John Shiklam writes on how Mr. Adedeji Bankole, a 94-year-old teacher at the famous Government College Keffi was retired without pension and gratuity 37 years ago and how his former students have been taking care of him
Although most students remember their secondary school teachers either positively or negatively, but very few take up the responsibility of providing for their upkeep in their retirement.
That is exactly what old students of the famous Government College Keffi in Nasarawa State are doing to their former teacher, Mr. Adedeji Bankole who would be 95 by September 5, 2017.
Bankole, is a household name among the old students of the college, particularly those who were admitted in the school between 1954 to 1980 when he eventually retired.
He taught Woodwork and Carpentry in the college for 26 years, a subject that was meant to provide some skills for the students, even though most of them didn’t take the subject seriously as none of them aspired to become a carpenter at the end of the day.
However, many decades after they left the college, Bankoleâ€™s former students still remember him with nostalgia and visit him at his home in Keffi from time to time.
They visit him either as a class set or as individuals and each time they visit, he was presented with assorted gifts and even cash to keep body and soul together.
One of such visits was by members of the Keffi Old Boys Association (KOBA), Set 1977-1982 at his residence in Keffi, shortly after their re-union meeting which held in the college recently.
It was fun meeting their old teacher as they exchanged banters with him. Some of them were meeting him for the first time since they graduated from the school 35 years ago.
Beaming with smiles, the old man said he was delighted his students have never forgotten him and have continuously shown him love and care.
He expressed his profound gratitude to them and prayed that God will continue to uplift them in their various endeavours.
Indeed the two bedroom apartment he lives in today was graciously built for him by one of the old boys having been retired in 1980 in a controversial manner without pension and gratuity.
In November last year, members of the KOBA set 1974-1979 also visited him and presented a token donation to him. Such visits often evoked sweet memories of the college and make him feel like crying.
For him, if it were not for the support of KOBA members, it would have been difficult for him to survive.
His children who are in Lagos had wanted him to relocate back home, but he declined, because, according to him, having lived in Keffi for 64 years, the idea of going back to Abeokuta, did not follow.
â€œI have lived the greater part of my life here, I cannot go back home again, because if I go, I will look like a stranger and it will take me time to adapt to the environment,â€ he told THISDAY in an interview.
His wife had died in the early 1970s and he remarried, but as he puts it â€œthe woman showed me hell and we parted ways after a few years togetherâ€ and since then he never married again.
â€œI have two of my children in Lagos and they have been disturbing me to come back home. My other son who lives with me is the one taking care of me. But he suffered stroke for seven years and during that time, it was really very tough for me. I remained very grateful to all of them, I am proud of all of them, I never knew that they could come back to take care of me,â€ he said emotionally.
He said he was always elated when his former students visited him, even though he does not recognise them again as they have all grown big in addition to the fact that it is not possible for a teacher to recognise about 2,000 students he had taught.
On the part of the students, they were excited to meet their teacher once again. The man who spanked them for playing pranks and for coming late or making noise during lessons in the Woodwork Workshop.
Members of KOBA are very fond of Bankole, because of his peculiarities, especially the way he made grammatical errors in the English Language in the course of delivering his lessons. Trust students, they always make fun of him from behind.
Out of mischief, some of them can formulate any bad sentence or phrase and attribute it to â€œMr. Banksâ€ as some of them secretly nicknamed him.
He was a disciplinarian who did not tolerate nonsense and you dare not go late for his lesson in the Woodwork or made noise when he was delivering his lessons.
Whenever it was time for his lesson, the students had to sprint from their classrooms to the Woodwork Workshop to avoid Mr. Bankole’s big cane.
These were some of the things that made him stand out as a household name among thousands of the students that came to the college between 1954 to 1980.
Although his subject was meant to provide some skills for the students, they never took the subject seriously as they could not imagine becoming carpenters.
The subject was also aimed at equipping those who may wish to switch over to technical schools to have the basic foundation.
However, it was very rare to see students opting for technical schools as it was an era when a white collar job was the dream of most students.
Apart from building a two bedroom flat for him at the GRA in Keffi, just a stone throw to the college, the old boys have also been contributing money for his upkeep. But the economic recession has affected the monthly stipend that he receives every month for his upkeep.
â€œInitially, they were giving me N25,000 every month, but as the economy became bad, they told me that things were becoming difficult and it was slashed. But in addition to that, many of them who come to visit me give me money, they have been very kind to me and I am very grateful to all of them,â€ he said in an interview with THISDAY.
At 94, Bankole is still strong, agile and mentally alert. He does not wear glasses and walks around without any support or walking stick. His memory is still sharp and he remembers everything very vividly and seems to have a grasp of political happenings around the country.
A former colonial soldier who fought the Second World War, his sojourn to the college started in 1952 when he arrived Keffi from Abeokuta, his home town, Ogun State to work in a construction company known as Constain Construction Company as a carpenter.
He joined the college in 1954, courtesy of the Vice Principal of the college, one Mr. David Lang. It was in 1954 that the late President General of KOBA, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Abisoye who passed on recently, was admitted to the college.
Sadly after spending 26 years in the college, Bankole was retired without pension and gratuity following irreconcilable issues with the then Plateau State Ministry of Education, ranging from missing files and so on.
Not even the efforts of one of his students, Justice James Ugebe, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court could resolve the issues and at the end of the day he was frustrated by the ministry officials and he eventually gave up the matter.
Speaking recently when members of KOBA Set 1977-1982 visited him at his residence shortly after their reunion meeting in the college, Bankole said he remains eternally grateful to the old boys for their love and care. A similar visit was paid to him in November last year by members of KOBA Set 1974-1979.
“I thank God for my students who are now taking care of me. I thank God for the entire members of Keffi Old Boys Association for taking care of me.
“I started teaching in Government College Keffi in 1954. During the colonial times, everything was moving well. People were honest, transparent and very dedicated to work.
“When we got independence, we were very happy and hoping that we were going to enjoy more than when we were under British rule, but I feel sad that since independence, things have continued to deteriorate instead of improving,” Bankole lamented.
He regretted that the â€œpeople we elected to be our leaders are the ones killing the country today. Our leaders are corrupt and greedy and that is why things are not working well and Nigerians are suffering.â€
But one of the problems making him sad, is the current state of the college today, a school that has produced prominent Nigerians, top politicians and professionals in various fields of endeavours within and outside the country in the past 68 years since the school was founded by the Northern Regional Government.
According to Bankole, Government College Keffi, was the best in Northern Nigeria followed by Barewa College in Zaria even though, Barewa was founded before Keffi.
“Government College Keffi was the school that every parent wanted his child to be admitted because of its discipline and high academic standard,” Bankole recalled.
Indeed some of the prominent people who were his students included, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice James Ugebe, late President General of KOBA, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Abisoye, late Vice President of KOBA, Engr. Tunde Oyelola, second Vice President of KOBA and former registrar of JAMB, Prof. Bello Salim, Alhaji Inuwa Jibrin, Dr. Sambo Donga, Hon. Rima Shawulu Kwewum, Senator Barnabas Gemade, two former Comptroller Generals of Immigration, Mr. David Paradang and Mr. Martins Abeshi, Prof. Danladi Matawal.
Others are former Borno State governor, Senator Maaji Maina Lawan, current ministers of Information and Culture, and that of Sports, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Mr. Solomon Dalung respectively, Mr. Ishaya Akau, Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasiru Ajanah, Arch. Bashir Usman, Engr. Kayode Adeyemi, former SSG of Nasarawa State, Amb. Suleiman Azores, Engr. Edward Ujege, Justice Suleiman Galadima, Evangelist Matthew Owojaiye, among several others.
Bankole lamented further that the present state of the school is an eye sore, saying that a school that has produced many influential and successful professionals should not be left to rot away like that.
“Everything in the college is on the verge of collapse. There is no discipline again and academic standard is very poor. Although this is not only limited to Government College Keffi, all public schools are like that, but the situation can be redeemed if the old boys come together.â€
Speaking further, Bankole said “What we should do now is to beg God to change the minds of our leaders so that they can make this country a better place to live.
“My advice to you KOBA members is to ensure that this college does not fizzle out. They should take care of the school. It is their pride because that is where they were groomed. They were taught to be disciplined, to be hardworking, to be loyal and committed to the development of your country. The college shaped their lives.
“If it were possible I would have wished that the Nasarawa State Government hands over the college to the old boys so that they can restore its past glory.
“If the government cannot hand over the college to KOBA, let there be joint partnership so that the association can be fully involved in the management of the college with a view to improving standard of learning. I know that if KOBA is involved in the management of the college, there would be improvement,â€ Bankole noted.
He noted the poor quality of teachers in the college, stressing that some of them are not qualified to teach.
He stressed that if the old boys are allowed to run the affairs of the college, it will become like Kings College, Lagos.
“They bring unqualified people to head the school, they recruit unqualified people to teach the students, government all over the country has neglected public schools because the children of government officials are either in private schools at home or abroad and public schools are left without sufficient funding,â€ Bankole added.
He noted that education is the bed rock of development and everything must be done to revive public schools.
â€œIf by the grace of God, I have the opportunity of meeting the governor of Nasarawa State before I die, I will beg him to involve KOBA in managing the college to restore its lost glory,â€ he said.
However the old boys have been making immense contributions to improve facilities in the college. Some of the dilapidated classrooms were being rehabilitated by the Nasarawa State government.
Many believe that much really needed to be done considering the size of the school and the rot that has crept in over the years as a result of the neglect of public schools.
As Bankole suggested, a collaboration between the old boys and the Nasarawa State government, is the surest way of upgrading the college to the required standard.
But will the Nasarawa State Government consider such idea?