I Am Proud To Wear The GCI Badge

Government College Ibadan (GCI) gave me the best time of my life. I got to meet a lot of people who, today, I still consider my friends, even if I have not seen some of them in more than 30 years. However, cultivating these friendships is not what made being at GCI special. What was important was the context within which the institution enabled young people to interact and figure out who and where they were in the world at an important period of their self-discovery.

In the first case, the school levelled everyone by de-emphasising where you came from and the social standing of your parents. In place of bragging rights, the school implanted and reinforced in everyone the ability to relate with other people, take interest in their well-being and most importantly, build good relationships with people who held divergent views and might not readily agree with you. I took out a sense of worth that was built on responsibility and accountability because you did not want to do anything that you could not explain.

The lessons that GCI taught were not accidental. They were part of a deliberate programme instituted since the founding of the school in 1929 in order to breed leaders of the future. The school motto was: 'Learning to serve'. The intention was to build men with very strong values, men of integrity who knew their worth in life and men who knew the worth of life. The goal was that clear! From day one, the route to leadership for each intake was clearly established. The rules of orderly behaviour, comportment and respect for constituted authority were basic routine and they were institutionalized. Quality human resource by way of administrators, teachers, advisors, caregivers and other support staff were aware of the long range view of what the founders wanted to do with students placed in their care. These were profound professionals who did not just stumble into teaching or school administrators but were highly dedicated, competent and self motivated educationists.

My father was a public servant and he knows all this. He never rated any School above GCI, even though he ensured that I did not take up the initial admission offer to go in for Form One on account of his desire that I should understand the Ondo culture, hence his insistence that my O/Level should be at an equally well-regarded school, i.e. St. Joseph's College in Ondo. His point of view as to the school which I should attend for my A/Levels was therefore, fairly locked in. It was not a case of 'if you are good enough, you would go to GCI.' No. It simply was: 'you have to go to GCI for your A/Levels.' I was in the Arts class because that was my bent. I cleverly avoided the sciences in secondary school and Law, the most obvious profession for an Arts student then, did not appeal to me at all. I knew that I was going to be in communications, although it was not clearly formed in my head at the time. Storytelling came naturally to me, and even if I have to say so myself, I have an inclination to be creative, to tell stories in ways not readily presented to people. I knew I would be involved in some areas of broadcasting and journalism, though I did not like the print aspect.

Joining people like Lolu Ogundepo (Take Small now of blessed memory, Dele Oredugba (Bolero), Eniola Sanu (Eni Boy) Bantale Omole (Joe Gabro), Femi Lijoka, Adefemi in the Arts class was as interesting as it was challenging, particularly because in the HSC class, one attended class with well-behaved, well-dressed, very pretty and very brilliant girls from the nearby Queen's School. I remember Funmilayo Akinkugbe, Tunde Ala, Theodora Ilegbodu and late Bonike Ogunsola (who later married Bambo Adesanya, ex-GCI and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria) and Gloria Kunaiyi-Akpanah. Gloria? Phew! It was a time that one was begining to deeply appreciate the opposite sex but much more than that, the presence of the girls threw up several interesting challenges. One found that boys who were relatively not well-behaved on House grounds put up their best behaviour in the class. We not only read, we studied, more so as the routine for studies was decidedly rigorous and competitive. No one wanted to be thrown out. Whatever degree of socialisation one had at home, GCI taught a lot more.

The friendship which I cultivated ranged from the centrists to the ultra-right and the downright non-conformists. Although I had friends across both junior and senior classes, most of my friends were from Swanston House because one was easily attached to one's House and the people there. The Kayode Soremekuns (Kay Sohe, now Sbaba) were right in the middle, being neither too difficult nor too easy. Segun Eboda, Gboyega Delano, Ladi Williams, Yanju Adegbite, Tunde Fariyike (Tucker Shane) Yato Adeyemi, Sina Odeyemi (Agostinho Neto) and Sina Bamtefa (with whom I grew up and attended the same church in Surulere, Lagos), Adegbite Ojo, Rotimi Orekoya, Femi Bajomo (Apon) Femi Oyetunji (Oyet), late Johnson Olopade were outstandingly brilliant. Equally brilliant (you had to be to get into GCI) were Tunde Oremodu, Bode Oyewole, Lekan Sofolahan, Gbola Ifaturoti (Ifat) Moye Adenuga, Tolu Osonowo Sparsky. Kunle Alli and Biodun Ali were stickler for rules; you could swear they would always do things right; Lolu Ogundepo, one of my early friends in school was relatively easy-going but the same could not be said for Dele Oredugba and definitely not me. I was an out and out left winger, a non-conformist.

To top my 'virtues' in the community of outliers was a short temper and the nickname "Cougar" which has since stuck like glue. Trust me, I was serially booked by prefects and seniors across diffrent Houses for various infractions that bordered on fighting the cause of other people, freely expressing myself or not being in bed during siesta. I was not easily cowed and I regularly earned my stripes in the weekly offender' list.

Howsoever my name was penned - Jimi Awosika, Awosika Jimi, Cougar, or whatever - it only meant that I, like Leke Taiwo / Taiwo Leke (another serial offender) had once again been booked for punishment. This, of course, qualified one for detention, the second most severe level of punishment in GCI, the first of which was grass cutting, the third being suspension or in an extreme case, expulsion. In my young mind, I preferred detention because I would rather be 'locked up' and not allowed to go to town on free days than to be made to cut grass. Me! Cut grass ke? Oti o!

I particularly remember one incident when I pushed my luck almost too far. The Head of School (Ogunyinka) had seized my 'toro' (trousers). My friend Lolu Ogundepo had requested to wear it to town on Saturday, which was outing day. Ogunyinka impounded the pair of trousers, which, being flared (it was called 'bell bottom' in those days) did not conform to the strict rules on how school trousers were to be sewn, particularly in terms of the width at the ankketom' in those days) did not conform to the strict rules on how school trousers were to be sewn, particularly in terms of the width at the ankle. I simply went to him to retrieve my item. This was a definite invitation to trouble, as everyone knew that no one dared mess around with the Head of School at a time the Prefect system worked efficiently. He ordered me out of his room, but I refused to leave without my toro. He could not understand my impudence, I still do not know the devil that got into me. Boy, that was darling!

The next thing, he reported me to the Vice Principal, Mr. Oyetunji, and I knew straight away that I had found myself in front of a moving train and must survive. Appearing before the VP was like being court-martialed. If found guilty, I could be thrown out of school, for 'Oyet' was a toughie and is a confirmed disciplinarian (they don't make them like that anymore). I cannot now remember (between Tucker and Gboyega Delano) which of them saved me by giving me a copy of GCI rule book. I quoted the relevant section that dealth with the width of trousers. It read 'no less than 16 inches' which meant that it could be more. My trouser was measured and the width was 23 inches! The rule book was last edited in 1962 or thereabout when pencil-like trousers or tontirin was in vogue. The VP was furious but even in his fury, he was still fair-minded. He allowed me go because, technically, the rule book was in my favour. I will never be able to tell why I did what I did, but the GCI system and its operators affirmed the notion that even children need to be understood. I still wonder till today why I did not end up as a courtroom lawyer.

Regrettably, the GCI that I knew is not the GCI of today. Most of us are pained not just because the physical infrastructure are run down, but because the core values have been eroded with the passage of time. This speaks to the dire need for Nigerians to learn to build institutions. There can be no development without a strong school system in which students are not just taught to read and write but are specifically brought up for a purpose and bred to achieve that purpose.

The GCI ethics did not breed business people or traders. Rather, more than anything else, it emphasized responsibility, having clear goals and being good citizens. It left no Old Boy in doubt that having passed through the GCI portals, one was clearly destined for the top of his career. Since 1929, the results have justiifed the vision, with the strides of national and global leaders like the Akin-Dekos, the Wole Soyinkas, the F.O. Awosikas, the late Omo n'Oba n'Edo, Oba Erediauwa; Chris Enahoro, V.O. Awosika, Victor Olunloyo, Adegoke Adelabu, Saburi Biobaku and many more younger generation of achievers.

50 years on, I am where I am, with a lot of people to thank. By way of instructions, GCI looms large in the rank of schools I attended. By way of individuals, I salute Mr. Biodun Shobanjo; my wife and my legion of friends from way back in school. Without doubt, the GCI badge is one that I am extremely proud to wear anywhere and at any time.

Submitted By: 

AWOSIKA Feyijimi
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