I’d Be Going for Master’s After Law School – 78-year-old Fresh Law Graduate
Chief Suleiman Adepoju, 78 years old, is a fresh Law graduate from Lead City University, Ibadan, Oyo State. The septuagenarian former bank director tells OLADIMEJI RAMON the motivation behind his return to school at old age to study Law and what he plans to do with the new degree
When and where were you born?
I was born on February 2, 1942 in Ibadan, Oyo State.
What were your most memorable childhood experiences?
One was the day I started secondary school in 1957, when I had to travel from Ibadan to Imesi Ile, 23 miles outside Ilesha, for a whole day. I got there and I met very good people. For six years I had that experience in that period of my secondary school years.
What kind of a child were you in your young days?
I was lucky to be an adorable child, well loved by the generality of people in my immediate environment. l am happy to say with confidence that l enjoyed the goodwill of my parents. So also, l enjoyed the love of my peers. It is the same now by the grace of God.
What kind of personalities were your parents?
They were illiterate but they were very good parents, who cared for their children. Within the limit of their resources, they sent me to school. They cared for all of us when they were alive. That’s what I can say about them; may their souls rest in peace.
How many children did your parents have?
My father had two wives and he had 11 children. I am number three. I have two women ahead of me and the others are behind me.
Where are your siblings now?
Some of them have passed on and the ones that are alive are doing well.
What was your childhood ambition?
My ambition as a child when I was in secondary school was to be a banker. And God gave me the grace to achieve it. When I left secondary school in 1962, I worked for two years at the National Bank of Nigeria; then I went abroad to study banking. When I came back, I joined Wema Bank in 1972.
You just acquired a Law degree at the age of 78. What was the motivation behind this?
In 1990, I registered to read Law at the University of Lagos with the backing of the then Dean of Law Faculty, who was later the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, the late Prof. Jelili Adebisi Omotola. I was then a director in the bank. My schedule of duty did not allow me to finish the Law programme at the time; so, I suspended it. I retired in 1995 and then in 2016 I said why did’t I go back to this programme? That was how I went back to read Law at the Lead City University. And to God be the glory, I met very good people, good lecturers and colleagues who were kind to me. I had a very good time in school.
Did you find the course challenging?
It was challenging and stimulating. I was happy I went in there; it has changed my outlook. Everything went well, I was able to cope.
Which of the courses did you find most challenging?
The courses I found most challenging were Jurisprudence and Legal Theory, Law of Evidence and Company Law, to mention a few.
Which is your preferred area of Law?
I found Criminal Law a bit technical; because of my age, I am not planning to go into litigation, wearing gown and going to court. I’ll like to be a corporate lawyer. After Law School, if God spares my life, I will go back to school for Master’s in Law.
What did your family, especially your children, say when you told them about your decision to go back to school to study Law at an old age?
My family – my wife and five boys, who are grown up, married and successful in their chosen paths – supported me. They gave me their full support. They said ‘Daddy, if you think that is what you want to do, go ahead.’ And God supported me too.
Are your children also professionals in different fields?
Yes, most of them are into Information and Communications Technology. Thank goodness, all the five boys passed through good universities in the UK and they came out with top performances, even their wives.
Was there something that you had looked forward to learning in the Law school that you were not taught?
Not really. The school gave us a very good background and during our convocation, the Vice-Chancellor told us that Law students from the university that went to the Law School performed brilliantly well and that is true. So, he said he was looking forward to seeing those of us coming behind them to even excel beyond the standard they already set.
How did you relate with your classmates, considering the wide gulf between your age and theirs?
Let me even talk about the whole school; I had some of them who were the ages of my grandchildren. They respected me a lot and they still respect me. The lecturers too gave me the respect I deserve and I am proud that I passed through that system.
When they first saw you in the class and realised you were going to be their classmate, what was the reaction of some of them?
They were excited and they even gave me a special seat in the front of the class, close to the lecturers. And that was what they did for me throughout the programme. Nobody would occupy that seat until I got to class and in any case I was always the first person to get to class. God gave me the grace to be punctual. I was the first person to get to class throughout the programme.
What kind of relationship did you have with your lecturers?
Very good, both male and female, they respected me. I enjoyed their support, I enjoyed their respect. And I am very happy to say that anywhere, any day.
Was there any occasion you were punished for a wrongdoing, either alone or alongside your classmates?
None at all throughout the four years because I was able to lead the class with my age in the right manner; I influenced them to do their duties efficiently.
What is your advice to Nigerian students?
My advice to Nigerian students is that they should be focused and not be extravagant. They should not expect too much from society; they should strive to contribute to uplift the morale of the people. In my class, I had some people who were already in business even as students. They carried themselves in ways that showed good examples to the younger ones throughout the period. Even up till now, we have a platform where the classmates still interact.
At age 78, if you look back, do you have any regrets – something you felt you should have done but never did or something you did and felt you should not have done?
If God gives me the opportunity to come to the world again after my passing on, I will still do the same thing. I am happy with myself; I am happy with my family; I am happy with my God.
When did you get married?
I got married in October 1966. By the God of grace, my wife and I have been blessed with long lives and our children are doing well and are a source of happiness to us.
What is it like for you being a practising Muslim while your wife is a Christian?
I had the privilege of attending Baptist Day School for my elementary education and Methodist for my secondary education and additionally l attended Quranic school in the evenings after returning from school (elementary). I studied Bible alongside Quran and l found out that there is only one God. The mode of worship may be different, God is our target. More importantly my father advised that unless my wife loved to worship my way, l should not attempt to force a change. We have both benefited from both Islam and Christianity. Thank God for this.
Islam permits polygamy, why have you decided to stick with one wife?
One and a half wife would have been too many (for me). It has been most beneficial to stick with one. Islam tells us to marry the number of women we can afford to maintain in all ramifications.
Why did you choose a private university rather than a public university to study Law?
When I decided to go back to the Law programme, I went back to the University of Lagos to see if I could get in there but it didn’t work. Then, I saw the advisement of Lead City University. Firstly, I have a comfortable place in Ibadan; and secondly, you can see what is happening in public universities with ASUU and the Federal Government. I saw the Lead City advert in PUNCH newspaper, my own PUNCH – I have the privilege of knowing the history of PUNCH with the late Chief Olu Aboderin, may his soul rest in peace. I may not be a director but I can say we started it together. I was the bank manager for Skyway Press, Sunday PUNCH before it became a daily newspaper. So, my breakfast, every morning, is served with a copy of The PUNCH newspaper. So, going through the newspaper, I saw the advert of Lead City University while I was waiting for the response of the University of Lagos. When I saw it, I reacted to it and the rest, as they say, is history. It was convenient for me to go to Ibadan and attend classes every day, commuting between my home and the university.
What can you say about the cost of studying Law; is it cheap or expensive?
When you say education is expensive, then people say try ignorance. It is not expensive at all because the knowledge we gained is immeasurable.
At age 78, what do you do to keep physically fit?
I will be setting up a small Law practice in my house. I have enough infrastructure to achieve that, both in Ibadan and Lagos. I have the privilege of having the necessary infrastructure wherever I choose to set up my practice.
What are your favourite drink and food?
My favourite drink is water; I have never been drinking alcohol. My favourite food, being an Oyo man, Ibadan man, for that matter, and also I used to play football a lot, I am a sports lover, I played for my club in Ibadan, I played for my school and I am also very good at table tennis, so, I like light Amala, to give me very good stamina. Occasionally, because my wife is an Ijesha woman, I eat Iyan (pounded yam). I can tell you I am a good eater.
Do you think there is a connection between your eating and drinking habits and your agility even at age 78?
All l can say with all humility is that my drinking and eating habits and my sporting activities with the grace of God contribute largely to my good health. l adore the Almighty God for these.
As a sportsman and lover of sports, do you follow any of the foreign football clubs, like most people do?
Not at all. When I was in Britain studying banking, I used to go and watch Manchester United live, at that time. When I was in Nigeria before I travelled, the late Dejo Fayemi was my hero.