- Author: Ayo Banjo
- Reviewer: Professor Emeritus Jibril Munzali
‘Morning by Morning’ is the autobiography of Professor Emeritus Ladipo Ayodeji Banjo, a former Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan. Banjo was also Pro-Chancellor of the universities of Port Harcourt, Ilorin and Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo. He is the current Chairman of the Board of the National Universities Commission. The book is a glorification of the grace and bounties of God upon the author, hence the title, which is take from a Christian lyric – ‘Morning by morning new mercies I see…’
The book is the story of a gentleman and son of a reverend gentleman, whose family has lived in Ibadan for three generations, even though their original home was in Oke Jaga in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State. The second child in his family, Ayodeji was born on May 2, 1934 in Ijebu-lgbo.
He started kindergarten at the Demonstration School of St Andrews College, Oya, where his headmaster was the famous D. O. Fagunwa. Fagunwa entertained the staff and children at night with his mind-boggling folktales, which he later turned into his famous books.
The young Ayodeji continued his primary education at the Demonstration School but transfered to St John’s School, Aroloya, Lagos when his father moved there as vicar of St John’s Church Aroloya. He completed his primary education at Christ Church Cathedral School, Lagos, and then proceeded to CMS Grammar School for his secondary education. However, when his mother died during childbirth, his father had to re-locate to Ibadan where he was offered the post of a founding principal in a new college, St Luke’s College, in 1947. His father’s movement meant that Ayodeji had to be moved to Igbobi College, a boarding school from where he finished in 1951, with a Grade 1 in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination and distinctions in many subjects.
He then worked temporarily as a clerk with the Customs and Exercise Headquarters, Lagos, while waiting or an opportunity to study for his Advanced Level Certificate.
The opportunity came in 1953 when the Federal Government established a branch of the Nigerian College of Arts and Science in Ibadan. He enrolled for Latin, English Literature and History.
One of his classmates then, was his old schoolmate at lgbobi, Otunba Subomi Balogun, who later served as best man during his wedding and as Chief Presenter during the book presentation. He passed again with flying colours and applied to Glasgow University, Scotland, where he was offered admission for a four-year Master of Arts degree in Classics. He had to change to English as he did not have an Advanced Level Certificate in Greek. He studied English, Latin, History, Moral Philosophy and Political Economy in the first two years. He concentrated on English in the last two, graduating with a second class in 1959. He then decided to undergo a course in formal teacher training by taking a Postgraduate Diploma in Education at the University of Leeds which he completed in 1960.
Back in Nigeria, he got a job as an education officer and served in Teacher Training College, Abraka, Government College Ughelli and Government College Ibadan. Some of his students were Prince Tony Momoh, Lamidi Sofenwa, Professors Oyewale Tomori and Femi Osofisan.
While in his third year at Glasgow, he met Alice Mbamali, a Nigerian lady studying nursing in the UK. The relationship blossomed and there was an engagement party in Subomi Balogun’s flat in London. Auntie Alice still had two years to go before completing her course and he had to go home to start his career. She returned to Nigeria in 1962 and the wedding was planned for the 8th of June 1963. That marriage was blessed with four children, Olubunmi, Ayotunde, Ayoyinka and Ayodapo.
While teaching at Government College Ibadan, he was promoted Senior Education Officer. In 1964, he was awarded a British Council/US Government scholarship to study for two years. The first was a one-year Postgraduate Diploma in English Studies at the University of Leeds. The second year was for a Master of Arts in Linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
One of his mates while he was in Leeds was the future Kenyan writer, James Ngugi, who is now known as Ngugi waThiong’o, who was pursuing a Master of Arts course in English Literature in the School of English.
While in California, and before completing his course, he received a letter of invitation to accept a lectureship in English at the University of Ibadan from the then Head of Department, Professor Desmond Maxwell.
Once he had settled down in the Department of English, he seized the opportunity to register for his PhD in Yoruba-English contrastive analysis. He successfully defended his thesis in 1969. His internal examiner was Professor Emeritus Ayo Bamgbose, the first Nigerian Professor of Linguistics.
Dr Banjo, as he then was, received rapid promotions, becoming a full professor in 1975. He was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Chairman Committee of Deans and contested, unsuccessfully, for the position of Vice-Chancellor with Professor Olayide in 1979.
However, to his surprise, Professor Olayide later pleaded with him to accept to be his deputy, which he reluctantly agreed to.
Unknown to him, God had a plan for him. His acceptance strategically placed to act as Vice-Chancellor when Olayide stepped aside on the expiration of his first term. When the selection process was started afresh, it was almost a no-contest for the University community had become so used to his humane, compassionate and yet highly principled and effective style, that almost everyone wanted him to be confirmed as Vice-Chancellor. He ended up serving for an unprecedented eight-year period, including one year in acting capacity. He relinquished the Vice-Chancellorship in 1991, went on sabbatical and accumulated leave to Cambridge and Kristiansand, Norway. He gave notice of retirement soon after returning to Ibadan. He declined Vice-Chancellor Oyediran’s plea to delay his retirement by another five years since the retirement age had been extended to 65.
On ethical grounds, he also declined the pleas of Niyi Osundare, his Head of Department’s who was also his former student, to accept a contract appointment. Having rejected the Vice-Chancellor’s offer to delay his retirement it would seem unethical to turn around and accept a contract appointment, drawing both a pension and a salary from the same source simultaneously.
He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1992, Pro-Chancellor University of Port Harcourt in the year 2000, Pro-Chancellor University of Ilorin and Ajayi Crowther University in 2005 and Chairman of the Board of the National Universities Commission in April 2018. He was awarded Nigeria’s highest academic honour, the Nigerian National Order of Merit, in 2009, and the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger earlier in 2001.
The University of Port Harcourt awarded him the Honorary Doctorate of Letters Degree in 2005 as did the University in 2015. Professor Banjo was appointed Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Nigeria LNG Prize in Literature in 2003 but he gave notice of retirement from the position effective from 2018.
In the course of telling his own story, the author raises several questions on topical issues, such as the issue of medium of instruction in the kindergarten and the first few years of primary education. The author is a living example that using the mother-tongue is a better option than going straight for English, but no Nigerian parent wants to hear that. Another issue he raises is, whether it was wise to abandon A Levels and the sixth form, in favour of a six-year secondary education followed by four years in university.
The author deplores the proliferation of universities which are not properly funded and feels strongly that tuition fees should be charged in Federal Universities. He also advocates a shared funding formula for university education which will see the Federal Government initially allocating 70% of the required funding, while the universities generate the remaining 30% through fees and other sources. Gradually, the Federal Government’s share should be reduced until it dwindles to only 20%.
Although, as the author’s student, I am not qualified to pass judgement on his writing, I daresay that the book is very well written and highly readable. It is also highly inspirational. I recommend it to all who seek to find a living role-model to understudy and to emulate.
Adapted from the book review done by Professor Emeritus Jibril Munzali at the book presentation on August 2, 2019.
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