Interview: I am Despondent About What Nigeria Has Become From 1975 Till Date– Olutunde Oni
Olutunde Oni is a medical Doctor (Internal Medicine), he runs his clinic at the hill of Ikolaba, Ibadan. He has been in the profession since 1969. He spoke with GOALPOACHER NEWS on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
Sir, how would you describe your childhood?
My childhood was quite interesting, my dad Mr Daniel Akinola Oni, my mum, Mrs Igbayilola Agbebi Oni were my parents. I grew up both in Lagos and Ibadan, it was fun,because my cousins were versatile, hilarious, so we went around most times after school hours. I was into game sports .When it was time to go to the secondary school, at that time, we used to ake entrance exams to particular secondary schools that one wanted. So, I chose Government College (GCI) Ibadan and I made the entrance exam and got admitted in 1954. Government College was a boarding secondary school. Every minute at GCI was accounted for, no room for indiscipline, the motto of GCI was “Learning to Serve” and there was an ideology, you have to be obedient and do well in both academic and games, no wonder the school has turned out a lot of products that have moved and shaken. Well, my dad told me after secondary school in 1959 he would send me abroad and actually there was a lacuna, he didn’t specify and I didn’t bargain what I would be studying. When I finished, I had the choice to stay behind to sit for what we called Higher School Certificate. sincerely, my father was ready to send me abroad, I skipped that only for my dad to tell me that I needed to study law and I said no with all my interest in sciences I would study dentistry, all the good scores and results I had in science, I couldn’t go to study law so my father couldn’t agree with me, so we had a deadlock. I had an uncle who was working in Ghana at that time the English Speaking countries had the same currency and they exchanged civil servants, then you could find a Nigerian judge in Accra, Ghana.
When my uncle was going back, I asked if I could go with him to Ghana. I left with him to Ghana thinking my dad would shift ground. After a while my dad started to get worried, he made entreaties, I came back, at that time, he agreed I could study dentistry which was what I wanted to study originally. My father said he would send me to the United Kingdom but before I came back from Ghana, I had applied to go to the Federal Science School to do my A-LEVEL. I asked him if I could go to the Federal Science School, Lagos. I went there in 1961 for an advanced course for two years. I was finishing, I got information that Nigeria was building an Air Force, my father never heard beyond the Army and Navy, so they wanted young fit boys to go for jet pilots and that actually attracted my interest. I put in my application, I sat for the exam, I was fortunate, I made a very good exam and I was earmarked to go to Germany to train as a Jet Pilot. WhenI told my dad, he said he didn’t bargain for that and I should forget about that but he would want me to study a profession before going to the military. I was downcast, I had put my mind on going to be a Jet Pilot to ride above seas and space. I decide to leave home with another uncle of mine in Lagos. Along the line, my dad said he would send me to Germany to study dentistry, it was a happy ending, that was how I left for Germany in 1963.
While in Germany, students of dentistry and students of Human Medicine and even students of Veterinary Medicine used to study preclinical lectures, all these three categories used to attend the same lectures. One day, after lectures, one of our lecturers, a Professor called me because I was one of two last students in our session, he called me and said young man, can I ask you a few questions, I said yes. He said your teeth, your own teeth, are these really your teeth, do your people have such good teeth, I said, oh yes, there are people with such good teeth, he said ok, so you want to become a dentist, I said yes, he asked, how many times have you seen dentists all your life, I said only once when they were to check on my wisdom tooth, so he said how do you want to make ends meet if your people had good teeth, nobody patronises the dentists, because they don’t have any dental problems, how do you want to survive ? So that set me thinking, I said oh,well, it might be time to consider changing my course to Human Medicine which was very easy because as he said just earlier that Dentistry, Human Medicine and Veterinary Medicine were doing the same courses, so that was how I got to study Human Medicine.
Sir, judging from your submission, would you say you were born with silver spoon?
Actually not because my dad had a good career and worked hard to earn his living to train us and how he would sometimes turn down some request to buy some expensive materials, then, I don’t think we were really wealthy but we we were comfortable as a family, I had to work for what I achieved even at that little age.
Are you satisfied with the level of Governance in the contemporary Nigeria compare to where we were coming from?
I am a person who shoots straight, I don’t believe in diplomacy, I am despondent and sad about what has become of this country because if I look back, I could see a country where young and old had virtues they could boost on, good family upbringing, everybody would be unchecked about their assignments, occupations, their means, family ties, the name of a family. Name was very very important, not materialistic was emphasized. There was devotion to whatever your career was since you chose the career, people were not pushed to work, there was no laziness, civil servants worked with the government to build the country. Nigeria was a pride of Africa not only by population but by innovations and plausible landmarks and milestones which other countries could copy and strove to achieve. We were known all over the world because we placed priority on quality, standard and high standard education, we had infrastructures, hospitals that could compare with some others abroad. When the University of Ibadan was founded in 1947, most of the lecturers were English and other Europeans, the curricular were same. Professors could come from the United Kingdom and lecture in Ibadan. There were visiting examiners from the UK, Caribbean. There was peace, there was good orientation, there was good life,government was serious, there was good followers hip, people didn’t have to beg and life was worth living. I was away between 1963 and 1975. But each time I came back to Nigeria for vacation, I was seeing very pathetic changes already and after the civil war, everything looked completely ugly and dismal that security was already breached everywhere, a lot of armed robbery, crimes not only in Lagos which was capital but elsewhere too because some decadence had been set in since there were disruptions in the polity, so Nigeria had then discovered oil and things were shifting badly from agriculture and other departments of life only to the oil business and that again brought a lot of chaos, corruption,ugly connotations and things were drifting. A lot of people went to fraud, a lot of people imported all sort of things, the ports were usually congested and people made fast business. So, if I look at all these, we were all going to my profession, which I will touch upon, then, I will say somehow, a strange bug has bitten the country and it people. When I got to the teaching hospital to work in 1975, as a physician who just came back from Germany, I was presented with some instruments, gadgets and equipment to work which I had really never seen before, they were archaic, in comparison to what I worked with in Germany. Since my aim was to go into private medical practice, I brought two containers of of equipment and instruments and what I needed to start off. I went to the teaching hospital to have a feel of how the practice works and then to make friends in the speciality because you would need to work with them from time to time. I couldn’t work with some of the instruments, at times, I had to reschedule procedures so that after closing, the following day I could bring what I needed. The attitudes of the professionals especially without bias, the nurses were so arrogant, most of them didn’t fit into the profession they were in. Within the spate of twelve years that I left Nigeria, a lot has changed, so it wasn’t only the area of commerce or the informal sectors but the professional sector, it was rather difficult to imagine that we could have stayed behind without laying priorities to the essentials of life. From 1963 to 1975, the profession of Nursing maybe partly medicine too was degraded to the level of a professional nurse not willing to to show empathy to a patient. 1975 to 2020, you can answer the questions if you go to the topmost facility which they call the Tertiary Health Sector, you could answer that question by yourselves. We the medical professionals are ashamed even at the brotherhood of medicine because doctors for no reason they would go on strike whereas doctors are not supposed to go on strike no matter what because it would mean we are playing God. This shows the level of how cheap life is in this country and of course a country would always deserve the sort of nurses, doctors, engineers that it deserves because if they are not in the real ethos of what it a nation should be and Nigeria unfortunately has not attained the nationhood, then, everything is chaotic, disorder, corruption of course that is a little crime and many others. We will have to redefine where we are going, it doesn’t seem thatwe have a road map because every time, you hear one government say Vision 2010, vision 2015 and so on, which vision, when you don’t even have an ideology.
Sir, what do you do at your leisure time?
Well, I control my own life, I don’t have what you call great expectations, so I designed my life. There are many things that excite me.I read a lot and I like all sorts of music whether indigenous music like Juju Afro beat, Apala, Fuji or foreign. I choose where I go to, I don’t attend parties but I don’t believe I need to join the bandwagon, if people are are close to me and they are good associates, I will honour them. So I chart a plan for my day but it is usually flexible because patients as a result of my calling, they occupy first position. When I am free, I read, write, listen to music, I do a lot of things on the internet of course I am not a huspuppi. You define your life, I don’t expect a hundred percent devotion, commitment from anybody, I take them as they are and I expect that people would disappoint me from time to time but it is easy to bear when it happens. As regards temptations at work or elsewhere, if you are a true professional, you don’t even see certain parts of human beings, let’s say you are a male, exposed parts of a female patient’s body because your goal is to make a diagnosis and make a patient well. You will have admirers that’s part of life but if you are matured, you will have discretion and a conscience, you would know how to manage life.