A few of us entered the University of Ibadan in September, 1966. The school fees in that year was £160. To secure a place after being offered admission, you needed to pay £10. This amount would not only guarantee a place for you but would enable you spend the first term without any hindrance. Another £50 in the second term would allow one spend second term and another £50 would enable one not only to spend the third term unhindered but sit for the seasonal examinations in June.
But while entering the 3rd term, many of us students were unable to pay. The university authorities issued not only notice but made physical attempts to prevent ‘debtors’ from gaining entry into their hostels; a rehearsal to preventing them from gaining entry into examination rooms and sitting for the seasonal examinations. Examinations were conducted the end of session at that time. We did not know anything about the course system in practice. More than 95 per cent of students were living in the hostels, if not 99 per cent at that time. With this attempt to prevent “indigent students’, a riot was about to break out. There were demonstrations because those indebted, that is students who were not able to pay a minimum of £110, would be prevented from entering the examination rooms.
At this stage, an idea came to the minds of my roommate, Jide Fasetire (now a chief) and myself. We decided to draft a letter of appeal for financial assistance for the indigent students to the then Military Governor of Western State, late (Gen) Col. Adeyinka Adebayo. We typed out the letter and left the campus to deliver it at the Government House. On arrival at the gates, we met some soldiers, introduced ourselves, and disclosed our mission.
As if we put something in our mouths, the soldiers picked the telephone and announced us to someone, who we guessed could be the ADC to the Military Governor. Pronto, we were allowed in. On showing up at the office of the ADC, we hardly sat down when he ushered us in to the presence of the Military Governor, Col. Adeyinka Adebayo face-to-face. He just asked: ‘Yes, what can I do for you?’ I handed over the letter of appeal to him. It was hardly a full page. He went through and answered ‘Your request, approved.’
We could hardly believe our ears. We left immediately to return to the campus, discussing the feasible success of our mission. Before we reached the campus, however, announcements were already on the air that the Military Governor of the state, had approved bursary of N150 to each of the students of the state in all the universities in Nigeria. There were just four universities then. The news was unbelievable. The students affected nearly broke us into pieces when some of them carried us shoulder high on our return to the campus.
The result was that all those who had paid their fees were to have a refund. The two of us, the writer and deliverer of the “Letter of Appeal,” my roommate and myself, had already paid our fees, a minimum of £110. By no means could we be described as indigent students. We just empathised with our colleagues. We did not decide to assist our colleagues in order to benefit from the scheme at all. We never thought that the approval would cover everyone, including us. But God in His mercies brought us in, unintentionally from our part. The University of Ibadan authorities reacted positively immediately to the approval and ALL of us who had earlier on paid our fees received refunds. I remember Chief Tayo Akpata was the Assistant Registrar (Students).
I returned my own refunded fees to my uncle, the principal of a secondary school in Modakeke, less taxi and transport fares of 10 shillings from the campus to Gate and from the Gate to Modakeke and back. My uncle could hardly believe his eyes! There were a few surprises from the meeting with the Military Governor. First, we were surprised at the easy entries not only to the Government House but to the room of the Military Governor himself. Second, the Military Governor did not send for either the Commissioner of Education or the Head of Service or the Permanent Secretary for any advice. It was an approval ‘with immediate effect’. Third, the simplicity of the late General was astonishing. No protocols were observed. We did not book any prior appointment. The soldiers were extremely polite and might be acting under earlier instructions. The ADC did not allow us to sit down before ushering us into the presence of the Military Governor. Fourth, the Governor himself behaved more like a father than a military man. He was very simple, very considerate and portrayed himself a lover of education.
But this was not the end of the story.
The following year or before the year 1967 ran out, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was released from prison. He had been appointed the Commissioner (now Minister) of Finance and Vice Chairman/President, Federal Executive Council, by General Yakubu Gowon. Chief Awolowo then used the opportunity to extend the policy to all Nigerians in Nigerian universities. The “Indigent Students Bursary Award” thus became a nation-wide policy, with a little higher fund of £160 from the Federal Government for all Nigerian students instead of £150 earlier on approved for all Western State students. I must confess, I benefitted from the former, jettisoning the latter, the following year. I left the university to become an Administrative Officer in the Western State in 1973. Shortly before the creation of states in 1976, I was posted from Egba Division, where I was the Assistant Divisional Officer, to the Military Governor’s Office on the table of ‘Special Duties.’
Later, I moved from that table to become the ‘Assistant Secretary to the Head of Service’, Engr. C.S.O. Akande. And one day, a file on “Petitions and Appeals’ was forwarded to my table for the treatment of a matter. Naturally, one needed to flip back to study some similar cases. Lo and behold, I came across the ‘Letter of Appeal’ signed by (Chief) Jide Fasetire and myself in
1967! I re-read it and smiled. But the mistake I made, with regrets, was that, I did not make a copy of the ‘Letter of Appeal’.
May the Almighty God grant the soul of late General Adebayo a peaceful repose. Indeed, I will never forget meeting him in a hurry. Incidentally, I had met him many times thereafter, the last time about five months ago, in a church at lyin-Ekiti where I sat directly behind him during a funeral ceremony. There was no time I saw him I would not smile, shake my head and behold him as a great national hero.
- Oyedeji is a retired Permanent Secretary