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Ismail Babatunde Jose
Born in Nigeria
82 years
60530
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Life story
December 13, 2005

T

he day was Sunday. It was already night and calm had descended on the city. Most people had retired to bed and the whole neighbourhood was quiet. In fact, the time was 10pm. It was the 13th day of the month. The month: December. Christmas was fast approaching and the festive mood was in the air. The year was 1925.  

 

The place: 4 Ojubanire Lane, Agarawu Street, in the British Colony of Lagos. A Nupe (Tapa) woman, Hajara Gborigi, barely 20 years old, gave birth to a baby boy. The boy’s father, Hamza, was the son of Brimoh, a soldier in Calabar and a descendant of the Owa Ale e

royal family in Ikare – Akoko, in present Ondo State of Nigeria.

         

On the eighth day, the child was named Isma’il Babatunde Jose. However, the birth certificate   read ‘Sunmola Babatunde’; Sunmola,  being the vernacular pronunciation of Isma’il. The name Isma’il was to undergo several metamorphoses, until much later in life. At other times some have even called the child Ishmael, which is the biblical name. Alhamdu lilahi, eighty years after, the child of 1925 is alive to tell his story.

I therefore thank Almighty Allah for preserving me till now.

 

But I have come a long way from the house at 4 Ojubanire Lane, the house into which I was born. A three bedroom tenement, with a 2’ x 4’ cubicle that served as both bathroom and latrine ( what the toilet used to be called in those days). Then, human wastes of the occupants were deposited in buckets and these were in turn removed every other night, by night-soil men (Agbe’po o). These, in turn, would be deposit on a train that operated between Iddo, across the Carter Bridge, through Idumota, Agarawu, Tokunbo, Okesuna , to Obalende, near the present Kam Salem House, where it was dislodged into the creek.

         

Presumably, living in the house at Ojubanire, was my father, Amusa Brimoh Jose (A. Brim Jose), a trader. Born in Calabar in 1897 and educated at both Hope Waddel School, Calabar and Kings College, Lagos – class of 1914 ( see pix 1); one of his three wives, the most senior wife was in trading in Calabar; my elder brother, Alabi ( of blessed memory) and my elder sister, Nimota , also of blessed memory. My mother, who was also trading, commuted between Port Harcourt and Lagos.

 

My mother had arrived Lagos, a few days before I was born. She had travelled on the steam-ship, SS Ajasa, from Port Harcourt, because the only good hospital in Port Harcourt was for ‘Europeans only’.

 

Three months after I was born, she returned to Port Harcourt, where I grew up to the age of four, cared for by my father’s mother, Hajara. She was a grand daughter of Oba Fidipote of Ijebu-Ode, whose palace at Idewon still stands to this day. My father’s sister, Rabiat was also with us in Port Harcourt.

 

My grandmother had three children before marrying my grandfather. They were, Sabitiu, ( Mama Oloka), mother of Nosimo Jaiyeola (Mama Kaura)  and Ambali Ashafa, father of Saula, Rafatu Ashafa, Iyabo Onigbanjo, Titi Adetona, Medina Ashafa, Rafiu Ashafa, late Captain Tunde Ashafa, Muftau Ashafa and Sekinat Ashafa including late Bisi Gwadabe ; Second was Adikatu . Adikatu married Abdul-Rahman Kekere-Ekun and had an only child Amori, mother of late Femi Lawson and late Mrs Mosun Oyemade. And the third daughter, Rabiat, mother of late Shittu Hassan. 

 

After she had my father, she could not have another child but my grandfather still wanted more children. So, she arranged for my grandfather to marry one of her siblings from Ijebu-Ode, Madam Morinatu Aleshinloye Williams. She had children for my grandfather among who was my late uncle, Rabiu Jose (Teacher); father of late Mrs Motajo, Amuda Fagbo and Sunmi Jose (Esco).  He was a tutor at Eko Boys High School. He taught me the habit of reading to improve my knowledge. He said “at all time, you must have a book to read, whether you are in the public transport, waiting for someone or even in the toilet”. He also encouraged me to take correspondent course in English and study economics and political science at the school of extra-mural studies, University College, Ibadan.

 

Madam Morinatu was accompanied to Calabar by her sister Rabiat Aleshinloye Williams. She joined them in the Calabar-Congo-Cameroon trade. It was in the course of this, that she gave birth to her first son, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, at Point Noir, in the Belgian Congo, on June 11, 1907. He spent his early childhood in my grandfather’s compound, with my father, his bothers and sisters. Alhaja Morinatu Aleshinloye had two other children. They were, Ayo Reffel, father of Dr. Biola Reffel and Alhaja Abiodun Bank-Anthony, mother of Ore Dawodu and Mrs. Oluremi Akintoye.

 

My grandmother also had two sisters. One of them, Moriamo converted to Christianity and had two daughters who n turn married Christians. One became Mrs. Adenike Grillo, mother of late Professor Adesanya Grillo and the other, Mrs. Tuke Johnson, mother of Faramobi Ozolua.

The market in Port Harcourt, was filthy and not unlike old Maroco near Victoria Island, Lagos. I saw less of my mother, as she was constantly on the move between Port Harcourt and Lagos. But I remember my father’s sister, Rabiat Ode Davis ( Say Mum), and my father’s mother, feeding me, bathing me and cleaning me when I soiled my pants. Interestingly, the first word I spoke was not ‘mama’, but ‘ndewo’, an Ibo greeting.

 

It is therefore safe to say that I was born into a family of traders, whose business carried them as far as Congo and the Cameroon, with my grandfather leading the pack. As a result, most of my people were born in Calabar or its environ, and the Efik language was a lingua franca in our home.

 

My grandfather, Brimoh Jose, born in Lagos in 1872, was a trader and soldier by profession. A Warrant Chief under the colonial, indirect rule system, he took part in the Benin Punitive Expedition of 1897 that led to the capture and exile of Oba Overanwe of Benin to Calabar. He was not only a prominent trader; he was also a community and Moslem leader. In 1934, he was installed ‘Seriki Yoruba ‘of Calabar. He lived on Garden Street, Calabar.  He died in Lagos on March 5, 1941 and was buried at Atan Cemetery, Akoka.

 

My grandfather’s only sister, Molara ,(Mama Alawo) was an early convert to Xtianity, and she married an Ado Ekiti Christian husband for whom she first had her only child, Grace Obasola, who also married an Awe man, Mr Odeku , for whom she had , Julius Adeola Odeku, after whom the popular Adeola Odeku road in Victoria Island, Lagos is named. Odeku died survived by many children among who is Barrister Odeku, the proprietor of Classicus Rentals and Bimbola Oduwole. Mama Odeku, now past her centenary, still lives in Ado.

 

My grandfather’s last child was born in Calabar, six months before me. A telegram was received giving the name of the child as Sikiru. This was a typographical error. The name ought to have read Sikira (for female) as against Sikiru for the male. She has been stuck to the name for eighty years. She has always found it difficult to explain why she is bearing a man’s name.

 

Christianity at the doorstep

However, despite the spread of Christianity during this period, my parents held fast to Islam and we were all brought up as Moslems. Even then, it still amazes me that my father remained a Moslem till he died.

All my father’s close friends were Christians. They were all members of the Freemason. Because my father was a Moslem, he could not be admitted into the Lodge, he therefore opted for the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF). Later in life, he would renounce his membership, died and buried a Moslem. I was also initiated into the ROF, but renounced my membership shortly before my first pilgrimage to Mecca, in 1955.

 

"O my Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in Faith and (all)

believing men and believing women: . . . . . . . . .”. Holy Quran 71:28

 

My elder brother, Alabi converted to Christianity early and became Albert. He married a Christian and was buried a Christian. He retired as Deputy Chief Registrar, Oyo State High Court. He is survived by, among others, Dr. Oladipupo Ajose of Gboko, Benue State.

My first love . . .  . .  more than love at first sight, was a Christian; deep rooted Anglican, with two ordained priests in their house. Of course, our union was overruled by our parents. Her subsequent marriage was less than happy. May God Bless her soul.

 

My first wife, Hulaimot, was born a Christian and converted to Islam before I met her. My younger sister, Nosimot Mosunmola , married a Christian and converted. My third wife, Azeezat Omayone, was born a Roman Catholic (Alexandra) and converted to Islam, voluntarily, after our marriage.

 

In retrospect, the year 1925 was momentous in the history of the colony of Lagos and Nigeria in general. In that year, the foundation stone of the Christ Church Cathedral was laid in Marina, Lagos, by the Prince of Wales.

 

The West African Student Union was formed in far away United Kingdom, by one Ladipo Solanke. WASU was to lay the groundwork for the rise of nationalism in Nigeria.

Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was to play a crucial role in the nationalist movement in Nigeria, became the 1st Nigerian to study in the United States of America.

The founder of modern Nigeria, Sir George Taubman Goldie, of the Royal Niger Company ( now UAC), died.

Shehu Usman Shagari, who would one day become the 1st  Executive President of Nigeria was born.

 

Prince Esugbayi Eleko, born in the year 1860, crowned king in the year 1910 , was deposed and exiled in 1925.

 

Back to Lagos

Four years after I was born, my mother returned to Lagos. She was later to deliver another child, a girl born in 1929 and a boy Ishak, born in 1931. Both died in infancy. By this time my father had moved into the Jose family compound at No. 6, Bakare Alley, on the same Agarawu Street, Lagos.

 

At the age of five, I was taken to Ereko Methodist School, with a next-door, age group, Yahaya Jinadu. The test for admission in those days was a simple stretch of the right arm over the head, to touch the left ear. I failed, as a result of my height. But Yahaya passed and was offered admission.  Yahaya, went on to Methodist Boys High School, Lagos, worked in the civil service, went to London to read Law, qualified and returned to Lagos, joined the legal department, where he distinguished himself and retired as a Judge of the Lagos High Court.

I was taken to the Lagos Municipal Primary School near the house and after less than one year, the School moved to Oke-Suna, adjacent to the Abari Muslim Cemetery. I had to trek for 45 minutes from home to school.

One day, June 27th 1932, as I was playing with other children on the outskirts of the cemetery, an older boy ,Lamidi Bawa-Allah called me "Ismaila your mother has died, let us go home". I don't remember how I felt when I returned home, sad, happy or indifferent. But I remember asking my father’s senior wife the whereabouts of the woman I used to see in the house with a white bandage around her neck and always reading a book. She told me that woman was my biological mother and the book she was reading was the Holy Quran. I still treasure the Quran. I did not recognise my mother; my father's other wives lavished love on me, they were my mother.

 

Twenty Six years later, 1958, when I was taking medical test for a life insurance, for a premium of Five Thousand Pounds ( 5000), against the retiring age of 55, the Doctor told me that the sore on my mother's neck, was tuberculosis. When I reached the age of 55 and a cheque of Five Thousand plus was given to me, I endorsed the cheque to  Anwar- ul-Islam Movement of Nigeria, which was opening its new Central Mosque, which, by coincidence, was  on my 55th Birthday.

 

In December 1932, six months after my mother's death, my father moved to a newly built, 10-bedroom house, at No. 51, Olonode Street, Yaba. In January 1933, I was admitted into Yaba Methodist Primary School. I was registered as Ishmael instead of Isma'il (that was the Biblical version of my Muslim name). It was not meant to convert me to Christianity. Rather, that was how Ibisomi Allen, later Mrs. Ibisomi Carew, a neighbour who took me to school, spelt my name.

The main school building was a four wall concrete, partitioned by a movable wood. On hot days we had classes under a tree. The teachers were trained and dedicated, having qualified at the Methodist Teachers College Ibadan. Some of them left teaching to hold important positions in the Government Service. Sanya Onabamiro, became a Professor of Botany, Oladipo Bateye, became a Permanent Secretary in the Western Region, Mr. Ekpe became Assistant General Manager of the Nigeria Railway. One senior pupil, Peter Odumosu, became Secretary to the Government of Western Region. Gabriel Olufon, another senior pupil, became a Senior Manager with the UAC. One of my classmates whose better performance earned him the first grade weekly and annually, Gabriel Akintunde Dada, later retired as Chief Architect with the Federal Government. Samuel Duro Adebiyi, who got double promotions in the primary school and Olujimi Jolaosho, now Ambassador O. Jolaosho, went to London for higher studies and years later retired as a Judge of Lagos High Court and an ambassador respectively.

Another classmate, James Olumide Duggan, retired as Director of operation in the department of aviation and became a consultant in the industry. I remember one day, as we were returning from school, arguing over our performance, Olu challenged me, "if you think you are good in English tell us the meaning of 'The work of God is incomprehensible'. I failed Olu's vocabulary test. When I reached home I told my father who explained it in Yoruba "Ise Oluwa awa ma ridi".

 

Yaba in those days was the ‘garden city, where people, from Lagos Island, used to come for picnic on festive occasions, such as Easter.

 

The streets were very clean and mostly residential. Except for Clifford and Herbert Macaulay streets, commercial activities were prohibited in the residential neighbourhoods.

The buildings were mostly bungalows with a few story buildings.

All the roads were tarred and street hawking was not allowed. There was constant electricity and pipe borne water.

In later years, some measure of street trading was allowed and one of my father’s wives became a prominent food vendor on the street corner of Hughes Avenue by Olonode. She fried Akara (bean cake) and Ojojo. People came from all over to patronise her. The business earned her the nickname, Mama Alakara .

 

Alagomeji, as the area was called , was made up of a myriad of people from various walks of life. However, the most prominent community were the railway workers.

 

There was a West Indian community that inhabited the stretch from Yaba to the Post Office. Their houses, lined the street along Clifford Street( now Murtala Mohammed Way) . They all worked with the Railways. They were brought from the West Indies, just as their brethren were taken to Britain to work on the London underground and the British railways.

Prominent families that resided in Yaba at the time include, Surveyor Olumide, father of the late Canon Yinka Olumide, Bisi Dada and Titi Olumide. His three brothers, the pharmacist, UAC manager and Civil servant, father of the distinguished Professor Afolabi Olumide.

The Pereiras lived in front of our house; Parents of Mrs F. Y. Emmanuel. CON; Captain T.O. Pereira, Mrs. E.O. Asiodu, Mrs. C. O. Irele and Major Olumide Perreira. Pa Setton and Rev George of the Methodist mission also lived on Olonode Street.

The Seventh Day Adventist Mission had their first church on Faneye Street and their mission house was on Queens Street, next door to Akin Dada’s parent’s house.

Also on Olonode lived Papa Allen; Rev. M.O. Dada, father of Mrs. Olajumoke Fajemirokun; Lawyer S.H. Baptist, father of Lawyer Kunbi Baptist; Mamadic Williams who lived at No. 53. Three houses from us, at No. 57, lived Mr Soingbe, a pharmacist from Dahomey; And Mr Duggan, father of Olu Duggan.

At the corner-piece  on Hughes Avenue by Olonode lived Cameron Cole. The house was later sold to the late Sutherland. The Falases also lived on Hughes Avenue by Wakeman Street.

There were only 2 Moslem families on our street, Baba Ilorin, who was a cattle trader and one Mr. Oloko who worked in the bank.

Ben Oluwole of Kaduna Lodge lived on Clifford Street.

 

On Wakeman street was Elizabeth Fowler Memorial School, popularly referred to as Mami Sarro; An English speaking primary school. The proprietor, Elizabeth Fowler, was the mother of Prof. Vidal Fowler.

On Queen Street lived  the Moores, parents of  Olivet Moore (Mrs Okoya –Thomas)  and Leila Fowler, proprietor of Vivian Fowler Memorial School for Girls.

 

Imam Sodeinde lived on Wakeman Street. I would later marry his daughter Hidayat.  There was also M.R. L. Macaulay, father of octogenarian Tunde Macaulay (father of Professor Elegbe of the University of Ibadan) and Bimbo Ogunbiyi.  There was also, Pa. Ogunbiyi, father of Theresa Ogunbiyi, my colleague on the Daily Times. She later married Mr Bowyer and has since been living in Zaria where she has her school. Therbow  School. Insha Allah, she will be 80 next January. There was also Pa Magbagbeola, father of Mrs. C. O. Kotoye and R.A. Olowu. Pa Edward, father of Yinka, Deji and Subu, also lived on Wakeman Street.

At Clifford Street, was Pa Ben Oluwole, Banker of Kaduna Lodge, father of Ben and Albert Oluwole, by schoolmate and classmate.

 

Teacher Ejiwumi lived on Hughes Avenue. He was the father of Justice Tola Ejiwumi of the Supreme Court. Cocoa merchant Oduba, father of my childhood friend, late Oluwole Oduba and Jimi Oduba SAN

 

On Queens Street, lived Mr Nottige, Mr. Bankole,  and Mr. Bakare  Afariogun, father of late Justice Bakare. Both of them were of the British Bank of West Africa (BBWA). Also Mr Adebiyi, father of Justice Duro Adebiyi. There was also the Petgraves parent of Hilda Adefarasin.

Pa Disu lived on Wakeman Street. There was also Mr Edwards a banker, father of Yinka, Deji and Subu.

One of my female classmates at Yaba Methodist was Yinka Coker, mother of Lanre Towry Coker.

 

The early settlers bought the land 50’ x 100’, for £60 or paid 5 shillings a month.

 

With time, new residential quarters sprang up in the area now known as Sabo. It was designed and developed by one Rasmussen, an Italian builder,  for the Railways. The new area had streets such as Little Road, Moore house Rd, and Montgomery.

Some of the houses still survive to this day.

There was also Loco workshop ( locomotive workshop), which also belonged to the Railways. It was noted for the loud siren that usually signalled break-time at 12 noon or closing time at 5pm.

                                           

On Hughes Avenue lived the Nobles; the Odubas and  Mendes, a pharmacist.

Lawyer Akaje Macaulay and his wife lived on Queens Street. They started the Ladi Lak primary school, which was another English speaking school on Akinwumi Street.

 

The Jose Diaries

My father Amusa Jose and his father Brimoh Jose, kept good diaries of important events in the family and the society, using Lett’s popular dairy, published by Lett’s Diaries Company Ltd., of 160, Shaftsbury Avenue, London EC2. Although my grandfather could not write, he succeeded in getting someone to diary  important events for him e.g. “ “this is to certify that I, Brimoh Jose was born in the town of Lagos on 16th April in the year of our Lord 1872”  

He died on the 5th March 1941 and was buried at Atan cemetery Ebute Metta at the age of 69.

 

 

“My mother died 21st 1910 at 10pm Sunday signed Brimoh Jose” “Brimoh Jose was installed the post of Seriki Yoruba on 23rd 1934 and he went to service in the mosque on 28th 1934. After, was led home by the Seriki Hausawa, Chief Gogobiri and all the elders and members of Muslim association in Calabar, to his residence and a large feast was made to the satisfactory of the public”.

 

“The war began on 3rd of September 1939”. I left Calabar to Lagos on 6th March 1940 and arrived in Lagos on 9th March for treatment. My senior wife madam Hajara Jose mother of my first born Amusa Jose died on 14th October 1940 at 10:30 pm and was buried on the 15th.

 

“I the undersigned Mr. Braimoh Jose of Garden street, Calabar sold to madam Juliana Kukoyi, a house situated in Calabar Road for 33 pounds and she has paid. I have only sold the building of the house and not the ground situated thereon. The ground is 80 feet by 41 feet she will entitle to pay 30 shillings yearly to the owner of the ground. Braimoh Jose is left mark 16th August 1924.

“Prince Esugbayi Eleko was born in the year 1860 was crowned king in the year 1910 he died in October 25 1932 aged 72yrs”.

Monday 14th January 1929 “I went to Mr. Philips at Faji, the Dentist, who took off two of my teeth paining me. Cost me 21 Shillings. My brother Rabiu and my wife Arinola took me to him about 10:30pm.

 

Tuesday 26th February, Mr. Herbert Macaulay CE arrived today after serving six months in prison in the ‘rumoured gun powder case”

 

The case of Esugbayi Eleko came to an end before his honour George Tier and judgement reserved.

 

4/7/31, Prince Esugbayi Eleko arrived today from Oyo where he had been exiled for six years and returned to the Iga.

 

4/12/30, “A large number of locust entered the town of Lagos today and lasted for about an hour before they departed”.

 

Monday 21st 1929, Branch shop at No.12 Murray Street, Balogun Square opened today. Clerk in-charge Emmanuel Ade –Tikare wages per annum 15 pounds.

 

Friday 1st February 1921, Branch shop at 91 Lewis Street, Lagos opened today. Name of clerk in-charge Mr. Ezekiel Ade-Idowu of 60, Moloney Bridge Street, Lagos. Wages per annum 15 ponds.

 

Thursday 7th May 1946, “This is to certify that Mr. Herbert Macaulay CE, FRGS died this evening at about 8:30pm at his residence 8, Balbina Street Lagos.”

 

Saturday 11thMay 1946, “The burial of the great Herbert Macaulay took place today. He was removed from his residence to Christ Church then to Ikoyi cemetery. Over hundred thousand people attended the funeral first of its kind in the history of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. Representatives of the Obas from the North attended. Oba Falaolu of Lagos attended the Church and some of his White Cap Chiefs attended the funeral. He was buried at 6:00pm at Ikoyi cemetery merry making as from 7th to 11 May.

9/4/47, “ This is to certify that Chief Imam Muhammadu Ligali of the central mosque Victoria street Lagos died on Wed. April 1947 and was buried on Thurs. April 10th at the central mosque at about 4:00pm”

 

1/5/47, Imam Hamid Tijani son of the late Chief Imam Braimoh was today 1/5/47 installed and turbaned as Chief Imam of the central mosque, Victoria Road Lagos to succeed the late Chief Imam Ligali. The staff of the Oba of Lagos and all his White Cap chiefs and some important persons witnessed the ceremony and the new Imam visited the Oba of Lagos after the Jummat prayers on 2/5/47.

 

22/10/31, “ The new Carter Bridge opened today by His Excellency Sir Donald Cameron KCMG, Gov. of Nigeria at 5:30pm Thursday 22 October 1931.

 

22/10/31, Mr. Frank Macaulay son of Herbert Macaulay died at about midnight and was buried Friday 23rd Oct. 1931

 

15/12/37, Doctor Vaughan of Victoria Road died this morning at about 6:00 am and buried in the afternoon about 50,000 people witnessed the ceremony.

 

26/2/38, Barrister Kayode died and buried today 26/2/38

 

 Monday 27th June 1932, this is the date that my beloved and dearest wife Hajara Abake departed this life and called to heaven by GOD this morning at 10:00am at Olukotun Village near Victoria beach. And she was buried there on the same date. May God the Father let her rest in peace AMIN.,      

 

 

Turning Point

As a child I enjoyed the affection of my father when he had six shops in various parts of Lagos and shared in the discomfort of the sunset of his business when during the second wor1d war (1939-1945) he could not import electrical goods to fill the shops. I enjoyed having bicycle to ride and his two-door Fiat saloon car, L 3907.  And I know the hardship of hawking electric bulbs in a wooden box, in the neighbourhood,  door to door, between 5 and 7pm. Some of my friends called me" globe” .

Then,  there was a time when he sold the car and bought a Raleigh bicycle. I also remember when we shared a seat on Zarpas bus; when I had to seat on his lap,  to and from Yaba.  

I remember life at the Saviours Boys High School, off Idumagbo Avenue and the time when the school fees, was in arrears and I told my father not to strain himself any longer and that he should let me learn a trade.

Incidentally, that was the turning point in my life. That was the beginning of another chapter in my life.

My father was a member

2008
August 2, 2008
Passed away on August 2, 2008 at the age of 82.