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At 97, I still drink beer with pain reliever — Shodunke

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Ninety-seven-year-old retired railway worker, Mr Olajide Shodunke, shares the story of his life with TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN

Where and when were you born?

I was born on August 28, 1921 on the Lagos Island.

Tell us more about your family.

My parents were Muslims from Abeokuta, Ogun State. My father was a businessman based in Douala, Cameroon, while my mother was in Lagos. I stayed with my uncle who ensured that my mother and many of us were converted to Christianity. He was a Catholic and since then, I have been a Catholic. I have received many awards from the church for my active participation and stewardship over the years. I want my children to display all the awards in my sitting room so that when I die, people will see and learn that it is good to be faithful in whatever one does. I am someone who strongly believes in living by example to enjoy a good and exemplary followership.

What’s your educational background?

Although I can’t remember all the dates any longer, I know that I started primary education at St. Patrick School and completed it at St. Patrick’s School, Yaba, Lagos, after which I took entrance exam to King’s College.

I passed the exam but I was told that there was no space for me as a day student because they already reached the limit; that I should come in as a boarding student. My parents could not afford the fees for boarding so I moved to St. Gregory College, Obalende, Lagos, between 1939 and 1944.The principal then was Rev. J. T. Morgan. Incidentally, he was also my son’s principal at St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos.

What did you do afterwards?

In our days, we weren’t too ambitious. After completing secondary school, government officials would come to ask us where we would like to work. Jobs were available. When I was asked where I would love to work, I told them I preferred the railway corporation. I resumed into the operations and commercial department of the Nigerian Railway Corporation in 1945 and I was there till my retirement. I retired as the senior station superintendent at the station now known as Iddo Railway Station.

Did you work elsewhere after you retired from the railway corporation?

My wife’s younger brother made jest of me then that I was breastfeeding the children. He was in the judiciary then, so he told me there was an opening and I could come take up a job in the judiciary. From there, I took up a job as a lay magistrate. I was the president of the court; I worked there for 10 years before I finally left there.

When did you marry?

I got married in 1953 while I was at the railway corporation.

How did you meet your wife?

My wife and I were living in the same area then, when I was staying with my uncle. Her family was a friend to my uncle and that was how we started the relationship which later led to marriage. We were married for about 60 years.

Where is your wife now?

My wife is late. She died at 85 about four years ago. I miss her a lot because we spent the best years of our lives together. She was an amazing woman, very supportive and really took care and raised the children especially during their formative years.

How many children did the union produce?

We had seven children but lost one to an accident 20 years ago. The incident shook me because no parent will pray to lose a child at any age.

Where are the remaining children?

To the glory of God, they are all doing well in their various fields. My first son, who is above 60 years, is a professional builder. My second child is an accountant based in Canada. My fourth is an agriculturist and the fifth is a principal in a secondary school. My sixth is a nurse in Britain while my last child is also an accountant in Britain. I can say that the Lord has been faithful to me.

What is the secret of your good health?

I will say it is God; he is the one who has chosen to bless me with long life. What I used to do before was to walk. I did that till last year but nowadays, I have been a bit weaker. However, I eat well and rest well.

What is your favourite food?

I am not so picky about food. I eat anything that is available but I like to drink beer. At 97, I still take my beer. They know me with it and in fact, I take it with pain reliever.

What is your favourite sport?

I used to play lawn tennis as a young man and enjoyed watching it too. But I am too old to do all that again. I don’t even have the strength to walk around like I used to do.

Do you still have any wish at 97?

No, I don’t have any expectation. I am fulfilled. I have seen my children, my grandchildren and great grandchildren. I have seen them achieve so much in life just like I have too. What more? I just pray to stay healthy till death comes.

What is your advice to young ones?

My message is simple and that is what has kept me going all my life – keep the Lord’s commandments faithfully and be selfless. Do what you can to help others in society. Most of our problems are rooted in selfishness. If we can get rid of that, then, we will have a little to battle with.

Do you have any regrets as you are in the twilight of your life?

I have no regrets whatsoever. I thank God for the opportunity He gave me to serve Him and humanity in all capacities.
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