S. Blatchley, in the book “Boulder Reveries”, 1906 referred to the “two most important days in a man’s existence as the day of birth, and the other being the day of death”.
Born to the family of Oladeji Babayemi of Oloosa Oko, Oopoyeosa, Abebi, Ibadan on 25th January, 1929, Emmanuel Olaniyi Olatunji Oladeji had a modest and compelling upbringing in the Abebi enclave of Ibadan. Growing up within a settlement marked by the presence of the Christian Missionary Society and Roman Catholic church planters, it is not coincidental that he attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Abebi in 1935. The eldest of six children, Olaniyi grew up in a modestly defined and strong egalitarian community which today is unfortunately marred by the notorious ‘One Million Boys Club’ which takes delight in threatening life and property in the area.
The trajectory of Olaniyi’s life presented him a fait accompli, as his dad “Oladeji” was fairly literate. So, it was not difficult to understand his enrollment at St. Patrick’s which stood about a kilometre from his residence. With a penchant for discovery, Olaniyi’s humble beginning took the better of him, as he enjoyed going to school and quickly found solace in learning and participation in sports. He, therefore, excelled as his teachers recognised his abiliition and some of whom cared to support his ambition to continue learning, with the support of whom he prepared for the common entrance examination, which merited him a place at Government College, Ibadan in 1944 – the testimony of hard work and diligence.
Emmanuel Olaniyi Oladeji, he was admitted to Government College, Ibadan (GCI) on the Native Administration’s (NA) scholarship in 1944 and his College Number was 412. The opportunity presented him at GCI set the tone and pace for his accomplishments in life. Olaniyi was bright, studious, and excelled in sports. He was fond of paying special attention to details, and all the noted attributes attracted to him deep life changing responsibilities and friendship. Some of the notable friends he cultivated at Government College includes Engr. Ben Faluyi, Prof Caleb Olaniyan, Chief Joshua Olarewaju, and Dr. Dokun Ajayi-Obe to name but a few, and all these men rose to the pinnacle of their chosen careers. At GCI, he was a celebrated student – in 1945, he attained the high jump record of 5’-0” and was described as a student endowed with a natural spring. In 1946, he won the cricket colors and in 1948, he was surprisingly, he said, nominated as the head of school prefect – a year in which he sat for the Cambridge School Leaving certificate and obtained a Grade 1. On resumption in 1949, Olaniyi was chosen as the head of Carr House – a new House which had just been created. Like every soul, Olaniyi had his trials and tribulations, he sat the entrance examination into University College, Ibadan in 1949, but failed due to a leakage of the examination, but he continued life with a passion to succeed. During the same period, he sat for the entrance examination to the Public Works Department (PWD) Technical School, Lagos as engineering assistant and was successful. So began his sojourn into the world of engineering as he entered into the civil service on 6th July, 1949.
The young scholar commenced, in August, 1949, the PWD sandwich training course which lasted for nine months. At the completion of which, with a credit grade and being fourth in the class was officially accepted into the civil service and was posted to the Ministry of Works and Transport, Sokoto. Although he had a primary resolve to study medicine, but unknown to him, his professional career in engineering started with his indoctrination to the civil service and his posting to Sokoto. His career with the PWD led him to several stations in the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria. During the period, and living in the heart of northern Nigeria, he picked up the Hausa language and learnt a little Igbo as he lived within a predominantly Igbo community in northern Nigeria. He later took the 2nd and 3rd courses at PWD which saw his attainment of high grades. On the two occasions, he was first in the final exams. During the period, he also undertook the entrance examination to the University College, Ibadan which he passed and was provided a place for enrollment. Although a place was earmarked for him as a result of his good grades in the scholarship board exam, God in His divine mercy directed otherwise. In June 1953, after a successful engagement in the PWD and after being posted to the Ministry of Works and Transport in Ijebu Ode, where he was placed in the water division, he secured a place with his earlier admission to the University College Ibadan as a government scholar. His admission presented him the grace to study for the Bachelor of Science in Engineering, starting from the intermediate level of the University of London curriculum.
Olaniyi exclaimed with nostalgia that his sojourn at UCI was very interesting as he met many people. Other than his colleagues and contemporaries from GCI, he met the likes of Tunde Adeyemi, who attended Ilesa Grammar School. The two years at UCI was quite interesting and full of activities, he exclaimed. He was a member of the Social Circle and the Curtain Groof, represented Trenchard Hall in high jump and was in the relay team with Emiola Adesina and Okon, and became a member of the students representatives – a position he won by election. He expressed with delight the blessing of being taught by notable scholars like Dr Bastin – an Oxford graduate who taught Physics, Professor Atkins who taught Mathematics with Professor J Oyelese, who went on to write many books in Mathematics, and Father Oni, who was in charge of Chemistry Practical.
The excellent teaching pedigree paraded by UCI absolutely contributed positively to his completion of the intermediate Bachelor of Science at UCI and his admission to complete the Bachelor of Science in Engineering at Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, London – an admission which was made possible by the Western State Government scholarship.
Although, he proposed to study engineering at Oxford or Cambridge University, divine providence led him to the London University College where engineering was said to be at its best. Olaniyi thus departed the shores of Nigeria by air on the 23rd of September, 1955 for London via Cairo. On the journey were also other students – Oladipo Akinkugbe who, like him, attended GCI and Yekini Agbaje, who attended Ibadan Grammar School. Both were individuals who went on to excel in their chosen careers with Oladipo becoming a Professor of Medicine and Yekini becoming a renowned lawyer who attained the status of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Olaniyi attended Queen Mary College from 1955 through 1959. As God always prepares one for the future, the 3rd course at the PWD gave Olaniyi a preview to the academic curricula at QMC, so learning was relatively easy. In exception of an Engineering Drawing course which delayed him for a year, and thanks to God that his scholarship was not withdrawn, he finished his studies in July 1959 but unfortunately did not class in his examination – a situation for which he was unhappy.
Olaniyi’s studies at QMC was marked with interesting accomplishments as he took part in social activities, and engaged in sports and for which he represented London University in athletics – a situation which led to his winning of colors of the London University ‘Purple” and was adorned a certificate at the annual competition between London and French Universities. In support of his prowess in athletics, he was sponsored by the Nigerian Government for the Student Olympics in 1956. At QMC, Olaniyi was privileged to meet quite a number of people, amongst who were Nat Oyelola, who, like him, attended GCI but studied Mechanical Engineering. Others he knew who attended QMC at the time included Miss Okeke and Mr. Adeyemo while Miss Atinuke Oloko (who later became Justice Atinuke Ige) was at the time enrolled at Kennington College of Commerce and Law Studies while undertaking legal studies at Lincoln’s Inn, London. Upon graduation at QMC, he took an appointment as an Assistant Engineer with the renowned engineering firm of Messrs Oscar Faber & Partners where he spent the first two years as an engineer from where he passed, on first attempt, the Institution of Structural Engineers exam in October 1961. He later went to work for British Railways in Euston.
In 1956, a year into his engineering school at QMC, his fiancée and love of inestimable value, Miss Catherine Mojisola Odebunmi came to join him in the UK with a view to further her studies before they got married. In London, Mojisola studied Institutional Management at Queen Elizabeth College (University of London) for two years from 1957 1959. Upon Olaniyis graduation in July 1959 and when his fiancée had finished her course in Institutional Management – the next stage of his life plan was set, all arrangement were concluded after ten (10) years of courtship to marry his heartthrob. The marriage was slated for 29th August 1959 at the Anglican Parish Church of Clapham in the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth. The wedding program was a success and reception was held at London after which they both departed for their honeymoon at Bournemouth. After the honeymoon, the blessing of God shone on his family and on the 1st September, 1960, he was blessed with a baby boy whom he named Olajide. A year and a few months after, Mojisola and Olaniyi decided it was time to return to Nigeria, and a result of which Olaniyi resigned his appointment at British Railways and departed for Nigeria in February, 1962. On the trip with Olaniyi was Mojisola who was carrying the pregnancy of Olabode and with Olajide in tow. Olabode was born on 9th March, 1962 the event characterized the emergence of Olaniyis family which blossomed by the grace of God as Mojisola gave birth to Olawunmi on June 6, 1963, Olatundun on December 20, 1966 and Abimbola on May 26, 1969. Mojisola, Olaniyis heartthrob, passed on to eternal glory on 3rd February, 2021 after a blissful relationship of seventy-two years. To the glory of God, Olaniyi’s children are doing well, and are successful in their chosen vocation and career.
Upon his return to Nigeria and as a government scholar, Olaniyi reported immediately at the Secretariat, Ibadan where he was placed at the Ministry of Works and Transportation with Engr. Alan Wheton, who was the Water Engineer in charge of the design office. Olaniyi was assigned to work in the Water Division as an Executive Engineer under Engr. (Chief) J. A. Andu of blessed memory. Olaniyi had a fulfilling engineering development career in the civil service. He was involved in notable, landmark engineering projects for which he received commendations. One of Olaniyi’s first assignments in the civil service of Western Region was the design and construction of a 100,000-gallon elevated water tank for the Ilaro water supply scheme which was later replicated for the Iyin Ekiti water supply scheme. In July, 1963, Olaniyi’s posting as a Resident Engineer presented him with the task of undertaking the construction of the treatment water plant for Ogbomosho water supply scheme which was completed with its earth dam and spillway placed on Oba River. The project which included a treatment and pump house was commissioned by Chief S. L. Akintola – Premier of Western Region in 1963, a project for which his contribution was visibly acknowledged. Olaniyi saw to the construction of several water supply schemes in Western Region of Nigeria. He was Water Engineer at the Ministry of Works, Ijebu Ode, from August 1963 to January 1964 where he took up the challenge of completing the Epe water supply scheme. He also undertook the water supply scheme at Omu and other areas under the Egba Division. Olaniyi was subsequently posted to be the Resident Engineer for the construction of Saki water supply scheme. A very comprehensive project to delight, he said, he saw to the construction of the concrete dam with morning glory spillway, laying of pipes in the township, construction of water tanks at various locations, construction of treatment works and supervision of the installation of pumps and generators from February 1964 to August 1966. The project provided him with a fundamental knowledge of construction supervision and project management. It was from the Saki project that he was selected to attend a year course at Delft Technological University, Delft, Holland, here he undertook studies in Sanitary Engineering from 1966 to 1967. Soon after his return from Delft, the Water Corporation of Western State was divided into four (4) major areas Ibadan, Abeokuta, Akure and Osogbo. Olaniyi was then posted as the pioneer Area Engineer for the newly inaugurated Water Corporation in Osogbo area of Western Region. He reported at Oshogbo in October 1967 to commence work and was at the posting till February 1970. During his tenure at the Water Corporation, Osogbo, he initiated and engaged in the construction of the Ikirun water supply scheme which included the Ekoende dam, which was commissioned within a period of nine months. Other water supply projects undertaken under Olaniyi’s watch at Osogbo included the Ede, Iwo, Odo Otin, Ila and Ilesha water schemes. The period witnessed the impact of the Water Corporation and its operation in the Osogbo area.
He was posted to Akure in February 1970 and remained there till March 1972. Olaniyi’s tenure as the Area Water Engineer in Akure witnessed improvement to existing water schemes at Ado-Ekiti, Ikere, Owo, Akure, Ondo and Oke Igbo while new water supply schemes were initiated at Ikole and Igbara Oke. At the Ikole water supply scheme, Olaniyi supervised the completion of the dam which he again saw to the spilling. Olaniyi provided many borehole schemes to complement the water supply at Ilaje township while the Okitipupa water supply scheme was undertaken under his watch at the Akure office. From the Akure office, Olaniyi was posted to Water Corporation of Western State, Headquarters at Ibadan where he supervised, to completion, the construction of the Ibadan Asejire water scheme as Deputy Chief Engineer Operations/Design. At the time, the Ibadan Area Office and Headquarters were under his watch and many times he served as Acting General Manager of the Corporation. Having spent 27years of meritorious engagement in the civil service, Olaniyi opted for retirement from the Water Corporation of Western State in December 1976.
At 47years, Olaniyi had garnered tremendous experience in engineering development. With an interest to continue his engineering pursuit within a private sector arrangement, he joined the engineering firm of Messrs Associated Engineers and Consultants (AEC) on an invitation from his life-long friend Engr (Chief) Ben Faluyi in January 1977. The firm which had its office at 5, Awosika Avenue, Bodija, was under the Chairmanship of Engr. (Chief) B.A Faluyi who was a year his senior at GCI and whom he had the privilege to work with at the Water Corporation where he was at a time Chief Engineer – Design while Olaniyi was Chief Engineer – Operations. At AEC, Olaniyi worked with the team of Engr. Ben Faluyi and Engr. Oladejo Azeez, and the difference in the private firm was of course the requirement to work hard and get results – a common denominator for him and an attendant of which they earned more money. Olaniyi and the AEC team undertook many interesting civil engineering projects nationwide. He subsequently travelled through Europe and the Middle East forming alliances with other engineering establishments to pursue projects in Nigeria, Africa and Asia. One of such engagement formed the association with Tahal Consulting, Israel with whom AEC undertook several projects and at a time both Olaniyi and Ben Faluyi were invited to be Directors at Tahal Consulting. Olaniyi’s ability and success in engineering did not go unnoticed by the establishment. In which respect, Olaniyi was appointed as Chairman, Ajoda New Town Development Authority where he served from 1978 to 1979, and with his association with the engineering community became a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Structural Engineers and the Nigerian Society of Engineers. AEC, with its directors, undertook several notable engineering design projects across Nigeria – amongst which were the engineering design and construction supervision of the irrigation scheme with Sebore dam in Mayo Belwa, the engineering design and construction supervision of facilities at the Federal Polytechnic, Akure and Ado-Ekiti, the design of Lafia-Karim-Lamido Road in Taraba State, design and supervision of Ogbomosho – Ikirun Road in Oyo State, structural design and construction supervision of Kakanfo Inn, Ibadan to name but a few. In the engineering circle, it was acknowledged that AEC was a first rated engineering company in the market and many engineers cut their teeth working at the firm. The company, nevertheless, suffered a few setbacks and was eventually wound down in 1996. Following which, Olaniyi entered into another partnership to start Associated Engineers and Company, partnered with Profen Consultants and later became Chairman, Open-Ended Ventures (Africa) Ltd, an economic development company. Olaniyi’s experience is evident in his achievements in the engineering field which is notable across Nigeria – his name adorns a few facilities which have existed through time.
Olaniyi was a giver, who was always ready to commit his time, energy and money to worthy causes. Olaniyi willingly gave his resources to the benefit of many souls and projects. He was a strong believer in the GCIOBA project for which he was honored by the Association in 1984 for his contribution to the supervision of the construction of the library project. His life-long desire was to cooperate with GCIOBA in order to make GCI a role model as he always appreciated how he was molded at the school – a commitment he diligently upheld till the end. Olaniyi’s was also a committed member of the Youth Christian Circle (YCC) of St. James the Great, Oke Bola – a Christian religious association for which he devoted himself and served as the General Secretary from 1989 to 1993 – a commitment for which he was passionate and totally unapologetic. Also was his contribution to the Ibadan Progressive Union – a socio-cultural society of indigenous male children of Ibadan origin. Olaniyi served IPU meritoriously as Secretary from 1991 to 1995 and as President of the Cooperative, Investment and Credit Society for many years. Olaniyi was made a distinguished member in 1975, and remained a member of the executive committee of the Union. Olaniyi was a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and was registered with the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria. He was a chartered engineer, and Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Structural Engineers and Nigerian Society of Engineers.
Emmanuel Olaniyi Olatunji Ajani OLADEJI finished his sojourn on mother earth on Sunday September 05, 2021 and returned to the bosom of his creator. He absolutely was a good soul and exemplified a character of bliss. His was absolutely a great inning.
May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
Akindeji-Oladeji sent this piece from Ibadan.
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