REFLECTIONS: THE AQUINAS-OYEMEKUN SCHOOLRIVALRY
By Francis Akinnola 65-69/71 set
In writing this, I write with all sense of responsibility – trying to be fair to both sides but without compromising the real facts as I know them, and remember them (others would be able to help in supplying missing details and/or editing what is written here).
In the 1960’s, most students in Aquinas College were in the boarding-house. I can only guess that a similar scenario existed, more or less, in other schools around.
Aquinas College, Akure and Oyemekun Grammar School, were the only boys’ schools in the town, while St. Louis Grammar School and Fiwasaye were the only girls’ schools. St. Louis girls were generally considered the “girlfriends” of Aquinas boys while Fiwasaye girls were generally considered the girl-friends of Oyemekun boys (that wasn’t in absolute terms, though, as I’m sure there were Aquinas boys who had friends in Fiwasaye; but it was just the general scenario or belief). I think it was in 1965-67 that the CAC Grammar School and the Commercial Secondary School were established but non could withstand the stature of Aquinas (established in 1951) and Oyemekun (established in 1956 or so). As the two boys’ schools, they were at each other’s throat – always wanting to show supremacy in academics, in sports, and in what we would now call “swag.”
Aquinas always did well academically. I remember the 1968 graduating set, which had 16 people in Grade I (the secondary school equivalent of First Class); so there was no doubting the academic stature of Aquinas. Aquinas, for some reason, also had a lot of students from the East, the Mid-West (Edo and Delta), Lagos, Ibadan, and so on. So there was no denying the fact that Aquinas was cosmopolitan. In fact, during the reign of General Yakubu Gowon as Head of State of Nigeria, his second-in-command and Chief-of-Staff, Admiral Akinwale Wey, had his son, Moses Wey, in Aquinas College. The social consciousness in Aquinas was sublime. It was a psychological boost. It provided a basis for us to feel “superior” (laugh) and we wanted everyone to know that Aquinas belonged in nobody’s class – but above. What with our standard laboratories, too.
I wouldn’t remember what happened in 1965, but as from 1966, much of the rivalry between Aquinas and Oyemekun is very much etched in my memory. In 1966, the football season started and we were to play against Oyemekun, on our own grounds. We took Oyemekun for granted – we expected to beat them, like we would any other school. But we were SHOCKED. The star player in the Oyemekun team that year was a guy nicknamed “Apollo.” He played on the left wing. He ran rings around our defence and displayed so much artistry that we simply watched him mesmerise us, and, at the end of the day, Oyemekun had pumped 3 unreplied goals into our net! It was a low moment for Aquinas. The Aquinas team that year comprised goalkeeper Donatus Akahalu (reserve goalkeeper was Martins Ogbe); defenders included Vincent Onasanya (if I remember well); Midfielders included Victor Adesioye (the Captain) and Senior Olaofe (these are the ones whose names I can remember now). There was a certain Senior Oloidi who probably played too in 1966 but definitely in ’67. I’m not sure now if Senior Bello (left-winger) was still in school in ’66; if he was, then he definitely played. “Roychester” Kayode Agbajeola was the right-winger. I seem to confuse ’65 and ’66, so I can’t be certain now if “Alaska Lobito” (nickname) was still around in 1966; if he was, then he definitely played. I think he was probably the top-striker or assist-striker (as we would now call it.) It was a gloomy day. However, Oyemekun later lost to Olofin Grammar School, Idanre, whom we defeated. So we were at par with Oyemekun on points but we had the greater goal-difference advantage. So we were the District champions (which included Iju/Ita-Ogbolu and Igbara-Oke also). At the Zonal level, Baptist High School, Igede-Ekiti stopped us with a 4-2 win.
In 1967, it was time for revenge. I remember “Aro” Uche Okoko. He had a good command of the English language – a very fluent, charismatic and engaging speaker. In the afternoon of the match, he rang the bell in the dining hall, and we all dropped our cutlery as he addressed us. His opening words: “Gentlemen, today is the D-Day!…” Everybody said “Hmmmm!…” “Aro” was such an engaging speaker that he literally infused us with emotional and psychological energy to go all out and give the Aquinas team our support on the field of play.
The match held on Oyemekun grounds. In goal for Aquinas (if I remember well – and somebody should help me out here -) was another Okoko, different from Madu! Our defence consisted of people like the Onasanya Brothers (Vincent and Bankole) who eventually both played for the Western State Academicals; possibly for Nigeria Academicals too, as No. 2 and No. 3 defenders. Agbajeola was the right-winger. There was also this enigmatic striker Michael Aideyan (we called him Mickky Jagger! Those guys were ferocious in front of goal! It was WAR! Aquinas boys gave no room for Oyemekun – right on their own grounds! Aquinas scored 3 goals! One of the goals was the one that tore through the net, scored by “Aro” Uche Okoko. Up till today, I still wonder, was it that that net was already torn somewhere and the ball just went through that particular place? All we knew was that “Aro” played this terrific shot and the next thing we knew was that it went into goal and came out on the other side of the net! For years, it was a goal that people in Akure kept talking about! But to let you know the level of rivalry between Aquinas and Oyemekun, I confess to you that, though we won the match, we (greedily!) wished the result had been better than that! Why? Oyemekun scored a goal! So it was actually a 3-1 victory for us! Unlike the 3-0 victory that they had against us the previous year! So, it was like, “we will meet again” (laugh!)
In 1968, we played against Oyemekun on our own grounds. That was the year that Madu Okoko (in Class 2) started keeping goal for Aquinas. “Aro” Uche Okoko and Agbajeola were in their last School Certificate year and were in the team too. A guy named Fasasi (nickname: “Shine-Shine”) who had done his School Certificate course at Victory College, Ikare was in Aquinas for HSC and was the central defender (called Centre-Half-Back in those days.) He was a great player who doesn’t lose the ball. “Pele”Asagba (I believe) was in that team. And a number of others. Possibly Oloidi too (if he was still in school). Aquinas got the first goal. Oyemekun equalised. In the second-half, Aquinas got the second goal. Oyemekun equalised. It was a ding-dong affair. Towards the very last minute of the game, Kayode Agbajeola, the right-winger, got a ball and was so desperate that he swung from his right-wing position to central mid-field and made a mess of the defence of Oyemekun, and the Oyemekun goalkeeper rushed out to stop him (similar to a scenario in the following year 1969 between Aquinas and Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti) but Agbajeola managed to just kick the ball past the goal-keeper as both of them fell down and couldn’t stand up, with the ball rolling into the net. 3-2 in favour of Aquinas. The jubilation was much. For somebody like me, I was still wondering when shall we repay Oyemekun with 3-0 and not 3-2 or 3-1 ! (smile).
1969. The match held on Oyemekun grounds. It was a rainy day. Aquinas played in all-white outfit and at the end of the match you couldn’t discern what exactly was the colour of that jersey as they rolled on the ground, sliding, tackling,… giving their ALL to winning that match. Okwuokei (nicknamed “No-Nonsense”) got the goal with a block-buster in the first half. It was 1-0 for Aquinas. The Oyemekun goalkeeper was a guy named Afolayan. I personally rate Afolayan better than many goalkeepers that play for their countries in the World Cup these days. Beating him was like drawing water out of a rock. Oyemekun students didn’t think that their players had put everything into that match. I heard them saying that why wouldn’t Aquinas win when they didn’t mind getting dirty in the mud, whereas their own (Oyemekun) players seemed to care more about not getting dirty. What concerns us with that? We had won. Aquinas players that year were Olugbenga James (Apalachima), Boon Fawehinmi, Fasasi (Captain), Madu Okoko (goalkeeper), Vincent Onasanya (who was in final-year HSC by then), Okwuokei (the block-buster); “Pele Asagba (the master-dribbler); Ben Popoola (the young lad who was to later play for Nigeria); “007” Akinwole (the defensive work-horse), and two other guys – one from Ondo (who was on the left wing) and the other I think from Owo (who usually replaced Beckley who was injured).
1970. The match held on Aquinas grounds. The Aquinas team comprised Madu Okoko in goal (Godspower Oboh as reserve-goalkeeper). The Aquinas defence had three people – Bimbo Shoyoye (“Show-Boy” who had previously played for Western State Academicals when he did his School Certificate course at Methodist High School, Ibadan); Boon Fawehinmi (Captain) and Gabriel Akinwole (“007.”) The mid-field (half-back) comprised Adenika (Lancaster), “Aro” Uche Okoko, and Obaze (who also happened to be national javelin champion at the time.) The attacking line comprised Luke Eromosele (nicknamed “Eto” for the way he carefully planned goals, usually scoring two goals in the first fifteen minutes of a match! He had done his School Certificate course at Baptist Academy, Lagos); “Pele” Asagba; Okwuokei (No-Nonsense) and play-maker Benedict Popoola (a boy whom I used to wonder whether he came out of his mother’s womb with a ball! Because of the synergy he had with the ball.! He knew how to control the ball.) In the first minute of the game, as soon as the whistle went off, Ojikutu (a dexterous Oyemekun player) got the ball and took a BLINDER of a shot against Madu in goal! We gasped! Madu jumped up and, true to type, stopped that ball, holding it with his ten fingers! It took Madu to stop that kind of ball! We were rattled! It could have been the decider. Afolayan was still in goal for Oyemekun that year. They also had other great players, like Wole Okelola (he was nicknamed “Asuma Rock”) in their central midfield. Shortly after, Aquinas got a penalty-kick against Oyemekun. Oyemekun boys refused that it was a penalty. The match was stalemated. No goals yet. The referee stuck to his guns. Oyemekun remained unyielding. All of Akure, as it were, the high and the mighty as well as the masses, had come to watch that match. It started drizzling. The referee wasn’t shifting his position and Oyemekun weren’t shifting their position. After about one-and-a-half hours, the referee awarded the match to Aquinas. (Referee’s decision is final.)
1971. The match venue shifted to Oyemekun Grammar School. The Aquinas line-up was Madu Okoko in goal (he was now in his Final Year in school; and Godspower Oboh as the reserve goalkeeper); the defence was Durojaye Shittu (who had done his School Certificate course at St. Joseph’s College, Vom – near Jos – and had played for the Benue-Plateau State Academicals before coming to Aquinas); Segun Egenus (mercurial defender who had played for Ilesa Grammar School; NEPA football club, Ilesa, and briefly at Ondo Boys’ High School before coming to Aquinas for HSC); and “007” Gabriel Akinwole. The mid-field comprised Adenika, “Bobona” (nick-name, a guy from Owo) and another guy whose name I don’t remember but who was very good at taking backward scissors-kicks!). The attack was fast-sprinting Luke Eromosele (“Eto”), a guy nicknamed “Aghoro” (he was in the 1971 graduating class, I believe), “Aro” Uche Okoko (who was then in final year HSC) and wonder-boy Benedict Popoola.
Afolayan was still in goal (probably in final year then) for Oyemekun. Same with Wole Okelola and Agituku. Very early in the match “Aro” Uche Okoko got the ball, meandered through some Oyemekun players, then changed direction diagonally, facing away from the goalkeeper but shot the ball backwards, diagonally in the direction from which he was coming, aiming at the top-left-hand-corner of the post! It was all so confusing for any goalkeeper! “Aro” – the saving grace for Aquinas on many an occasion. The Oyemekun goalkeeper had no answer to that. GREAT GOAL! It turned out to be what I call the “winning” goal of the match. This was because, in that first half, Oyemekun equalised through a penalty-kick, while, in the second-half, Aquinas went up again through another penalty-kick. So it was a 2-1 victory for Aquinas College. But it would seem like something snapped in the opponents. It had become too much for them – 1967, 1968, 1969, and now this one again in 1971 ! They locked their gate and began physical assault on Aquinas boys. Some of us had left their compound by then. It was not a good story. The Football Association suspended them for one-year. So in 1972 (I had left school by then) there was no contest between Aquinas and Oyemekun. I am reliably informed, though, that the 1973 contest was a win for Aquinas again (I think 2-1 according to Ojomo who was the Captain of Aquinas then). 1974 was the last time I saw an Aquinas-Oyemekun match live. Aquinas won 4-2. It was 3-1 in the first half, and “Junior Aro” Sunday Adeniyi was in that team, alongside Omodara (the Captain.) In the second-half, Oyemekun made it 3-2, while, later, a high parabolic lob from the left wing beat the Oyemekun goal-keeper to make it 4-2 for Aquinas. It was a sorry sight seeing Oyemekun students leaving the venue (Works Rangers Grounds) before the match was over. They were devastated and couldn’t continue watching the match. I am told that Oyemekun got a win in 1975.
*ADDENDUM: 1975 EPISODE*
By Benjamin Ogedegbe (Mascot) 72/76 set
1975 was annus horribibilis for ACA, the year ACA got beaten by the grammarians at the Akure stadium, a knew and shock experience for us, as we weren’t used to getting beaten by OGSA.
That was a strong Oyemekun team with the likes of Uye and Tamara.
For us our talisman Tandre was missing due to chicken or smallpox. Speedy played in place of Tandre. Ogom(Bobby)in the meantime was playing volleyball,as he would always come on to the pitch in the second half. Before his arrival, the grammarians got the job done, the score was 2-1 against us. Prior to the game some of us were advised by Father Evans not to attend, we defied that and headed for the stadium, it was a sad day for us. Father Evans probably foresaw what was going to happen. We didn’t have to fight because of the prevoius warning by Father Evans