A History Lesson: A Father’s Legacy
This year on Father?s Day , we celebrate the lives of fathers around the world?who not only contributed to their communities?around them, but also?made an impact on?the lives of their children that exceeded material wealth or gain.? They left?legacies that their children continue to build on many years later. We?feature two great men I never had the privilege of spending time with, but whose lives and purposes live with me daily. We?highlight the lives and contributions of my grandfathers, Rev. Samuel Aikore Lawoyin and Justice Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu. ?We interviewed two individuals who knew them intimately well ? my parents, Davidson and Taiwo Lawoyin.
Samuel Aikore Lawoyin?was born in 1899?in Ilora, Oyo State, Nigeria to Baba Akinade and Madam Oketobi Lawoyin. He attended Virginia Union University in the United States in 1947, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. He also?received a Masters degree in Divinity from Oberlin College in 1951. He?was the first African to serve as the?president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, a position which he held for nine years. He was married to Mrs. Florence Lawoyin and had six children.
Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu??was born in 1899 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria to Samuel Alexander and Mary Jibowu. ?Samuel Olumuyiwa was born during a time in Nigeria when the British government had slowly started to take?over the administration of the country. At the age of 18, he was taken to England to study law at??Oxford University on the ship of German traders who traded with his father, who?owned?a Cocoa farm?called Jibowu Estate, now in present day Agege, Lagos. In an era of British colonialism, he served as the Chief Justice of the Western Region, over the Lagos High Courts and the Southern Cameroons, and was the first African to serve on the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In recognition of??his? contributions he was ?knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, the present Queen of England.? He was also honored as an?Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire [OBE]. He was married to Mrs. Celia?Jibowu, (n?e Alakija) (R.I.P) and later Lady Deborah Jibowu, MBE ?(n?e Fasan) who is an educator, renowned?for?being the first Nigerian woman to receive an honors degree in a science course. He had six children.
How would you describe who your father was?
Davidson:?My father was very firm, but was one of the most compassionate and considerate people I have ever known. He did not mince his words; in essence, one would have called him a straight shooter. That was?the core of who he was.
Taiwo:?My father died when I was about six years old,??but I do remember some things about him. He was very religious. Every night the family would gather in his??study where we held?family devotion. He loved playing the piano; he played a lot of hymns and classical music. ?Sometimes he would play the piano and we would sing along. He was also a very neat man?and?wanted his children to be well groomed.
What was life like growing up with him?
Davidson:?He departed for the United States to further his education?shortly after I was born, ?in the mid to late forties. Before he left, ?he was the acting principal of Baptist Boys’ high school in Abeokuta, Nigeria. While in the States, he slowly started to realize that he would be called into the ministry, even though that calling had been on?his life for the longest time. He?returned to Nigeria when I was about five or six years old. Funny enough, because he left when I was a baby, when he returned, I kept on asking my mother when?“that man in our house”?would leave. It took a while for me to gravitate towards him, but he also tried his best to?make?us feel comfortable around?him – he would buy us fresh bread with marmalade, one of my favorites at the time. When I got to know him very well, I got to know a “no-nonsense” father who was also very kind. He would?correct us when we were wrong, but ever so lovingly. Since he had received his Masters of Divinity from?Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, I also knew him to be a reverend gentleman. However, he did not deny me the experiences I needed to go through as a teenager. He allowed me to go to parties, but he always reminded us as children to remember the sons of whom we were and the name we carried.
Taiwo:?Like I said he died when I was young, but life with him as I remember was very relaxing. Every Sunday evening, we had tea together as a family. He loved lemon curd filing in his sandwich and so did I. Afterwards?we would go to the bar beach for our routine walks along the shore and?then go back home. I understand that his mother and older sister used to go for long walks as well?to stay?healthy. One day I got too close to the edge of the water and slipped and fell. My clothes were wet, and I remember that I had to stand in the Humber all the way home so that I wouldn’t??mess up the leather upholstery. I was a bit of a daddy’s girl as well; I was always around my father. When my mother wanted to spank me for something naughty that I had done, I would run to my father’s study. I knew that she would never follow me in there. I remember once when my father and?mother went to a luncheon when?our youngest brother was just a few months old. The nanny disappeared momentarily and so my older brother and I put the baby in the middle of the bed and covered the bed with?tarpaulin. As we jumped, the poor baby bounced up and down. He seemed to enjoy it so we continued having fun. Little did we know that our parents?were back. My father was about to discipline us but when I saw him, I was so happy to see him that I jumped off the bed onto his shoulders and hugged him so tightly. He just could not spank me after that. My mum grabbed her baby right away??and delivered him out of our hands. Needless to say, I think the nanny?was relieved of her job that day. He told us that what we did was wrong, but how were we to know? On Sundays, the barber would come to the house and cut his hair – I mean cut my hair and his. It was when he died that I realized that I could actually grow my hair out.
What do you remember most about your father?
Davidson:?I remember him mostly for his selflessness and his firm belief that his calling into the ministry was resolute. Even though he did not have enough money as a minister – he would give his money away to others in need – he believed that as long as he was doing God’s work, God would take care of his own children as well. I learned the spirit of giving and because of that, his own children never begged for bread. We had people who remembered my father for who he was that we were well taken care of.
Taiwo:?He was a strict but gentle person.
What values did he instill in you as a child and what did he teach you about life?
Davidson:?Apart from giving, the other was always to do the right thing and tell the truth at all times. My father was fearless and a man of integrity. In his days, governors and premiers of the region who came?to seek his advice held him in very high regard. He did not care about the consequences that came with telling the truth at all times. As serious as he was?though, he taught me to have a sense of humor; as firm as he was he believed in laughter. Shortly after he returned from the United States, they offered him a job as the Chairman of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, he respectfully turned it down, stating that it was not his calling. This taught me that one had to have an allegiance to his or her calling.
Taiwo:?He taught us to be impartial. He also taught us to be healthy.?When he was sick, just before he died, he would still climb up and?down the stairs to go into the dinning room to eat. He did not want to be deprived of the?exercise.
What did you enjoy most about your father?
Davidson: Even though he was a reverend gentleman, he allowed me to be myself; he didn’t deny me that privilege?at all. He also didn’t stop me from exploring life and ?learning from my mistakes. Again, I learned selflessness from him. I enjoyed this in the sense that when I understood?what the principle of giving in the Bible concerning doing good and giving meant, I also saw ?the results play out throughout my life. People that I don’t even know have blessed my life.
Taiwo:?My father loved his children and wanted them to be the best that they could be.
What were the things he was passionate about?
Davidson: He was passionate about his relationship with his God and being a good citizen. For fun, he liked to hunt. He would go hunting with all the American missionaries to hunt game and birds, like the guinea fowl.
Taiwo:?He was very passionate about his work, education and of course, playing the?piano. His own father was the first organist of St Paul’s Breadfruit Church in Lagos, ?so perhaps playing the piano runs in the family. I enjoy playing the piano as well.
What is your favorite memory of him?
Davidson:?Well, he was an uncommon man, very uncommon. He respected the rights of others, but he would never compromise his principles. I will say that he was a loving man. From my own perspective, with the way?that he more or less put his foot down and did not allow us as his children to go astray, I look back with fond memories on that,??as it made me who I am today.
Taiwo:?When my older brother started school at St. Saviours in Ikoyi, Lagos, I refused to stay at home. I cried until my father took me to school with him. There was some kind of arrangement that he made with the school and though I spent the day in school, I am not sure if I was in any class. I remember him picking us up, and I would come up?from the sick bay. He always made?sure that I had my Squash and Digestive biscuits for snack time.
What were other people?s perceptions of him?
Davidson: Because he was a principal?and a high school teacher, many of Nigeria’s top dignitaries today passed through him at the time. They saw him as a man who was extremely upright and one who would not compromise. Evidently, when you meet these individuals today, they keep talking about him – the mere mention of the?Lawoyin?name always brings up pleasant memories of him. Given that he was the first African to serve as the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention and the Reverend at Idikan Baptist Church, he was known to work really hard, even though it affected his health. While he stepped down from his role as president after nine years, he left a legacy that is fondly remembered, even today.
Taiwo:?I think people noted that he was a strict and an impartial judge. There was no room for bribery or corruption. The judiciary was to keep its standards in order to protect innocent people. He lived in the colonial era, but was passionate about seeing?Nigeria gain its independence as a country. He was a pace setter and stood out among people.?He was the first African Police Magistrate and the first African Puisine judge. He was also the first Nigerian High Court Judge?as well as?the late Chief Justice of Western Region. He was knighted by the present Queen Elizabeth II, in the 1950?s and “Sir” was prefixed to his name, while??my mum bore the title “Lady”. In recognition of his?service, he was awarded the Most Excellent Order?of the British Empire [OBE]. People also remember him as a gracious host who entertained quite a bit. I remember Sir. James Robertson, the Sapass family [Sir. James & Mr. Sapass of the Sapass buses were his friends], and other colonial presence in the house quite often and I would naturally mingle with them.
How does the legacy of your father?s life impact you today, several years later?
Davidson:?Because he was so respected by everyone who?came across his path and left a legacy of goodwill, when people hear of the Lawoyin name, those who were familiar with or acquainted with my father bend over backwards to do me and my children well. His name lives on.
Taiwo:?I strive for excellence and to be the best person that I can be. This has been a large?part of my core.
Is there anything you wish you had asked your parents but never did?
Davidson:?I don’t think so.?He was always open and accessible. There were things he kept to himself in order to protect us; it would be fun to get some of that information out of him now that I am older.
Image: Courtesy Davidson & Taiwo Lawoyin
Olusheyi Lawoyin is the Founder & Creative Director of The Voix. She can be reached at?Olusheyi@thevoix.com.