By Rafiu Ade Gbadamosi: 68-72/74 SET
Wow, kindly let me crave the indulgence of wondering and rhetorically asking about how did a person, finitely one person conviniently, intensely and efficiently combined the roles of a Principal, Chief Executive Officer, Ambassador, Sports Mentor, Disciplinarian and Father, seamlessly, dynamically and successfully. What a feat, milestone and accomplishment!
A Principal of amiable, noticeable and glaring features of self confidence, gait and posture, that dictated, commanded and generated the sense, awareness and feel of being in an institution of learning, different from wherever an incoming student was coming from.
For a subsisting student, meeting and interacting with your Principal was a different ballgame altogether, as there was no assurance that a defect or two (like not buttoning up or tucking in your shirt), wouldn’t be detected that would not send you to a punishment, that earned a one week standing, in front of his office or the cutting of some portion of the vast bush, that was our environ then, or the trademark treatments, which would be explained later in this piece. Indeed, it was always a preparation for any eventuality and must be prepared.
Anytime he was in the school premises, the palpable silence, serenity and consciousness, brought the whispering and gesculating signs, not only to inform, but also warn that the Principal was on ground, live and direct.The mere, apparent and confirmed sighting of his presencemark Mercedes Benz car, coming through the Casuarina-Whisring Palm trees, lining the both sides of the driveway from the gate, was a signal that the day was going to be different, informative and interesting, particularly if he arrived early to attend the morning assembly.
There would be no escape or succur for anyone not properly dressed with well polished or clean leather sandals shoes, unkempt and not hygienically sound. Under no circumstances would any student prayed or wished to meet him one on one, as you were not sure, because, rarely would one go scot free, without one indictment or the other, particularly,if one had had an escape or if he had an oversight on a previous infractions with you, which he would definitely remember. Whether, he was in the school premises or not, the support members of staff were dutifully and diligently in charge, but somehow, he was always a game changer, whenever he was around.
Overall, distinctfully and distinguishly, he exhumed dedication, loyalty and commitment from both his teaching, mon-teaching staff, students and parents as well. There was that confidence, trust and expectations that nothing would be taken for granted by all the stakeholders. The accountability line and chain were always active, unbroken and potent on any issue or complaint under his delegated authority and responsibility.
His commitment, emphasis and delivery of total education was second to none. He kept on reiterating and reinforcing the principles of training and transformation of his students, academically, socially, spiritually and physically. And as a testimony, he never lacked nor reneged on any of the principles in practice and deeds. He demonstrated and actualized the ingredients and menus of the principles, to admirable and creditable ends and resultant satisfaction.
Academically, the school and her products compared equally, favourably and outstandingly, with peers and competitors alke. Products of the institution are found existing, exceeding and excelling in all spheres of life at all levels of services and demands, nationally and globally. He was , and indeed provided the best teachers available, dedicated, motivated and controllable. Class attendances by students and teaching staff was paramount, highlighted and monitored.
Socially, the school’s impacts and influences could and still can not be over-emphasized, not only n terms of building personal mentality, mindset and attitude, but also in imbibing the network and global approach with inbuilt tolerance. The boarding system regime in particular was a training ground, for love, esprit de corps, friendship and brother/sisterhood, so much admired and appreciated, in relationships of the school’s ex- students, whether within themselves or with the outside world.
It still gladdens and satisfies that he approved the establishment and publication of a school news letter called, ‘ THE BEE””, mow defunct, and was published by the School’s Press Club, ran independently and autonomously, by the students editorial board, with a tutor in charge in advisory capacity. It was a platform for training in freedom of expression, and social responsibility.
Spiritually, at any age of admission into the school , the recognition of the Almighty Allah, was the foundation and bedrock of impactation, with identification and emphasis of worship, together with good and moral deeds, irrespective of the religious inclinations. Under his principalship, the doctrine of no compulsion n religion was the theory and practice. Muslims and Christians worshipped separately and autonomously, without any coercion or oppression, even though, the institution was Islamic faith conceptualized.
The pluralism was patently, seriously and apparently upheld. Amazingly, a group of our ex- students sharing an office together were relaying their experience of the school bus taking the Christian boarders to the designated churches surprised and amazed this co- sharer of the same office, that attended one of the popular Christian schools, which would not be mentioned.
Physically, the place ai importance of sports were boldly declared as the same with academic activities. The sports calenders were as constant as the northern star. There was hardly any sport that the school didn’t participate in under his watch, moreso, to the extent of employing professional coaches and trainers for some preferred sports like football, atlethics and even hockey. The school’s supply of talented and proven sportsmen and women at a stage, was outstanding, consistent and legendary, both at the State and National levels.
An astute, savvy and responsive Chief Executive Officer of an excellent mould,. model and disposition. He was a manager of men,resources and the external environment of his organization- the school. He was always in charge and active, whether when being within the school, or without, as was supposedly suggested that the institution was always conscious of him, as comments like the Principal must or should not be informed, as he would take the necessary appropriate drastic action. With the way the school functioned and performed, whether he was present or not, he must had delegated the authority and responsibility to each place holder, to the extent that there were no ambiguity and doubt, in the exercise and discharge of individual’s functions and duties, together with the freedom of performance and ultimate feedback. His delegation skills and dexterity must had been top notch, going by the commitment, dedication and sincerity of his workforce, with due diligence, respect and obedience.
There’s no entity without threats, revolts and crises. There were obvious, inescapable and critical cases that rocked and shook the foundation of the school, with a major conflict with a teacher, and also students agitations, protests and even violent riots. He not only stood like a Colossus above them, but used constitutional and conflict resolution mechsnisms and methods to address, evaluate and resolve the issues. The beauty and pride were that he stood taller than the dwarfing situations, by being resolute, disciplined and detached.
As a Chief Executive , he was always strategically and tactically abreast, inclined and prepared to achieving the vision, mission, purpose and goals of establishing the institution. The motto of the school, Aut Optimum, Aut Nihil, literally, Either the Best or Nothing, was his chorus song, whenever and wherever the situation arose, so, every student knew that there was a target to be achieved and attained, even though, not many knew and imbibed the ramifications and implications.
The introduction of the Higher School Certificate Course, was a watershed, indelible landmark and game changer in all ramifications, both to the school and students on one hand, and the school staff , Principal and the general public, on the other. It meanit at that time that the school could boast of facilities and accreditations like every other elite school of that time, and the dividends and rewards were bountiful, extensive, immeasurable and inestimable.
Like the true and dynamic Chief Executive Officer that he was, when the science students were performing poorly in the higher school certificate examinations, he resorted to hiring accomplished and seasoned Lecturers in multiple to teach different topic areas of the same subject, to enhance knowledge, understanding and performance. These steps and actions remained indelible and eternal in my memory and life, that timeli interventions did have greater anticipated and desirable results.
As an Ambassador, he was not always regularly in the school, but each time he was always making the difference. His absence was giving an impression that he was always away from his duty not known that he was networking and making external contacts and connections for the benefits of the school. It’s in the adulthood after gaining from work experiences, and handling entities too, that the external environment iof an organization is almost as important and critical, given that internal issues can be handled by competent and trusted support staff.
He was reputed to interact with the best and most influential people of his and relevance. He was a great, eagle eyed and swift sparrow for the school he represented, as many good and progressive contributions came to the school wholesomely and unalloyedly, just like the introduction of the Higher School Certificate Course.
As a Sports Mentor, he was at the forefront and arrowhead of sports promotion, participation and sustenance of interest, training and practice in the different sports activities. There were dedicated and ascertained periods for athletics, which would culminate in the inter house sports competition involving different track and field events; in the first term of the academic year. And part of the first term too, together with the whole of second term was reserved for football, culminating in the Principals Cup competition, and dovetailing into state and national academy invitations for our selected outstanding players and ambassadors. In between the first and second terms, other sports like table tennis, volleyball, hockey and gymnastics were not left out.
In all the other above mentioned roles, he remained and exemplified as the Chief Disciplinarian. Discipline was his watchword and maintained from the very lowest to the highest on the ladder.
He practised what he preached on discipline. From his dress and dressing, he was always neat , presentable and composed. His appearance taught and modelled good and acceptable dress code and fit. His well delivered and controlled speeches and gesticulations were his trademarks. Always prepared, cool and calculated. He always had a surprise package for an offender, that in most cases, would not hint the person, or lost his calm and mien, before raining his rapid response sporadic bombastic slaps on the sides of the offender’s cheeks, with both his fore and backhands. One of his favorite personal punishment style and trademark too.
He was meticulous, detailed and patient. He followed due process and diligence in his approach, handling and disposing cases and issues. He understood the psychology and behavioral patterns of students, even though a disciplinarian, he was not unnecessarily overbearing and compulsive. He listened when needed and important, and, would rather be just, fair and compassionate, though a stickler to observance and obeyance of rules and regulations. He supported and trusted his staff in carrying out disciplinary actions.
A father to the core, purpose and reality. He took so many empathic, consciencious and natured decisions to nurture, protect and parent many of his students, whose only relationship with him,was that they were simply and ordinarily his students.
It’s not far fetched and difficult to realize, deduce and ascertain that the Principal Emeritus lived a life of service, sacrifice and impact, all rolled into a rare exemplified personality. Where, when and how do we get such again?
Adieu! Truly and certainly, you came, you saw, you conquered just as the Greats! Praise and Thanks to The Almighty Allah for giving you to us, and also our being the ingredients and instruments in your life, path and sojourn.Rafiu Ade Gbadamosi is of the 68-72/74 Set of Anwar-ul-Islam College, Agege