• Why I refused to remarry despite pressure from my children

• At 89, I relax by reading Bible, listening to music or taking chilled wine


From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti

Pa Ezekiel Olukunle Oyebanji is the father of Ekiti State governor, Mr Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, otherwise known as BAO.

A native of Ikogosi-Ekiti in Ekiti West Local Government Area of the state, and graduate of Religious Knowledge/ Yoruba from the University of Ibadan, Pa Oyebanji was born on July 15, 1933. He retired as a secondary school principal in 1993.

At nearly 90, Pa Oyebanji is an incredibly cerebral man with a sharp intellect. He is very agile, has a good physique and his memory is unusually sharp.

In this encounter with Saturday Sun, Pa Oyebanji, who will be 90 in July, spoke about his childhood, education, his son, Governor Biodun Oyebanji, his late wife and other issues.

You will be celebrating your 90th birthday by July 15. You look younger than your age and you’re still agile. What is the secret?

(Laughs.) It has been the work of God. For anybody who has faith in God, God will continue to take care of that person. My faith is only in God. That is one. Two, because of God’s blessings on the children, they take maximum care of me – eating good food, sleeping in a comfortable environment. You know when an atmosphere is calm you will see the sign on the person living there. For instance, the painting on this house has added more beauty to the house. It was done by my female children. And when His Excellency, Governor Biodun Oyebanji, came around, he was surprised. He asked, Baba, who did this? I answered, your sisters. So, I thank God for everything.

These days, how is your typical day like?

After I wake up in the morning, I pray to my God. After prayers, I clean my mouth with chewing stick, brush my teeth, take my bath and wait for my breakfast which I always take between 7:00 am and 8:00am. After taking my breakfast, I will walk round the compound. This is my own way of doing exercise and I do it after taking my breakfast.  After walking round the compound, I will take a short rest. After this, I will begin to read newspapers. I read two national newspapers which are supplied to me every day. While I do all these, my small radio is always placed beside me because that is very important to me. After reading the newspapers, I will relax till my lunch will be ready. After taking my lunch, I will observe my siesta. I may remain on the bed but I don’t actually sleep. When I was at the Teachers’ College, siesta was very compulsory. Students will be made to lie down on their bed by force; nobody must be seen outside. After observing my siesta, when I come out in the evening, if I have a plan to see my friends around I will stroll there because their houses are very close to mine. I will be there till evening time before I come home. And the day I don’t do that, I may take a drive to see some friends outside, friends that are very close but not mobile. Since I am mobile, I will go and see them. We will discuss, play together and later I will return home for dinner, then do any other thing.

How do you relax?

I read the Bible, sing from the Baptist hymn book, literature books, newspapers and listen to music and sometimes I relax with a bottle of chilled wine or palm wine.

What is your favourite food?

Now that I am old, I prefer taking light food. But when I was young, it was always pounded yam because I was also farming then.

Who is your favourite musician?

Ebenezer Obey.

How was your childhood like?

I attended Baptist Primary School, Ikogosi-Ekiti from 1945 to 1952. In 1952, I took Standard Six Certificate Examination conducted by the Ministry of Education, Western Region. I passed the exam. I came out third among the 35 of us that sat for the exam. After the exam, I started going to the farm. I started going to the farm because my father had no money to send me to the grammar school or to the then Modern School. After some years of farming, somebody came to tell my father that the Baptist Missionary at Igede-Ekiti had just opened a theological school free for any Christian, who could be there for one year and be posted out as a pastor. My father asked me whether I would go. I said I would prefer that to going to the farm. So, I went to the school for one year. After the one year, the Missionary Adviser, whose name was Reverend J. S McGee, an American, sent me to Kabba in Kogi State, to another Missionary Adviser in charge of Kogi State and when I got there, we were 15 who reported at his office. He conducted an examination for us and thank God I passed and even led others and that made him to be very interested in me. He quickly gave me a letter to go to Mapa, a town in Kogi State. So, I reported at Mapa, Odoile Baptist Church and was warmly welcomed there. I was in that church from 1957 to 1959.

In the middle of 1959, the thought just came to my mind as I was growing up that a time would come that I would be looking for a lady to marry. I was already mature. I never wanted to go to the seminary. Later, a friend told me that a Teachers’ Training College had just been opened in Ado-Ekiti called Ansar- Ud -Deen Teachers’ College, that time the college was sited at the current Ministry of Works’ office in Ajilosun, Ado-Ekiti.

I was in the College between 1960 and 1961 for Grade 3 and spent two years. Fortunately, I passed the exam conducted by the Western Region. I was posted to Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Iropora-Ekiti, Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government, where I spent three years. Later, I decided to go for Grade 2 at Baptist Teachers’ College, Ede, Osun State, to spend another two years. I went for the exam. But the school never admitted me because I had earlier attended a college.

Later, I obtained GCE form and registered for five papers in Arts subjects. I went for the exam at Akure, Ondo State. Akure was the only centre allotted to us that time. Ekiti State had not been created. We took the exam at St. Peter’s Akure and we were sleeping there. The following year in April, the results were released and I passed all the five subjects. So, I told myself the next thing was to register for Advanced Level GCE and I registered for two papers, History and Bible Knowledge. My study centre then was at Mary Hill School, Oke-Ila, Ado-Ekiti. I took three papers in History and three papers in Bible Knowledge.

You attended the University of Ibadan. How was the experience?

When I was obtaining admission forms to go to the university, I obtained two forms, one for direct entry and the other for diploma. I was later given admission to the University of Ibadan (UI) for a diploma course. Some people advised me not to go, but I told them I would go.

I spent two years in the diploma class at the University of Ibadan and after the final exam was conducted, I succeeded. We were 35 in the in the diploma class, but only 15 of us were allowed to go for degree. I proceeded for my degree where I studied Religious Knowledge / Yoruba. I bagged BA Hons.(Second Class). I was posted to Baptist Women Teachers’ College, Abeokuta, Ogun State for my National Youth Service. After my service year, they wanted to retain me at the college, but I refused, and I decided to come back home (Ondo State then) and when I got to Akure, I was posted to Awo Community Primary School, Awo- Ekiti, Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area. I also worked in some other schools including All Souls’ Anglican Grammar School, Ado-Ekiti, CAC Teachers’ College, Efon Alaaye, Eleyo High School, Ikere-Ekiti and Awo Community Grammar School, Awo-Ekiti. I worked as a teacher, Vice Principal and Principal.

When you were a teacher, with all the female students around then, did you conquer the temptation of having an affair with of them?

It was one of the things I hated most. Even when I had not been made the principal, no teacher did it that received the blessing from me. In every staff meeting I hammered it to the last. There will be no discipline again. It weakens discipline anywhere it is done, either school, college, even in the university where it is common. Those who do it know that the female students have no respect or regard for them again.

You are tall and handsome. When you were younger, did you receive advances from ladies then?

That is normal, but I always tried as much as possible to turn such down because I know it will hamper my progress educationally. If you want to succeed in life when you are still very young you will pursue your cause and forget everything about females. The Bible also warned against pursuing girls or women. If you are a student in a school and your aim and interest is always on girls, you will never succeed. And if you are a worker or staff anywhere and you are always interested in females, whatever you are earning will be taken away from you by the opposite sex. You can’t succeed and it has been like that and it will remain so forever.

You lost your wife in 2011. Can you tell us how you met her?

Thank you! Her names were Esther Bosede Oyebanji. Her maiden name was Ojo. She was a native of Aramoko-Ekiti, Ekiti State. She was a retired teacher. I came in contact with her when I was posted to Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Aramoko-Ekiti. So, I rented a house very close to their place. I never knew her before I rented the house. That time she was attending a Modern School in Aramoko. Later, she was made the class captain responsible to carry the books of their teacher who was living at Aramoko-Ekiti. The Modern School she was attending was between Aramoko and Erio-Ekiti. My house was very close to her house, so I continued to watch her movements. Whenever she came to carry the teacher’s books, I would see her. Later, I made an attempt to write a love letter to her. I wrote a love letter to her first, second, third time she never replied. I wrote the letters and gave to a girl living with me as a house help then to give to her. When she didn’t reply I decided to go and visit her in their house. I went to their house, I didn’t meet her, I didn’t meet her mother but met the father. I prostrated and greeted the father. He asked, hope nothing? I said nothing. He said, what do you want? I answered I have come to see your daughter. He asked which one? I said Bosede. He questioned, for what? I said because I see her very beautiful; I want to marry her. Then, the father looked at me and asked, do you have elders in your house? I answered, there are elders sir. He said, okay, go back to your house. He didn’t say more than that. So, I went back home.

I had some relations at Aramoko and in the evening, I went to meet my relations and I told them this story. Then one of them said to me, ‘can you see that you are a very foolish person? I am here and you never came to tell me, and you singlehandedly went there. Is that how to do something? You this Ezekiel, you can make people to insult someone.’ I prostrated and begged him.

A week later, that relation of mine bought palm wine, two bottles of Schnapps, bitter kola, kolanuts and he told some elders that they would follow him to so so place tomorrow and he told them the time. The following day, they went. I didn’t go with them. Bosede’s father was very happy. After that, I was free to visit her place. Usually at that time if you are in a relationship with someone, when you go to visit the person, if you are going back, the person will see you off. So, whenever Bosede was seeing me off, once it was ten minutes, her mother would start to call her. The mother would say, ‘won’t you come back home? That place you have seen him off to is okay. Come back home now.’ We were doing it like that until some people told me, ‘when will you pay the dowry of this your wife? After paying the dowry so you can go to the registry for court marriage.’ They said I would pay the dowry and do some other things so that I would have free movement. I told them I would do that. I went to Ikogosi to inform my people, they all accepted and said it would be better to complete everything pertaining to engagement so that she could come home and begin to prepare food for me. At first, I didn’t want to force my way out but realising that I lost my mother when I was very small, that I needed the company of somebody and my age mates, some of them who didn’t go to school, had married at that time, I thought it would be too late if I didn’t seize the opportunity. After paying the dowry, I told them I was not going to court immediately. I said I would prefer her to give me the first child before going for the court marriage. Bosede’s father agreed but the mother didn’t. She said to her daughter have you not seen a woman who after being impregnated, the husband decided not to marry her again?  Her mother said the best thing was to do everything once and for all before talking about pregnancy. Bosede told me that was the position of her mother. So, I went home again to inform my people. They said I should go and tell them to give me the list of what we wanted to do. After I collected the list, everything was done. After this, they said she was free to go to her husband. Then, her people, mostly women, boarded a vehicle and brought her to my town in Ikogosi. This was in 1966. We gave birth to our first child Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, now governor of Ekiti State, on December 21, 1967.

Was her education at the Modern School affected by the marriage?

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No, her education at the Modern School was not in any way affected because she had finished from the school that time.

Did you marry again after your wife’s death?

No, I didn’t.

Why didn’t you remarry?

All the children assembled and appealed to me that I should remarry, but I rejected the suggestion on the basis that already, my late wife had given me six children, three boys and three girls, including twins. That is one.  Two, what bothered me that time was how to take care of these children. How to train them and how to bring them up. But if I should accede to their pressure that I should remarry, one, there is no woman that I will marry that will not love to have at least one child. That only child may in future be a problem to the six already with me. Two, the new wife, if anything happens, may shift the blame on the children, that my children never allowed me to take care of her, that my love is only for my late wife’s children. She will have that mind definitely so I decided to stay alone and not to remarry. Even when the children mounted pressure on me I told them, no.

How has life been without her?

It has been very dull. But as the children continue to grow up, life has changed because they behave the way I will love and they take maximum care of me, as if my wife were still with me. So, with that, I have been very happy with them.

What do you miss about your late wife?

I miss so many things about her. Is it our association or discussion between husband and wife? Or playing together? The list is long but glory be to God. I know one day when I leave here that we shall still meet.

In your days, it was common for married men to have concubines. Did that also apply to you?

You see, once there is mutual love between the husband and the wife, one will never think of having any extramarital affair. So, because of the love that existed, I made sure I kept my eyes away from such things. In fact, God will not be happy with such a person.

Your first son is the current governor of Ekiti State. What can you tell about him?

He is the first child of the family and the eldest of my six children. He was born on December 21 1967. And from his early days, he has been very obedient. I remember I used to put him on my bicycle. At the age of one, I used to take him on my bicycle to my school that time. As little as he was that time, he would take a piece of chalk on my table and scribble some things on the chalkboard. The chalkboard in my class then was not too high from the ground. He would play about and later sleep on the floor, so I had to buy a mat and I kept it in the Headmaster’s office so anytime he felt like sleeping, I would go and bring it. At age six Biodun was registered.

He was so tiny that time but fortunately he was leading in the class and was doing fine.

What kind of a child would you say he was while growing up?

He was an easy-going person.

How did you feel when he was declared winner of the June 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State?

I was at the top of the world and I started to dance because of the joy that occupied my mind. Even though I first of all wept that my wife was no more, after that I picked up courage and started to dance alone here that in my lifetime God has elevated him to such a position. It is not man-made but the work of God.

What was going through your mind when he was being sworn-in as the governor of the state on October 16, 2022?

It was joy and people saw that in my eyes – that I am still alive when the event took place. But I was also not happy because of my late wife who didn’t live to see her son become a governor. This changed my mood entirely. Later, there was an announcement that a minute silence should be observed to honour her and everybody at the ceremony stood up to observe this.

Since your son became the number one citizen in the state, what would you say has changed about you?

Well, this has increased the way I serve my Lord because without God, such a thing can never happen. God elevates people to the highest peak in the world and because God has done this for me, it gives me joy. This has increased my service to the almighty God.

How did you feel on the day you first received the news that you have become a grandfather?

I felt very happy about it, witnessing the time my children started to give birth. And seeing my grandchildren always coming to play with me, sitting on my legs, around me, gives me joy. So, I continue to pray that after I would have gone, they should be ready to play a very good role.

How do you mean they should be ready to play a very good role?

I mean my children, my grandchildren and may be great grandchildren. They should be able to give me a befitting burial when I would have left.

How is the governor’s relationship with his siblings?

Very cordial. He tries to play a fatherly role, knowing full well that I am old already. So, the burden lies on him and he has been doing well in that regard.

Ekiti State was created on October 1, 1996. She clocked 26 years last October, What can you say about Ekiti?

Well, glory be to God. If we had remained under Ondo State, the development we have got in Ekiti wouldn’t have been possible. Incidentally, most of those that occupied important positions in the ministries in Akure that time were from Ekiti. But we thank God that we have people like Chief Deji Fasuan, late General Yinka Adebayo and others who said it was time we left and had our own state. And fortunately, late General Sani Abacha, who was the Head of State then, hearkened to our cries and created Ekiti State and since then we have been free.

Since her creation, would you say Ekiti has been progressing if compared to other states that were created same time?

Definitely yes! Ekiti State has been making progress and shall continue to make progress. Judging from our position before the creation and now, Ekiti has made a lot of progress in all aspects and by the grace of God, Ekiti shall continue to make progress.

What is your message to the people of Ekiti?

My message to them is that they should cooperate fully with the governor and pray along for him, his deputy, his wife and all those working with him. Understanding among them is very important. How do I make Ekiti better than I met it? This should be top priority in their minds. I pray Ekiti as a state will not lag behind among the states in Nigeria. I pray for all Ekiti sons and daughters home and abroad, young and old, male and female, the youths, all residents, that they will continue to progress. They should join hands in making sure that Ekiti is better. I pray Ekiti will know peace and will continue to know peace.