Nonagenarian ex-chief accountant of Unipetrol (now Oando Plc), Adebayo Adejonwo, shares the story of his life with SIMON UTEBOR
When and where were you born?
I was born on November 14, 1927 in Porogun, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
How did you know your birth date?
Family records showed that I was born on that day. My parents wrote down the date I was born.
Who were your parents?
My father was Bakare Adejonwo and mother was Birikisu Adejonwo.
How educated were your parents?
My parents were fairly educated. My father traded in palm kernel.
Tell us more about yourself.
I attended Christ Church School, Porogun, Ijebu Ode, for primary education. After primary education, I proceeded to Ijebu Ode Grammar School, Ijebu Ode. I finished secondary education in 1952 and obtained my secondary school certificate. After that, I came to Lagos and got employment with the Royal Exchange Assurance Company in the accounts department.
Which year was that?
I cannot recollect vividly but it should be around 1953. After working in the company for some time, I moved to Esso Standards. They called it Esso then; it is the current Oando Oil. It started as Esso, an international oil firm. From Esso, the name was changed to Unipetrol and from Unipetrol, it is now Oando.
I rose through the ranks in the accounts department to the position of the chief accountant (the highest in the department then) before I retired. During the period, I underwent many accounting training. I also worked at the Kano office of Unipetrol in the same department.
When I was transferred back to Lagos, I went to the Ahmadu Bello University, Kano, for further studies. Unipetrol sent me to study there. Studying at the ABU made me see the four walls of a university.
Which certificate were you awarded at ABU?
I was awarded B.Sc in Accounting.
How did you feel working at Unipetrol?
Working at Unipetrol was memorable. I felt contented. We worked as a family. Up until now, my junior colleagues still visit me. On my 91st birthday, most of them came to my house to celebrate with me. In fact, they made me happy. They lifted my spirit. The feeling of nostalgia was rekindled in me. We were united as a family once again. I won’t forget that celebration in a hurry.
How long did you work in the firm?
I worked there for a very long time. I started working there in 1957 and retired in 1987 after 30 years of meritorious service. During the period I worked at Unipetrol, they sent me to many places including foreign countries to acquire more work experience.
Did any of your children take after your career path?
Yes. Unfortunately, my daughter that took after my professional path passed on two years ago.
How many children do you have?
I have five children comprising four females and one male. But now, I am left with three females and one male because one of my daughters, as I said before, died two years ago.
What do the other children do?
All my children are doing fine. My first child, a female, retired in 2017 as a director of medical radiography. The second one is a director of pharmaceutical services at the Lagos State Health Commission. The third one is in the United States and she is a chartered insurer. The only male among them is a banker. They are all comfortable.
How did you meet your wife?
I was a member of King’s Scout and my wife was a member of Girls Guide. We met in one of the activities involving members of the King’s Scout and the Girls Guide at Porogun School, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. She was also a member of Muslim association just like me. At the time, primary school was not for underage pupils. We were all grown up. One thing led to another and we got married.
Where is the wife now?
My wife is late. She died on January 19, 2008.
What is your favourite food?
My favourite food is eba with vegetable soup. I also like eba with ewedu soup.
What about your favourite drink?
I do not take alcoholic beverages. I take soft drinks and juice.
What kind of music do you like?
I like juju and highlife music.
What was your favourite sport?
I was a fantastic footballer. I loved the game and up till now, I still like watching soccer. In fact, I have an undying passion for soccer. In my younger days, I used to take my family to watch football matches. Then if any of my favourite team won, I would take my family to good restaurant for a good treat. At times, we would celebrate such win at home in a big way.
Do you have any regrets at 91?
I do not have any regrets at all. In fact, I thank God for sparing my life to live up to this age. Though I suffer some pains and all of that, they are due to old age.
What do you do in retirement?
I stay at home. At times I visit friends, children and grandchildren. Also, I chat with neighbours and observe the environment. There is nothing serious I do apart from those things I have mentioned.
Do you get pension?
When I retired, there was no pension. They gave me bulk gratuity. Unfortunately, I was defrauded while trying to invest the money.
Who defrauded you?
There were customers then who approached me and said since I had retired, we should work together. I gave them lots of money to do business together. They later came to tell me stories. Before I knew what was happening, the money could not be accounted for. It was only God that saved my life.
How have you been coping since that incident?
Thank God for my children. Since then, my children have been taking care of me and feeding me. Also, I have been making small money from a tenant living in my house. My building is just a storey building. In my active work years, I invested in many shares in some big companies and their dividends have been assisting me. If not for those shares and my children’s support, the shock that followed the incident would have affected me drastically.
What is the secret of your longevity?
The secret of my longevity is first, divine gift; second, free mind. I do not harbour animosity towards anybody. I do not allow anything to bother me. I am also very happy seeing my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren around me. As a Muslim, I am always very serious with mosque activities.
Are you still involved in religious activities?
Yes, I used to be deeply involved in mosque activities until recently when I am not able to go out. But I worship Allah wherever I am.
What advice do you have for youths?
I urge youths to follow in my footsteps. When I was working, I worked very hard. For one to achieve one’s goals and aspirations in life, one cannot rule out hard work. Young people should also be at peace with all men. They should shun greed. Greed is one of the problems affecting the world today. And above all, they should serve and worship God with all their hearts. By doing so, the blessing of the Creator will never depart from them.
What work ethics did you imbibe during your active years in service?
When I was working, I put in my all in the work. I did not work with laxity. I respected my elders and seniors at work. A senior may be younger than me, I still gave him or her due respect and by so doing, there was mutual respect. They should shun greed and avarice. They should know that the blessing of Allah adds no sorrow and they should strive to do the right thing always. When one does one’s work well, one will not have problems. Things will flow naturally and people one engages will also do one’s work well for you. Those working either in private or public firms should be obedient, thorough and fear God in whatever they do.
How would you describe yourself?
I am lively and down-to-earth. The 30 years I spent at Unipetrol, I worked with my colleagues like a family. It was such that when my children were on vacation, they came there to work. With that, everybody in office was kind to my children. They loved my children because of the way I carried myself in the office. My children reaped my good deeds at Unipetrol. Also, I prepared very well for the future – the good of my children. I had education endowment for all my children and they did not suffer going to school.
Apart from my children, I was a big father to my nephews, nieces and others. I carried them all along. People benefitted from me no matter how small. I believe that is one of the ways to impact on society.
What was your family background?
I came from a polygamous background. My mother was the first wife. But because of my nature, I carried everybody along and people did not know we were from a polygamous family. Most of my step brothers and sisters lived with me. They only left when they got married. I can say that I am a good family man.
One of your grandchildren got married in January. How would you describe your joy that day?
I was so happy that my grandchild married. Though I could not go out, I observed the marriage at home. I dressed neatly, wore a befitting cap and took pictures on that day to celebrate that wonderful occasion. I must say that my joy was immense. It is wonderful thing for one to witness one’s grandchildren marrying. I feel fulfilled that Allah has blessed me wonderfully.
How did you feel when you saw your first great grandchild?
In fact, I must say that I love children a lot. When I had my first great grandchild, I felt on top of the world. That time I was still able to move about. That great grandchild is from my first daughter. I was so glad that I danced very well. My children played me my favourite music and I danced very well with my heart full of joy. It was a wonderful day. It will remain evergreen in my heart. Currently, I have four great grandchildren. Allah has indeed blessed me mightily at 91.
What remarkable event in your life can you recall?
I have many remarkable events. But the one that always sticks out more frequently was when I retired as the chief accountant of Unipetrol. Because I spent 30 years there, they really honoured me. During the send off, I travelled to all the zonal offices of the company to attend different send off parties. It was an honour I cannot forget in my life.
Where did the send off take place?
The main one was done at an exquisite five-star hotel in Lagos. After that, we had one in Port Harcourt, Rivers State; another one held in Kano and other places.
What childhood experience can you still remember?
My memorable experience when I was growing up was being a member of the King’s Scout. I grew to become the leader of the organisation and I was honoured with King’s Scout badge. At the time, members of King’s Scout were highly respected. I was happy to belong to that organisation then and it opened many doors for me.