High Chief Babatunde Samson Makun, aka Makun Goodboy, the Olugbe of Igbosin Quarters, Idogun in Ose council area of Ondo State, marked his 100th birthday on July 7. He was born in 1921.
His father was aged 140 before he died in 1960. As the only surviving child of his father, Makun was sickly as a child hence he started schooling at age 24. In this interview, the centenarian speaks on childhood, school life, marital life, regret and the secret of longevity. Excerpts:
How was childhood like?
I remember I was a very sick child. I suffered from illnesses such as rheumatism and many others at that time that my parents didn’t understand. Because of that I didn’t start school until I turned 24. Certain strange events also occurred. One particular day, grasshoppers covered the sky and darkened the earth. The grasshoppers also destroyed crops and farm produce, causing food to be scarce. It happened in 1941 and 1943. And because of the food scarcity, we had to go to the bush to pick palm-kernels to eat. We used salt to eat those kernels. We survived then by the mercy of God.
How did you manage to survive ill health?
My survival was magical. European doctors did attend to us at Ibilo Church Division, now in Edo State, Ikare, Idoani and Idogun. Whenever doctors gave me injection, I would be happy and for that people called me a good boy. So when I started school, I told people I was “Makun Good boy” and my seniors would laugh. That made me to develop interest in English language and because of that I bought many dictionaries and I started learning nouns, verbs and so on. I still have the dictionaries with me. Because of my spoken and written English, sometimes, people ask me which university I went to. It surprises them whenever I tell them I did not go to university. God has given me talent. That’s why I don’t really speak Yoruba or my dialect. When I talk in the public, people will laugh and ask which school I attended because I speak good grammar.
You mean you didn’t go far in formal education?
l finished primary school at L.A Afunbiowo, Akure after which I went to Agric School. When I was to finish at Agric School, there was an invitation from the Headmaster that the Board of Governors of LA Primary School, Akure had appointed me as a teacher because of my performance in the school and my interest in teaching. At that time, teachers were like governors. Whenever teachers came, school-boys would run away as if the police had come. So, I took that appointment for one year. When the school vacated, I went home and told my parents I was a teacher. My father was old and my mother too. My father asked about my salary and I said one pound 10 shillings which is about N13 a month. My father cried that I was suffering and since I had the knowledge of agriculture, he took me to his farm so I could do farming and feed them because there was nobody to feed them. My only brother, Ojo, had died. So I was the only one remaining for my parents. My father said I should not return to Akure, so I employed labourers, about 22 of them, to work on the farm. I would climb palm trees to pluck fruits. Because of my involvement in farming, I never bought farm produce to feed myself and my parents until they died. I was a hunter too and I cannot eat food without meat.
In other words, your parents stopped you from being a teacher…
Yes. After I became a farmer, I went to Owo to see one agric teacher. I told him my experience as a farmer and he said he would help me by bringing cocoa nursery to Irekari, Afo. Then there was a cocoa nursery in Ido and Afo and, because of my experience, the people there liked me. After a year, they sold cocoa seedlings to people for two kobo per seedling. I told them my farm was far, could they give me a nursery in my farm area? They said I should get more people to join me, so they gave me 3, 000 seedlings of cocoa to split with some people. My share was 1, 000 seedlings and with that I became a big cocoa farmer.
From your account now, we can see that your parents were very strict…
Whatever my father said was final. People feared him a lot because he was a Muslim cleric. Whatever he said came to pass. His name was Ayineyin Makun. My name then was Musa, but during baptism, I forgot Musa means Moses and I became Samson. Otherwise, I would have been Moses instead of Samson.
Would it be right to say you are also strict because your father was?
l think so. I am strict but very loving; there is no one who has challenges in my town that I do not assist. For that l am loved.
Can you compare your school days then and now?
In our time, we had many books and dictionaries that guided us. Nowadays dictionaries and books are fake.
We had many teachers who taught us the best of their knowledge and from their hearts, but nowadays all teachers are after is money. That is why things are getting bad. Then teachers received very little and were satisfied, unlike now that they earn big amounts of money but not satisfied.
Going by your experience, what is the secret of longevity?
I never knew I would be old like this. It is in the hands of God. But my father was the oldest in the community. According to him, he was 140 years. Anybody who says he believes in medicine that can make somebody to be old is a liar. And longevity is not about what you eat or do. It’s just by God’s grace. I was very sickly in my youthful days, my parents never thought I would live this long but here I am marking 100 years and still strong.
Tell us about your marital life?
I married three wives. The second and third are dead. Sometime ago I told my surviving wife that I never knew it would be only her that will remain with me. She is over 70 years now. I married others thinking they would be the best but only God understands.
Any regrets in life?
At the time I was to train my children, I failed to train them. That’s the most painful regret I have in life. But I thank God that they are doing well because God helped them in their different fields. I have 15 children and so many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Are you fulfilled?
I am fulfilled in all aspects of life. I am contented. God has really helped me in life. My children are doing well. I am a happy man because God has graced my life.
When growing up, who were your role models?
l never patterned my life to be like anyone. All I wanted was to be able to feed myself and also be comfortable. So I don’t have role models.
Tell us about your friends?
They were very many. Only one, Jaiyeola, is alive now. Then friendship was genuine, not nowadays when you have betrayers who pretend to be friends.
How do you relax?
I still go to farm to supervise my labourers and to avoid being cheated. I pray God gives me strength. The only thing I cannot do now is to climb palm tree. I believe it is God’s strength. All glory to God.
Can you compare the Nigeria of then to now?
While I was growing up, if you had 50kobo, you will be satisfied. With that amount, you could do whatever you wanted and we were not even praying for more. The Nigeria of now, because of the eagerness to have much money, selfishness and covetousness set in. We are no longer satisfied with what we have which is why things are getting worse every day. When I was growing up, I was a motorcyclist and I could go anywhere. There was no fear, but today people are afraid because of security issues; they are afraid not to fall victim of armed robbers and kidnappers. Nigeria when I was growing up was safer and peaceful but the opposite is what we have now.
You were a councilor in 1955. When and why did you quit politics?
It was when the council was dissolved. Another local government created; Ifon, Irekari and Ikamarun were merged because of financial problem. They could not cope with the payment of workers. So the council was dissolved. When I was a councilor, the district council sponsored me to become a community leader under self-help. I went to Ijebu-Ode where I was trained and appointed as Secretary who could record events.
When I was done with the course, Ayetoro and Badagry were 12miles apart; so we constructed a road on which vehicle could travel to Badagry and then Lagos. After completing the road, we travelled to Badagry and Lagos, we went in 12 Land Rovers because the terrain was sandy and there was no other vehicle that could move there. We visited then Oba Falolu of Lagos and the Oba of Badagry was Akran in 1956. We told Oba Falolu about the road we constructed and that it should be thoroughly done .I came back home and went to the Onidogun and discussed with him how Ose bridge between Idogun and Imeri could be constructed. I also went to Imeri to share the same idea on how they could use planks to construct the bridge. Both of them doubted me. Then I went to one Chief Oye from Imeri who was then the Supervisor of schools about my idea on constructing the bridge. I told him that when they start the project, government would assist.
We organized how the bridge would be constructed. There was a European contractor at Igara then who had about 12 boys he had taught how to build house, how to do carpentry and bricklaying works. I consulted the contractor.
The bridge construction started following contributions by taxable adults of Imeri and Idogun. As the councilor, I went to report that there was not enough money to further the construction of the bridge, so, government printed a receipt for Idoani and Afo to join them with donation to assist with the construction of the bridge.
The bridge is done now. The late Governor Olusegun Agagu took it over and now we have a bridge across Ose between Idogun and Imeri.
What are the memorable days in your life?
It was when my father wanted to die. He told me his condition was critical and that when he stopped talking, I should put my hand on his head that I will feel something at the centre of his head moving. My father told a story and I am very happy he told the story; my father loved me very much.
Do you share the view that secession is the answer to the problems in the South-West?
Many people think it is the correct thing to do but this will bring war and it will destroy people just like during the Biafran war. Things may even be worse than the time of the Biafran war. Those agitating for succession should rethink; it is not the solution.