I shall pass this world but once
Any good thing therefore that I can do,
or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature,
let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it ,
for I shall not pass this way again
Stephen Grellet (1773-1855)
PHOTOS BY TAIWO ABIODUN
This story was first published in taiwoabiodun.blogspot.com some years ago with the title ” Tai Solarin the great”. It is now republished in memory of the late Tai Solarin
Corin during the interview
Mayflower school without Tai Solarin
Since the death of the late activist Dr. Tai Solarin,in 1994, his family especially his wife, Sheila and daughter , Corin , the two of a kind have been keeping the legacy of the school while Sheila has not stop condemning the social ills in the society. Taiwo Abiodun was at the family house in Ikenne during the week.
……. Babangida caused more damage to Tai’s health
She is a striking resemblance of her mother , not only in beauty or humility but also in her activities. Blunt, straight forward , no official place for an interview , She has no time table or appointment to be booked before any interview. She was busy attending to students and at the same time answering all questions without taking offence. Radicalism, hard work and courage flow in her veins like her father too. Call it like father like mother , this, she did not deny .
For Corin, the first child of the late activist, serving humanity is her concern. No wonder she left the luxury and where everything is affordable in the United States for a rural place, Ikenne but not choice places like the Victoria Island in Lagos or Abuja. ‘’I want to serve humanity , I want to see these children grow and we are doing it .I want to make sure this school is fully privatised before the demise of my mother and that is what can make her happy in her life time,’’ Corin told this reporter as she answered questions fired at him by this reporter .
. Today, she runs the Mayflower private school and said she wants the school to be fully privatized ‘’We have so far hired good and experienced teachers. We have SS1, SS2, and we are looking forward to SS3, it is a slow process because it has deteriorated over a decade. It is doable and we shall continue to do our best.’’
She described the public school as non performing ‘’ public schools are starved of funds , they are having problems of funding of a lot of infrastructures .When a school is privately and properly managed there is money for laboratory equipment, computers .The infrastructure repairs that is needed, having qualified staff , that is the main difference, the money is deployed to the right place’’,
She however said that the number of the students is now up to1800 in the hostel and the standard has also gone up as they are hoping to have SS3 class come September.
Corin said she came back to Nigeria few years ago to contribute her own quota to the development of the country and said it is not difficult to stay in Nigeria having left a very comfortable place for Ikenne, she said ‘’ it is not difficult for me, I am very much at home and I enjoy it. .The only area I found frustrating is that the school has not been fully privatized , which is our mother’s wish. As soon as it is completely privatized she will be very happy and I will be elated for her. I wanted it to be privatized during her life time., she is so much looking forward to seeing it.’’
On her father’s friends, the woman said most of them had died , and said she used to visit some of his father’s freedom fighters, like Prof Wole Soyinka, and added that ‘’ you know very well that mama is 87years old. Papa senior mama. So many of Daddy’s friends are late.I have in mind to go and see Professor Wole Soyinka, he has just celebrate his birthday, he’s much younger than Mama.Professor Babs Fafunwa is late , he just passed away recently , I visited his widow .Many of Papa’s contemporary are gone .’’
What of the activists , are they still playing their roles? She responded that they are there , ‘’ many of the journalists are working and many of the activists are on the net
But why is she vocal than her younger brother , Tunde? Corin replied ‘’we are two individuals and you know we women we talk a lot. We are giving the talking so that it’s the best for nation .
The woman who herself talks tough like her father said activism runs in her blood like her late father claims there is a degree of activism in her wanting to do the right thing for Nigeria and Nigerians , the activism runs in me as it does to other members of the family, she said.
At the family house , the bungalow which has changed as two sculptors are placed at the gate on two pillars which Corin said its from her own making as a lover of sculptors
She spoke about the grave of Tai Solarin of which she said will soon be turned into a meditation garden , as she insists that his late father was not materialistic and hated wasting money’’ From what I was told before Papa before he passed on was that there should be no head stone, no covering the grave, so I would like it to see it to be as a meditation garden where one could go and see and close to the grave. I don’t want to disrespect his wishes .He doesn’t want a mausoleum , he doesn’t want a big structure .Its[grave] there , its available for everyone to see.I will like it to be people friendly where people can sit and meditate.
Corin who was once an agnostic unlike her parents who are unrepentant atheist said marriage changed her belief ‘’.Papa , I think he called himself an atheist and Mama is definitely an atheist .I want to say that I am an agnostic but I married somebody who was a Catholic faith. I converted and raised my children in Catholic faith , took them to Catholic school and church and I am still or called a relapsed Catholic’’
Asked why she cannot change Mama’s position about religion , the slender woman looked at this reporter with a cheeky smile and with a voice raised , said ‘’No, because when it is time to go to heaven , mama is assured .Mama has her own way of doing things and I have nothing but infinite respect for her.I would hardly tell her my own way is right and her own way is wrong.Mama’s stand on religion is that Nigerians spend too much time going to church while the pastors took their vulnerability and …………………………,
The Solarins are still concerned about most of the publish works of their father of which they can no longer lay their hands on, she pleaded’’I am appealing to Nigerians who have any of his books or articles to help us , bring to us, I will photocopy, scan it for further reprint for Nigerians and for his library. I promise I will return them in good condition.For Mother With Love , his Biography, we have it on the internet on amazon.com which is a big US book seller.
The family will find it difficult to forgive the military especially , General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida for the long detention and suffering the late Solarin was subjected to in his life time.When asked how she felt remembering all these, she shuddered , blinked for some minutes and with cracked voice that betrayed emotion and said’’He was tortured and lost about 50 pounds in weight, when he came out [from detention]. His wrist watch fell off from his wrist.He lost many of his things.He suffered many unbelievable torture.He was in a room where they[detainees] could not sleep lying down.There was no enough room for those people in jail where one would sleep and the other would sit up.
”And inspite all that they did not break his spirit, he continued to say what he wanted to say, continued to live the way he wanted to live.They made a dent in his physical health but mentally they did nothing to break him’’
Would she like to come through Tai Solarin again if there is reincarnation ?’’Yes, ’’she replied ‘’Of course , I wouldn’t change my father for anybody in the world’’.
‘ I am not happy with Nigerian workers’ condition’
Madam Sheila did not only lament on her husband the late Tai Solarin but also missed her pet, Rosa , a dog she kept for many years that died sometimes ago .Taiwo Abiodun was with the old woman in Ikenne
At the entrance of the bungalow are two sculptors , one erected by the right and the other on the left are the busts of the late Dr.Tai Solarin and his wife Sheila, in her eye glasses. The house that is adorned with beautiful flowers and flower pots. The building now has an iron gate painted black unlike before when there was no gate Some birds were perched on the trees were singing and others flying from one tree to the other as monkeys too were not left out hopping from one trees to another some others too were playing around the vicinity.
Sitting on her wooden chair, with her reading glasses and her hearing aid glued to her ear, Mama Sheila was busy reading some papers printed from the internet. The only company she has now in the house are parrots unlike before when her dog, Rosa would sit by her side. Decorated on the walls are painted artworks of hers and her late husband on the wall. The living room is jam packed with books and she has a big table where she keeps her computer. Madam Sheila now walks round the house without the aid of walking stick but cannot go far again no thanks to old age, at 87.
Despite her old age she still has good retentive memory and knows everybody that comes her way and she still teaches few students at home. However, when asked how she still manage to do all these in spite her age, she explained that she exercises her body always .’’ I have retentive memory because I don’t stay idle, I use my head. If you keep on using your head as you use your body then you will be okay .I still walk round the garden in the morning . I try to do things and keep my head, if you just sit down and do nothing you will rot’’
Reminded about her late husband and her dog She kept quiet for sometime and adjusted her body then said: ‘’You know I lost my big dog , Rosa sometime ago, it died due to old age, and it was about 13 or 14years of age. It could no longer see or hear again ,when it died it was my son that buried it. I am now old and tired of keeping dogs but now I have parrots now that keep my company, but this one does not talk for it is still small, it was Corin that brought it.The one outside the house talks’’ as she said this she took her mug and sipped her tea.
On her husband ,Tai , she is still sad that what her husband fought for are still not achieved.
Asked whether she will go to Lagos to attend the annual Tai Solarin lecture , but she said emphatically’ NO’.’’I am not going ,I don’t have the strength. You know I am getting old and the roads are bad , there is insecurity in the nation, people are hungry , no food for the poor, The education is poorly funded. I am not happy, and these are the things Tai fought for…’’as she said this , she put down her hands with all her energy’’
She spoke about the Boko Haram , and said sending soldiers to the place is not the solution , ‘’ Do they have education? Are they employed ? the government should look beyond deploying soldiers to Maiduguri’’.
Not satisfied with the welfare condition of Nigerian workers , she lamented that the state governments should be able to pay .’’don’t you know how much the House of Representatives .Deputy speaker, the speaker and other politicians are earning ?The government has promised let them fulfil their promises, she said.
Mama said , the government should not toy with the mission schools as they are planning to , ‘’ I don’t think his[Tai] good idea is taken to, you know he [Tai Solarin] said government should not run the schools, they took over the school in 1976 and now are coming back .Two years ago when we took over the junior school we rejuvenate the school but now the government want the school back, but I don’t think its going to happen. In fact some of the missionary schools are kicking about it now and may end up in court.’’.