GCI Prepared Me For Leadership And The Practice Of Law

Picture of Funso Ogunkeye GCI Prepared Me For Leadership And The Practice Of Law

GCI Prepared Me For Leadership And The Practice Of Law

Some of the traits of leadership already identified in Obafunso Ogunkeye, more commonly referred to as Oba Soccer by his mates in both his primary school, St. Luke’s Primary School, Ibadan, where he became the Football Captain in 1967 and in Government College Ibadan (GCI) where this trait was further reinforced. He also became the Head of both the Literary and Debating Society and the Dramatic Society. In recognition of these gifts, Tori (the “Sir” appellation is not unusual with his mates and friends) became a long serving Chairman of his class set as well as the present National Vice President of GCIOBA.

As a junior boy, Tori did not have it tough with the seniors, who loved him not only because of his fame as a football player but for also having a sister in St. Anne’s School. Oba Soccer had a nice time in the school; even as a junior boy he was included in the football team that played several novelty matches with female schools thus spreading his popularity among them. Having been groomed by non- indulgent parents, he wasn’t exhibiting exuberant characteristics. His father, who was the Chief Judge of the state never visited him during the term after dropping him off at Field House. The son, however, mischievously made up by bolting home on many Saturdays. He and his siblings had been accustomed to chores at home, including washing their Dad’s small dresses and so the chores in school did not often get him into trouble with most senior boys, except the notorious ones, such as Odewunmi. He was not marked out by the other notorious bully, Onokoya (Egi). Tori was among the 14, the group of junior boys who were for several nights made to get on their tables in the Prep Room, given a long imposition and grass to cut. He remembers how they piled up the grass in front of the house of the Housemaster’s (Mr. Emordi).

He recalls how he escaped being overburdened with errands in Form 1 by spending most weekends with Fawole of Form 5, in Carr House. Fawole’s friends still recall the 2 years of the protective covering of this cousin. He recalls how he gave similar coverage for his own relations when he was in Form 4 and 5; such as Dayo Omole, Folorunso Kolade, Gbola Akinola and Akin Adegbola, some of whom could always open his locker because they knew its combination. That was the time that Choi added Sir to his nickname.

It was around Form 4 and 5 that he began to be addressed as Sir Tori. Even as a Prefect, he found no reason to be harsh with his juniors because they had such respect for this senior that obviously loved them. By Form 5, when Tori had begun to have increasing number of friends, including the opposite sex, Mummy paid extra attention to his social life. She checkmated him by occupying him with more household chores, such as cooking and grinding pepper with stone mills. At this period of Nigeria’s history, one phone belonged to the whole family and friends would call him repeatedly. Mummy would usually complain that “the phone will not rest”. Inevitably, Tori acquired such culinary skills as baking bread and cakes that they didn’t need to buy bread from hawkers.

Sir Tori’s reminiscences takes back to his lucky escapades. He recalls a bolting experience in the company of Funzo and another for the Feast at Our Lady of Apostles College. Tori escaped being caught but Funzo and the other guy were caught and Funzo was given double punishment not just for bolting but also for wearing trousers.

The Woodstock episode was another incident that he escaped being punished while many students were caught red handed by the Principal when they went to watch the latest irresistible film at Scala Cinema. Another similar film was the Sound of Music, which many had successfully bolted to Scala. Though lucky never to be caught for bolting, he, a school prefect and late Lawani learnt an unforgettable lesson when they narrowly escaped being caught on their way back from Chrisbo. It was 8 o’clock and they boarded a taxi to school. The taxi had just rounded the corner by the block to Field House when the House Master, Mr. Adelakun (Ako) stopped it and saw that there were two students inside it. He rounded the taxi from the driver’s side to see who were its occupants.

That split second was what they needed to bolt out of the taxi to the back of the HSC block and enter the Senior Prefect’s room, which Sir Tori shared with Bamgbi and Tunde Balogun. He quickly narrated their predicament with Bamgbi, who called the Head of School, Oke and asked him to call all the Prefects. By then, Sir Tori had changed to the House uniform. Ako came in to report that some boys had escaped being caught by him. He even suggested that “Sangobiyi must be there” and that they were Grier House boys. We pretended to agree with him and promised to go to the gate to catch the other boys. Oke even called Sobowale, the Head of Grier House to call a House Assembly and Sir Tori also suggested that they take a roll-call to know those who were absent despite the knowledge that it was a Saturday and many had exeats to be absent from school. The Prefects ended up not sending any list to Ako.

Another interesting episode was the Final of the inter-house football competition between Swanston and Field Houses, in 1974. Field House was packed with members of the School team, such as Balogun, Mogze, Lawani, Aboaba, Faloye and Oba Soccer. It was taken for granted that Field House would win the soccer trophy. But Swanston’s team was known to have some hefty guys who could go after your legs and damage them. Tori took the precaution of wearing track suit trousers and the tough match incidentally ended in a draw. “The public perception of an event”, says Sir Tori, may change the context of what you had done” This is confirmed by what happened at the Assembly the next day when the Vice Principal attributed the wearing of trousers to play the game as the feeling of cockiness of the Field House players exemplified by their captain, Oba Soccer. When the game was replayed, he didn’t wear the trousers but was very careful not to be wounded and Field House was victorious.

He also recalls how he got into trouble for his love to play football. Dr. Esan, who used to be a staff of Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) approached him to plead that he and some of his mates in the football team should play for CRIN in a match that coincided with the finals of an inter-house competition. He claimed to be an old boy and that he had taken the permission of the School Principal, Chief Ojo. “Balogun was already playing for another team, so Mogze, Banco and I agreed but it was all a ruse. Our absence was noticed and it was discovered that we were at Olubadan Stadium playing a professional match. We pleaded with the Principal with the excuse that Dr. Esan, whom I discovered later in life that he was not actually an old boy, had only deceived us. Nevertheless, we were suspended and we didn’t have the opportunity of revising for the approaching HSC exams with our classmates”, explained Tori.

The next episode of life together with his mates was the “Ciroma Days of Ife” This was the period when, according to Tori “we all collectively created a recognition of the happening guys in the campus”. They were all making waves in their different spheres of life in the campus; with Terter’s brilliance in Electronics, Ran Willie in Agric, Yemi Bedu in Accountancy, Gbolly and S3 in Pharmacy, Lek Tai in Medicine, Ogunsola and others. “I was in Law. Not many GCI boys were in Law or the Arts, as people were supposedly the weakest in the class if they went into the Arts”, submitted Tori. But the most striking was the opportunity to socialize that Ife provided for GCI old boys. “We were so united and successful in our social engagements that many were desirous of coming into our circle. GCI boys were noticeably dominant in such social groups as the Elite Club, where about 7 out of the 15 to 18 of them were GCI old boys. This included Kayode Adebiyi, Bode Oyewole, Bajomo, Deinde Alade who were our immediate seniors in GCI. Segun Ogunsola was in the Elite Club. GCI boys had the biggest bikes in the university such as Lek Tai, Segun Ogunsola and Bode Oyewole”, narrated Tori.

“One could notice the trajectory from GCI. Ours was unique as there were not so many schools that would fund social gatherings for their students, though we were made to pay 75 kobo or 1 naira, which was a small amount for ENDOs and other social gatherings. The school would then subsidize the remaining cost. We were therefore experienced in organizing parties as a fall out of such experiences. I remember Sola Adeeyo going to Lagos to negotiate with Osibisa on our behalf. “We were acquiring all these skills subconsciously and were building confidence of negotiation even with higher authorities”, explained Tori. Ciroma was the appellation given to money that we used for the organization of parties. It was derived from the name of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor that had his signature on the Nigerian currency at that time.
Whenever we wanted to organize a party we asked guys for their Ciroma”, clarified Tori.

One thing that contributed to their advantage was that Tori stayed off campus in the boys’ quarters of the Matron of Moremi, an old boy, Opakunle’s mother, where we organized parties. “When she retired I approached Bameke, an old boy who was in Swanston House in Form 5 when we were in Form 1, to move our Ciromas to his apartment. He was the Resident Site Engineer, building a dam for community water at Ife. He was a bachelor living in an exotic bungalow near the dam and so was convenient for him to agree that we have our Ciromas in his house”.

“All these abilities to organize had been taken from our GCI experiences”, emphasized Tori. “Tori had the luxury of selecting those who would attend their parties as many struggled to allow them to pay for the parties. “We didn’t make noise about our parties but they tried to join us and we bounced those that didn’t pay, he explicated. It is unique that Tori’s life long relationship with his young girl, who attended the famed St. Anne’s, began in Ife. She never heard of Tori while in secondary school because she was not in school when Tori was in GCI. “I met my St. Anne’s girlfriend, while in Upper 6 in one of the bolting experiences. She was in Form 5 and had similarly bolted to attend the party Even till now, we are friends and when I see her, she would jokingly refer to herself as the ‘seniorwife”, joshed Tori.

What is most significant about Tori is his interest to serve GCI even after leaving school. He began to attend the meetings of the Government College Old Boys’ Association (GCIOBA), Ibadan branch, immediately after National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1981. He became the Assistant Secretary shortly after and in 1985, he was appointed the Secretary He was so acquainted with old boys that many attended his wedding in 1985. As Secretary of the branch, he began to represent the branch at the National Executive meetings and became the Assistant Secretary of the National body in late 1980s and then Secretary and now the 1st National Vice President. He has also been part of the development of the set’s arm of GCIOBA, which started at Ibadan with the first meeting, where he was Secretary and Yomi Sobowale was the first President. Lagos members began to meet soon after and the two arms later joined together by alternating the meetings. He served as Secretary to the class on many occasions until he was formally made the Chairman in the late 1998. A dramatic turn occurred to the class old boys’ meetings when the idea of holding a meeting outside Nigeria was mooted at one of the informal meetings of some classmates on holidays in England. It was customary that they gathered in the house of one of them that lived in England whenever they were on holidays to England during the summer.

On this auspicious occasion, Kole Abe suddenly came up with the suggestion that they hold a meeting in the US the following year. After some discussion, a call was made to Ganiyu Alabi, who promised to host the meeting. The following year the first bi-annual General meeting of the set was held in Alabama, USA, from the l5th to 21st July 2001. 21 of us were in full attendance from Nigeria, UK and different parts of the United States of America. 3 came on their own. The attendees from Nigeria included Ganiyu Alabi, the Chief host, Seyi Oduntan, Kole Abe, Wale Adeosun, Sola Adeeyo, Tayo Akinwande, Yomi Orenuga, Gbolade Osibodu, Mayokun Oso, Yomi Sobowale, Funso Ogunkeye, Ricky Ajamajebi, Sisan Sagay, Akin Obembe, Sesan Sokoya, Tayo Yerokun, Boye Oni, Tayo Ketiku, Lekan Belo, Funso Lawal and Fola Adisa. Other attendees include Toks Owoeye, Tunji Oyenusi and Fola Adisa.

The class has successfully held these meetings every two years. The next meeting was at Elveden Forest, UK, in 2003, where the attendance increased to 29, and then at IITA, Ibadan, where the attendance again increased to 44.

The most significant development from these reunions, in the opinion of Tori is “that we got our children to become acquainted with one another: We gist and drink together, but the young girls became friendlier, though this was not the intended goal, it’s the best thing that has happened to us. We were able to create the Endowment Fund, the Insurance Scheme and the Teachers’ Project. Our children have created a GCI forum on WhatsApp where they interact. Tori is of the opinion that “the class can leave a lot of things for our children to carry on after us. Our projects need not terminate with us. We can let these relationships blossom”.

One of the significant outcomes of the first bi-annual meeting of the GCI class of 1968/72/74 set that started in Alabama, USA, in 2001 is the idea of starting a 1968 Endowment Fund for Education of students of Government College, Ibadan. According to Barrister Obafunso Ogunkeye (Sir Tori), this project “might even grow beyond GCI. It has such strength to promote education. We can grow it substantially and can only be limited by our imagination. We may even include it as part of our collective will that a certain amount of our resources goes to it. We can give it a direction and a structure to manage it. Our children have become a significant part of our Endos. They now have their own children who are also part of our bi-annual gatherings. We must give them a reason to be loyal to our goals and dreams for our school by creating an enabling environment” We need not limit ourselves to “the last man standing”. Our children now understand the passion we have for our school and what we are placing in their hands.

Extracted from 'Camaraderie' - A 1968 Set's Golden Anniversary Publication.

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