Saturday, August 27, 2016 6:07 pm
A High Chief of Idaseland in Owo Kingdom, Professor Nelson Olabanji Fashina of the Department of English, University of Ibadan, UI, is relatively a household name in the institution. Several reasons could be adduced for his popularity. First, he is an eloquent and outspoken scholar who is also versatile in his academic field. He relates well with both students and staff, yet he is principled and very ideologically radical. A former coordinator, Use of English under the General Studies Programme, and a Sub-Dean Postgraduate, he was the Chairman/Convener, UI Community Forum for public interaction with the aspirants to the position of Vice-Chancellor, in 2015.
Secondly, he is a tri-career individual: a professor of Literature in English who specializes in African Literature, literary theory and text stylistics, a Prophet in an Ibadan branch of Celestial Church of Christ, CCC. he is also a herbal medical doctor, “Onisegun”, who shares affiliation of traditional knowledge of Ifa corpus, and claims to have cure for all manner of ailments and deceases including; Human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, thrombotic stroke, male and female infertility, madness, cancer, fibroid and others. The scholar also provides a glimpse into his life and background in this interview with Gbenro Adesina
Q: There is conflict as regards your date of birth. Could you clarify it?
A: It was as a result of the incidence that surrounded my birth and growing up. When I was born, my mother was thought to be too small. Actually, I was a product child of her disvirginity. My father’s people said that my father was not mature enough to have a wife and a child. So, they took me away from my mother and sent my mother away. But my father’s family refuted this saying that it was my mother’s people that denied them from marrying my mother because they felt that they were not as rich as them. So, as soon as I was born, they gave me to my father’s people. As a result, I grew up with my paternal grandmother and for a long time I didn’t see my mother. While my father’s people said that I was born in 1958, my mother said that I was born in 1960, presumably a toddler when my paternal grandfather died in July 21, 1961. But now, however, I’ve decided to go with my mother’s testimony to my birth date, though I was initially pitted to disagree to it when it became evident that she would be less than twenty at my birth time.
Q: What effect does your circumstance have on you?
A: I didn’t have motherly love but I received some kind of mentoring from my paternal grandmother. She actually loved me and took care of me despite the fact that my mother wasn’t there. I was told whenever I was looking for breast to suck when I was a baby, she gave me her own, but I felt bad that I didn’t suck my mother’s breast for a medically prescribed duration. I grew up with my grandmother and she trained me in many things today. There is no domestic work she didn’t teach me. I grew up in a traditional way, exposed to traditional deities and gods. Today, I practise traditional medicine. My maternal grandfather was “Awoifa” otherwise known as “Babalawo”. Everybody in my paternal homestead has one Ifa name or the other.
Q: What are the other things your grandmother taught you?
A: She taught me the virtue of honesty and used many tricks to know whether I have imbibed her trainings like putting money on her bed and sending me there to get her something thinking that I would take it. But I never disappointed her. I was punished for everything I did wrong. She taught me the virtue of respect for elders, self worth, self realisation, and self conscious social integrity. I grew up to see myself as somebody that have the capability to explore the resources of nature especially, traditional medicine. I know the names of leaves and vegetation and their uses.
Q: What is the relationship between you and your half-siblings?
A: The relationship is cordial. My father had only one other son from another woman. I am far older than him because my father was enlisted in the army and went to war in the 60s. I didn’t see him until after the war. Whenever he came to the cocoa farm camp from war, people would run away and he would be shouting, don’t run away from me, I am Johnson Ayodele Fasina, your son. He told us that he was captured by women soldiers and they conscripted him to helping them repair their guns. One of them, a nurse married him, and had a child for him but the woman went away with the child, so I don’t know him. My father died on January 14, 1974 in Lagos.
A: My father’s youngest sister, Olabisi Aladejebi nee Fasina with support from my mother.
Q: How was life in school?
A: It wasn’t easy though, at times I did menial jobs to augment the finances at that time. I fetched water for bricklayers and I got paid.
Q: At what age?
A: I was already over aged before I entered school.
Q: What was life in the university like?
A: I was a bit okay in the university. I could, relatively, afford what I needed.
Q: What informed your studying English Language?
A: I read English by coincidence because I initially planned to read law. I eventually got admission to read law at University of Jos but for some family issues, I withdrew at the registration stage and returned to Owo. In Jos, I stayed with my elder father’s brother who was a soldier. His wife was not favourably dispose to me and she was maltreating me until her cousin called me and gave me N30 and asked me to return to Owo, which I did. When I narrated my ordeal to my grandmother and my mother, they said that I would not go back to Jos. That was how I lost my law admission in UNIJOS. I had a friend who was working in the Governor’s Office during Governor Ajasin’s era. He obtained the form of a newly established university-Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, located in Ado-Ekiti. My JAMB score was 272. The only course available closest to Law was English and Literary Studies. So, I choose that and I was admitted. I was among the pioneer set.
Q: Was it an affiliate of OAU?
A: No, it was a state university. On the resumption of Bamidele Otiko as a governor, he changed the name of the university to Ondo State University, OSUA. Later, OAU, Ile-Ife took over the name.
Q: How did people react to the change?
A: People didn’t like it because OAU was iconised and idolised and people thought that it would give the university an international recognition. There was riot and students went on the rampage.
Q: Did you regret studying English?
A: I don’t regret an inch.