Eighty-year-old Akinwunmi Sonoiki tells the story of his life and career with SAMUEL AWOYINFA
Tell us about yourself.
I was born on April 21, 1937 in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. My parents were Gabriel and Bathseba Sonoiki. They were farmers. I helped my father on his farm on weekends and during holidays when I was in primary school.
Tell us the schools you attended.
I attended Christ Church Primary School, Porogun, Ijebu Ode from 1946 to December 1953. There, I obtained primary school leaving certificate. From January 1954 to December 1957, I was a student of National High School, Ebute Meta, Lagos.
Who did you stay with while schooling in Lagos?
In Lagos, it was a different experience. The life there was on a fast pace. I stayed with my late brother, Richard Sonoiki, on Brickfield Road, Ebute Meta. My late brother had a friend called Olanpejo, who ran evening classes in typing and shorthand. I attended his classes every day after returning from school so as to sharpen my skills in typing and shorthand.
I also attended the Federal Training Centre, Lagos, as a secretarial student from January 1958 to November 1959.
What did you do after completing your education?
I worked at the Social Welfare Department, Lagos from December 1959 to September 1960.It was under the Federal Government then. I later resigned my appointment and travelled to the United Kingdom for further studies. I was a bachelor and 23 years old at the time.
Where did you get the money to travel abroad?
While I was working, I had always wanted to travel abroad for further studies. I began saving my salary to realise the dream. I was able to save 800 pounds which was a lot of money then. When I got to London, I stayed with my brother, Joseph Oluwole Sonoiki, who was then working with the London office of the National Bank of Nigeria. On his return to Nigeria years later, he became a director at the Central Bank of Nigeria. He later became the Oba of Molipa (Lipa of Molipa) in Ijebu Ode, when he retired from the CBN.
In the UK, I was at Kennington College, UK, Regent Street Polytechnic, London, from 1965 to 968 and the East London University in 1978.
I am a member of Institute of Marketing of Great Britain and Ireland and member of Chartered Institute of Secretaries of Great Britain and Ireland.
As a chartered secretary, the job involves accounting, economics, law and administration. The law aspect involves general law and company law, including general principles of English law. First, I joined Kennington College, from 1961 to 1963, where I taught typing and shorthand. I also did secretarial work on part-time basis. I was later employed at the Department of Environment and Department of Transport and I was working at the Common Services Unit.
What was the nature of the job you did in the unit?
In the unit, we handled all the administrative work of all the ministries in the UK.
What did you enjoy most while working there?
It was a great opportunity for me to work there. I was in a foreign land and I gave the job my best to the extent that my bosses and colleagues at work called me a genius. I went the extra mile. I had the opportunity of attending many trainings and workshops. I returned to Nigeria in 1980.
What did you do upon returning to Nigeria?
I established a company, Roadcare Nigeria Limited in Ibadan, Oyo State with three other directors. The company specialised in manufacturing asphalt materials.
The company obtained a licence to manufacture the product from a UK-based industrialist. The country, not being ready for such highly sophisticated road-patching method in the 80s, did not give the product the good patronage it deserved. Hence, the company fizzled out.
It was rather unfortunate. We trained many of the government officials on how to use the materials. We packed them for use. For some others, we did the job for them, patching the roads in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states among others ,especially federal roads.
But we were owed by government, and if at all they released money, we would have to go through intermediaries for payment. By the time it got to us, it would just be remnants. Hence, the company folded up because we couldn’t break even. I went back to London thereafter and returned later in 1987.
Do you intend to establish a similar company now that you are back home?
At what age? I am now old. I can no longer waste my time again on such thing. All I do now is guiding my children. And then occasionally, I travel to the UK for medical checks.
Would you say you achieved all your goals during your youthful days?
I seized all the opportunities that presented themselves to me. I was not lazy. I was equal to the task. God helped me to achieve all the goals I set for myself.
How do you feel at 80?
It’s exciting. I thank God for making me to attain 80. I never thought I would be 80 due to the sickness I suffered not too long ago. I was on the sick bed for about six months. I was down with diabetes. Thank God I was in London at the time. I was admitted into a hospital and placed in the intensive care unit. It was so serious. I could neither walk nor move any part of my body. I thought that was the end.
But I enjoyed the grace of God and the good medicare and facilities in the UK. I have regained my health back. If this had happened to me in Nigeria, I don’t think I would have survived it.
What is your life’s philosophy?
To be faithful in all my dealings with everyone at all times.
Would you love to live up to 100 or more?
Not really. All I can say is that anytime my creator feels my time is up, he should call me. I must also add that I want to be able to do things myself even at my old age. I don’t want to be a burden to my children. I want to be strong till the end.
What is secret of your good looks at 80?
First, I would say God has been merciful to me. Besides, I do a little bit of exercise. I walk from my house here to the next street and back. I have a walking stick which I am planning to drop because I don’t like using it.
What is your favourite food?
My favourite food is yam and beans served with tilapia fish.
What do you think makes a good marriage?
Love and sincerity make a good marriage. If you love your partner and you are sincere, everything concerning the marriage will be okay. If there is no love and sincerity, everything is finished.
Why do you think marriages break down nowadays?
Couples are no longer faithful in their dealings with each other. You say you are in love with someone, yet you are seeing someone else. When there is no love and no trust in a marriage, everything ends.
I have been married for 40 years. My wife, Adepeju, clocked 60 years in March, 2017. Love, trust and sincerity keep us together. She has been a blessing to me, the children and the family. I thank God for giving her to me as a wife.
How many children do you have?
I am blessed with six children; two boys and four girls. Some are based in Nigeria while some are abroad. They are all doing well in their chosen careers.
Would you advise youths to still travel abroad for green pastures?
If they have the opportunity, I will say they should go though the opportunities that existed in our days are no longer there. I have someone who left school 10 years ago and he’s doing odd jobs. Any youth who has the opportunity to travel abroad should go.
You were in the UK for about 20 years or more, did it ever cross your mind to marry a white woman?
It never crossed my mind. I was totally committed to my job and when it was time to marry, I came back home and got married.
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