Professor Sanya Onabamiro would have been 107 years old were he to still be alive. His daughter, Banke Onabamiro, posted the following story about him on FB’s Nigerian Nostalgia (1960-1980) Project:
Happy posthumous birthday Prof!
A BRIEF LIFE HISTORY OF PROFESSOR SANYA ONABAMIRO
By Banke Onabamiro
Olorunsanya Adedojo was born in Ile-Otena, Idode Quarter, Ago-Iwoye, in the Bobadega Age-Group in Ago-Iwoye.
His birth proved difficult. His mother told him years later that she was in labour for thirteen days. She did not impart this information with any noticeable bitterness.
The brothers and sisters born before Adedojo and those born after him all died in infancy; he alone survived to adulthood out of the nine children born by the late Madam Matilda Oduyemi Ajibola.
The name Adedojo was given him by his father, the late Pa Jeremiah Onabamiro Bisuga and the name Olorunsanya was given him by his late mother.
Adedojo’s childhood was very turbulent “because he was most unorthodox and unconventional.” At the age of seven years, he elected to be a Muslim. His father was a man who let his children do as they pleased, so he agreed to the attachment of Adedojo to Alfa Olowoporoku of Idode Mosque and it was under Olowoporoku that the boy took some Koranic lessons. His mother, a staunch Christian, almost fanatical in her Christian belief, strongly disapproved of Adedojo’s incursion into the Muslim faith. The attachment was terminated by his mother removing the boy from Ago-Iwoye to Ibadan to stay first with her sister, Esther Adeola and later with her brother, Chief John O. Ajibola.
The period 1922 and 1928 were very turbulent in Adedojo’s life. For four years during this period, he read only Standards Two and Three and these in seven schools: Elekuro Methodist, Agodi Methodist, Agbeni Methodist in Ibadan; Shagamu Methodist, Shagamu Bethel, Ikorodu Methodist and Ikorodu Bethel Schools.
But wherever he went, his mother Matilda Oduyemi always arranged for him to be taken back to ibadan to continue his schooling under the guardianship of members of the Ajibola family.
Adedojo began to acquire emotional stability only on entering Wesley College, Ibadan, in January 1929 for a four year teacher training course.
On leaving Wesley College, he was posted to the Methodist School, Oshogbo as a Teacher.
After only three months at Oshogbo, a series of transfers brought about his re-posting to the Methodist School, Ogere, Ijebu Remo: the Headmaster of a school in Ilesha Circuit got drowned in a river; the Headmaster of Ogere Methodist was transferred to take the place of the drowned man; the Assistant Headmaster at Ogere was promoted Headmaster and Mr Onabamiro was transferred from Oshogbo to be Assistant Headmaster at Ogere. Three years later the Headmaster was transferred and Mr Onabamiro was promoted Headmaster.
In January 1936 he was transferred to the Yaba Methodist School, Lagos Olowogbowo Circuit, and there he met an old friend, Stephen Oluwole Awokoya, who was in his third and final year at the Yaba Higher College.
One evening, on accompanying Mr Awokoya back to his College, Mr Onabamiro was amazed to see Students immaculately dressed in white, being served at the table by uniformed stewards and the student’s dinner tables loaded with all nice things a man could wish to eat. Also, while strolling around the college grounds, Mr Awokoya showed Mr Onabamiro some buildings which he told him were called Science Laboratories.
On getting back home that night, in late January 1936, Mr Onabamiro resolved to put aside playful things and embark on serious studies to be able to enter that Yaba Higher College.
Stephen Oluwole Awokoya himself undertook to teach him Mathematics and another Yaba student, Mr U.B. Ugot, for a small fee of five shillings a month came to teach him Biology on Saturdays in his rented room at No 42 Wakeman street, Yaba.
In December 1936, he took the Cambridge School Certificate Examination the result of which came in February 1937. He passed with exemption from London Matriculation with Credit in all the subjects taken including Biology, not having yet set foot inside a Science Laboratory in his life.
The Board of Governors of Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos, got to know through the late Rev. M.O. Dada, the Superintendent of the Olowogbowo Circuit of Mr Onabamiro’s performance at the Cambridge School Certificate Examination, and sent him to the Yaba Higher College to study Biology, Chemistry and Physics, to become later an Assistant Science Master at the Methodist Boys High School, Lagos. Mr Onabamiro entered the Yaba Higher College on 1st April 1937.
In July 1940 he sat privately for the Inter B.Sc Examination of the University of London in Zoology, Botany, Chemistry and Physics. In early December 1940 he sat for the Diploma Examination of the Yaba Higher College in Biology and Chemistry. He left the Higher College in December 1940, having studied under Mr C.R. Butler O. B. E. the Principal of the College. On the 23rd of December, it was announced that Mr Onabamiro passed his Yaba Higher College Diploma Examination and two months later a cablegram from London arrived to inform him that he passed the London Inter B.Sc. Examination.
He taught Biology and Chemistry at the M.B.H.S. Lagos from January 1941 to August 1944, when he left Nigeria on a Nigerian Government Scholarship to read Zoology at the University of Manchester, England.
In July 1947, Mr Onabamiro graduated B.Sc. Second Class, Upper Division in the University of Manchester. In October 1947 he went to the University of Oxford where he studied for one academic session in the Department of Education. In September 1948, Mr Onabamiro returned to Nigeria.
On 1st January 1949, Mr Onabamiro took up appointment at the then University College, Ibadan as Research Assistant under Kenneth Mellamby, who was Principal of the College.
He registered for the Ph.D degree in Parasitology by research on “The causes and geographical distribution of DRACONTIASIS, the Guinea-worm disease in South-West Nigeria.” He was awarded the Ph.D degree by the University of London in November 1951.
Dr Onabamiro spent 1951 to 1960 conducting further research on the Guinea-worm and teaching Parasitology to Under-graduate students in the Faculties of Science and Agriculture at Ibadan. In the course of this work, a small water flea related to the intermediate hosts of the Guinea-worn was discovered in one of the Nigerian rivers and this was called TROPOCYCLOPS ONABAMIROI in scientific journals.
The years 1960 to 1967 were spent on political activities and the aftermath of the political troubles in the old Western Region of Nigeria.
Dr Onabamiro went back to the University of Manchester in May 1968 to read his Zoology up-to-date and get back into the academic stream. He subsequently got appointed as Associate Professor of Zoology at the Njala University College, University of Sierra Leone in August 1969 and was promoted full Professor of Zoology the following year and appointed Dean of the Faculty of Basic Science.
He resigned his post and returned to Nigeria in August 1973 after four academic sessions and was absorbed into the Federal Public Service of Nigeria through his appointment as Principal of the Federal School of Arts and Science, Ogoja. He was also on the Board of Governors of W.A.E.C and the J.A.MB and as at the time of his death was the Chairman Implementation Committee, National Policy on Education, spearheading the Nigerian Educational Curriculum. He served as the Minister for Education and later Minister for Agriculture in the 1960s and he was conferred with the National Honour of Commander Order of the Niger CON. He was also the Fuwagboye of Ago-Iwoye.
-Banke Onabamiro, 12th child of Professor Onabamiro, is a Vice Principal, Methodist Grammar School, Bodija Ojurin, Ibadan, Oyo State