I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
My father was a poor tailor. Even then, he died when I was seven years old. So, I grew up with my uncle - my mother's brother - Emmanuel A. Sanda of blessed memory.
In fact, when I was at Ibadan Boys' High School (IBHS), I bore the name, Jacob Sanda. If not because of him, I would have become a senior "All right Sir" (which is a moniker for street urchins, particularly in Western Nigeria). He was also a disciplinarian.
My name is Jacob Olabode Amao.
My journey through IBHS
I did entrance examinations into Ibadan Grammar School and IBHS but I preferred IBHS because many of my friends were there. Unfortunately, many of them have gone to join their Maker. I am grateful to God for keeping me alive and I pray that their souls rest in peace.
I was admitted into the school in 1950 (at the age of 18), that is seventy-two years ago. I started Elementary One at the age of about eight and half years.
True, IBHS was then known as "Ipata Boys High School." ("Ipata" is the Yoruba word for a rascal). I did not want to be an Ipata boy but I used to be a tough boy.
At IBHS then, we had so many students from Lagos, Ota, Ibadan, Abeokuta and so on, and some of these boys used to run when they were harassed. But with me around nobody could challenge or oppress any boy because I used to be a fighter. I became the champion for the boys. And that led me into trouble (during my fourth year in the school).
You see, the boys used to call me Kabiyesi. We had a tradition (whereby) one boy would be in front and another will bend and hold him by the neck and I would ride the person like a horse into the school farm. The Agric teacher did not like that. But the boys would be shouting that we are in the school farm and not in school. They enjoyed what they were doing. The Agric teacher warned me once to stop doing that. But the boys enjoyed it. At another time, the teacher warned me several times.
The third time, he came and said 'I have warned you…' and the boys asked him why?
He then gave me a dirty slap, and I warned him not to slap me again.
But he slapped me the second time.
And, I slapped him back three times.
I regretted it and I paid dearly for it, not from the school, but from my (Uncle Sanda) who decided that I would not go to school again because I had a record of beating a teacher.
Well, I begged him (but he did not change his mind about my returning to school).
Not only that, my uncle also beat the hell out of me.
(Despite that setback), I love IBHS. It is a different school that allows you to achieve anything by don't of hard work. It is a school which allows you to be independent in your life.
I will tell the students what I told my children: don't copy anybody: don't follow anybody.
A new beginning
But rascal boys like me were given the option of becoming a mechanic, driver or a soldier
I decided that I would be a mechanic.
I was lucky. He sent me to Lagos.
There was a technical school, called Gaiser Training College for engineering (a subsidiary of a German Company, G. L. Gaiser).
My uncle gave me a saying which goes like this: "Honour and shame from no condition rise. Act well your part: there all the honour lies." This saying became important to my life until today. Such that anything I handle, I handle it excellently well.
I used to be a brilliant boy.
In the school, I distinguished myself after about two and half years and the German company made me an assistant engineer and transferred me to Ibadan.
The irony of it was that when my colleagues who completed school and went to work for Government were earning twelve pounds a month, I was earning seventeen pounds.
I had a kind, God-fearing mother
As I had stated earlier, my father died when I was young. So, besides my uncle, my mother was a significant part of my life. And she was so nice to me and kind. She loved me so much.
She believed in God (fervently).
She did something for me that I will never forget.
When I had to go to Kano (to start another phase of life) my mother gave me everything she had. It was the capital that helped me to (establish) my business. When I got to Kano, I saw the favour of God. Indeed, I saw the hand of God. My business thrived.
My advice to IBHS students and everyone gathered here is: put God first in everything you do.
I have built eighteen churches and I will continue to build them as long as I live.
My favourite song is "I have a Good who never fails.
Thanks to my loving wife
The happiest day of my life was the day I married my wife Christiana Amoke, nee Ogunleye. That was sixty-three years ago. She is from Owo, Ondo State. She is eighty-four years old and I am ninety. We met in Kano and she helped me a lot in my life.
She is a gentle and caring woman.
We have been managing ourselves.
When my friends ask her how she copes with this tough man, she responds that I am a gentleman.
Whenever I am annoyed, she is not.
We never fought for a day in our sixty-three years of marriage.
I thank her for understanding.
So, I pray for you bachelors to have good wives (who will be your counsellors).
Excerpts from Q & A sessions with Chief (Dr) Jacob Olabode Amao, OON, an industrialist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and the Asiwaju of Ibadanland, at the maiden edition of #TimeOutWithIBHSICONS organised by the Ibadan Boys' High School Old Boys' Association (IBHSOBA) on Friday, 14 October 2022, on the school premises at Oke Bola, Ibadan.
Chief Amao who turns 90 on 18 October 2022 was National President of IBHSOBA for 18 years during which time he championed many efforts to provide infrastructure for the school.
Picture: Olalekan Adedeji
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