Interview With Nurudeen Amusa (1972)

Nurudeen Amusa (Field, 1972) was the first blind student admitted into GCI. He presently lives in USA where he works with visually impaired children. In this compelling interview, he shares his experience as a student in GCI and how this has shaped his life.

GCI Museum: What were your first weeks in Government College Ibadan (GCI) like? What were your thoughts and feelings about a new life in a new school environment?

Amusa: I was the only blind student in the school, I didn’t know anywhere. I was very lost in my first week. I remember my dad came from our Ibadan family house with me and was worried about my survival in the school. He asked me how I am going to cope, I told him I will cope. I coped in the primary school setting, and there should not be that much difference. I started making friends within the first couple of days.

My first week at GCI was actually at Swanston House. The principal, Chief J.B. Ojo felt that Swanston House was a bit far from the school block and the dining hall so he moved me to Field House. It was interesting for me; I met a very close friend Abodunde (1972) who was also formerly in Swanston House but was moved to join me at Field House by Chief Ojo. This gesture was unusual and I don’t think he did that for any other student. Abodunde (1972) and I have been friends ever since.

Soon enough, I was getting to know places. My classmates were really helpful, moving about with me in those first few weeks because I didn’t know anywhere in the school just like some other students. My situation was probably worse off than they were. As time went by, I pretty much knew all the nooks and crannies of the school. Another point worth mentioning is that, I didn’t take part in the three days interview which was a prerequisite for admission into GCI. Chief J.B. Ojo was magnanimous to offer me admission the very first day of the interview given my outstanding performance in the common entrance examination.

I was excused from the three-day interview; that was probably why the first week of school was really like starting afresh. I would have loved to attend the interview because when I heard what went on during the interview I was really envious of those students that attended.

A lot of students used that period for bonding. The principal unwittingly made me miss that opportunity of bonding with other students.

GCI Museum: That is all very interesting. I didn’t know you are a native of Ibadan, you mentioned you attended school in Lagos before coming to GCI, why GCI? Did you just take the common entrance, how did you come about GCI?

Amusa: I attended a primary school for the blind in Lagos for five years. In those five years, I only went home during the holidays, I spent some of my holidays in Lagos, we were expected to learn how to braille our books and all, it was a very rigorous training. A lot of the skills I acquired in secondary schools those days came in handy due to my ability to understand braille right from the primary school.

At the end of my five years in primary school, I applied to Igbobi College and Baptist Academy in Lagos. I actually didn’t want to have my secondary school education in Lagos. In the common entrance, I chose GCI because I wanted to have my secondary education in Ibadan and be closer to my family. I think my family also wanted me to be closer because I saw less of them when I was in Lagos.

There was another friend of mine who was also admitted to GCI but preferred Igbobi College in Lagos; he eventually ended up in Igbobi College. I was one of those that scored pretty high in the common entrance examinations and I think that was why ‘Chiefie’ (chief J.B. Ojo) waived the three days interview for me at that time. He felt I would do very well in my studies. That was how I ended up in GCI.

GCI Museum: ...cuts in, that is all very interesting. So, you mentioned Abodunde (1972) as one of the very first few friends that you met at Swanston House before both of you moved to Field House together. Who were the other classmates, who were the good and the naughty boys?

Amusa: You know kids are always going to be kids. My mates in Field House were: Oredein, Olumide Ijose, Adegbola, and Olubowale Folarin, who else? David Irabor (naughty Irabor) and Omoruan. The last two guys I mentioned were the naughty ones, any prank they were at it, then Akinyeye was another mate of mine.

GCI Museum: …cuts in, yea gentle guy, where is he now?

Amusa: He is in Houston. He is very quiet, and you don’t see him at any GCI function. He is a Medical Doctor.

GCI Museum: I have been in Houston a couple of times in the past and I met a lot of boys like Soyombo, Ayo Akingbade. I think he is back in Nigeria; he took me out not quite long ago.
So, those are the naughty guys. What kind of prank did you play on them or did they play on you?

Amusa: In my first year in the school, I was the only blind person. A lot of us were kids. Some of my mates were always teasing or trying me out. It could be they wanted to know how I would respond to different situations.

Sometimes while walking, somebody would put a chair on my way to see if I would go around it or run into it. Sometimes, if I hear the person moving before they do that, I would just avoid it, at other times, I would run into it. So, there were different pranks at that time. I didn’t want people to treat me differently just by virtue of being visually impaired.

There was an incidence in class involving Adegbola and I, about the closing of classes, I was waiting for someone to help me back into the hostel, he went and sharpened his pencil and started poking me with it, he would poke me and run, I knew he was the one. I said to myself that when I catch this guy I would deal with him before he poked me to death. Finally, when he came back again, I caught him and I said, you let me catch you, I am going to kill you today, as I was beating him, I was also trying to find my way to the door, so that when I let him go, he will not break the pencil on me. I would beat and drag him while also finding my way to the door, when I finally found the exit, I let him go. Those were kids’ pranks anyway.

GCI Museum: I remember Adegbola was the smallest in your class.

Amusa: Yea, I fought regardless of whether somebody was bigger or smaller than I am. I fought Adegbola a couple of times even when we were in Form one or so; I fought him again in Form four or five.

Generally, I think my classmates were really good, but there were students that I fought a lot, students like Oredein and his mates.

GCI Museum: So, out of these classmates and other school mates, which ones have you kept close since you left school and even up till now?

Amusa: I keep in touch with some of my classmates but regularly with guys like Abobunde (Chico), Fadugba, Kolade and Amole, all of ‘72 Set.

GCI Museum: Who is the Chairman of your Set?

Amusa: Adedeji is the Chairman of our Set. He was with me in the US for about five years before he finally came back to Nigeria.

GCI Museum: Did you have difficulty getting your books translated into braille?

Amusa: In GCI, yes, I did. However, in my primary school days at Pacelli School for the Blind, Lagos; the Reverend Sister and my classmates then were of great help. I also brailled myself. What I used to do then was that I would have one of my mates read to me while I copied, took notes and sometimes brailled outright. I also engaged a lot of junior boys to do that too, I would have them record the books on tape or dictate to me. I had a brailling machine back in primary school; I would braille and type my books, so those came very handy later in life.

I would type out my answers for the teachers rather than write them by hand. My mates were very good at dictating the materials to me, I wrote my own notes in class because I was able to use my brailling machine in class. If I got my textbooks in time, the school in Lagos would have them brailled for me but if I did not get them on time, then I was on my own. We had another outfit in Oyo State that was helping us with the brailling materials, though the outfit initially turned me down but with the intervention of the Oyo State Ministry of Education, I could braill my books with them but in my first couple of years in GCI, I got my books brailled in Lagos.

GCI Museum: Does that mean that you couldn’t do Science subjects?

Amusa: I did some Science subjects, up to Form three or four. I did Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Nowadays, there are lots of equipment for visually impaired students, but back then we didn’t have such equipment. I got some of the materials I used for Science subjects from my primary school in Lagos. At the first opportunity, I dropped Chemistry. I actually liked Physics and Biology and offered them up till Form four. I did Biology and sat for it in Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), I also offered Mathematics up till Form four, though I didn’t sit for it in SSCE. In those days, it was challenging getting me the appropriate materials and drawings.

GCI Museum: In GCI, boys were popular for actions on the sport field, in drama and the rest because they were all competitively selected. Academics was given, no extra mark for that. So, how did you feel when your colleagues were taking part in sports and games?

Amusa: I didn’t participate much in sports. At that time, I didn’t think it was me, I guess it was the mindset then, that was where the African culture came into play, when I was in the primary school for the blind, the sky was the limit in terms of what sporting activities one could do. We competed in swimming and all kinds of sporting activities. We were very competitive in terms of drama with other primary schools in Lagos but in GCI, I think the school authority didn’t quite know what to do with me, they didn’t know what I was capable of doing in terms of sports.

Among my classmates, there were times we would play around, I attempted to throw shot-puts but when it came to inter-house sports competition, they didn’t allow me take part. I was only allowed to take part in inter-house debate and quiz competitions which I did pretty well. There were times when we had different rooms competing against each other in quiz competition, I did quite well in all of that as I was very good in current affairs and I always kept abreast of happenings around me. It was usually Ahimie and I representing our class or competing against each other at the House level. Ahimie was very good. I would have loved to compete in quiz competitions at the School level but there were other smarter students who could compete better than I did. As for sports and recreation, my teachers didn’t really think I could be involved.

GCI Museum: What I remember about you is that, after a very short stay, may be about three months max, you were able to recognize us by our voices and you were able to find your way to the dining hall, to the classrooms unaided. How were you able to do all that?

Amusa: It is true. I wanted to know my surroundings. At some point, I could walk from one gate to the other. I was so good that I got to know places like Dele Village, we would go and buy palm wine, and at times collect palm wine, and and at times just take some without paying.

Chico and I were talking about an incidence in Form four when Omoruan came back to the House with some palm wine, he gave us some but it was not enough. So Chico said we should get our own. So, we went to this guy’s farm, on the way to the farm, we saw the guy and exchange pleasantries. I told Chico that it seems that he is the owner of the farm that we should go back, this is a bad omen. Chico objected. As he was pulling the palm tree, the farmer shouted “who is that?” Chico stopped and was trying to disguise, so he said Amusa come and see this insect.

The farmer responded that it is not an insect; it is my palm wine you are trying to steal. The farmer started chasing us, remember Chico used to represent the House in athletics, as he was running, he was pulling me, I remember how we were jumping ridges. At some point I told Chico to leave me, let this guy catch me because I got tired of running, my heart was about to jump out of my mouth. He said, if you stop and get caught, the farmer will make you confess. I just stopped and luckily the farmer had given up the chase as well.

GCI Museum: The next question is about career and your childhood ambitions. Were you able to achieve that ambition? Why were you able or not able to achieve them? The point at which you got visually impaired has to come in here as well.

Amusa: I got blind when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It started out when I was 5 years old. I was sick and was diagnosed with conjunctivitis. I started schooling in Ibadan before I was transferred to Lagos. As far as my childhood is concerned, I don’t think I had any ambition, but as the years progress, I wanted to go into broadcasting. Early in GCI, maybe when I was in Form 1 or 2, there was this quiz show I used to attend with my aunty. I took part in it and did very well; that experience catalyzed the idea of working in a television (TV) station and I think over the years, between when I started at GCI and when I left for the US, I had appeared on TV more than 20 times.

GCI Museum: Was the show anchored by Bayo Akinlola? Do you remember?

Amusa: I think he was one of them. I think it was anchored by George Obate, Yinka Johnson. The quiz show had different names; it used to be called ‘take-a-pick’, ‘pick-a-brain’, and ‘Saturday night sales’. They have all kinds of nice prizes; I don’t know how many mattresses I won from those shows. I won a Chemistry text book at some point. All these got me into TV broadcasting. I worked for a couple of years with the State Ministry of Education after I left GCI, one of my bosses then was our ex Vice-Principal; Dr. Adenrelewo.

I left for the US in the 1980s; my primary objective was to study broadcasting. One of the reasons I left was because there were not enough facilities for visually impaired persons in Nigeria. I have friends that studied in Nigeria and they did very well, my thinking was that I could do better abroad. I had applied to the University of Wisconsin (UW) before I left GCI but I didn’t take it serious until two and a half years later. I was also advised by one of my friends to be serious with my application to UW since my scholarship was about elapsing.

GCI Museum: What were you enjoying that was keeping you off from taking up the scholarship?

Amusa; Well, I was working.

GCI Museum: So, the money you were earning was making you feel like a big man?

Amusa: No, I was not earning much but I was in the midst of my friends, it was just a comfort zone. When I realized the scholarship was about to lapse, I left for the US to study Broadcasting. My thinking was to have my own broadcast studio, people were laughing at me then.

A few years later, deregulation came into play and people started having their private stations. I studied broadcast journalism for my first degree after which I came back to Nigeria. I wanted to participate in the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC). People asked me why I wanted to serve. So, I went back to the US. I didn’t do much with broadcasting in the US but then I switched my career. I did Computer Programming, worked for the Federal Government for quite a few years. I later went into private industry and worked for a local utility company as an Energy Consultant for another 10 years. I studied for my MBA and later went into teaching.

I now work with visually impaired students (kindergarten pupils), teaching them a lot of things that I went through and all. That is what I have been doing for sometimes now.

GCI Museum: So, you were able to learn better and faster with the aid of technology

Amusa: Yea, if I go back to school now, I will be able to do everything. There are all kinds of equipment that makes Science learning easier. Even the brailling machine that I used to carry around in GCI is no longer in use; I use I-pad now and can log into the internet on it, braille with it and print as well. It is a whole new world now. I now take online courses; the experience is totally different from what it was back then school.

GCI Museum: Next question is about your most unforgettable experience. You told us of the failed attempt to steal palm wine at Dele’s village…. laughs). Were there any other ones, what did you like least and what do you like most about your years in GCI?

Amusa: I really love the atmosphere; GCI was very vast in terms of land. I just love the environment. For me, it was an ideal setting to learn. I don’t know if we can recreate that again, we had all that land, the houses, the lavatories, the grass cutting. I also like the boarding system.

I don’t think we were more than 700 students in GCI those days. I knew everybody in school, there were only about four or five day-students in the entire school. I have strong bias to boarding school system which informed sending my daughter here to boarding school.

GCI Museum: The essence of secondary education is boarding house system, you will learn followership and leadership, and you will learn to be on your own.

Amusa: From the perspective of a teenager at that time, what I disliked most about the school was just the incessant punishment from the seniors. When I was in Form one, there were some pretty bad boys, very mean individuals.

GCI Museum: cuts in… but you were also a naughty boy. You were in my House, I remember very well.

Amusa: Well, I was just a kid. I was always afraid of those mean boys.

GCI Museum: Somebody asked me to kneel down on the sand outside overnight and just forgot about me and I dared not get up. They were gisting and he went to bed, he apologized when I saw him later.

Amusa: When I was in Form one, Oyedokun please, punished me and Olubowale for about six hours. Around the fourth hour, he came and told Olubowale to go and get him water from the black tank. You know what? Olubowale peed inside the water, he brought the water back. So Oyedokun asked why the water was so hot. Olubowale responded “sir, you know the black tank is outside now”. So, he was ordered to drink from the water, and he did. Olubowale came and told me that Oyedokun is a devil.

GCI Museum: The other question which is going to be the last interview question is about the sociopolitical climate in your time at GCI, how did you take part in it?

Amusa: I personally related very well with the junior boys, I didn’t really punish them that much. I liked reading the Focus magazine.

GCI Museum: I remember our present national went and kidnap a whole pot of soup.

Amusa: He was not the only one that did that, Barry Bune did it too. I was at Faloo’s place last week and he was telling me what happened to him in Form one, he came back from town very hungry, he went to the dining hall, unfortunately, all the food had finished except the plate of beans on the table. He waited a few minutes, nobody came. So, he sat down and was eating, shortly after that, another classmate of his, one Okikiolu came with a bowl to collect the food for the senior. When he saw him eating the food, he said haaa! “iku re” (this is death). The food belongs to one Osineye, he said the moment he heard that, the food turned to gravel in his mouth.

He got to the house and was watching Okikiolu reporting to Osineye from afar. He eventually declared a war on him.

GCI Museum: Thank you.

Amusa: Thank you very much for featuring me on the GCI Museum Platform.

Credits: Segun Oguntoyinbo (Field, 1970), (Chairman, GCI Museum Project).
Date of Interview: April, 2018.
Place of Interview: Abuja, Nigeria.

Picture Description, L-R

Amusa Nurudeen (Field, 1972), with his dog; and the Museum Curator, Okeleke Opeyemi (Swanston, 2000) at Ibadan residence of Amusa Nurudeen; in March, 2018.



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