PROFESSOR (CHIEF) HON. NATHANIEL DUROJAYE (N.D) OYERINDE (OBE): THE FIRST NIGERIAN PROFESSOR
The life and times of our beloved who was the first Ògbómòsó man to be well educated and rose to become the first professor in Nigeria, perhaps also among the earliest educationalists in Black Africa to have a Ph.D. and become a professor.
Chief Nathaniel David Oyerinde came from a strong Christian family and inherited an enduring tenacity in the Christian faith. Born around 1875, he belonged to the second generation of Christian converts in Ogbomoso.
He died in 1977 at the age of 102. He belonged to the tiny group of Nigerians educated in the USA early this century. He had a distinguished public career and was respected by his contemporaries and even the British officials. He contributed immensely to Nigeria’s development through his membership to the Nigerian Legislative Council from 1935 to 1944, of the former Western House of Chiefs from 1944 to 1950 and of various Government boards and committees until 1957.
He was publicity-shy but believed in action. He concentrated his activities in Ogbomoso, his hometown where he lived and died. Samuel Ladoke Akintola (SLA) and Nathaniel David Oyerinde had a lot in common asides the fact that they were both from Ogbomoso.
Both of them were also progressive members of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, they went ahead to serve the convention in different capacities. Professor Nathaniel David Oyerinde’s extraordinary career as a politician and academician of note was between 1931 and 1966, the year Samuel Ladoke Akintola (SLA) was killed.
Nathaniel Durojaye Oyerinde hailed from Ile-Igbagbo in Isale Afon, the root of Christianity in Ògbómòsó which produced early educationists. The family house became the forerunners of who is who in pursuit of western education.
Master Nathaniel Durojaye Oyerinde was born into the family of Pa. David Aworinde in October 1897. His Father, Pa. David Aworinde and Madam Adeyemi Aworinde were one of the earliest trained pastors by the Baptist missionary to Nigeria, Thomas Bowen in 1855.
Reverend Charles Edwin Smith was of great influence on the Young Master Durojaye Aworinde, he received his early education directly under him. While attending Baptist Day School, Osupa, Ogbomoso, it was clear that a promising future awaits him.
Reverend Charles Edwin Smith recommended him for training as a teacher at Iwo Baptist College in 1898. He was the first student to be enrolled in the college. By 1900, Young Oyerinde was back at the Baptist Training School, Ogbomoso, teaching in the elementary session.
By December 1902, Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde had begun to think of further education in America. It was said that he was influenced by one Miss Moloto Osodi in Ogbomoso that year seeking for a teaching appointment in the school. However, he understood very well that he could not expect any sponsor for his education abroad unless he worked hard for it.
He wrote Reverend Smith requesting that he save £15 out of his annual salary of £18 in the bank to enable him to study abroad after saving enough. Reverend Smith was impressed, so he recommended the young Oyerinde to the Foreign Mission Board of the Baptist Mission in Richmond, Virginia. In the letter, he mentioned that Oyerinde should be encouraged since he hoped to return to teach in the Baptist Training school in Ogbomoso.
N. D. Oyerinde left Nigeria for further studies in the United States of America in 1906, on the same boat with the Reverend C. E. Smith who was returning home on health grounds preparatory to his retirement in 1909. On arrival in the United States, Oyerinde was admitted to the Wayland Academy, a preparatory secondary school attached to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.
After three years, he gained admission into the university and obtained the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1914. It is worth mentioning that while in the United States, Oyerinde demonstrated his love for liberal rather than religious education. This informed his decision to take a Bachelor of Arts degree before “he took the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1915 and spent the next academic year widening and deepening his education in both the liberal arts and social sciences by reading Greek, Mathematics, and Economics at the University of Chicago.”
He finally returned to Nigeria in 1916 after successfully completing his education in the United States. From available records, it can be deduced that on a comparative level, Professor N.D Oyerinde remains one of the earliest Nigerians to be so educated even on the Continent of Africa.
HIS RETURN TO NIGERIA
On his return to Nigeria, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde realised that he had no choice but to accept and function within the system in which he had found himself. He described his experience at the Virginia Union University, as Booker T. Washington once said of Hampton Institute, that he found the opportunities to learn thrift, and push, and that he was surrounded by an atmosphere of business, Christian influences, and the spirit of self-help.
With a solid academic background, and an experience of the United States environment and educational system, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde was well equipped to put his newly acquired ideas and experience into practice in Nigeria. It is necessary to recall at this point that the British educational policy in Nigeria was not dynamic because aside from other inherent shortcomings there were no guidelines on the curriculum to be followed.
Hence, the Baptist Mission, whose sphere of influence was Ogbomoso, continued to emphasize what seemed to it the best option for the Nigerian people in educational matters. With his newly acquired ideas and experience in the United States, it is natural to expect that Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde’s activities in the educational development of Nigeria in general and Ogbomoso, in particular, were a reaction to the educational policies of the Baptist Mission and that of the British Colonial Government.
It is against this background that Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde’s contributions to the educational development in colonial southern Nigeria in general and his quest for the introduction of the American educational model, in particular, will be discussed. To a very great extent, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde’s ideas of education were encouraged and adapted from the ideas of Booker T. Washington. Based on this, he chastised the Baptist Mission’s educational enterprise because they did not recognise education as a tool of “social regeneration”.
While he was the Headmaster of Baptist Academy in Ogbomoso, he tried to introduce some of his ideas in the curriculum and administration of the school. “He strongly believed that the minimum success he achieved in creating awareness about the wider world in his pupils beyond the narrow goals set by the Baptist Mission was the immediate reason for the merger that produced the Baptist College and Theological Seminary.”
As an academic person, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde did not hide his dislike for ministry (church) work, hence he taught only English and Mathematics throughout his career as a teacher. His refusal to be ordained as a pastor of the Baptist Mission “robbed him of a higher post than that of a teacher till he left the Baptist College in 1935.” This should not be taken to mean that Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde was not a religious man. It can be argued that his refusal to be ordained as a pastor of the Baptist Mission was a direct and an open protest against the policies of the Baptist Mission in Nigeria at that time.
THE OGBOMOSO PROGRESSIVE UNION (OPU)
To achieve some of his goals, together with some elites in his Ogbomoso society they formed the Ogbomoso Progressive Union (OPU) in 1933 with the aim of fostering rapid socio-economic and political development of the town. Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde was its first president. The newly formed OPU comprised both militant, moderate, and conservative associations and individuals. However, the Ogbomoso Progressive Union provided Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde with the pedestal from which he launched his educational ideas.
In 1934, shortly after the birth of the OPU, some members of the associations presented a proposal for the establishment of a grammar school in Ogbomoso. This idea was however modified to that of a comprehensive school named Ogbomoso People’s Institute, (O.P.I.). It is important to note that the name, operational, and instructional model of the Ogbomosho People’s Institute was patterned after the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes founded by Booker T. Washington in the United States of America.
The newly established Ogbomoso People’s Institute was essentially an institution where Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde tried as much as he could to fully implement his educational thoughts, which he acquired in the United States during his studies in that country.
With the moral, financial and manual assistance of his fellow Ogbomoso kinsmen, a building was erected for the Ogbomosho People’s Institute between 1934 and 1938. Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde also received the encouragement and assistance of Eyo Ita, who was a colleague at the Baptist College in 1929 and had returned to Ogbomoso in 1934 after his education in the United States of America.
Both men had similar views and shared aspirations about the system and content of the type of education, the Nigerian child should receive. Without mincing words, both men had inherent belief in the operations of the American system and curriculum of education in Nigeria.
OGBOMOSO PEOPLE’S INSTITUTE
In October 1938, the Ogbomoso People’s Institute was formally opened with Professor Eyo Ita as its first Principal. Ladipo Babatunde, an ex-student of Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde at the Baptist College, was the headmaster of the primary section, while Oyerinde served as the school manager and proprietor. Subjects taught in the school included Carpentry and Woodwork, Weaving, Smithing, Agriculture, and Literary subjects.
A major problem that the Ogbomoso People’s Institute had to contend with was that of qualified personnel. The school was never lucky to have qualified and specialist teachers to teach vocational and industrial subjects. The reason for this is not far-fetched. First, salaries paid to clerks were higher than those paid to technicians and artisans.
As such, the zeal to acquire vocational and industrial education at higher schools of learning by Nigerians was disappointingly low. Again, only the Hope Waddel Institute in Calabar was a standard school where industrial and technical education could be acquired by the few interested Nigerians, thus, there was a dearth in the supply of this category of teachers.
Furthermore, the official policy of the colonial British Administration did not encourage the acquisition of vocational and industrial education because it catered for its need for such personnel “through the workshops of the Nigeria Railways, Public Works Department, Marines, Surveys, Posts and Telegraphs.” What is more, the establishment of the Yaba Higher College in 1934 did not improve the situation as intakes for technical education and engineering were continuously tailored to meet government needs.
Indeed, “before 1940, only about 300 Nigerians had had an opportunity to receive formal instruction and training for technical occupations.” In light of the above problem of recruiting qualified and adequate personnel for the school, the authorities of the Ogbomoso People’s Institute had no choice but to embark on a training scheme for the production of its own crafts teachers.
Thus in 1944, the school could only “send a teacher to Maiduguri and Jos (in Northern Nigeria) to learn leather works including shoemaking”. It is important to mention that the course was undertaken not in a formal school of learning but with established local craftsmen. Again, the sole beneficiary of the course was sponsored with funds provided by the Ogbomoso community resident in Jos.
Another major problem that the Ogbomoso People’s Institute had to contend with was that of inadequate finance. Since it was a community project, the Ogbomosho People’s Institute from inception relied on community funds for survival. The continuous flow of funds depended on the willingness to give and the unanimous support of all sections of the town.
However, it was only the Baptist section that was forthcoming on a continuous basis in its financial obligation towards the upkeep of the school. The Church Missionary Society, other Christian missions, and the colonial administration were lukewarm towards the provision of finance for the school to be placed on a sound and proper footing.
The Muslim population were engrossed with contributions towards the construction of a central mosque in Ogbomoso; consequently, the financial upkeep of the school was not a priority to them. Therefore, distressing and discouraging was the financial situation of the Ogbomosho People’s Institute that Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde wrote in August 1940, “in my deep consideration, Ogbomoso is not prepared for such big work.”
As a result, a move was made to close down the school. This, however, could be said to be the beginning of the end for the Ogbomoso People’s Institute as classes were drastically reduced. Furthermore, the departure of Professor Eyo Ita to Calabar in 1940 to assume full control of the West African People’s Institute led to the closing down of the secondary section of the Ogbomoso People’s Institute in 1942.
Eyo Ita’s relocation to Calabar was facilitated by the fact that the colonial administration had refused to approve the Ogbomosho People’s Institute as long as Professor Eyo Ita remained its principal and also that of the West African People’s Institute.
In 1943, a year after Professor Eyo Ita’s exit, the Department of Education approved the Ogbomoso People’s Institute for the issue of the First School Leaving Certificate and in the next year, a grant of £100 from the funds of the Ogbomoso Native Authority was given to it. It will not be wrong to argue at this point that the approval of the Ogbomoso People’s Institute as a First School Leaving Certificate awarding institution was a tacit approval by the colonial British Administration of the American system of education in Nigeria.
When Professor N.D Oyerinde was being congratulated for the award of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) at a meeting of the Native Authority Councillors from Ibadan Northern District on 9 July 1947, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde emphasised that he wished his school, the People’s Institute, had been helped instead of the honour done him.
In accordance with the desires of the local populace, the tacit rejection of Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde’s school by the Ogbomoso people showed their preference for a school, which was completely devoted to literary education. However, in 1943, a woman instructor was employed to teach weaving in the school, and, by 1945, the demand for a secondary grammar school was at its peak again in Ogbomoso.
Furthermore, by 1952 with the help of Samuel Ladoke Akintola was the last premier of the western region, 13th Aare-Ona Kakanfo and proud son of the soil, the new Ogbomoso High School was inaugurated and housed within the buildings of the Ogbomoso People’s Institute which was finally phased out in 1954. Thus, the attempt to transfer the Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes’ ideas and models to Nigeria by Prof N. D. Oyerinde suffered a major setback.
With Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde’s Ordeal with Ogbomoso People’s Institute, we can describe him as a man with lofty ideas who lived before his time. As an illustrious son of Nigeria, his contribution to the growth and development of education in colonial southern Nigeria is second to none.
CAREER AND POLITICS
On his arrival home, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde taught at Baptist Academy, Ogbomoso from late 1916 to 1921 and at Baptist College and Seminary, Ogbomoso 1922 to 1935. On his other multi-facets and multifarious assignments, he remains a colossus of his era. He was Recording Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention in 1923 and 1924 and was the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention between 1926 and 1937.
Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde was nominated to be a member of the legislative council of Nigeria, Lagos, representing Oyo province from 1935 till 1944. As president of Ogbomoso Progressive Union (OPU), he was made a full-time council member of the Ògbómòsó District council in 1935.
It was not a surprise that Late Oba Alabi Afolabi Oyewumi Ajagungbade II father of Late Oba Dr. Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III appointed the most educated citizen of Ògbómòsó at that time as Otun Baale in 1936 and as Otun Baale no aspersion could be raised as he was a high chief.
As a patriotic citizen fighting for the advancement and progress of his fatherland, Professor Oyerinde was solidly the brain behind the establishment of earlier Ogbomoso continuation classes and the People’s Institute founded in 1938 for which he invited his young friend, Professor Eyo Ita as the headmaster of the Institute.
PROFESSOR N.D OYERINDE, INDISPUTABLY THE FIRST NIGERIAN PROFESSOR
Edward Wilmot Blyden was born in 1832 to Igbo parents who were enslaved and sold to the new world. His place of birth, St. Thomas [now US Virgin Islands] did not stop him from holding on to his African roots. He relocated to Liberia, lived in Nigeria as one of the founders of Archbishop Vining Church, Ikeja and died in Sierra Leone on December 12, 1912.
Blyden was a professor of Greek and Latin at Liberia College. He also rose to the position of President of the college between 1880 and 1884. It is safe to regard him as the first recorded Igbo professor as there was no country called Nigeria until 1914.
From 1901 to 1906, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde was a teacher at The Baptist Day School, Ogbomoso, and The Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary [NBTS], Ogbomosho. He later left for the United States Of America to study.
He was at Wayland Academy and Virginia Union University, Richmond Virginia, and obtained B.A. Degree in Mathematics and classics in 1914 and B.D. Degree in 1915.
For his postgraduate study, he was at the University of Chicago, Illinois, majoring in Hebrew before returning to Nigeria in 1916. From available records, it can be deduced that on a comparative level, Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde remains one of the earliest Nigerians to be so educated even on the Continent of Africa.
The NBTS, Ogbomosho was established in 1898 and by 1948 was affiliated with the Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville in the United States. There is no disputing the fact that by 1950, NBTS had turned out its first set of graduates. Historically that should be the first Nigerian institution to award degrees. Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde earned his professorship there. Ibadan began as University College in 1948, something like a campus of London University. It only became autonomous in 1962.
In other words, when Professors Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, Emeka Anyaoku, Bola Ige, Chris Okigbo, Gamaliel Onosode, Emma Ifeajuna, and Grace Alele-Williams studied there, they were under Principals, beginning from Kenneth Mellanby in 1947, not Vice Chancellors. The first Vice-Chancellor, Keneth Onwuka Dike, came in 1963.
IMPACTS AND LEGACY
Professor Nathaniel Durojaye (N.D) Oyerinde was among the founders of Ogbomoso Grammar School and Ogbomoso Girls High School. For many years he was the chairman Board of Governors for Ogbomoso Grammar School, similarly, he was the founder and First President of Ogbomoso Progressive Union (OPU) in 1912.
He was conferred with OBE on Queen Elizabeth II birthday honour in 1947. Similarly, he was made a member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR) by the Head of State of Nigeria and in 1950 he was appointed a justice of the Peace (JP). Equally, for many years, he was Chairman of the Education Committee of Ogbomoso District Council and Chairman of the Board of the Nigeria Training Centre for the Blind, Ogbomoso.
It was also Professor (Chief) N.D. Oyerinde who wrote and submitted a memorandum on “Economic Development of Ogbomoso in 1948”. Professor N.D Oyerinde’s Economic thesis was based on the premise that since Ogbomoso is largely cocoa, rubber, and mahogany which could advance the fortunes of his teeming population.
It was obvious that the tilling of land is not sufficient for the growing youth population as a result of the cessation of hostility after the Yoruba civil strife, in order to check Ogbomoso dispersal or drift to other towns and regions, and similarly to reduce economic hardship being experienced at home, the learned Professor thought and felt there was a need for reawakening and discovery to bail his people out of the doldrums.
Thus, the growing of cotton and the planting of tobacco was accepted as an alternative, profitable enterprise by the Oba of Ogbomoso and his high chiefs, the resident district officer of Ogbomoso, and by Dr. J.C pool of the American Baptist Mission.
On top of all his contributions, Late Pa. (Hon) N.D. Oyerinde a Professor Emeritus, sat down and chronicled into a book; THE HISTORY OF OGBOMOSO; TITLED, “IWE ITAN OGBOMOSO” Published as far back as 1934, without which not much could have been known on Ogbomoso early or ancient history.
Professor (Chief) Hon. Nathaniel Durojaye Oyerinde died on 18th April 1977 at the ripe age of 102.
Without any iota of doubt, Professor (Chief) Hon. Nathaniel Durojaye Oyerinde (OBE) was a patriot. His efforts to transfer the educational model of Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes to Ogbomoso may be rational considering the reality of the economic situation in the town but the demand of the people for the encouragement given by the British to literary education spelled the doom of his efforts.
It is for this reason that he is criticised by some elements today in Ogbomoso for not encouraging education in the town along the right lines. It is significant, however, that Oyerinde was not against higher education; he readily cooperated with the people in their demand for a secondary grammar school after 1944. The Ogbomoso People’s Institute was the antecedent for the Ogbomoso Grammar School.
His role in politics was also bound to be misunderstood by many sectors in the town. To the Muslims, he was the leader of the Christian group that tried to dominate the town’s government. This apprehension was shared by many of the Chiefs and successive Baale before Baale Oke Lanipekun Laoye. The more militant among the OPU were impatient of his methods. Only the British Officers realised his great contributions to the administrative progress of the town.
In spite of reproaches from his opponents, all agree as to his strength of character, his sense of probity, and fair play. Had Professor N.D Oyerinde joined the Nigerian Public Service, he would have been a most successful civil servant. But as a politician, his moderate approach to many issues seems to portray him as a weakling.
Notwithstanding, Professor (Chief) Hon. Nathaniel Durojaye Oyerinde (MFR, JP, OBE) contributed immensely to the development of his beloved hometown, Ogbomoso, he should be well celebrated and commended for his great feats.
- CHIEF OYEBISI OKEWUYI, OGBOMOSO IN THE EARLY TIMES MODERN ERA AND IN TODAY’S CONTEMPORARY WORLD Published by Johnny Printing Works, pp. 107
- EMEKA OBASI, SEARCHING FOR FIRST NIGERIAN PROFESSOR Published on Vanguard on May 5, 2018.
- MICHEAL M. OGBEIDI, NIGERIAN RETURNEES FROM THE UNITED STATES AND EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN COLONIAL SOUTHERN NIGERIA
- B. AGIRI, CHIEF N.D. OYERINDE AND THE POLITICAL SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF OGBOMOSO Published on Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Vol. 10, No. 1 (DECEMBER 1979), pp. 86-112
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