JOSEPH Omodayo of Ifaki in Ekiti State of Nigeria is dead. He was my classmate at Ifaki Grammar School, and we lived together as members of the pioneer set of the school between 1957 and 1962. Though older by about six years, Joseph Omodayo was a good man. He was our senior in age but he remained a confidant to all of us his classmates until he went to meet with our God. “Egbon” Omodayo was, indeed, good!
The news of his death was broken to me in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on August 15, when I had arrived in the Garden City for the convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I was woken up from a deep sleep in my hotel room by a call from Joseph Ajayi aka “Omo Eye Awo.” The call had dropped before I could pick it. As I was about to redial Ajayi’s number, another call came from another classmate of mine, Architect Femi Ayodele, informing me of the death of Joseph Omodayo. “Awe,” (Femi had said, “Oga Omodayo one of the “axe” men of our Ifaki Grammar School days is dead. Joseph Omodayo is gone to meet God”. “Femi”
(I had replied, “Joseph Ajayi had earlier tried to pass that information to me.” It then dawned on me that Oga (Boss, as we called those of our classmates who were older than us) Omodayo has passed to the world beyond.
In January 1957, 59 years ago, 33 students were assembled at Ifaki Ekiti to start off the Ifaki Grammar School. Our pioneer Principal at that time was Mr. J. Adeoya (now of blessed memory) and Mr. J. Adetumbi also now of blessed memory), the then senior tutor. We were 16 students by 1962 when we sat for our West African School Certificate Education.
We were young, full of life and very ambitious young men. Omodayo was very much with our active class. He was simply a dazzling young man who was very skilful in his efforts at achieving the very best in life.
I remember (just as Femi Ayodele reminded me) that Joseph Omodayo was one of the “”axe men” of our set. The story was simple.
It was a policy of the then Western regional government then led by Papa Obafemi Awolowo that any community that needed a grammar school at that time must provide a school building to demonstrate the community’s supreme desire to have a grammar school approved for that community.
Ifaki people had, through Spartan discipline and patriotism, provided a building that was later given approval by the government of Western region as proof of the community’s willingness to have a grammar school established in Ifaki.
When we became the pioneer set of Ifaki Grammar School, our Principal designed a language that struck deep meaning in our hearts. The Principal (the late Chief J. Adeoya) would say to us every morning: “All being well, the weather being fine, we will go to the permanent site of the school to work.” It became the responsibility of the first set of students in the school to build the collage library and the assembly hall.
It was in that enterprise that Omodayo (an older student) became one of the “axe men” of the set. We succeeded in building the college library and the assembly hall.
Today, our school – Ifaki Grammar School — is no more. It now houses a campus of the Ekiti State University. That story is for another day.
We spent six years at Ifaki Grammar School. There was an event surrounding Joseph Omodayo while at Ifaki Grammar School that will remain with me for as long as I live.
One time during our years at the school, some of us developed the idea of leaving Ifaki Grammar School for another school to complete our secondary education. Joseph Omodayo was a principal participant in this move. Interestingly, Joseph Omodayo’s father was an uncle of our Principal. It, therefore, became interesting that the son of our Principal’s uncle was one of the students willing to leave Ifaki Grammar School. When Omodayo’s new secondary school requested a testimonial from Ifaki Grammar School to back his (Omodayo’s) application, our Principal wrote the following testimonial for Omodayo:
“Omodayo has been a student in this school for some years now, I will not recommend his request to move to another school for he is embarking on a wild goose chase.”
What a testimonial! Omodayo needed not to be told that his application to leave our school had not received the approval of our Principal. Omodayo immediately terminated his ambition to leave our school. He completed his secondary education with us and left the school with us in December 1962.
The last time I saw “Bros” Omodayo was early in 2015, when I had gone to Ifaki to attend the burial of my childhood friend, Bamigbe Akilaya. He was very warm to me (in his usual self) and never gave any sign that his leaving us would be soon.
Among those of our classmates at Ifaki Grammar School who have now gone to answer the supreme call are Adeyemi Falore aka “Pound No Change,” Isaac Ayo Owoeye, Ade Omodele aka “Goal-Keeper Piner,” Isaac Ariyo, Andrew Adewunmi, Remigius Fagboyo of Ire-Ikiti, Olu Omotayo, Danson Asubiojo, Professor Ademola Adesina, Oladele Ajala aka “Sunny Sammy Artisco Ajimilu”, Odeyale. May God bless their memories.
We are now dying one after the other! We leave everything to God!!
Joseph Omodayo will be buried at Ifaki-Ekiti towards the end of November 2016. It will enable those of his classmates, friends, relations and associates to pay our final respects to a man with pure Christian heart.
It will enable me in particular to be united with two of my classmates that I have not seen over 50 years – Gbadamosi Dada and John Oladimeji.
“Ogo” Omodayo, Sunre O. Okun O. Oodigba Odigbose. May God bless your memory.
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