Emmanuel Olaniyi Oladeji: End of an era

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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 Olaniyi’s 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 Olaniyi’s 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, Olaniyi’s 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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