Updated: Apr 1, 2021
“It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” -Mae Jemison.
I came into Lagos with two cellophane bags. It was 1979. I had just converted into Christianity, along with two other friends of mine at my village. My family was not in support of my faith conversion, and considering a number of other things, I left the village for Lagos, with these other friends. We slept in Uncle Lati’s shop; he was a tailor. I stayed at Mushin for sometime, from where I moved to Ojo to stay with a pastor, Pastor Akeredolu. I had no education, no experience, and I had to find a means to survive, so I became a bus conductor, in the course of which I learnt how to drive, and I became a professional driver.
The first stable job I had was with Volkswagen Nigeria, where I served as a driver for five years. There, I registered for a continuous education program, which I attended every evening after work. At the end, I got my GCE certificate. I did not make the papers on my first attempt. I failed the first time, then the second time, then the third time, and then the fourth time. I was going to give up and abandon the program, and stick to driving, but I wrote it again, and I had all my papers. My good friend, Jacob Enitinwa, went ahead to buy me the form for 15 Naira, and I passed this time. From Volkswagen, I moved to Lagos State University (LASU), during which period I registered for adult education and pre-degree. There at LASU, I was appointed to drive the vice-chancellor, Folabi Olumide. He became one of my greatest motivators.
The days I didn’t drive Folabi Olumide, I would be assigned to drive other people. So one day, I drove the former National Universities Commission secretary, Peter Okebukola, another inspiration to me. “How are you?” he asked me as I drove. “Fine sir,” I answered. “Don’t you think you are too young to be only a driver?” I was perhaps the youngest driver then at LASU. I laughed and then told him that I didn’t have enough credits to get into school. He asked me to go again for the qualifying exams, and believe I would do better. Folabi Olumide also encouraged me to go on. He told me that he had an F9 in a compulsory course he needed to get into university for surgery, and that Chike Obi also failed at a time!
By the time I got into university, my mates from the pre-degree program were already in their final year. But I was very determined to go on to have my university education. My friend, Sule, from Awori College also went to university, and I knew that if he did, then I could. I did. I finished from Philosophy, got in as a university lecturer, first at LASU, then at University of Lagos, and then, I enrolled for my doctorate. I became the first graduate from my family, the first to have a child who’s a graduate, and the first to have got a PhD too. Folabi Olumide once told me, when I asked him to write me a reference letter, to believe in myself. I think this is very important. Be consistent at making progress, be determined, and work hard at it. When you do this, your limit would be beyond the sky. When I left our village that year in 1979, I had no idea of what I would become, or what I’d return there with. Now I have four children, three of whom are done with the university also. I’ve got a house at the village, and I stay in my own house here in Lagos. At LASU, I’ve got three files- one as a driver, then as a student, and then as a lecturer. Folabi Olumide was the first to have addressed me as “doctor”, and even today, I still feel goose bumps when I am called "Dr Gbadebo."
-Dr Moses Debo Gbadebo 22 January 2018