Eighty – year- old retired accountant, Pa Jimmy Orisabinueni , shares his life ’ s journey and adventures with TOBI AWORINDE
Can you tell us about yourself ?
My name is Jimmy Tophas Adejimi Orisabinueni .
You said you were born on July 5 , 1940 . What was your childhood like ?
I am the only son and third child of my mother . But my father had another wife . My mother was the junior wife . I had two elder sisters ; they are both deceased now . The last one passed away last year . She was above 80 years old .
Would you say you had a happy childhood?
As a matter of fact , I was so happy as a child because my mother was in her father ’ s house ; I know when my father took her to his own home . But as the first son, everybody took care of me. I was happy when I was young , but at the same time , while my mother ’ s younger sister didn ’ t have a child , she took me in . They even called her my mother . I went with her to a place in the then Mid – Western Region . I spent some time with her . But my father soon said I should start attending school ; it was then that I came back . Unfortunately for my father — and I like him for this — he would have asked me to come work as a fisherman , but because I was the only son from my mother , he didn ’ t say so . He said my ( half ) brother and I should go to school . We were, more or less , the same age .
So, your father was into fishing?
Yes , he was . I am from Ilaje , where , if you had a son, you must teach him how to fish . That ’ s why many men my age ( from Ilaje ) did not go to school . But my father said I must go . I started school at Ugbonla in Ese Odo ( Ogun State ) . My father had not built his own house then , so I was with the
kabiyesi ( king ) of that place . The kabiyesi was my sister ’ s husband . I was , more or less, like his son . I finished primary school at Ugbonla Primary School and went to Ugbonla Secondary Modern School .
While I was in primary school , my brother and I went to a place called Ibale during the midterms . We also went with the husband of my sister , who passed away last year . The three of us went into the sea ; we cast a net out overnight . In the morning , the waves grew, so we had to leave . We collected the net and began returning home on the boat when the wave flipped the boat upside down . The three of us were separated in the water . We wanted to turn the boat over , but we discovered that the anchor had gone down and struck the seabed. We were youths back then , less than 20 years old , so we had to go into the water to take out the anchor . We were then able to turn the boat over . The boat had broken in front, up to the middle, so we used our clothes to tie the boat .
Did you do all this while swimming ?
Yes , we were swimming throughout . We tied the boat , put the net inside and sailed to shore .
Weren ’ t you scared ?
As youths , we were doing it out of exuberance . But it was about six months later that we learnt that somebody died during that time . They called that place Sumoge. And that fellow was in secondary school . So, I didn ’ t take it seriously . But later , when my brother brought it up , I became scared and thankful that we survived .
You said you knew when your father came to take your mother home as his wife . Was that the norm at the time?
No . Unfortunately , I was young , so I don’ t know the cause . But I knew when my father took her ; I went with them . For some reason , I was so interested in my mother ’ s father . When I got there that day , I wasn ’ t comfortable . My father didn ’ t decline . I said I must go back ( to my maternal grandparents’ house ) . They allowed me to return because I was interested in my mother ’ s sister . She took care of me as her child .
How old were you when your father took your mother ?
I must have been over eight because I remember UNA ( United Native African ) Church baptised me.
Why were you enrolled in Ugbonla Primary School ?
My father was a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church of Zion , Ugbonla. Besides , Ugbonla was part of our home , apart from the Orisabinueni village. In those days , there was no vehicle that entered Ugbonla. But now , vehicles have gained access through the Olusegun Agagu regime , when he was governor of Ondo State .
What were your favourite subjects in school ?
My favourite subject was arithmetic . Unfortunately , I wasn ’ t good at mathematics , but I knew arithmetic . I also liked English, geography and history . I wasn ’ t good at literature .
Do you remember the year you enrolled in primary school ?
I was enrolled between 1955 and 1960 , during the ( Obafemi ) Awolowo free primary education programme .
Did you enter secondary school immediately after?
No ! I went to Ugbonla Secondary Modern School at Ugbonla because I was sick when I came out of primary school , so I was unable to go ( immediately ) .
What ailment did you have ?
The sickness just came and people thought I would die. My skin was so pale , and I couldn ’ t breathe comfortably . But I was told it was sleeping sickness . In fact , if a mosquito bit me, rather than blood , water would ooze from the bite . It lasted about one year . So, agbo ( herbs ) was administered to me; I wasn ’ t taken to hospital.
What was going to school like in those days ?
Going to school that time was very interesting , but what happened is that I was much older when I went to school , so people mocked me. When we entered the school , they began to like me because I was teaching them what they did not know . They were surprised . When we went on holiday , we were so happy . And we had a junior headmaster . One time , he gave us a recitation , and the whole class was beaten . Only I was not beaten . The children respected me.
Were you a beneficiary of any school feeding programme at the time?
No , but during the Awolowo era , we were given free slates and exercise books . We were not given free food , but we didn ’ t pay school fees. Today , people are too many in classes . If you go to public schools now , in some classes , they would be about 100 with only one teacher. Back then , people weren ’ t willing to go to school . Before you could go to school , your hand would have been able to go over your head and touch your ear . But at the same time , some boys were not willing to go ; today , they have regrets .
What kind of extracurricular activities were you involved in ?
I didn ’ t do sports because , one day , I was playing football ; somebody tackled me and the contact area had a big swelling . Since then , I wasn ’ t interested . My only interest was reading . Also , I didn ’ t know how to play so many sports , but ‘ long step and jump ’ was the one I did a little and got some prizes for .
Did you have a girlfriend in school ?
I had a girlfriend ; she is even still alive . My wife and I exchange phone calls with her sometimes . She has her own family . Some of her children are in America .
Do you have any memories with your ex -girlfriend?
Back then , when you had a girlfriend , you would just play . There was nothing immoral; that is why my wife knows her .
What memories do you have from your university days ?
After modern school , I attended Western College of Commerce in Yaba . One day , there was a football match in school . Instead of following my colleagues , I went to a British library opposite a popular cinema then , Casino , close to Panti in Yaba . I read in the library often . About 7 pm, there was a power outage , so I went home . I lived in Ebute Meta then . On my way home , I saw a tanker parked . Where Third Mainland Bridge is now , there was a filling station . I was around the area , when I heard a loud explosion. Because it was around the civil war, we had been taught us that , when you hear an explosion, you must take cover in a gutter . Everyone in Ebute Meta came out to find out what had happened . I didn ’ t come out . But the following morning , I heard that some people ’ s heads were cut off at Road Park , where the ( tanker) explosion happened . That was the third time I escaped death as a youth .
How did you know you wanted to be an accountant ?
I was in my 20 s , and because my father was old , my mother told me to enrol myself. My mother didn ’ t know Lagos . I had to look for a school myself. Western College of Commerce deals with commercial subjects . They taught us accounting and that was how I developed the interest in accounting . It wasn ’ t that I knew anyone who was an accountant .
When I attended the University of Lagos , I found it difficult to follow accounting because of the mathematics . I was surprised when they said , ‘ A plus A equals 2 A . ’ I didn ’ t even have knowledge of that . Before I left Western College , I had my commercial certificate in accountancy and commerce. With that , I got a job immediately I got out of school . I went to the labour office in Ilupeju and the day I was sent to Vono Nigeria Ltd at Mushin was the same day I was employed as an account clerk . I went to Vitafoam before that time , so I didn ’ t spend more than three months at Vono . I told the person who was my superior , ‘ I have an application at Vitafoam . ’ He said , ‘ Why don’ t you go there if the salary is higher ?’ The salary was higher , so I went to Vitafoam .
How much was the salary ?
It was about £ 8 .
You worked at Dresser Nigeria Ltd … .
Yes , it was an American oil service company . I left Vitafoam for another company , whose pay was not okay . Then I worked at the Ministry of Health. That time , my friend , Lateef Olumide , was at Dresser , located at Western House . We were classmates and good friends . He told me that there was a vacancy at Dresser and that I should apply . So, I applied as an account clerk . It was there I became an accountant . I used to work in the Inventory ( Unit ) , so I would travel to Warri , Port Harcourt , and so on . I worked there until I retired in 1993 .
What countries have you visited ?
I went to Liberia in 1988 and we were given a transport allowance of N 100. I exchanged it for $ 200 . The exchange rate was $ 2 to the naira! I was weeping when ( military dictator, Gen Ibrahim) Babangida declared ( it would be ) N 5 to the dollar . Little did I know that it would be worse .
How did you meet your wife ?
We met at Western College . I was her senior . We decided to marry, but because she ’ s from Ilesa , she was worried that her mother would not approve . But I insisted ; she told her mother , who accepted ( my proposal) . I was not rich because I was just out of secondary school . But for her elder brother and mother , we wouldn ’ t have got married , and we have been married for over 40 years . I have five children , though one is deceased . I also have five grandchildren .
How do you keep fit ?
I exercise indoors when I wake up . It was even when I started getting old that I was told to exercise. It was only about three years ago that I started exercising .
What kind of food do you eat ?
I eat any type of food . When I was young , I ate garri and guguru . But I don’ t eat garri as an old man . I haven ’ t had garri in the last five years . I was told it contains too much starch . I was even told not to eat
iyan ( pounded yam) , so I eat wheat, which I don’ t really like. When I was young , I didn ’ t drink alcohol or smoke because after I tasted it ( cigarette) at night , in the morning , my mouth became sour . Also , if I took one bottle of beer , I wouldn ’ t be able to eat anything . That is why I refused to drink beer , apart from being a born – again Christian .
What is your favourite food ?
It used to be eba and fresh fish . But now , I eat beans every day in the morning and evening . But now , I don’ t eat eba . I prefer fish to meat ( beef) . Sometimes , for one month , we may not have meat ; it is fresh fish we eat .
What are your hobbies ?
I like reading the Bible and newspapers .
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