Before his retirement, Dr. Adesokan Ojebode was acting registrar of the National Examination Council, NECO. OYOINSIGHT.COM’s AbdulRahman Adebayo traces the journey of the Oyo-born proprietor of Atiba University, to stardom.
A turbulent beginning
Born and bred in Oniyanrin, a surburb of Oyo town, the young James Adesokan found his way to Ibadan where he was a houseboy who earns 15 shillings.
Unsatisfied. He ran away to the village and one of his uncles gave me a hoe to start following him to the farm. Unsatisfied. He ran away again.
He then went to his maternal uncle who took him to Oyo to learn weaving and tailoring. He then became a cook for a school for two years before luck smiled on me when he was offered admission to Teachers Grade 2 college.
Dr. James Adesokan had a turbulent beginning, one that prepared him for the journey ahead. Coming from an humble background, he had to fight his way through and reject anything below par.
He left the teachers college in 1978 failing the Grade 2 examinations yet he was not deterred. He was posted to an Olorioso primary School in a village in Oyo.
At this school, he was the only teacher who sleeps in the school due to his status while others to come from Oyo and go back. However, his yearning for more made him enroll for O level and A level exam`s in that school.
Later on, he was later posted to another school in Oyo where he sat for JAMB and gained admission to study Yoruba Education at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolo University. He graduated in 1985 with Second Class Honours. He served at the old Anambra State.
A Teacher Who Wanted More
Immediately after his youth service, Dr. James was recruited into the civil service but for a man who always wanted more, he strived harder.
Hear him: “I got civil service job in 1986. I was posted to Federal Government College, Enugu as a Yoruba teacher.
“I started my postgraduate diploma in 1988. When I finished that, I went in for my masters degree in Banking and Finance, which I finished 1990.
“I wanted to go into banking industry which was thriving then. In fact, out of the 11 of us that graduated that year, seven got banking jobs. I did all I could but I didnt get any. Not until somebody introduced me to the director of finance and supply, one Alhaji Abbass from Niger State, who made it possible for me to convert to accounts. That was in 1991.
“When I left Federal Government College in 1991, I went down to the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Education where I received training and orientation in the accounts department. I moved round the accounts units of the Ministry of Education and was later posted to head Funds; a sensitive unit of the Accounts Department.
“On May 3, 1992, I was posted to Kaduna to head the Account Department. They called it the Finance and Supply Department of the National Board for Educational Measurement (NBEM). We later moved out of Kaduna due to the Zango- Kataf war which was very serious. We moved to Minna when NTEB became NECO. I worked with NECO till my retirement as director of finance till April 2017.”
The Rough Journey to Heading NECO
In spite of Dr. Adesokan’s exemplary attitude to deliver in every position, his tenure as the head of Nigeria’s examination body, NECO, was short-lived.
Speaking on what really happened during an interview recently, he said: “I was given a letter to take over from the then registrar of NECO as the head of the institution. We were so close that it was so unbelievable that one day, both of us would be at each others throat. Even when the announcement came, he embraced me and congratulated me for taking over from him. He had three months to go on pre-retirement leave. I was the most senior director in the organisation. He said we should meet the following Monday, by 10 am. But when I got to the office on Monday, the environment was a bit different. While some greeted with attitude, others were hostile while some others were friendly.
“Later, someone came to tell me that some people from a section of the country were ganging up. I said okay, it is not a problem, because I didnt apply for the job. Less than two hours later, a petition was allegedly written by my predecessor to the ministry, telling the minister that I was not the most senior person and that he was not comfortable handing over to me. Honestly I didnt believe it, because we were too close.
“When he came around, I brought out the petition he wrote and showed him his signature and he said it was his. When I showed him the first page, he slumped and the meeting took a different dimension. I just said, Dont allow Satan to come between us. That was the drama. I left everything to God, but not without some pockets of challenges here and there. For instance, the office was divided into two. At a point, I now went to see Malam Shekarau and said, Let us leave this thing to God. Go and look for someone that will do this work. Since that time, I dont think NECO has been the same.”
Founding Atiba University
“Look at the Atiba University; it was the programme of the Ambrose Ali University that we were running that gave birth to it. The person that started the university with me has fallen out with me. He doesnt even greet me again. But he is the one God used in establishing Atiba University. Not that he has money in it. He used his tongue to say it was possible. He didnt call it Atiba University. He said we could establish a university and all we needed was some piece of land, and I had 100 acres. It was 100 hectares that was required but I thought it was 100 acres, so I thought the land was enough. That was how we collected form. We later discovered in the paper given to us that the requirement was 100 hectares. We had to run back to the village to go and buy more. That was how we started.
“Even the immediate family members were laughing at me when we mooted the idea of Atiba University. For 15 years, we were on it, eventually victory came. Because people dont believe in working with God, they run ahead of God. That is why there is corruption everywhere. Society forces the politician to be corrupt. Nobody is born a criminal; the society encourages corruption.”
However, when asked whether he envisaged the proliferation of universities in Nigeria when he founded Atiba University, he said no.
“If I knew, I would not have gone into it. We are suffering. In Oyo State alone, we have about seven private universities. But we still thank God. The purpose and idea was not for money. Just like this place (hotel).
“I thank God for using me to contribute my quota for the growth and development of this community and I will continue to be grateful to God. But honestly, if I knew that this would be the situation, I would not have gone into it, “he said.