Isaac Akinboyewa (SJC 531: 1966-1970)
Texas – USA
It is with great respect and from the deepness of a sincere heart that I wish Reverend Brother Thomas a successful celebration as he turns 90 this year 2022. Brother Thomas was the Principal of Saint Joseph’s College in Ondo, Ondo State of Nigeria (SJC) while I was a student in the Secondary School from 1966 till my graduating year in 1970. He was also the English Teacher in my last year.
Bro Thomas belongs to a group of the admirable set of characters that can be described as totally committed to love, caring, nurturing, and development, a group of people that are driven by God-given pursuit of quality and devotion to sincere development of the young generation to which I am personally blessed to have tremendously benefited from. I would personally describe the set as the nicest and the finest examples of honest, humble, and dedicated teachers in our world today. The list of this set of schoolteachers in our youths cannot be complete without mentioning other school leaders like Rev Brother Bernard, Rev Brother Alphonsus, and Mr. Ola. A set of honest disciplinarians and devoted persons, detailed in their dealings, devoted to their course, and purposeful in their plan, they find enthusiasm and fulfillment in their calling. Brother Thomas belongs to that set.
As students we were young and always behaved like youths. However, the strong but gentle and firm guidance of Brother Thomas saw us through those developmental ages. We hardly realized it then as we do today. SJC was a comparatively large school, on a large expanse of land with 2 soccer fields, with several student resident dormitories and a very large number of students, yet Brother Thomas knew almost everyone by name and could identify almost everybody by face. He was always around us. I remember he would take part with us on the Sports Field to play, in the Chapel to pray, work through the dormitories at siesta to see whose beds were vacant and going through all the classrooms at evening study sessions to identify those who were not in class. So close was he to everyone and everywhere that he would be privy to everything and anything amiss? Sincerely as youths then, we hated the closeness and the serious scrutiny at that time because like youths we wanted our own freedom and there was always something to hide no matter how trivial, but later realized how great a commitment and how industrious that was as we finished in SJC and moved on to greater experiences of life. Brother Thomas was always there, surprisingly unexpectedly several times, all to keep us in good check. Thank God I had a First-Class Hon. degree in Computer Sciences (University of Ibadan) and I am now a Computer Database Administrator in America but I can never forget the impact Brother Thomas had in my personal foundational and fundamental development. I will be forever grateful to him.
To the Almighty God be the Glory for his exemplary integrity and exquisite qualities. May the Almighty God continue to sustain and strengthen our own dear Principal (Reverend Brother Thomas) for longer life still, in good health and blessed peace, now and forevermore in Jesus Mighty Name Amen.
The “Indefatigable” Thomas
The good words to describe Reverend Brother Thomas and his lessons seem unlimited. I have earlier written Article 012 on my personal gratitude and prayers for him. I am submitting a second Article to describe two or three of my personal experiences with him to corroborate what others have presented. Is there anyone that had worked across the path of Reverend Brother Thomas that has not had a personal experience with him in a way that will impact life? I bet none. Everyone has had that personal experience and I do too and in fact a number of times. Here I am presenting two or three of them.
1st Incident – The “Unbeatable” Thomas
1970 was our final year, the senior year, which craves into our heads that we could do anything and get away with it. After all, no other senior class was above us to put us in check and no exams were in sight to cow us down. Moreover, the only people we feared were the Teachers and the Principal. Luckily the Teachers were not always there. We were in the boarding school and no Teacher stayed after school hours but guess who was there to be afraid of. And he was always there, O Yes, morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Well, we could at least gamble for the night because you wonder if Brother Thomas ever slept in those days. Okay, so far so good, we had a chance because this incident was in the night, a late night.
We had earlier heard that a new Hot and Deadly Chinese Movie had just arrived to be shown in a town called Coon Ka Coon interpreted as Blood for Blood where they would fight, kill and die. It was to be shown in the only Public Theater, the Rex Cinema, in the distant town center about five miles away from school. No cars, no bikes, and no mobility of any sort, but for us, that distance was only a dash to trek, especially when we had an event of great interest.
Hmmm, youths as we were, we really loved to watch those. And while school was in session, only Brother Thomas could stop us. O Lord! we yearned, “Let Brother Thomas have asleep, at least tonight”.
Everyone who dared decided to go to the movie and so we encouraged each other. The deal was to get every junior student warned to keep his mouth shut if the principal ever asked. I was afraid too because my uncle would be terribly mad to hear and my mom would cry her eyes out. But how can one miss such an interesting movie? I yearned and mumbled that prayer one more time for reassurance as we summoned great courage – A man does not die twice, aha! The die was cast (positive). I followed the multitude. Almost half of the senior class left that night to watch the movie showing from about 7.30 pm till about 9.30 pm. We moved into multiple groups.
We walked briskly and ran fast. Oh, we must have walked those five miles in five minutes. The Theater was packed full. It looked like every youth from every secondary school and all interested adults in town were present to watch the deadly movie. Getting a ticket at the entrance was like dew falling from the skies, hot, humid, sweaty, and noisy amongst long disorganized queues. However, with some patience and struggling we all seem to have gone in through that one major entrance, though with many inside standing having no more empty seats to sit. But Thank God we must have sighed that Brother Thomas was not there and no junior student had the gut to tell. Unfortunately, as youths, we had not thought through and we had forgotten that our empty beds were enough to betray us. Surely Brother Thomas could never have missed that.
Truly it was a very interesting movie. It was action-packed at every moment even though we did not follow or understand the story. A beating or a drawn sword drew great applause even before the actual strike. There was blood everywhere in the movie and the audience followed with a show of fists in support especially when the Bad Guys showed up. Everyone shouted, howled, yelled, screamed, and giggled. The concentration was superb. So, we successfully watched the movie to the end, and it was definitely interesting to us all. However, what really happened after was unexpected and very disruptive. Right at the entrance, everyone was struggling to get out of the main exit door and that was expected for the multitude. However, are we hearing Rev Brother Thomas was at the entrance? What? How did he get there? So many questions were running down our mouths and minds. Was he there before the movie ended or was, he just arriving? How did he know we were at the movie? How come he did not come into the theater? Could we disguise or how do we disguise? Were there any teachers along with him? Nobody could tell but … Look, that is not important now. The only thing that is most important is to see how to fly back to school and lay in bed. Hey, what were we going to do? The school was a good five miles away on the outskirts of town with only one terminal road eventually leading there. The whole place was in confusion as everyone tried to smuggle themselves out and disguise themselves within the huge crowd. Heeey the “Omnipresent” Brother Thomas only needed to sight your face at a distance, and he knows you by name. You had to stoop down amongst the crowd, NO that is not enough, you must run, I mean you have to fly over the buildings, over the roads, through the bushes, and by whatever means just get back to the hostel and be on your bed, pretending. It was a “scatter- scatter – get your ass out of the way if you could not fly enough”. That was a long night, and the Indefatigable Thomas was equal to the task.
He had caught a few students and arrested them in his car. For some of us yet physically uncaught, it was like animals running for dear life at the sight of a hungry lion. We ran like never before. About 3 miles away at a narrow river Bridge called Lisaluwa, there we sighted the strong light from a car. We knew it was Brother Thomas. Heeeey into the thick bush along the dangerous riversides, many of us dived. At least if you were not caught in the act, you could have a chance to deny it. We knew Brother Thomas must have seen us through those powerful headlamps but surprisingly he did not stop as we expected. He just sped past like he never saw us. Then we knew we were in big trouble. We knew he was speeding to dash through those hostels and dormitories. He knew us vividly, not only facially and nominally, but he also knew details of who sleeps in which dormitory and on which bed. Well, we knew him too, our invincible unbeatable insurmountable indefatigable Principal. We knew he was racing to go check who was missing on his bed at the hostel and we were sure there was no more hiding place for us. Yes, we knew him, we knew his way, we knew his methods and we knew his expectations of us. Just that we hated being so closely monitored, not knowing that those were wrong approaches to a successful life.
So he took his census and went home to rest, I guess he applied the Words of the Lord – Tomorrow would take care of itself … Mathew 6:34 – … for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
Did I not say it was a very long night? Oh, we thought, we wished Tomorrow would not come. Let the day not break yet. Finally, the next day was judgment day. Everyone he caught and he caught every one of us, either physically or missing from your bed last night. Everyone had to defend themselves. The tricky and smart always had something to say. Like a defensive Attorney and a Balanced Judge, if your defense is reasonable, coherent, and cannot be otherwise proved wrong, you go scuff-free. The weak, the inconsistent, and the defenseless must be disciplined. You need only a few to be seriously punished to serve as an example and deterrent to a whole city, not the whole city. That is the way of Reverend Brother Thomas. In the end, I was lucky to get a “Two Week suspension.” And I would never do that again.
2nd Incident – The Eagle Eye
I thought I said I would never do that again. Yes, but this is a different circumstance, it’s not a movie. Moreover, this one happened before the first in chronological order. In both cases, there are lessons to learn from our tireless passionate Principal.
This occurred while I was in Year 2 (1967), already a beginning senior who should know better than nothing escapes the eyes of Brother Thomas. He seemed to have an eagle or perhaps a third eye, I am serious. That day was a Saturday. One of the upper seniors had asked me to go fetch a pail of water for him in the morning. While completing the task, the bell rang to gather every student at the assembly, so I had no time to wash or take my bath, well so I thought. And who cared anyways about always bathing. We were all Boys in the school, no girls to show off to and no fashion to display. The only occasion that thrilled us to be properly and perfectly dressed up then was any visit to Saint Louis College, our Sister Catholic School. Oh, we would do anything to look our best, perhaps even borrowing some perfumes from friends for a superlative display of sight and sound. But this day was none of those, hence I did not care to even brush my teeth, after all, time was against me. So, I dressed up in a hurry to meet up with other students as they walked down to the assembly. Brushed no teeth, took no bath but wearing a well-ironed dress for the Teachers would notice that outwardly. However, and worst of all I wore no underwear pants (briefs).
Hey, who would even dare look back when Brother Thomas is walking behind us? He was coming behind and urging several dozens of students to double up to the assembly, yet he did notice it. “Why did he suddenly single me out to follow?” I started wondering. O Lord, what have I done? Well, perhaps I needed to walk faster so I doubled my pace. He moved faster and closer and closer. The faster I moved, the more he did to close up. Close enough, he gave me the First slap with an open fist in my buttocks. I am like “Oh! what did I do?” No questions so I moved faster still. He moved swiftly again and gave me a Second slap, harder than the First. Now I knew I was definitely in trouble but what was my problem? I tried running, thinking I was not fast enough. Then he ran quickly and pinched my bottom through my body and bones. Huh that hurts!
So now I had to stop to look at my Judge, standing in front of him with a guilty appeal for mercy, though I was yet to understand what was my sin? Then he simply looked at me eye to eye, then looked at my Bottom. He did that a couple of times like 3-4 times, and I got the message – It was not proper to wear no underwear briefs whilst in public. Sincerely I got the message and my head hung down in shame. The great Teacher, Brother Thomas never said a word then nor thereafter, but the lesson has been learned. Please don’t ask me if I ever did that again.