Here are his daily routines: He wakes up by 5:00a.m (except Sundays when he is up by 3:00a.m to prepare for church, Bible study, e.t.c.); listens to the Radio daily from about 7:00a.m till about 9:00a.m; receives visitors till 11.00a.m, and from that time till about 11:00p.m, he is at his desk, writing, reading and updating some of his eight manuscripts. Welcome to the world of Emeritus Professor Theophilus Ogunlesi, the 94-year-old father of Bayo Ogunlesi, the only Blackman that was in United States’ President Donald Trump’s Economic Think Tank, which the latter later disbanded a few weeks back. He is the latest recipient of the Leader Without Title (LWT) Awards slated for next week at the university of Ibadan courtesy of Center for Values in Leadership (CVL)
In his chat with me in his Sagamu residence, in Ogun State, Professor Ogunlesi, the first Nigerian Professor of Medicine at the University of Ibadan (UI) told me that one of the reasons he still puts in so much into each working day is that he wants to pull out what is left inside of him, through God’s grace before it is all over. Enjoy his reflections.
Lesson 1: Career
No one is completely in control of his life journey.
Upon reflection on my life’s journey, especially how I came to choose Medicine as a career, the only conclusion I could come up with is that no person is in complete control of his life’s journey. A good part of one’s attainment during the journey had already been determined before birth, anyway through the inherited GENE. Did I choose Medicine as a career? My answer would be that perhaps if I had been born and raised under different circumstances, I would not be what I am today. What I know is that I began to have a say in my own life, after I left home for Lagos at 13. So, up until that time, I cannot recall that I did anything except what my parents or my teachers wanted me to do. I remember I started school in 1930, when Western education was seen as something odd. My late father put all his children in school because he was convinced about what the missionaries were saying about the value of education. Majority of the people were farmers in those days, and the choice was either you send your child to school or put the child in the farm. My father was both a blacksmith and farmer. Maybe I would have ended up a blacksmith or a farmer if he had followed the popular trend in those days that a child should toe the line of his parents.
Where a child starts will be determined by the circumstances of the time and also of the parents. When you are born of poor parents, the struggle is going to be very hard to get to the top. But what we don’t know is the extent to which predestination will prevail in his or her life. A child may be born of poor parents and end up becoming the President of his or her country.
When I look back, I think I must have done very well in primary school, because I did not spend eight years which was usual at that time. I spent six. When I got to secondary school in Lagos where I should have spent six years, I spent only five, because I started from class two instead of class one. Even at that, I led the class all the years up to 1940. I passed Junior Cambridge examinations in Form IV in 1938, and Senior Cambridge in Form VI in 1940, with five distinctions out of eight subjects and I also won most of the school prizes. The school was CMS Grammar School, Lagos, the oldest and still the best secondary school in Nigeria today as far as I am concerned. Our principal then, who was a Whiteman, Mr. L. J. Lewis, wanted me to be a teacher. So, he got me admitted to Yaba Higher College, the first post-secondary education institution in Nigeria. When I gained an admission into Yaba Higher College in 1941 (I was admitted without exams). I spent a week in the Arts class which I did not like. I came back to tell my principal that I preferred Science subjects, and that I would like to be a doctor. That choice was not unconnected with an earlier experience in Sagamu where I grew up. A doctor used to visit the town once a week from Ijebu-Ode at that time, and his arrival was usually announced by the ringing of the church bells. He came to give injections, usually to people he did not have time to examine. So, when I told my principal that I wanted to study Medicine, he said “okay, if that is what you want.” So, I was moved from the Arts class to the Science class. That was the beginning of my medical career. To me, it was just fun that I could do Science because I preferred Physics, Chemistry and Biology to Latin and Greek. That was the beginning of what amounted to the seven-year journey that led me from the Higher College to Yaba Medical School, and from there to the Lagos General Hospital where we did our clinical training in 1947. I became a doctor after obtaining my first Diploma in Medicine, L.S.M. (Licentiate of the School of Medicine of Nigeria). The point I am making is that I could not say that I consciously chose to study Medicine. I firmly believe that this was a divine arrangement. Once I realised that I decided I was going to give that career my very best, and that was what I did.
I believe that this is applicable to every career in life, but to be successful as a medical doctor all the way, there is a need for singleness of purpose. There should be no conflict between the opportunity you are given and what you make of it, because an opportunity once lost may never be regained. Once you enter the medical profession, you will find footprints of many past achievers which can guide you to the top of the ladder.
Lesson 2: Family/Parenting
Good upbringing gives a child initial advantage.
I picked up many vital lessons from the way my father raised me up by inculcating in me basic Christian values. My wife and I followed his footsteps while we were raising all our own children.
We did as much as we possibly could to make our children true Christians. The Christian religion has influenced the development of most of the nations of the Western world. If you go to England today, you may find out that their churches are half empty, but their civilisation as well as their sense of values is based on the Christian religion.
Our children were brought up never to tell lies; we tried to instill in them true Christian values. We knew the friends they kept. Therefore, we were not surprised that they turned out the way we expected them to be. Thank God!
Sometimes children are affected positively or negatively by the way the parents themselves live. There must be agreement between father and mother. A home where father and mother speak with one voice makes it easier for the child to develop his or her talents. I know that no home is perfect, but our children did not face any serious problems growing up.
Lesson 3: Health
There is a need for regular checkups.
Because I studied Medicine, I am in a position to appreciate and to tell others what it takes to be healthy. I did not control the food I ate as a child, but since I became a doctor in 1947, I have looked after my health. The average Nigerian should have a health card on his or her medical records are kept; he/she should have a doctor who does his/her annual checkup. You need to know that you have a normal blood pressure; that your vision is okay; that you are not over weight; and you need to have a good diet and regular exercises.
Exercise is important if you want to be healthy. At my age, I still do exercises.
How did I survive till 94? Answer: Grace of god….
Lesson 4: Money/wealth
Having cash is not the same as being wealthy.
A lot people are having wrong interpretation of what wealth really means. So, they believe that being wealthy means having a lot of money in one’s bank account. That could be an aspect of wealth. But to me, real wealth means being fulfilled in the assignment God has committed into your hands, and being able to put smiles in the faces of other people who are in need. I am not a businessman in the Nigerian sense of the word, but my life-long business has been, and still is to take care of the sick, to promote health and prevent sickness through health education, and to help the poor and the needy as best as I can. That to me is success. That is real wealth.
Lesson 5: Spiritual
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
I was born of Christian parents, I have had a Christian upbringing, and so my spiritual life is guided by the Bible. My God has been very loving, very kind, and very forgiving. And I give Him all the glory for everything he has done to me and through me. If I may quote a favourite hymn I love very well:
Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord
Uncounted blessings give my spirit voice
Tender to Him, the promise of His word
In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice
Lesson 6: Fun time
Have fun by doing what is purposeful.
If fun time is what amounts to lack of purpose or seriousness in what one does, then, I have no time for such things. However, I certainly enjoy relaxation with playing a few games, listening to Radio and watching Television.
Lesson 7: Personal Development
Reading develops the mind.
I do much of reading and writing now, even though retired but not tired. Reading develops the mind because you are sharing the thoughts of people who have knowledge of a particular subject or field. A sensible individual will continue to learn until he or she dies. Reading should be part of the life of every person who is able to read. The five senses should be used maximally. I have eight manuscripts which I have not fully developed. I keep working on them, hoping that I can still get at least some of them published before my time is up.
Best advice received
God Almighty has been my best adviser. He is my master, best adviser and best friend. Another favourite hymn says we must be ready to Trust And Obey, For There Is No Other Way….
Professional books apart, I believe that the best book to read daily is The HOLY BIBLE. The book of Common Prayers and Hymnal Companion are worthy supplements. Also, I have my personal library which I update from time to time.
Message for Nigerians
My message to my fellow Nigerians is a simple one, but I would like this message to be accompanied with a prayer – Prayers For Ears To Listen And The Will To Do – what the Yoruba language translates to “ETI IGBO ATI AIYA IGBASE”. There is nothing original in this message, because I am merely repeating or reminding fellow Nigerians of QUOTATIONS with which we are all familiar. I have chosen just seven only, to be precise:
- Whatever thy hand finds for thee to do, do with all your might.
- To thine own self, BE TRUE.
- WORK (hard, hard, and very hard) for the night is coming, when…
- A well-known saying, which I can express in three languages, goes like this
- LATIN — VERBUM SAP SAPIENTI
- ENGLISH — A WORD IS SUFFICIENT FOR THE WISE
iii. YORUBA — ORO DIE TO FUN OLOGBON (tabi omoluwabi eniyan)
- If at first you don’t succeed, TRY, TRY, AND TRY AGAIN.
- The words of the Nigerian National Anthem, taken together with the National Pledge are more than sufficient to inspire us to build a nation where PEACE AND JUSTICE REIGN.
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Lesson 7: Legacy
Only God’s grace can guarantee success in our lives.
Since I am very fond of hymns, let me begin with the words of another of my favourite hymns: –
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My dear Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumph of His grace
What I am trying to say in effect is that with just only a tongue which I have, I cannot fully acknowledge and express my gratitude to God for keeping me alive and well these 94 years, and has also crowned them with many modest achievements – a good home and family, a few firsts here and there, and so on. But the legacy which I cherish most is the name – THEOPHILUS OLADIPO OGUNLESI.
The Bible says “A good name is better than riches.” (Proverbs 22:1)
PRAISE THE LORD!!!