By Chris Onuoha
S.L Fadayomi, a geophysicist, is the National President, Aquinas College Old Students Association (ACOSA), Akure. He retired in 2006 as Managing Director of the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC. Fadayomi later joined Addax Petroleum as Executive General Manager and left as Deputy Managing Director in 2010. He has been using his wealth of experience to uplift his alma mater. He speaks on his experience in this interview.Fadayomi
About Aquinas College
Aquinas College is one of the schools established in 1954 by Jesuit Reverend Fathers from Republic of Ireland. We were scoring 100 percent then. Once you have scaled Class 4 successfully, year five was good for grade 1 because year four was an assurance of success. We had very good teachers and the standard was high both in academics and morals. Our motto is ‘integrity’. It was a missionary school before then-military government took over. Punishments were strictly observed and no student dared go against school rules. Sports standards were high too. We had many people from the school that represented Nigeria in sports. Ajayi Akinkotun was in the 60th Olympics in 4×4 meters. It was a good school that moulded quality elites in the country.
It is the only school in Nigeria that can boast of three personalities awarded the Nigeria National Order of Merit – a special award for scientists who have reached their peak and have made tremendous discoveries. They are elected by their peers. The first person was Professor O. S. Adegoke for geology. Another is Professor Guroje Adewusi who got the award in science. The third is Professor Abiodun Oluwole who got his as a nuclear physicist. Oluwole established the nuclear facilities at University of Ife, now OAU. They three are based in Nigeria. The immediate past Principal of King’s College, Lagos, Seyi Thomas, is an old student of Aquinas together with the founder, Juli Pharmacy and a host of others. The school was science oriented initially – Physics chemistry, biology. Art studies in the school then were very minimal. Later, art and culture were introduced.
The uniqueness of the school is academic excellence. Aquinas has no comparison in terms of science, sports and morals. My tenure as National President, Aquinas College Old Students Association, ACOSA, is five years.
We have many branches both home and in Diaspora. Akure branch is headed by Dr. Ade Adetoye, one-time Under-Minister of Education. Lagos branch is headed by Pastor David Ajao while Ekiti branch is by Surveyor Abiodun. Port Harcourt just inaugurated its branch while Abuja is headed by Pastor Femi Ogunmola. In Europe, Ben Ogedengbe is the head and we have one in America, functional but not yet up to speed.
We don’t call the association ‘Old Boys’ because we had girls that later joined us and we are now known as Old Students Association.
I was elected to run the affairs about four years ago while I was away but the elders endorsed and penned my name down. I am from Alade Idanre in Ondo State and that was the reason I went to Aquinas College. Although the college was like a web that attracted people from all over Nigeria, it was such a good school that every parent would want to have a child attend.
Our mission as old students is to see young students enjoy what we enjoyed in those good old days. In our days, there used to be 30 students in one Form, divided into three classes, but now we observed that each class has about 40 students with about five classes in one Form. It will be difficult to excel in a crowded class like that. The standards are fallen. However, the school is still the best but we don’t want to be seen as local champions. We want to be nationally and internationally recognised as a model school and that is why we are trying to revive the old glory.
Government took it over many years ago from the mission and the standard and vision laid by the original owners were destroyed. Our mission now is to strengthen the structures and make sure we move from where we were in the past.
Last week, we handed over a completed science laboratory building for physics, chemistry and biology with equipment to the school. We are also building a school hall to be named ‘Henry Ogiri Hall.’ Late Ogiri was the Chairman of Lagos branch who died while the building was in progress.
Some sets have refurbished some classrooms, although we have about 24 classrooms left to refurbish which we are doing now.
Within this period of my tenure, we supplied computers to the school, but, unfortunately, the first set supplied was stolen and we are replacing it. We also want to restore boarding house for students. Academically, we want things to get better. Having done all these including trying to inculcate good morals among the students, we want the best for the school that moulded us from the beginning.
‘Return school to original owners’
One of our major concerns after observing the extent of decay in the school is to persuade the government of the day to return the school to the mission. We have actually set up a committee to do that. Recently, we had a meeting with the various religious bodies comprising Catholic, Anglican and Baptist Bishops and the Christian Association of Nigeria Chairman in Ondo State to strategise on how schools should return to missions. We are doing it having observed that it will take government a large chunk of its limited resources to maintain and, therefore, appealed to the authorities to release schools to the missions.
Fortunately, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is an old student of the school. We hope to use that leverage to get it done. Lagos and Anambra States have done it and we want it to continue in other states including Ondo. When the missions were overseeing the schools, everything was thorough including the payment of salaries of teachers and welfare of students. The system generally for now is poor and we believe that if missions oversee the schools again, things will change.