I was born and brought up in Isero compound at Oja’gbo – Ibadan North East Local Government. It is one of the interior parts of Ibadan where you lived your life one day after another without knowing where you’d find yourself in the future. People talk about silver spoon, I don’t know how many kinds of spoons exist but I know I wasn’t born with any kind of spoon. It was a rough life, growing up. The truth is, Oja’gbo was a slum where you could hardly find people that you could emulate or that could inspire you to success.
As a child in Oja’gbo, the only things we knew about life were disco parties which some of the elder brothers and sisters in the neighbourhoods always organized. Growing up in Oja’gbo was rough and you had to be rugged in order to survive. From our house, you could peep and see people smoking weed, Indian hemp and all that. It was a place where vices flourished.
At age 6, I was enrolled at St. Peters, Aremo. I remember the very first day, my mother took me to school and we were asked to line up and I was asked if truly I was ready to study; I answered ‘yes’. When I got back home, my mother informed me that from then onward, I would have to go to school by myself. She taught me how to cross the road: ‘look right, look left; when you are sure no vehicle is coming, run!’ That was how I learnt to cross the road at age 6. All through Primary School, if you spoke to me in English I’d just be looking at you as though you are speaking in some strange tongue.
My father was a community leader (Baale) and my mother was a trader. She sold kola and when the business was no longer lucrative, she began to sell drinks. We would follow her with the drinks to places where there were parties and we would hustle to sell stuff. Of course we were uninvited in those spaces and so organizers of parties would often chase us out of their party venues.
However, one thing struck me whenever we went to those parties to sell stuff – I was always intrigued by how some people had so much influence that they could order for things without batting an eyelid simply because they had money. I always wanted to be like them and so I wondered all the time what I could do to make money and be like them.
After primary school, I wanted to attend Lagelu Grammar School – it was a big school and so I had set my eyes on it. When my placement was released, I wasn’t admitted at Lagelu Grammar School, instead I was granted admission at Oke’badan High School. When I got home and people mocked me that I had been admitted to Oke’jongbon High School. Sure, we always heard about the rate of truancy and hooliganism in the school and so that wasn’t very encouraging.
To go to Oke’badan every day, my friend and I would leave Oja’gbo very early and trek to Agugu side where our school was. It would take us 30 minutes to trek form Oja’gbo to Oke’badan. I dared not ask for transport fare when the money I was being given for lunch was barely enough in the first place. The turning point in my life began the second day I resumed at Oke’badan High School.
I was walking to school on the second day of my Form I (JSS1) and at Oluyoro, I saw a group of people bent over machines. I stared at how they were tapping keys and rolling the papers up; it all looked like magic to me. On the third day, I mustered all the courage that I could and went to the shop to signify my interest in learning what they were doing. It was then I knew it was typing and the machines were typewriters. I was told I could join them and learn but that I had to pay N10 per month. That was a lot of money at that time – 1990.
When I got home, I told my dad that the notoriety of the students had made some of our teachers to come up with extra-mural classes for serious students who really wanted to learn and that it was going to cost N10 per month. My dad gave me the money. I paid N5 for the form and that was how I got enrolled at Oriola Typewriting Institute. The proprietor was working with the civil service at that time. At the time, we used to call the typing place ‘studio’.
Once school was over at 2pm, with my uniform still on, I would resume at the typing school and I won’t leave for home until 6 or 7pm. What that did for me was that it shielded me from the vices I could have picked up at Oja’gbo. I used to foment trouble as a young boy, walking in the steps of the guys in the hood but typing took my attention away from all that.
Six months into learning typewriting, a conversation started as we were typing; someone mentioned that there was a better typing studio at Oja’gbo. the person who informed us about Emmanuel told us that the proprietor was an alakowe proper who had plenty university degrees and that was what made me determined to enroll at Emmanuel. The thing was, I had never heard of it before.
That day, I left the studio very early and traced the location of this new studio then I found it – Emmanuel Commercial and Typewriting Institute. I made enquiries at Emmanuel and I was told to pay N20 per month. The founder of Emmanuel Typewriting Institute was Dr. Gbade Ojo who would, many years after, become the Chief of Staff to the immediate past Governor of Oyo State.
Before I was accepted at Emmanuel, I was given a typewriter and some texts to type. Once they saw my fingers on the tabs, they were impressed. Instead of starting as a beginner, I was elevated a few steps up. After my JS3 exams, going on to SS1 I wanted to go to the Arts class but the Guidance and Counseling staff in my school looked at my JSCE result and discouraged me from going on with my plan. Instead, I was encouraged to go to the commercial class.
The typing classes continued till I finished secondary school and for those six years I was paying per month. In fact, at some point the fee was increased but I always found a way to pay. Before I finished Secondary school, I had applied for and passed all the professional examinations in Typewriting including the 25,35 and50 words per minute exams by the Royal Society of Academy (RSA), London. Then the Simeon Adebo Training School introduced the 60 words per minute and I passed that too.
After secondary school, the next question then was, where do I go from here? In my Form 5 (SS2), I saved up some money and enrolled for the GCE. I wrote the exams and I made 4 credits but I did not pass Mathematics and English. I had a F9 and P7 respectively. I grew so confident because my oga at Emmanuel typing studio had eulogized me for my GCE grades and so I went in for my SSCE sure that I’d make the outstanding papers; this was in May 1997.
When the results were released, I performed woefully. I had an A2 in Accounting and C6 in Government, every other thing was Pass. The good thing for me was that no-one cared about my SSCE result or anything. So long you had completed secondary school, they believed you’d hit the peak of education.
In July 1997, while I was trying to figure out what to do with my life after secondary school, a friend of mine introduced me to his own oga’s friend – a lawyer whose office was at Agodi Gate. This lawyer needed a typist and so I agreed. He took me to his office. His name was Chief Obitade. He gave me so manuscript to test my skills.
Once my fingers began to hit the tab non-stop, he had to stroll out of the office to the desk where I sat and offered me the job immediately. He started me on N700 per month and he promised to increase it every month. The next month, he added N100 to make N800 and by a couple of months after, he was paying N900. For the next two years that I was with him, he never increased my pay beyond N900.
One day, a client came to our office one day and my oga prepared a land document for the client. The client paid N80,000. At that time, N80,000 was a lot of money and because I was the one who typed the document, I had hoped that my oga would give me something for all the work I put in. Instead, he collected the money, got into his car and drove off. It was then I began to desire to earn that kind of money too and the only way I thought I could do so was to study and become a lawyer too. As fate would have it, he passed away in 1999.
When he passed away, one of his big clients – Chief G.O. Adeagbo – approached me and asked me what my plans were. He had always known me to be an efficient and diligent typist to his friend Chief Obitade so when his friend passed he sent his Personal Assistants to look for me because he wanted me on his payroll. He was a retired director of the Nigerian Ports Authority and he had set up his own company from which he ran a consultancy. He offered me a job in his company and offered to pay N2000.
Not only that, he promised to take me out of the country on trips with him because he always said that he’d need me on those trips.
By the time I joined the service, I was observing some members of staff who were old and about to retire and I had questions. They were still relatively young and agile and I wondered what they’d be doing with their lives upon retirement. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to spend more than 10 years in the civil service.
The salary back then was so meager and more, I found it irritating people calling a man like me ‘Typist’. I wanted to be more than just typist, that name did not go down well with me at all. In order to up my ante, I had to rewrite my GCE and thankfully I made all my outstanding papers. Then I applied to the Polytechnic Ibadan to study Public Administration. I was offered admission.
I had my OND at the Polytechnic of Ibadan. I was promoted to Executive Officer cadre after my OND program but I was not motivated to go for HND because I understood the structure of civil service already and I knew it wouldn’t change my growth through the cadre significantly like a university degree program would. By 2007, I was tired of the job, there was no upward mobility and I had just had enough of it. Every year, while I was still in the civil service line, I wrote JAMB exams. I was so determined like that.
One day, I was perusing the papers and found an advert for a job as Chief Data Entry Operator at the University of Lagos. I looked at the qualifications and I felt I was the perfect fit. I put together my CV and forwarded it to the Registrar’s office through my friend who was a student in UNILAG but had come home to do something. I was invited for the test and so I went to Lagos. I went to a friend’s place at Owode Onirin the day before the test and so the next morning, I went with him to his shop at Owode Onirin.
The test was for 10am and so I felt that if I left my friend’s at 9am I could still make it to UNILAG in good time no matter how far it was. I was an Ibadan boy who had no idea how far Owode Onirin was to Yaba and who had no clue the mad traffic of Lagos. I was still flexing in my friend’s shop when he mentioned it to someone that I was going to Yaba. It was the person who alarmed me that I should have been on my way much earlier and that there was a probability I’d miss the test.
I got on the road immediately and found my way to UNILAG. Luckily, I made it just in time. There were so many applicants that had been invited. I wrote the test and went back. Then I got a call that I had been shortlisted for an oral interview.
I was happy but I became worried about facing someone that would be blowing grammar into my face. In all of my backgrounds, English wasn’t a language we spoke really so I felt a bit disadvantaged in that area. Plus, I saw the way people were so decked in sharp, immaculate corporate outfits meanwhile; I was just a humble guy from a humble background in Ibadan. We were given desktops to type and I did very well in that section. Then they started calling us into the room one at a time. Interestingly, my interview went well.
In the end, I was employed and posted to the Department of Political Science. My friend couldn’t believe that I, a man from Oja’gbo, could be employed by UNILAG. I believe that God has a way of compensating for the downtrodden. In fact, many people did not believe that I got the job without knowing anyone to use ‘connection’ on my behalf.
It was about the time that I took the UNILAG job that my JAMB result was released for that year and I scored 235. I chose UNILAG as my school of choice however there was a problem – my school of choice was also my place of work. I attempted the Post UTME and scored 65% and I wanted to tell the HOD of the department where I worked about combining my degree program and work but I was quickly cautioned that it was against the terms of employment and so I kept mute. When in the end, the admission into the Faculty of Law, UNILAG didn’t work out, I decided to resign from my employment.
“It was about the time that I took the UNILAG job that my JAMB result was released for that year and I scored 235. I chose UNILAG as my school of choice however there was a problem – my school of choice was also my place of work.
I had done the Post UTME and scored 65% and I wanted to tell the HOD of the department where I worked about combining my degree program and work but I was quickly cautioned that it was against the terms of employment and so I kept mute. When in the end, the admission into the Faculty of Law, UNILAG didn’t work out, I decided to resign from my employment.
On the day I’d resign, there was a departmental meeting where I sat in to type minutes of the meeting. In that meeting all the Professors talked glowingly whenever I popped up in their deliberations. There I was, typing and wondering how I’d tender my resignation letter. I did at last and it was like a major tragedy had befallen the department. I worked in UNILAG for just 3 months.
In 2008, I got admitted into the University of Ibadan to study Law. Sponsoring myself through university was herculean. I had to find ways to survive and raise funds since the program was a full-time program. It was tough but I pulled through. Before the need to go to Law School arose, I used to say that people who say they have no way to sponsor themselves through school should, at least, be able to fund themselves no matter what. I always thought it was an untenable excuse. That was my belief until I had to go to law school.
When it was time to go to the law school, I had done my Math – if I reached out to two or three people, I’d be able to raise the school fees. My brother, when the time came, the people I reached out to that I had thought would do something for me did nothing. Raising the funds, at that point had become an overwhelming burden.
When the window of getting an admission into the law school was closing up, I had to go drastic. I had a Honda car which I was using at the time; when I discovered that the window of admission was almost closing on me, I decided to sell the car. I informed people around me that I wanted to sell the car in order to raise my fees.
One if my classmates whose father was a lawyer told his dad about the predicament and then the dad asked how much I’d sell, I said N600,000. He made a counter-offer of N300,000. I was desperate and since the N300,000 could cover my fees anyway, I agreed. That was how I was able to go to the law school. I was posted to Yenagoa Campus but by this time I was already married and I had to take care of my family too.
I had barely spent 4 days in Yenagoa when I got a call from a colleague in the institution where I was hustling informing me that my job was on the line and that I needed to return to Ibadan. My brother, I packed my things and came back to Ibadan o. Throughout my time at the law school, I shuttled between Bayelsa and Ibadan – I had to cater for my wife and children and so I had to have a means of income.
While I was at the law school, we were six in the hostel and everyone always thought that two out of six of us would have a first class and me, I was always claiming that I was fine with a Pass. I read for the Bar exam for just one month. I would stay in the room and read from morning till the next day. I did that for one whole month.
When I heard some people were fainting while writing the bar exams, I didn’t understand because I didn’t feel weak or anything. When the results were released, I had the best grade among the six of us in my room.
I have a personal philosophy that whatever field you choose to delve into, then go all the way through – I went on afterwards to apply for my Masters (LLM) program at the University of Ibadan. I finished my LLM in record time and graduated in November 2019.
Everything I own today I owe back to the background I came from at Oja’gbo. It was the hard background that spurred me and has propelled me to not give up on myself. Today, I have my own law firm and I employ lawyers who work in the firm. The journey hasn’t been smooth but my heart is full of gratitude for the grace I found.