Prince David Agboola Abegunde: Teacher, administrator and leader

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IT was my old friend and classmate, Olayinka Olarewaju, who sent a text two weeks ago, announcing the passing of Prince David Agboola Abegunde. Olarewaju lives in London and he is guardian to Niyi, Prince Abegunde’s son.

Abegunde was our principal at the Government Secondary School (GSS) Ilorin, between 1972 and 1974. And those were some of the most remarkable years of our lives. GSS Ilorin under Prince Abegunde was certainly one of the best secondary schools in Nigeria at the time and the quality of education was very high.

The 1972 set of students such as Salmonu Olakanye; Segun Ajuwon; Angulu Ismaila; Sulyman Age Kareem; Ibrahim Aremu, all had outstanding WASC results and would all go on to make major contributions to Nigerian and other societies.

The education was total and under Abegunde’s guidance, GSS Ilorin became a leader in sports. Our football team was remarkable and many of the players like Frank Odiachi; Anagor would be part of the famous Kwara Academicals of the 1970s.

The relay team of “Bravo”; “ALL-Afro”; “Rochester” and Auwalu Aliyu (my college brother) was one of the best in Nigeria and they travelled far and near, winning laurels for the school and inspiring the younger generation of students like us, and showing that education was never complete without the element of sports! Abegunde ensured an ambience which allowed the students to flower; and the level of discipline was incredibly high.

We even elected a Students’ Representative Council and living through a period when schools today are not properly equipped, it was remarkable that we have very well equipped science laboratories; crafts workshops where we learnt trades: wood work; metal work; technical drawing and we even had a geography laboratory! As for sports, things could not have been better.

GSS Ilorin as one of the old schools of Northern Nigeria, established in 1912, had facilities for football; track and field; table tennis; lawn tennis; badminton; volleyball; basketball (there was always a team of American missionaries coaching the team); hockey; cricket; squash and fives! The variety was breathtaking and no student passed through without involvement in a variety of games.

I think that Prince D.A. Abegunde’s era was arguably the most successful. He was noticed on the national level because he was made team manager of Nigeria’s team to the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and he returned home wearing the lovely, green Nigerian blazer emblazoned with the Olympics rings on its pocket during the first assembly he attended on arrival.

We all felt very proud of that remarkable man manager and administrator and all felt very sad the day he announced that he was leaving. It was as if a part of our sureties collapsed. Luckily though, he was succeeded by Mr. Oshatoba, an equally remarkable principal, who also died a couple of months ago. Prince Abegunde  became my friend, many years later, when I worked as General Manager of KWTV.

He was humble enough to regularly visit with me in the office and we would re-live those remarkable years that he moulded our lives to become useful citizens of our country. May God rest his soul and give his family (near and extended) the fortitude to bear his passing.

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