‘During My Youthful Days, There Was No Government At All’
Living up to 100 years on earth is an extraordinary thing, especially in a country like Nigeria where life expectancy is put at 53. Mr. Ramon Agbogunleri is one of the lucky few who have attained and even surpassed 100. At 140, he is the oldest person in the whole of Idimu, Lagos and it won’t be out of place to say he is one of the oldest people in Nigeria. Yet, he still moves around, sweeps his room and bathes himself. His memories are already getting as cloudy as his eyes but he still has a very sound mind. Agbogunleri’s view on education and other burning issues of life are very sharp, though he never went to school.
PERHAPS he would have remained inconspicuous but for the recent tanker explosion which razed 70 houses and 40 shops at Idimu in Alimosho Local Council of Lagos which brought him to limelight. Agbogunleri is one of the survivors of the explosion, although he suffered a bone fracture on his right leg. He is currently on bed rest but still has energy to move around.
At age 140, Agbogunleri still sweeps his room and bathes himself; his second wife, who is also over 70, confirmed this. Aside from that, Agbogunleri has survived many wars; has seen many governments but fortune has not really smiled on him.
Speaking from his bed in Yoruba language, he said: “During my youthful days, there was no government at all. We only had kings and leaders of communities. We just lived normal lives. It was very much later that government came into place. I remember voting for Adebisi and Awolowo during their time.”
For the oldest man in the whole of Idimu, growing up was fantastic because he grew up making money from farming. He remembered with nostalgia how he and some of his friends, who are of blessed memories, cultivated land and sold their products to make a living. “We would go to farm, cultivate the land, eat and play on the farm. We were not bothered about anything and we lived our lives the way it came. Life was rather simple then,” he enthused.
When asked if he could still remember any of his childhood friends, he mentioned Liasu Apena, Salami, Dauda and others. “They all died long ago and I was the first to build a house. In the whole of Idimu, only grandchildren are remaining. The king of Idimu is a grandchild. I know their grandfather. Aluko is the name of their grandfather.”
Mrs. Agboguleri also attested to the fact that her husband is the oldest in the whole of Idimu. She said: “He witnessed the marriage of my grandmother. Agbogunleri Ramon knew when my grandmother got married.”
Did he go to school? He said: “I did not go to school and all my father introduced me to was farming. Nothing more. Our fathers did not believe in education but farming. My father used to say sending me to school would make me wise and I would come back to sell his property. This was the belief of many of the fathers who lived then.”
Regretting being an illiterate, he said anyone who fails to go to school is a ‘goat’. “Illiteracy is not just a disease but also an obstacle to success and greatness. I regret not going to school because that was what sent me packing from working at the old Lagos Airport. They did tell us then, that a time would come when we would not be able to buy education with our money. Then it looked like a lie, but it is a reality today. I advise Nigerian youths to go school so that they can achieve their purpose in life.”
Apparently, Agbogunleri’s account revealed that he had worked briefly at the Lagos Airport. With a smile on his face, he went down memory lane, recalling how a particular white man chastised him on his educational deficiency. “The white man said, ‘you don’t know anything, that is the way out!’
As a commercial farmer some decades ago, Agbogunleri managed to build two houses, which now serve as his only source of livelihood. Despite the fact that he didn’t go to school, he managed to build houses: one for his family and the other for rent.
He was conscious of the fact that there was no gratuity for farmers, hence, he provided for his future. He built houses for his immediate needs and for the future. He built a 10-room ‘face-me-I-face-you apartment for rent and another for his family with some shops in the front of the house. “I managed to build these houses from the proceeds of farm products that I sold. I sold tomatoes, cocoa, palm kernel and other cash crops. I was one of those who first paved way in the wilderness for this Idimu- Egbeda Road to be constructed and there was no government then.”
On the secret of his longevity, Agbogunleri, the Sarumi of Idimu replied: “Aside the grace of God for my longevity, I also eat well. If you eat rubbish, you will die young. If you do well, you will live long. I eat well and do good unto others. Other than that, I have no other reasons.”
Apparently Agogunleri lived a quiet life all his years, as his philosophy of life sounded so simple. He believes life is what we make it. What we see at the moment is as a result of what we have done in the past. If you have a father, take good care of him. Any child that fails to take care of his parents will fail and cannot live long.
“I raised the Oba of Itele, Afuye Arowolo; Oba of Isheri, Wahabi and many others. I know their fathers but some of them are those that take care of me now,” he said.
Having seen his great grandchildren and raised many non- biological children, what would he pray for if he was to meet his Creator? The centenarian replied: “I would ask him to give me a chance to improve on my weaknesses and enable me the access to heaven.”
Considering how his voice went weak and strong at intervals, the reporter decided to end the conversation but Agbogunleri refused, saying he needs government to help him build his houses that were gutted
“I built the house with tomato, cocoa and palm trees money. Part of those who are supposed to pay me house rent will no longer pay because of the inferno and that is what my livelihood stands on. Who will feed me? Government should help me build my house and give me money to eat till I die. I did not owe government any tax, I pay my tenement rate and I pay my NEPA bills regularly.”
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