Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has again noted the important role teachers play in the life of students, communities and nations while narrating how he drew significant inspiration from those who taught him right from elementary classes and up to the university where he too eventually decided to teach.
Prof. Osinbajo spoke on Friday evening at the 2022 Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year Award ceremony in Lagos.
According to the Vice President, “The teacher must be appreciated. Everyone needs affirmation and encouragement. It can only lead to greater attainments; which is why the Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year Award is an incredible boost for teachers and the teaching profession.”
Appreciating the efforts of the organisers of the awards – Nigerian Breweries Limited – the VP noted that they “ought to be commended for the thoughtful and impactful annual awards and saying so well what we all ought to be saying to our teachers every day; thank you, thank you, and thank you.”
The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the various categories of awards to winners, including the 2022 Teacher of the Year, which went to Alaku Ayiwulu, from the Federal Government College, Jos.
The Vice President was also honoured by the organisers with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding impact on many lives and his life of service as a teacher of over four decades.
Elder Felix Ohiwerei, former Managing Director and CEO of Nigerian Breweries was also honoured at the event. In fact, it is in his name that the Nigerian Breweries- Felix Ohiwerei Trust Fund that organises the Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year, was named.
The award was presented to him by the Vice President. Ohiwerei is known to have contributed immensely to the progress and success of the company.
Referencing the 2020 winner of the Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year Award, Ms Bunmi Awani, whom he had received last year at the Presidential Villa, the VP noted that a teacher’s dedication and commitment to service can inspire hope and confidence in their students and take the profession to greater heights.
His words: “A few days ago, I sent an inquiry to her about how the award had impacted her life and career, and she said that it has provided her with more resources to impact more lives and that she could now teach more students for free.”
Quoting Ms Awani’s words, the VP said, “I don’t experience the financial stress anymore because being the Maltina-Teacher-of-the-Year has opened up a larger platform for me; so people and organizations are now supporting my efforts in educating the rural community.”
Prof. Osinbajo further noted that Ms. Awani said the children in the classroom now want to teach after seeing the recognition she got from being the teacher of the year, adding that they find value in her being recognised as the Teacher of Year.
“This is what giving an award to a deserving teacher can do for the teacher, for their students, their communities and their nations,” the VP stated.
Speaking about the achievements of his former students, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “as you must have noticed, I speak with much pride about my former students. The successes of our students are such an immense source of pride and satisfaction, the type of reward money cannot buy.”
Referring to his personal experiences from primary school to the university, the VP said, “a word from a teacher to a student can make such a difference in the life of that student. People often say with a great deal of sarcasm that a teacher’s reward is in heaven.
“The saying is meant to suggest that teaching is not financially lucrative. That’s true. But the saying misses an important point about most committed teachers; for such teachers their greatest joy and satisfaction comes from seeing their pupils and students do well and become successes in life.”
The Vice President in his speech as Special Guest of Honour at the event narrated how the words of encouragement from his class teacher in Primary School, Mrs. Oyegun; Secondary School English teacher, Mrs Bola Elushade affected him and brought confidence. He recalled how the encounter with a Lecturer in the University, Dr. Akin Oyebode, “influenced my choice of the legal profession.”
His words: “My class teacher in primary school Mrs. Oyegun, would on rainy days when we couldn’t go out for break organise debates. She would give us a topic and divide the class into two; for and against the topic. One day after one of the debates she said to the class “I think Oluyemi (my full name Oluyemi is what I was called then) is a very good debater.”
“From then on I took an interest in debating. I went on to represent my secondary school for years in debates. And it certainly influenced my choice of the legal profession.
“When I got into secondary Form 1 (JSS1 now), our English class teacher, Mrs Bola Elushade, of blessed memory, had in our English class asked us to write an essay about our first day in school.
“Days later she announced the name of Dapo Alli as having written the best and the neatest essay and she said the essay would be posted up on the class notice board. I wasn’t really paying attention as she spoke. Then she said but there was one other essay, the handwriting wasn’t good, but it was very imaginative. When she read it out, my classmates clapped and Mrs Elushade decided that my essay would also be put on the notice board alongside the best essay. Since then, overnight, I became much more confident in my academic skills.
“From then on I knew I had to not only impress my teacher but not let myself down.
“Fast forward to University, I was in my final year at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, when a certain lecturer walked into our classroom, to take a class in Jurisprudence. It was Dr. Akin Oyebode, who studied both at Harvard in the US and Kiev in Russia.
“He had only a bunch of keys in his hands, no notes, and he spoke with such eloquence and authority for one hour on the Sociological School of Jurisprudence without notes. That was the evening that I decided that whatever else I would do as a lawyer, I would certainly teach law and that I also would master the material that I taught so well as not to need notes to teach.
“I went on to join the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos in 1981 and I did exactly that.”
It would be recalled that in October 2021, several of Prof. Osinbajo’s law students, many of whom are today distinguished scholars and legal practitioners surprised him with a short video production where they spoke glowingly of him to mark his 40th year as a teacher. Also, many of his former students joined a virtual event to celebrate the Vice President, who started teaching in 1981 at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
During different periods spanning the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, Prof. Osinbajo was a lecturer and then Senior Lecturer of Law at UNILAG, Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Public Law at the University. The VP also taught Law at Lagos State University.
Some of the students mentioned by the Vice President in his speech included legal luminaries such as Hon. Justice John Inyang Okoro, Justice of the Supreme Court; many judges, including former Chief Judge of Sokoto State, Aisha Sanni Dahiru; Senior Advocates of Nigeria, including the first Nigerian to become a Law Professor, a Queens Counsel and Senior Advocate of Nigeria at the same time, Prof. Fidelis Oditah.
Also among the names were several politicians and royalty, including the former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, a former Governor of the then Western State, General David Jemibewon Rtd, as well as the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.
Among the many professors and SANs the VP singled out for mention are Dorothy Udeme Ufot, SAN and Prof. Yemi Bamgbose, SAN (now deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Ibadan.).