Interview with Oladeji Olanrewaju (1953). designer of University of Ife (now OAU)


The GCI Museum Team had an extensive interview with Arc. Olanrewaju Oladeji (1953) one of the very ancient Old Boys of Government College Ibadan. In the interview, Arc. Oladeji who designed the master plan for Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile -Ife, revealed it that GCI was modelled after Eton College, London and became the Nigeria’s replica of London’s Eton College; and many other intriguing facts and expositions about GCI.

Can we meet you sir?
I am Architect Oladeji Rasheed Olanrewaju (839, Swanston, 1953). I was born on the 18th of December, 1941. I hail from Ile Ajomale at Oja-Oba in Ibadan, Oyo State.

How did you hear about GCI?
Government College Ibadan was one of the very few High Schools available in the country then. It was located in another city very far from my abode - Iseyin then. I first heard about GCI on the Assembly Ground in my Primary School where our Headmaster would read out the results of all secondary schools in their certificate examinations & GCI would always top other schools.

How was GCI to you then?
GCI was the equivalent of Eton College then, a replica of Eton College, London – an High School where the children of the Lords, Members of the Parliament, Royals and senior citizenry attend. Eton College used to supply GCI School Uniforms and other materials, and conducted major examinations for GCI students.

How was the admission to GCI like then?
Before we were allowed to choose GCI, our Elementary School first conducted General Examinations (now called MOCK) for us, I was among the 7 pupils that passed the exam and qualified to choose GCI. After choosing GCI, we wrote special entry exam conducted by Eaton College, I passed the exam alongside 2 other pupils out of the 7 candidates. Few days later, a pre-interview exam was conducted for those who did very well in the exam, the White Teachers of GCI would travel around to both the nearby and faraway schools where pupils who performed excellently emerged. The purpose of the visit was to find out if truly the pupils were the ones who wrote the exams.
Then, they came to my school managed by Iseyin Native Authority (Now Iseyin LGA), and asked me some interactive questions like my name, place and date of birth, the Schools I chose during my entrance examinations and the one I wish to attend with reasons, the occupation of my father and if he was capable to finance me. I answered the questions and asked them back how much was the fees, so that I would tell my father to source for it through ‘Asun’ (now called contributions), they laughed but noted my brilliant inquisitiveness, composure, oration and quest for further education.
They invited me for a 3-day interview/screening at the College grounds in Apata Ganga, Ibadan. During the interview/screening exercise, we were housed in Carr House where various tradition, lessons and etiquettes were taught and our behavioural attitudes were graded even though we were not aware then. The interview was not only limited to academics but capacity to absorb new things were tested. It was at this interview that I first ate ‘Rice and Dodo’. In short, I had the best food of my life their then. After the interview, the result and admission letter came to me by Registered Mail.

How was your first day at GCI like?
It was very exciting. I was indoctrinated right from the first day. W.H.R. Browne was the Principal that I met in Form I. Alfred Long took over in my Form II after Browne was transferred.

What were your favourite subjects and why?
English Language, English Literature and Biology. They were my favourites because of the competence, friendliness and simplicity of each of the Subject Teachers. Mr Thom, a very experienced and the most experienced then was my English Teacher. The tradition in those days was to put the most experienced teachers to teach lower forms i.e. Form I, II & III. Everyone must take English, English Literature, Chemistry, Biology and History right from Form I and choose additional 3 of your choice during the School Certificate Examination. During our time, Matrix was added to ours, which gave us access to all Science Subjects.

Which Sport did you partake in while in GCI?
I partook in middle and long distance races.
Which of your friends or Classmates was very influential to you then, and that you still remember today?
Tunde Fabunmi (Carr); Jide Bademosi (Carr) very close to him because of our small stature and age then; Otoloyin (Carr), A.K. Fabiyi aka AK Fab (Grier); both Otoloyin and AK Fab were my Post Graduate friends at University of Michigan during our PG studies; Fadare, and Fasanya (An Athlete).

When was your last time in GCI?
It has been very long. I couldn’t remember the exact year but I could remember that I entered the Biology Lab and I was very sad at what I saw unlike what it used to be in our time when GCI Labs were used by UI students for their exams, the Lab was so tiny and practically empty.

Who was your Head of School when you were in GCI?
My Brother, Emmanuel Oladeji Olanrewaju (1944), who was a whole secondary school senior to me.

What was your most unforgettable moment at GCI?
That was when I was expelled from GCI in my second week.

What happened sir?
I was in my second Chemistry class, when I was told that the Principal (W.H.R. Browne) wanted to see me. As at that time, it was like hell for a Form I Boy to be sent for by the Principal. I started shaking and became weird knowing fully well that the Principal was an old Soldier. Upon getting to his office, he starred at me with a firm look for about 15 seconds, fear gripped me the more, and he asked with his baritone voice “Is your name Ladeji or Oladeji?” I just busted into laughter (saying within me that is this what this man called me for). I then replied him that there was no difference between the two names. That response made him shock and perhaps angrier.
It seemed my Entrance Examination score was recorded with “Rasheed Ladeji” while the registration form and documents were filled with “Rasheed Lanre Oladeji”. The Principal had thought that the pupil who wrote the exam was different from the pupil who accepted the admission. The principal shook his head and further asked for my age, I replied him that I would be ‘12’ in 2 months’ time. The answer infuriated him again, thinking that I didn’t declare my real age. He then asked for the year I was born, I replied, 1941 Sir. He finally concluded that somebody wrote the exam for me, and asked me to park my load and exit the school.

I returned to the Class and informed the Chemistry Teacher what transpired after which I proceeded to my hostel, parked my belongings into my heavy wooden box and moved out of the school compound with my load on my head. Upon reaching the gate, I wasn’t allowed to move out because I was not with any Exit-Permit. I left my load at the gate and ran back to the School for the Permit. Upon my return, I met Mr Ibrahim who had already been briefed about the issue, he then explained to me that Mike is different from Michael as Frank is different from Francis, as such Ladeji is totally different from Oladeji. He, together with Mr Thom – my English Teacher took me to the Principal’s Office and explained my innocence and ignorance to the Principal. They advised the Principal to re-examine me with the entrance exam questions and expect an improved performance from me. The Principal obliged and I was re-examined. In less than 25 minutes, I finished the exam. My result was compared with the first exam, and indeed it was a sterling performance, which was better than the previous one. He immediately reinstated me to the School. That was my saddest moment ever.

Where did you have your Post-GCI Education?
I first attended School of Agric., Moor Plantation. My Set set new records, it was my Set that first took WAEC Exam and the last Set to take Cambridge Exam. The Maiden WAEC Exam was very difficult and the marking scheme was very strict. There was mass failure across the Schools in the Country but GCI Boys excelled very well in the Exam. In GCI, only 3 failed out of the 50 candidates that wrote the exam. Adesina, one of those who failed later registered for GCE and passed it excellently, he had 8 A’s and was admitted to the University of Ghana. The remaining two re-sat for the exam the following year and passed it excellently.

What informed your decision for your course of study at Tertiary Institution?
Guidance Counsellors then were professionals from Industries, Banks, Schools etc who would come to lecture us in Form IV on various career talks. It was a Banker from Barclays Bank (now Union Bank) that first came to lecture us in my own Set. The Banker knotted a tie and was very smart with beautiful English, and delivered a captivating lecture. As it were then, they would come with membership forms for distribution to those interested in joining them, after which you would be automatically employed between the time you completed your certificate examinations and the time your results and admission letters to higher institutions were out. This was one of the reasons why so many GCI Old Boys from my Set became top Managers of the defunct Barclays Bank.
I studied Architecture and Urban & Rural Planning at Russian State University, Moscow although University of Ibadan offered me Agric Science while University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN offered me Medicine. I accepted UNN’s admission but left Medicine and Surgery due to my perceived emotions and sentiments for animate things. I used Ahmadiyya Scholarship for my Undergraduate studies at Russia.
But according to tradition, every GCI Old Boys after leaving GCI would attend the School of Agric at Moor Plantation, beside GCI for about 3 – 5 months or till their results came out, from where they would apply for their preferred course at different Universities whenever their exam forms at the rate of 25 Kobo came out.
I graduated with a First Class at my Undergraduate level and with Distinction at both my Masters and Doctoral level. During my Post Graduate Studies, I was an official Interpreter at the Nigerian Embassy for the Nigerian Government because I had a proficiency certificate in Russian Language while at the Russian University.
You studied and practiced Architecture, if you were to start afresh, would you still study Architecture and practice it?
I was more than fulfilled as an Architecture. Yes, I would still practice it.

Any memorable political event?
It was during the World War II when two Soldiers – a Biafran and Nigerian, shot each other spontaneously and died simultaneously. That was my worst ever sight.

Any memorable political event when you were in GCI that influenced you?
Yes, that was when Queen Elizabeth visited GCI. It was around April or May, 1956; I was in Form IV then. She visited GCI because GCI was known as Nigeria’s Eaton College – School for the Children of the Lords, Royals, and MPs. The Queen was a young lady, around 28 years old then, with golden rings all over her fingers, with beautiful set of teeth. Her visit was memorable because she shook my hand tightly and longer than usual. The principal even whispered to me that that was enough not knowing that it was the Queen who held on to my hand. The moment my hand was released, I perceived the sparkling scent and I used my second hand to grab the hand and I covered the hand through out that day.
The second memorable day at GCI was the day GCI defeated Kings’ College, in football and defeated CKC the following day.
The other memorable moments were the Saturday evenings at GCI when we had Treasure Hunt.

Who was your role model?
It was Dr Nnamidi Azikiwe, I saw him as a great inspirational and motivational speaker.

Where did you practice your profession?
After my tertiary education, I joined United Nations as a young Architecture. My first professional architectural design was the architectural design of the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). It took us five and a half years to build the Institution. The Institution was modelled after University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia.
After that, I also did the Architectural design of Osun State Secretariat and later was invited to Abuja to build the Architectural design for the city of Abuja.

What message would you like to tell the Nigerian youths?
I would like to tell them to aspire to be a more sensitive, conscious and vibrant young citizens.

What would you like to bequeath to GCI Museum?
I would have loved to bequeath so many GCI memorabilia and pictures to you but most of them are with my children abroad, but next time you visit again, I will ensure that some are available.

Thank you very much sir for your time and hospitality.




Item circa: 


Design and Development by websesame.