St. John’s @ 60: An incubator for great minds
Let me use this auspicious occasion to congratulate all of us, who happen to pass through this great citadel of learning, The St. John’s Grammar School, Oke-Atan, Ile-Ife, Osun State, on the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of the school, which we are celebrating from Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd of January, 2022. May we live long to witness many more of such celebration.
St. John’s, for short, an all-male secondary school, located within the ancient city of Ile-Ife, was established in January 19th, 1962 by a Catholic Missionary from Quebec, Canada, Reverend Father Fabian Cloutier. He not only taught in the school, he was the pioneer principal of the school.
Since it was established, this great institution has produced numerous great people, who have gone ahead to break all boundaries and attain immense successes in their chosen fields and careers. It will be an inexhaustible exercise trying to name them in this short piece. Many “Great Johnians”, as we, the students of the school proudly call ourselves, have made landmarks in different sector of our society, both home and abroad. Be it in academics, engineering, health, legal, business, accounting, politics, entertainment, and so on.
While I cannot begin to mention names of individuals and their achievements, which are too numerous for this write-up, I will pick a few. Johnian Otunba Iyiola Omisore was the first deputy governor of Osun state in the 4th republic, from 1999 to 2003. Also, in 16 years of the 22 years of this democratic dispensation, two eminent Johnians were the senators representing Ife-Ijesha zone of Osun state. Johnian Otunba Omisore went ahead from being the deputy governor to become a two-term senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 2003 and 2011.
It was still another Johnian who took over the baton from him in 2011, in the person of Johnian Senator Babajide Omoworare. He also occupied that position for two terms of four years each, 2011 to 2019. The current caretaker chairmen of Ife-East LGA is Johnian Honourable Safiriyu Akinwole, who previously represented the Ife-East Constituency in the Osun State House of Assembly, where he was the Minority Leader of the house, between 2015 to 2019 and Johnian Barrister Bisi Oladosu, Ife Central West LCDA. Others include Johnian Prof Wale Oladipo, former PDP National Secretary, former House of Representatives member, Hon. John Olawole Fashogbon. And many others.
In academics, Johnian Prof Anthony Elujoba was former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Johnian Amund Kayode is the current Vice Chancellor of Elizade University, Ilara Mokin and Johnian Prof Tunde Arayela, was former Deputy Vice Chancellor, The Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure. Media moguls; Gbenga Adefaye of Vanguard Newspapers and Dele Momodu of Ovation Magazine are both Johnians.
At every turn, history will be kind to those people who have been the pillars of the school from the time it was established to date. They are the teachers, whether dead or alive. They form the backbone of the school, with the exceptional knowledge impacting abilities and discipline, which they instill in their students. These moulded them to who they later become. They were in my heart when I wrote an article to commemorate 2021 Teacher’s Day, titled “Teacher: A Divine Recreator”. Thanks to all our teachers in St. John’s.
One Johnian also distinguished himself, and also became the principal of the school. He has so contributed positively to the developments of the school, both while in service of the school and after his retirement, with his deep and massive involvement in the national alumni association activities. This earned him the title of “Principal Emeritus”. He was the first vice president of the alumni association. He is no other person than Johnian Dr. Olajide Makinde (PhD).
This piece will be incomplete without my personal reminiscence of the school. St. John’s is a place that provided the foundation on which my subsequent education was built. It was at St. John’s that I discovered what I could attain academically, with dedication and hardwork. Despite the deteriorating educational standards in the mid 80’s when I attended the school, St. John’s was still a school to beat. One top school, where students dreamt of attending and parents desperately wanted their kids to go, once they were leaving primary schools. It was competitive and has been one of the best in Ile-Ife, and Osun state ever since. I and my three other brothers attended St. John’s. That’s the same in many families of Johnians.
It is a school that taught all round education, not just academics but other extracurricular activities such debates, quiz competitions, sports. The school had courts for many interesting sports like football, handball, volleyball, lawn tennis, table tennis, badminton, hockey, and many more. We had agric farms and well stocked poultry that had chicken, rabbits, and other domestic animals such as goats, pigs, etc., where students learned farming and animal husbandry. We were well taught during the school hours and had prep classes after school. I mastered how to study intensively and effectively to improve my academic performances during my time in the school. This helped me in my subsequent academic pursuits.
This was enabled by many teachers and fellow students. One teacher inspired my hardwork. He is Mr. Adetumbi (a.k.a Loooge). He taught us Mathematics. He was very brilliant but extremely tough. It was as if his “caning” ability was competing with his intelligence. His reputation went ahead of him as I knew of him and his “beatings” from my elder brother who was his student, even before I entered the school. When I eventually got to senior class where he taught us math, I knew him first-hand. However, it was his seeming toughness that drove me to work harder and it paid off.
I first put these trainings to test when I attended The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State, where I performed excellently well. This propelled me to be more ambitious. I proceeded to The Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo state, where l, not only graduated with a First Class (Hons.), but was the Best Student in my Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Best Student in my Faculty of Engineering and had the Second Overall Best result in the whole university. At my MBA Management Class in Imo State University, Owerri, I had the best result. All these, I gave to the training and discipline I received in St. John’s Grammar, Oke-Atan, Ile-Ife. Even now that I manage my personal company, which is into Renewable Energy (solar and inverter systems), Oil and Gas, and Construction, the trainings and discipline still guide me.
Up till date, the best of friends who I have for the longest part of my life are my classmates in St. John’s. They have been wonderful. I went to the same university with few of them. They are Johnians Dr. Dotun Makinde, Soji Awoyera, and Engr. Agbaje Mojeed. Being part of the larger national body of the school’s alumni association, St. John’s Grammar School Old Boys Association (SJOBA), under the able leadership of Dr. Festus Odunayo Oshoba, a Physician, chartered administrator, a lawyer, journalist and entrepreneur, as president, gives me a feeling of camaraderie. Everytime I read messages about members who are far older than me, many of whom have finished from the school before I was even born, I feel blessed. Imagine my happiness being in the midst of all these great Johnians. I feel proud.
As the school clocks 60 years, it’s alumni, SJOBA, is celebrating it in a grand style, considering the array of interesting programmes lined up. It will start with sanitation exercise around Ile-Ife city on Monday 17th. This will be followed by intra and inter-class debates and price awards on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sporting events on Thursday and courtesy visits to Ooni of Ife and the state governor Gboyega Oyetola. Juma’at service on Friday. Mock assembly and inauguration of projects will take place on Saturday. Thanksgiving service and Anniversary Mass at St. John’s Catholic Church, Oke-Atan, Ile-Ife, will take place on Sunday, to round-up the programmes.
Many feats attained by the SJOBA in their efforts to restore the glory of the school, with many laudable projects being executed in the past few years, are highly commendable. Kudos to the National Executive of the body, which has been relentless to make the projects happened and bring this celebration to fruition.
With the decadence in the standards and quality of the school infrastructures bequeathed by the founder due to neglect and lack of maintenance with the government take over of schools, the old boys have consistently intervened to arrest such dilapidations and restore the school to it’s previous enviable status. This makes the call on the government to review the ownership and management of public schools by involving their old students in their management or outright handover of schools since government could not longer cope with these demands, more critical at this time.
I cannot say enough of what St. John’s is to me. I remained eternally grateful that I had the opportunity of passing through such school. I am always proud to be a Johnian anytime, anywhere, any day.
Long Live St. John’s Grammar School, Oke-Atan, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Long Live SJOBA.
“Ut Diligatis Invicem”
(To Love One Another)
God Bless Nigeria.
You can follow me on:
Facebook: Lateef Adewole