Pa Dotun Oyewole; former President of the United States, Mr Bill Clinton; and Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosu
From the 18th THISDAY Awards in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports the instructive tales about teachers, even as former American President Bill Clinton recalls his own favourite tutors…
As the helicopter conveying former American President Mr. Bill Clinton roared across the skies of Obafemi/Owode Local Government in Ogun State, scores of school children waved excitedly at the huge mechanical bird powering above them.
The eminent occupant of the chopper was heading for the June 12 Cultural Centre in Abeokuta, venue of the 18th THISDAY Awards for Excellence. About one hour later, after delivering a speech in which he dwelt on the importance of Information Communication Technology and education in resolving some of the problems facing the world, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY Newspapers and Proprietor of Arise International TV, engaged Clinton in a session of questions. It was Clinton's fourth appearance at the prestigious THISDAY Awards ceremony, the 2013 edition of which celebrated Nigeria’s Best Teachers.
Clinton and His Favourite Teachers
If Clinton saw it coming, he was nonetheless taken aback for a few moments by Obaigbena’s first question. "Bill, who was your favourite teacher and what did you learn?" His answer spoke of the clairvoyant quality of teachers as he revealed that one of his teachers had foreseen that he could become the governor of an American state. Clinton’s educator based her prediction on the observation that he talked too much. This trait to chatter, she warned, would either lead him to jail or the governor’s lodge, depending on whether he learns when to talk and when to shut up. This teacher of his made this remark when he was 11 years old and in the sixth grade.
Much later when Clinton became the Governor of Arkansas, he made a point of visiting the teacher who predicted his future.
Clinton who was elected the 42nd President of the United States of America and praised particularly for significantly transforming education in his home state told the audience at the 18th THISDAY Awards, which included Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo, that he could not narrow his choice of teachers to a ‘favourite’ teacher as Obaigbena sought to know. Instead, he disclosed that he had many teachers who impacted his life. He traced his education from a Catholic Elementary School to a public school.
As the 15 awardees adjudged as deserving of honour by a panel headed by the founding MD of GT Bank Mr. Fola Adeola and former Vice President of the World Band and former Minister of Education Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili listened, Clinton wondered how he could possibly recall everyone of his teachers. He opted to exemplify the importance and impact of teachers by recalling three of his former tutors. He remembered an incident in his sixth grade when the teacher told him that he was top of the class, but he would not be listed as first, but third because he talked too much.
Another teacher of Clinton he spoke of was the man who taught him science when he was 13 years. In his opinion, he was not a good-looking man at all. “He was thick-set, wore thick glasses and smoked cheap cigarettes. He had the habit of telling his students that he knew that they might not remember half of what he taught them. However, he handed down to them a key that worked for him.
“He said every morning after he shaved and had his bath; he would stand before his bathroom mirror and remind himself that he is beautiful. He told his students ‘if you don’t remember anything I teach you remember to speak what you will like to be to yourself. It would take you a long way,’ he told us his students.”
But the former American President did not say if later in his life, he stood before his bathroom mirror to tell himself he would be governor of Arkansas and later President of America.
Clinton’s Encounter as an 18 Year-Old
The last of his memorable teachers was the one he encountered as an 18 year-old in the university. He was a Professor of Ancient Civilisation. In Clinton’s opinion, he was a brilliant man. He recalled that this professor kept hammering on the fact that each society that thrives teaches one thing, ‘that the future is better’. To Clinton, there is a moral lesson in that statement for every individual.
At 66 years, Clinton said that for him to bring to mind what he was taught at these various stages of his life (when he was 11, 13 and 18 years) demonstrated the power that teachers have.
Earlier when he began his speech, Clinton had appreciated a string quartet of youths playing on the violin and other string instruments, saying that the beautiful music made him feel that he was the president of America. This disclosure probably indicated Clinton’s love for classical music.
Professor Laz Ekwueme, a renowned musicologist, actor and now a traditional ruler, also voiced his appreciation for the quartet when he came on stage to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award. The audience also enjoyed the benefit of being entertained by the band of the Ogun State Command of the Nigeria Police.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Professional Football Player
Clinton who spoke on the opportunities that are available with the application of education and ICT acknowledged that Nigerians are outstanding in many countries that they have emigrated to. He urged the Nigerian authorities to find a way of pooling these resourceful Nigerians in the Diaspora back home for the benefit of the country. He singled out for mention, Mr. Nnamdi Asomugha, a professional football player in America who was visiting Nigeria with him. Asomugha was not at the THISDAY Awards as he had taken time out to visit his family. Asomugha who has a charity of his own also does a lot of work with the Clinton Global Initiative. Clinton also told the audience that Obaigbena has pledged to sponsor four Nigerian students to a forum hosted annually by him at the opening of the UN General Assembly, while also disclosing that students of the Lagos Business School will take part in a global contest featuring universities from all over the world.
At some point in his speech, Clinton had some kind of discomfort in his throat and Obaigbena who wore a flamboyant traditional Yoruba attire, left his seat on stage to offer him a glass of water. It was a foretaste of the lavish lunch that the organizers would later treat guests to once the curtain was drawn on the event, which was broadcast live on Channels Television and also enjoyed live internet streaming on THISDAY Group’s sister companies, ARISE TELEVISION and ARISE NEWS.
Two Governors Singled Out for Honours
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State who was rewarded for paying teachers in his state handsomely and for his investment in nursery education recalled his sentimental attachment to Ogun State where he enjoyed free education made possible by the late Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Host Governor Ibikunle Amosun also received an award for the giant strides he has recorded in education. He justified the choice of Ogun State as the host of the event, saying that the symbolism could not be lost on teachers, as the state is the gateway to knowledge having recorded such historic achievements as the seat of the first newspaper-Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba- in the country, the first Holy Bible and the first secondary school in Nigeria.
"Our administration has built on that legacy by introducing functional free education at the primary and secondary levels that includes free textbooks and instructional materials, construction and rehabilitation of school buildings, regular payment of teachers' salaries, training and retraining of teachers, promotion of staff as and when due and construction of world-class model schools across the three senatorial districts of the state," he said.
Teachers’ Roll of Honour
The 15 teachers who were honoured by THISDAY are: Primary school teachers - Mrs. Victoria Jolayemi, Mrs. Dorothy Ugwu and Mrs. Christie Ade-Ajayi. Secondary school teachers - Rev. Father Angus Fraser, Chief D.B.E. Ossai, Mr. Yakubu S. Dimka, Chief Reuben Majekodunmi, Chief Dotun Oyewole, Mr. John O.B. Adeaga, Bawa Mohammed Faskari and Hadiza Thani Mohammed.
University lecturers - Prof. Iya Abubakar, Prof. Frank Ugiomoh, Prof. Michael Obadan and Prof. Eunice Nkiruka Uzodike- They all went home with N2 million each from the organizers.
Justifying their selection, Ezekwesili said thousands of applications were received from across the country by people who saw the THISDAY Awards for Nigeria’s Best Teachers as a platform to show gratitude to some of those who contributed to who they are today. She said her committee applied a methodology to arrive at the awardees. According to her, the quality of teachers contributes 60 percent to where the students are. While urging the states and local governments to pay teachers’ salaries as and when due, Adeola supported the THISDAY initiative to honour this class of professionals who are with our children for a quarter of the day and for those in boarding schools eight months or even more”.
Emotional Messages from Grateful Students
Adeola and Ezekwesili announced some of the emotional messages from grateful students. According to the duo, a group of students wanted their teacher honoured for teaching them Mathematics in a way that made them love the subject. There was also an entry from an 80-year old who remembered his teacher. “Someone said the reason he remembers the rivers of Africa today is that his teacher made it into a song for them,” Ezekwesili said. Another entry sought to have honour bestowed on his teacher for teaching him to hold his pen with his thumb and the forefinger, attributing this to the reason he writes so well today.
Some of the recipients of the award like 82-year-old Fr. Fraser whose voice still resonates clearly said he has been teaching in the Middle Belt of Nigeria since his arrival in the country 51 years ago from his native St. Vincent in the Carribeans. Chief Mrs. Ade-Ajayi said he was surprised to be nominated as her late husband, late Prof Ade-Ajayi, was a past recipient of THISDAY Award. Mr. John Adeaga said he has been in the classroom in the past 33 years. Hadiza Mohammed probably summed up the teachers appreciation when she thanked THISDAY for making teachers proud and putting a smile on their faces. Ninety-year old Dotun Oyewole perhaps received the loudest cheer and when it was time for him to speak, his wife took the microphone and after thanking the organizers, she disclosed that she would like to personally thank her husband because she was also his student. To this disclosure, the crowd roared alive again.
At the occasion, 10 distinguished Nigerians received the Lifetime Achievement awards. They included First Bank Chairman Oba Otudeko, Osile of Oke-Ona in Ogun State, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, Prof. Laz Ekwueme and business mogul and Chairman of Eleganza, Alhaji Rasaq Okoya.