Tomorrow, Saturday, December 08, 2018, creme de la crème of the society will converge at the National Universities Commission to witness, celebrate and give support to one of their own, who launches his personal memoir titled ……But for God…….
It is a book that encapsulates, in simple and convincing language, the life and times of DrAaze Thomas Adaba, the OhiEtohueyi of Ebirland (meaning the beacon of Light in Ebiraland) and the pioneer Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).It is a book written, from start to finish, by the celebrant himself.
It gives me great pleasure to say this. I knew when this project of writing this 631page book began, shortly before his 74th birthday in 2015. It is amazing how Dr Tom Adaba effortlessly recaptures events that happened in his life in the late 50s and 60s.
It is an affirmation that even at age 77, oga remains articulate, retentive and very active. To crown it, he was not only honest to himself but looking back he hysterically laughed at himself. He did not hold back any information as it relates to his own fair share of rascality as a child. Despite his rascality, he was obedient, respectful, brilliant and hardworking. He hawked kerosene as it were the practice in those days.
Rascal, yes, he was and you could still see some element of it in him till date. l will give one or two examples to buttress this claim. As a child growing up in Karaworo, Karaworo is a quarter around RCM North in Okene, where the first Catholic Church was built in Ebiraland. It is important, I also mention this. There is a quarter in Lokoja known as Karaworo too. So, I am not mistaken one for another.
As Dr. Tom Adaba himself brilliantly recaptures, hear him talk about his foster father, the late papa Balogun, a no-sense man who was his school headmaster and the Catechist at that time. Let us flip through the book.
“…….One God-given early evening, after completing our chores of cleaning the sanctuary, the altar, candle holders and other utensils, we again embarked on enacting the entire process of the Mass. Unaware that my foster father who was conducting catechism classes at the other end outside the church, had at one stage come towards our group but maintained a distance, was watching everything we were doing, I was acting his part with such gusto in interpreting, using his mannerisms and limping.
“Thomas!” he called. I am not sure if I could answer. Should I run away? If I did, to where? At that point, all my fellow actors had fled leaving me alone with a wet pant, shaken and frightened, Looking into my eyes, I could estimate how many strokes of the cane were awaiting me in the house. Getting home, the news was already well spread from the church and I was ordered to remain on my knees till he came……..”
At another occasion, the celebrant rebelled against his class teacher popularly nick-named “Mr. Cane”. Just imagine Dr Tom Adaba in your mind, in the fifties in his white shorts and shirt school uniform leading a protest to the RevdFr in charge of the school. What was the outcome of that protest? Let us return to ….But for God…., quoted copiously
“….our class teacher whom we all called teacher Peter whose nickname by the pupils was Mr. Cane brought us three questions in Arithmetic for us to answer during the lesson period for the subject. That very morning the Standard 5 and 6 pupils were doing the entrance Examinations to St. Thomas’ Teachers College, Ibusa. One thing he servoured so much was flogging the pupils hence we named him Mr. Cane. He did not even do the entrance examination, yet he gave it to us to test our ability.
After marking our work, it was only Andrew SalihuOnotu who scored 2 out of 3. About 5 of us scored 1 out of 3. Instead of congratulating us for our efforts, his verdict was that for each point missed, we would receive three strokes of the cane. When he administered the 3 strokes on Andrew, we knew that we were in for a rough time. The 5 of us received 6 strokes each, while the remaining 24 received 9 strokes each.
Teacher Peter decreed that only Andrew was qualified to go on break, the rest of us were to remain in the classroom during break time. And so it was, our pupil teacher and Andrew who scored 2 out of 3 left the rest of us in the classroom during break time. Staying in the classroom was not much of a bother to me. My main concern was my one penny which I planned to use in buying moi-moi and playing the big-boy for a change on that day that was aborted by teacher Peter’s detention.
The fact is that I hardly ever had money to buy moi-moi during break time. I was almost perpetually at the moi-moi stand to beg others who bought for some. In those days, one penny worth of moimoi was a milk cup full. That day was the only day I was planning not to beg but to be begged for a cut of moimoi. Behold, the opportunity was now aborted by teacher Peter’s high handed indiscretion.
A thought came to my mind…. I gathered five of my fellow mission boys and we went to the Rev Father’s house which was just some 100-metres away from the school to report what had happened… I took one of teacher Peter’s used canes and headed for Father’s house to present our case…. I briefed my colleagues who bought into the idea…. We were all familiar faces to the priest because we were mass servers or Altar boys. In my own case, he was very familiar with my ability to speak English fluently. I led the team and as the spokesperson, narrated all that had happened to Father. Little did I know what impact this would have. What I wanted was for Father in his capacity as the Manager and overall boss of the school to permit us to go out for break like all other pupils. This he did. He took the cane from me…. his face now red and his hair standing, he simply said that I should go back to the classroom and tell my other classmates that they should go out on break.
I sensed a brewing trouble. Father who was also the school manager had sent for the headmaster whose house was also about 100-metres away and who was my foster father. I could not think of any moi-moi at that time as I was seeing an unfolding episode that I did not bargain for. In other words, it was not intended. As I saw my foster father heading for Father’s house, I went and hid myself under the bridge that was very close to the priest’s house. Indeed it was an ear-shot from where I hid.
On arrival, the shout with which the priest opened his statements were as frightening as lightening. He did not hesitate to tell my foster father that I led a group of mission boys to report to him about the atrocities of Teacher Peter. I heard him openly blame my foster father for letting such nonsense go on in a school that he headed. He then demanded that Teacher Peter be brought to his office immediately…..my foster father was simply pleading repeatedly for the Father’s patience promising that it would never happen again. And when Teacher Peter arrived, the priest’s rave increased in tempo, verbal abuses of all dimensions and strong reprimand were hurled at the teacher. Indeed the teacher could not or was not allowed to utter a word until he was told to apologise to the priest by my foster father…. the priest sternly warned him never to handle a cane again. On bended knees, he then began to rattle repeatedly “ I am very sorry Father. It will never happen again.”
At the end of that stormy and humiliating session, Teacher Peter whom we thought was a small god came out of the priest’s office drenched in tripidating sweat like a chicken beaten by rain storm. He was led out by my foster father. I quickly ran into the classroom as the resumption bell had been rung some five minutes earlier. I ran to take my seat before the terror arrived to take a roll call.When he arrived, it was certain that all was not well. He spent more time looking at me ostensibly with some helpless bitterness. Rather than take the next lesson which was Nature Study, we were told to go out under one of the trees for some relaxed songs or game competition.
Not long after we had settled outside, I saw my foster father coming with some canes and two big boys from the upper class. Before all my classmates, he asked me what I did earlier on. Instead of answering, I was calling out all my partners in the crime. They were Christopher Adeleke, Joachim Onotu, who later became a Priest and is late, Francis Oyibo (late) Vincent Nwaduba (late). Before I could call two of them who were obviously denying, I got a good stroke of the cane on my back from the headmaster. Then I confessed all that transpired including our “great trek” to the priest’s office. At that stage, the big boys were told to carry me. One clasped my two hands in his arm thereby rendering me helpless, while the other held my two legs stretching me out for the administering of strokes of the cane on my buttocks….”
Are you still wondering why Dr Tom Adaba is such an embodiment of discipline? There is no way any person will undergo this kind of furnace of discipline and not be a strict disciplinarian himself. Now enjoy this.
“……..We woke up as usual at 5 O’clock, ran to the public tap which was 150-yards away, under some mango trees. Because it was dry season, there were some other people on the line before my turn. I deferred to them and waited for my turn. In the process, I slept off under the mango tree. When I woke up and fetched my water, I was already late for my foster father’s bath. ….., on arriving home with the water, words had already gone to my people that I was sleeping under the mango tree. I was told to remain kneeling till my foster father came back from Mass. On his arrival, he directed one of the most wicked teachers who was living with us to give me 6 strokes of the cane in that cold morning. With relish, this sadist administered it with extras on my back.
As if what I had received was not enough, I was given a big pot which I had to fill before going to school. I ran with my bucket with the same speed from the house to the public tap. On getting there, I simply forced my way to the tap breaking the pot of the woman whose turn it was. I filled my bucket and of course the woman had to follow me to the house with the broken pot. Within five minutes, I was home with a bucket full of water and a woman with a broken pot. My foster father paid three pence for the pot but I paid another 6strokes of the cane for being over-zealous to fill the pot before school time. Guess who administered it again? It was the monster. After this, I was beginning to limp slightly……. By the time, I could fill the big pot, the final bell for reopening of the school day had struck. I got dressed in my damp calico school uniform which was washed with ashes on Saturday because there was no soap to wash it. On arrival at the school, my uniform was adjudged dirty and damp by the school’s sanitary master. This earned me six more strokes of the cane. The school band was still playing, though rounding up when I got to the door of the class. My class teacher adjudged me late. That qualified me for the final six strokes that left me incapable of sitting down well in the class for the whole day. My school teacher later sympathized with me when he asked me why I was limping and could not sit well and I told him of my plight. Indeed, he regretted the six strokes he gave me. A teacher with a human heart you would say.
The celebrant shares his experience as a kerosene hawker in Okenein Karaworo and its environs.
“I hardly had time for any school work. The only time I was in school was the morning period. After the school mid morning break, I had to take off my school uniform for house chores. When others were in class, I was given bottles of kerosene and other small wares to go and sell in the villages. This lasted till about 8pm when I would arrive sometimes with good sales and at others bad or zero sales……”
I like to share the celebrant’s fair share of persecution at his place of work.
One day, an office assistant, he recalls, entered his office and said “ogawetin you do this people? They done put your name down for retrenchment to Minister for approval. You no known person?” The celebrant replied “..I do not have anybody to intervene but I have God”. The office assistant was angry and angrily retorted “….oga, everything God, God. You and this your God self”. With that the office assistant stormed out of his office. The celebrant want down on his kneels but not before he called his pillar of support of over 26years at that time, our unassuming mother, Lady Aaze Theresa Adaba, about the unhealthy development in the office. While the celebrant was in the office praying, mama was in the house asking God to take control. Of course, God did take control. Let us be guided by the book once more.
“…I was told that the Director General had asked after me a few times. I then called him to find out if he wanted me to come upstairs to see him but he said gleefully that Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, the Minister of Information, to whom the list (list of those to be retrenched) was submitted wanted to see me. The DG was expecting that the Minister, out of courtesy, would tell me to get prepared for my retirement. I immediately took off for the Minister’s office. He received me warmly as an old colleague and friend in our lecturing days in Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
He then informed me of an upcoming parastatal in the Ministry and asked, if I was interested. On replying that I was, he asked for my curriculum vitae, which I promptly fetched from my office. He then asked if I knew any other people that could be slated for consideration. I offered two names of old colleagues who I believed, were quite qualified. He was grateful for it and we parted.
The next time we would meet was when he again sent for me through my DG. I went and he told me that he had processed the papers of the prospective candidates and wanted me to know that he was about to submit his recommendation to the President. (Please note, the President then was IBB – additional emphasis mine). He simply assured me that I was one of his recommended candidates for Mr. President’s final decision. I thanked him for that honour and departed.
Our third meeting was early in August in Ogun State when he went to officially open an international conference for African Journalists organized by us, members of the Ministry’s advisory committee on Information. After the ceremony, he told me to see him on Saturday of that week after we had finished the conference. On the dot of 2.00pm, I was in his office. He congratulated me saying
“Mr. President has graciously approved your appointment as the Director General of the new broadcast media regulatory body the National Broadcasting Commission. Mr. President expects a sterling performance from you. I shall be away for two weeks in theFarEast. The news will be embargoed until I come back. Therefore keep it to your chest and prepare for me a work chart for the new Commission……
The rest is now history
The book “….But for God….” Is an inspirational book suitable for all classes of persons in many directions. It is a book that inspires one into the academic world. It is a book that encourages you to believe in your God and remain steadfast in the face of persecution at work places. Thebook encourages couples to be united in the face of hardship and other matrimonial challenges. It must be said, the celebrant is a phenomenal, selfless and generous in every direction. He could be friendly but do not take that for granted.
The book is recommended to students of history. It is a book that pleasure readers will find as a handy companion and interesting to read.
What else to say? Let us meet at the book launch on Saturday, December 08 2018 where one of his old students, a former VC the University of Abuja and now a Dean at the Nile University, Professor NuhuYaqubhas been saddled with the responsibility to review the book proper.
I recall Mr. Peter Enahoro of Peterpan fame, a bosom friend of the celebrant who prides himself as “the living ancestor” said to me, via WhatsApp message few days ago thus “……I’m sure it will go well on Dec 08 (meaning the book launch – additional emphasis mine) DrAdaba is a brilliant organizer. My regards to him”
And another guru in journalism, Dan Agbese of NewsWatch, Dr Tom Adaba’s “paddy, paddy, since their younger days in Jos said “….we splashed Jos in colours….”.Please let us splash Maitama the venue of the ook launch withwithcolours.
Bernard Balogun (BenPino) wrote from Wuse District of Abuja and could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.