From Cyriacus Nnaji, Lagos
It is a thing of joy to see classmates reunite once again after many years of graduation from secondary school. This was the reality when Estate Grammar School Ilupeju 1991 Set, on Friday, October 1, 2021 came together to celebrate 30years anniversary of their graduation.
Long-time friends were just seeing one another for the first time after leaving school to pursue greener pastures; many are in different career pursuits in both public and private sectors. Indeed it was a celebration to behold as old friends hug, flex, and dance and exchange pleasantries recalling beautiful and sweet memories of past years. Many wondered how big some have grown, many with long mustaches, while many of the women have become so big that one has to ask others, who is she? Many came in their exotic cars, while many also participated in the get-together via zoom.
The event which took place at Association of Friends, Ikorodu Road, Maryland, commenced with a cocktail after which Kemi Ola prayed in the Christian way while Ogundele Taofeek did the same in the Moslem way.
Obviously, before the event proper they did not forget their fallen members who are no longer in this world, they paid respect to them by observing a minute silence in their honour.
Of course the highlight of the occasion was the presence of the principal of the school during the set, Mrs Olayinka Odukoya, and a teacher, Mrs Adeola Abiola Ojikutu, the Yoruba Teacher, who unfortunately has lost her sight.
Speaking to Journalists, Wilky Babatunde Samuel, MDCO of Meat Embassy and current President and Chairman Planning Committee for 1991 Set get-together of the Estate Grammar School said, “The plan has been on for the past five years, we all sat down and think that we need to give back to the school that made us who we are today, and we said that the past 30 years God has been faithful to us. After 1991, there are some of us that have not seen one another, because of today we are able to see ourselves, so we said what can bring us together, 30 years, we said okay let’s do our 30 years anniversary.”
He spoke on how he felt seeing his old teachers “I am excited seeing my Principal and the teacher, you know when we were in school we thought they were wicked, we thought that they were just too harsh on us but thank God for them, they are the ones that shaped our lives, so we said okay how can we say thank you to these people? We had to look for how we can bring them here today, and they are so happy and proud of our set.”
Wilky also spoke on some of the empowerment initiatives of the group “What we just did, because of the age on their side, we noticed that, for our Yoruba Teacher Mrs Ojukutu, she needs some medical and we were able to raise almost N200,000 for her. Yesterday we commissioned the school gate at our alma mater, we rewarded the best students in the Senior Secondary School, we reward the best student in the Junior Secondary School and we also rewarded some teachers of the school. We have made up our mind that every year we are going to be celebrating our anniversary and distinguished students will be given awards.”
Wilky also hinted of plans to establish a cooperative society as a way of empowering their less privileged members.
Lucky Akpojotor, an Advertising Practitioner, photographer and Graphic Artist, was the head-boy during the set. ‘Interestingly I happened to serve as head-boy for two years, reason being that it was during our own time SSS and JSS were introduced so that made it for us to have additional one year. That is on record that I was a head-boy for two years. And it happens once in the history of anybody,” he said
He said it is wonderful seeing his principal and their teacher, “Since I left the school I have not set my eyes on the principle and the teacher, it is an honour, it is a privilege. When I was mandated to call Mrs Odukoya I was wondering how do I talk to a woman I have not seen in the last 30 years, will she remember me” Will she believe me, if I am not a scammer? But she was very patient with me, she heard me, asked me some questions to actually find out if she was talking to the right person, and the moment she got what she wanted to get she told me she would come and here she is. As I said she deserved all the honour she got. I worked closely with her as the head-boy, and for that reason I was given that assignment to call her. So it is an honour, a privilege, to leave everything she was doing and to be here with us, interestingly she was here one hour before the event, and before every other person. That is to show you how disciplined she was in school, people testify to who she is and that has not changed.”
Marshal Ohanugo, the Public Relation Officer of the group and MC of the day’s event, is the CEO of ATM Global, a paint brand, he said “This gathering actually started in 2009, it is this time that we had a mini reunion, and from then on, we felt the need to always reconnect because we were very close in Secondary school. Secondary school is very key in anyone growing up; that is when you meet the best of your friends, not even in the university. We have had about three reunions but this is our 30th Anniversary, so I call this the reunion of all reunions.”
He said he was impressed by the number of people that attended the event, “Many are in the Diaspora, I cannot express the joy in my heart seeing my principal and my teacher, Mrs Ojukutu, she came from Ekpe, and she was here before every other person.
”As the PRO, I have been making lots of noise on the need for people to be part of the movement, I call it movement. We have also the intention of empowering members and also networking, that is why we kept a register at the entrance so that when you write your name you also write what you do, so that when you need a business you first of all call your member who is into that business to come up with bid before you call an outsider.”
Folashade Killa, who now by marriage, is Folashade Babatope Ojo, a businesswoman “I am so excited seeing my former Principal. This is the first time I am seeing her after leaving school 30 years ago and I tell you she is looking very good, nothing has really changed, her voice everything is still there. I am so happy to see her. I am so so excited seeing my mates also, some I have not seen for over 30 years, when I see them their names just pop up naturally, just to let you know that what we shared back in those days is just pure friendship, and which is quite deep.”
Muni, a Fashion Designer, said “Today is our 30th Anniversary and I am happy to be here, to see my colleagues, my old students and friends, so it is a pleasure to be here and grateful to God for making today a reality.”
Mrs Odukoya, the former Principle, in her response said “I am extremely happy to be in your midst. I always tell my people that I have two sets of children, my biological children and my old students at Estate Grammar School Ilupeju. I feel fulfilled that I chose teaching as a career, anytime I come across my old students both in and outside the country they give me warm reception, it is always wonderful.
“My advice to you, younger ones is that whatever you do in life try and put in your best, you will be rewarded accordingly. And I want to thank you all, I am extremely happy to be with you, with all the love, I say, thank you,” Mrs Odukoya stated.