Chief Reuben Fasoranti
Chief Reuben Fasoranti is a teacher, administrator, politician and national leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere. In this interview with PETER DADA, the nonagenarian speaks about his life, background and some national issues.
You just published a book about your life. What is the motive behind it?
The motive is that I don’t want to leave the world just like that without marking it, without anything to leave behind. So, I decided to write a book. I don’t want to leave like a snake moving over a stone without any mark.
Can you share your background with us?
I was born a village boy at Uso in the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State in 1926. That is where my grandfather moved to. Initially, he lived in Akure and wanted to be Chief Odopetu, but he was denied that opportunity and he moved out. And on his way to Owo to join his relations, he stopped over in Uso and decided to stay there. From there, he begot my father and my father begot me; and from there, my father moved to Ayede/Ogbese and that is the story.
How did you start your education?
I went to a village school at Uso for the first three years after which my father said I should move to Owo, where there were better schools and from there , I went to the Ondo Boys’ High School, Ondo, and from there to higher college, Yaba in Lagos State, and from there to the University College, Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan), and from there I went abroad and I came back.
What did you study in university?
I studied English/Geography.
When did you start to work?
I started working after I graduated. I started working in my alma mater, the Ondo Boys’ High School, as a teacher. After that, I went abroad and when I came back, I worked briefly at Oyemekun Grammar School and from there to Iju-Itaogbolu Grammar School as the founding principal and there I worked for 14 years and from there to Iwo Baptist School (Osun State) and from there to Olivet Baptist School, Oyo; from Oyo, I came to Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti, as a principal and I then retired.
Was it your ambition to become a teacher?
I didn’t want to become a teacher but my boss in Ondo Boys’ High School continued to pester me. He said he wanted to retain me and one other friend, who is now late, Venerable Ibiyomade. We were very good in school. He wanted to retain us. I ran away for about six months looking for a job in Lagos. I was told that I was too young. So, my principal sent for me again and I went back to Ondo Boys’ High School to continue teaching.
Since you were initially pestered to continue to teach, did you later enjoy teaching?
Yeah, I later enjoyed it. Like I said after leaving school, I went into teaching reluctantly, but later, the principal of my school again got me tied down and so I started to enjoy teaching and after that, I came to Akure. I was invited to found the Iju-Ita Ogbolu Grammar School, where I worked for 14 years and from there to Iwo, from there to Olivet in Oyo and to Christ’s School.
How sociable were you when you were young?
I was moderately sociable; I had many friends. I was a member of the Dancing Club in the University of Ibadan. We used to do classical dances, tango and so on, and we kept on doing that during holidays when I came back from Ibadan.
At what point did you settle down?
I got married by the time I finished school. My finance finished before me. She went abroad and I had to go and meet her after two years.
How did you meet her?
Both of us were travelling to Ibadan in the same lorry at that time. She was an Ondo girl and we parted. A few days after, we met again and I asked her where she was living. She was living not far away from my house and I asked her if I could come and visit her and she said okay. That was how we started and we courted for about eight to 10 years.
Was there any resistance from both families when you were about to get married to each other?
No. Her father liked me because of my performance in school. I went to Ondo Boys’ High School and she was an Ondo girl. She too heard about my performance in school. They all admired me. So, when they saw us together, they didn’t object.
What about your own parents?
No. My parents did not object to my choice. My father didn’t interfere.
How was the home front when you were being transferred from one place to another? How were you able to manage?
We had to endure it. She went into government service, because she got a scholarship to study abroad. So, she left me behind in Nigeria after two years; I went to meet her there in the UK. She got a government job as an education officer and she was posted to Ilesha. I was in Akure and she was later transferred to Benin and I was at Iju-Itaogbolu, Ondo State. I used to visit her there until I persuaded her to resign her job and she came to found Omolere Nursery and Primary School as the proprietress and founder.
While she was away, who was taking care of the children when you were not around?
She took the children with her and at a point when they were becoming troublesome, she left them behind and they stayed back with me. That is how we managed.
In 1991 you lost your wife and people were expecting you to remarry. Why didn’t you give it a trial?
Simply because it wouldn’t be the same again.
Are you saying there could be no other woman like your wife?
Yes. That is what I am saying and I was not fascinated by any woman again. We had no problems with each other. We were good friends and very close. I can’t see any other woman like her. I decided not to get married again. Not only that, I didn’t want any problem for my children, because marrying another woman wouldn’t be the same as their mother.
How have you been coping then without your wife?
I was coping with my job, relations and my children. I had worked in many places in Iju-Itaogbolu from there to Iwo, from there, Oyo and from there Ado Ekiti where I retired. I had interest in my job. My job occupied my mind.
Was there any pressure on you that you must marry again?
Yes, there was, particularly from my parents. But I told them that they got nothing to do with my style of life and I think the children enjoyed themselves; no pressure from outside and no nagging; and that has been the same till today.
You are over 90; will you say you are a fulfilled man?
Oh yes. I am fulfilled with my family, with my job and with my public life.
Was there anything you missed when you were younger and you feel going back to that period now?
I enjoyed my youthful days. I wanted to study medicine, but I didn’t do science in school. So, that was the disadvantage; but the English/Geography I studied gave me enough satisfaction.
So, you had wanted to be a doctor?
Yes, but I think I am fulfilled in that area too because one of my children is a medical doctor and I thank God for that.
After the death of your daughter, Mrs Olakurin, you were complaining that the police were not doing well in their investigation. Are you now satisfied that one of the suspects has been arrested and is facing trial?
Yes, they eventually helped us to nab one of them. He is in detention and awaiting trial. That gives me satisfaction that she did not die in vain.
As a retired teacher, how will you compare education then and now?
There is no basis for comparison at all. Standard was higher then. Teachers were more dedicated, children were ready to learn and parents also cooperated. Take it or leave it.
The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced free education to the Western Region, if he has the opportunity of looking back, do you think he will be happy with the situation of education now?
What do you think is the way forward?
Government should get itself together and do a critical study, using experienced teachers and retired teachers. That will get it ideas.
You were a close associate of the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin. At what point did you meet him?
All along, he was principal at Owo and I was principal here; when we founded the first political party, we were meeting in this compound. When it got to a point of getting a leader, he was presiding over our meetings here and we went to him to be the leader of the group.
Next week, Nigeria will be 60 as an independent nation. Are you satisfied with the situation of things in the country?
No! The leaders have lost focus. It seems they don’t know what they want and they are not determined to build a good nation. Everybody is running after their own ambition and selfish interest.
What will be your recommendation?
Self examination! The leaders should get together, proffer ideas and then make sure that Nigeria does not lose out. There is corruption all over the place; leaders should tackle it. I know it is going to be difficult, because everybody likes money, but if the leaders can be dedicated and committed, make themselves good examples to the followers; it will be easy to tidy up.
Do you think Nigeria can get out of the challenge of corruption?
Yes. There were countries before, which were more corrupt and people were able to deal with them seriously and they sat up. But like I said, it takes selflessness, courage, dedication and commitment on the part of the leaders.
How is life after retirement?
I didn’t really retire. After retirement, I went back to teaching. I founded Omolere Nursery and Primary School and after that, I founded the Akure High School, which is still there till today. So, my mind is alive all the time; I keep on teaching and meeting with teachers. It has been a lovely time for me.
What legacy do you want to leave behind for future generations?
I hope some of them copy me and take after me. Some of them want to celebrate me – my students at Olivet Baptist College, my students at Ondo Boys’ High School, my students at Iju-Itaogbolu Grammar School. They have been coming up to rally round me after retirement. I think they might have seen something in me.
Source: The PUNCH