lagos. In 1947, another great chapter was opened in the life of the 30-year-old Akomolafe, as he joined the staff of Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, and was there till 1952. It was at Igbobi College that he first began what would remain a golden relationship with the sage and first Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
As it was the vogue in his time, Prince Akomolafe opted to study privately for a degree course at home while working and, in 1951, he passed and obtained the University of London Bachelor of Arts degree. This feat was immediately recognised with a colonial scholarship to study for a postgraduate certificate in education at the University of London (1952-1953).
‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’
But great as Pa Akomolafe considered his opportunity to be educated and to attain scholarly heights, he was more grateful for the opportunity to understudy and undergo training from great individuals, whose names have gone into the annals of history as some of the greatest teachers in the country. Though he had become a man of few words, the centenarian’s face brightened as he acknowledged the roles played by some past teachers and mentors in his journey through life. Although there were many, the names of great teachers like his uncle, the late S.K. Familoni, who launched his education adventure, the late Chief Ajasin, who he described as a great disciplinarian; Canon M.C. Adeyemi and Venerable David Okunfulure, came up handy.
Others were F.O Fagbemi, P.A. Ogundipe and the late Rev. Cannon Banjo, who, he said, influenced and tremendously impacted on his life during his days at the St. Andrews College. Pa Akomolafe also noted that he could not forget the late Pa Emmanuel Alayande.He recalled that they met at the Ondo Boys High School in the early 1930s. He was a friend of his uncle, Familoni and they later became very intimate friends throughout his lifetime despite Alayande’s age difference.
Akomolafe’s life of selfless politics
The passion to serve his people has always been paramount in his heart and this passion was rekindled in 1947 when he moved to Lagos. After observing the political movement at the time, he teamed up with people of like minds, such as Chief Benjamin Afolabi Ajayi from Igbara-Odo, to form the Ekiti National Association (ENA). The vision of the association was to work for the uplift of Ekiti and as secretary of the new association, he would ride bicycle throughtout Lagos, searching for Ekiti indigenes to kindle their passion in the social development and political emancipation of Ekiti.
Pa Akomolafe’s passion must have been noticed by his people, as he became the first Chairman of Ido-Osi District Council (Local Government) in 1955 and occupied the position until 1959 when he was elected as a member of the Federal Parliament. He was also a member of the Ekiti Divisional Council around the same period.
It was around the same period that he became a representative of his people that his path crossed with that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo for a second time, having related with him on a personal basis as a teacher to his first son, Segun Awolowo, who was a student of Igbobi College at the time Akomolafe was a teacher in the school. According to the centenarian, he had taken special interest in Segun Awolowo as he did all other students and had even undertaken to teach him personally; a development that first endeared him to Awolowo, who, at a point, began to refer to him as Baba Segun. And as politics and service to their people would have it, he was with Awolowo as one of the foundation members of the Action Group. As a member of the independence-gaining parliament, Akomolafe rose to become the Deputy Leader of Opposition, as well as a shadow minister for the Federal Ministry of Establishment.
Speaking on his political life and why he subscribed to the visions of Action Group, Akomolafe said:
“I was a foundation member of the AG. The Action Group was founded for the development of Nigeria. When we founded the AG, it wasn’t for anything we could gain from it but for service to the people. We worked for the development of the people. We established schools, ensured that people were adequately trained. Till date, I am renewed with happiness that what we did then yielded good fruits. Nigeria has benefited in no small measure from what the AG did, and is still benefiting till date. At that time, we can say we were the parents of vision. That is why we still have a country called Nigeria today.”
And when asked about his view on contemporary politics, Pa Akomolafe had few words to say and his words were punchy and reflective, though his age would not allow him to reveal much. He said:
“Politics in Nigeria today has changed, especially with how it is practised. From my experience in politics, I would say the politics of the Yoruba is still better than what is available in other parts. However, I haven’t been following the politics of the present time. It’s not easy to do that with my age.”
Pa Akomolafe said as a local government chairman, he was only paid stipends, while as a parliamentarian he was paid sitting allowances, which could hardly meet his demands at that time. He added that back then, members were, indeed, honourable and not self-seeking, as both positions were not permanent but part-time.
A man of many firsts, words are not enough to describe Chief Akomolafe’s achievements and influences. On his arrival in Nigeria in 1953, after the completion of his one–year post graduate course, he was asked by high-profile elders in Ekiti to undertake the founding of a second secondary school. The only secondary school at that time, in the division, was Christ School, Ado Ekiti.
The Ekiti leaders had actually come to propose that he take up the position of pioneer principal of the proposed secondary school. Despite the availability of other offers awaiting him on this return and his plan to return to Britain to study law, in January 1954, he assumed duty as the pioneer principal of Ekiti Parapo College, the first to be run by an indigene, situated at Ido Ekiti. In 1968, having run Ekiti Parapo College for 14 years from inception, he was invited by the then military government of Western Region led by Colonel (now Late Major General) R.A. Adebayo to pioneer the first ever Statutory Corporations Service Commission, which he did meritoriously up to 1973 .
Pa Akomolafe was the Chairman of Ekiti Divisional Education Committee, 1957 till 1963; Chairman, board of management of various primary schools and teacher training colleges between 1954 and 1970; a member of the Governing Council, Ibadan polytechnic (representing the NIM) between 1975 and 1977.
In 1976, he was appointed the first Chairman, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Autonomous Board of Management, Enugu and he served in that position till 1979. He developed the hospital into an enviable one, that visiting heads of state, during their official visits to the state must go there.
It is on record that the first open heart surgery in Africa was performed in the hospital during his tenure as the chairman. Consequent upon his excellent performance, at the expiration of his tenure at UNTH, the Federal Military Government gave him another appointment as the chairman, Lagos University Teaching Hospital in 1979 for two months, until the takeover by the civilian government. He was at this time, a member, board of management for Western Hotels Limited and the Lagos Airport Hotel Limited, a position he held from 1977 till 1979.
A deeply religious man
Chief Akomolafe is deeply religious and has contributed immensely to the uplift of Christianity at local, national and global levels. From 1954 till date, he has been member of several church committees from the local parish level (of his home church) right up to district council, archdeaconry board, diocesan synod, up to the church of West Africa and later Nigeria at its inauguration in 1989, up till a few years ago.
He worked alongside others for the creation of Ekiti diocese of the Anglican Communion. During the preparation for the inauguration, he worked vigorously for days without sleep to the extent that he was admitted to the hospital, prior to the day of the inauguration. He was chairman of the inaugural committee of the diocese from 1965 till 1966, its first registrar from 1966 till 1979, and until recently, its lay deputy president.
He has been a member of the Christian Council of Nigeria since 1962, and was chairman of its Western State branch, and later national vice president, and national president between 1989 and 1992. He is also a life member of the Bible Society of Nigeria. He served on the board of governor of Immanuel College of Theology for a little over thirty years, and was treasurer for 10 years during his membership.
Apart from teaching and serving on governing boards of various organisations, as well as the church, Pa Akomolafe is also very active socially. He is a life member of the Red Cross society of Nigerian; a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club of Nigeria and member, Ibadan Dining Club. He was the president, Nigeria Anti-tuberculosis Association between 1976 and 1981.
In 1947, while relaxing with some of his friends at an akara (bean cake) balls spot in Lagos, they discussed about the education and social situation of the country. This group of young men later came together to form the A Circle (which actually meant the akara circle).
Speaking on his contribution on religion, Chief Akomolafe, who highlighted his role during the visit of the then Archbishop of Canterbury to Nigeria in 1982, in which he was the one who conducted him round the country, stated that
“My religion and religious life have never changed. The Church of England is very familiar with me; so the tour by the Archbishop of Canterbury which I coordinated also helped in the spread of the Christian religion in the country.”
on Saturday, April 29 2017, the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, under the leadership of Professor Kayode Soremekun, celebrated Pa Adepoju Akomolafe by conferring him with Doctor of Educational Administration (Honoris Causa) award.
Pa Adepoju Akomolafe, who clocked 103 on Sunday, April 5, 2020, has been described by many as a true Nigerian who has actually contributed to the development of Nigeria.
DAWN Commission celebrates you for your notable achievements in your chosen career.
We salute you sir!