|Otunba Joseph Ogunfuwa|
How would you describe your childhood?
I grew up as a Christian at Ode-lemo, where I attended St. John school and I was one of the few people that finally completed Standard Six at St. John school in 1953. That was the last time the Standard School Exam was written. After that, it was changed to the primary school system. My mother died when I was nine years old, but I had a good grandmother that took care of me. My father was a very kind man; my sister and I were very young when my mother died. I can say I had a good early life. After Standard Six, I went out on my own. I started as a pupil teacher in 1954. Then I went to St. Paul Teacher Training College, Abeokuta, Ogun State between 1956 and 1957. I completed the Grade III Teachers’ course in December 1957. After that, I was posted to different schools. I gained admission into Ijebu-Abeokuta Colony Grade II Teacher Training College in Sagamu, Ogun State for my higher elementary certificate in 1960 and I resumed in 1961. I came first in the entrance examination, but I eventually withdrew from the college when the government stopped the full salaries they were paying to return students of which I was one. I eventually stopped teaching because I felt I could do something better than teaching, so I went on to study accountancy and that’s where I am today.
What about your siblings?
I have only one sister of the same blood, but I have several other siblings like half brothers and sisters, because my father had four wives and they all had children for him. All of them are doing well; my mother died so young. My siblings are friendly with me and I am also friendly with them. My only younger sister is Mrs Odulebo and she is happily married with children. The one after her is Mrs Olude, who is in the United States. The next one is Israel, who is in the United Kingdom. He is an engineer. The other wives that my father later married had two kids each for him. All of us grew up together. We remain one big happy family.
How did you know the date you were born?
I was not there when I was born. I was told by my parents that I was born on October 5, 1940.
How did you become a chartered accountant?
When I left IJABCOL, I took my friend’s advice to go to Lagos and became a stenographer because I had one young man in Sagamu, Jimoh Olusola Adesanya, who owned Olusola Stationery Stores there. He was a stenographer and quickly made progress. I wanted to emulate him, so that was one of the reasons I left IJABCOL – so I could be a stenographer in order to have fast success. Olusola was encouraging young ones to do shorthand and typing, but while I was in Lagos, my friend, Alhaji Abdul-Razak Sodunke, popularly known as Model Printers, advised me not to do stenography. Maybe he thought I was too erratic. He said my temperament would not allow me to progress in that profession, but he told me one thing that I found interesting. He said he would have urged me to study accounting but people don’t pass the exam. But I insisted that was the course I was going to study. He was embarrassed, so he said I should think about it. According to him, if you study that course, it’s hard for companies to accept you but you can start your own company on your own. The next day, I gave all my stenography books to Mr Sodunke as I reversed my decision to study stenography. People were saying I was erratic. I told them I was not going to study that course again and I would do accounting.
What challenges did you experience studying accounting?
To study accounting, I started by attending Pennywise Institute in Europe but the teacher was not helping us. He always said, ‘This subject is very difficult.’ One day, I challenged him, saying, ‘Look, you teach us what you know and don’t tell us the subject is difficult because I am a trained teacher. If you tell your students a subject is difficult, you’re not developing their interest in the subject. Teach us what you know.’ After two months, I decided to leave the place. I told them that I could not continue because I was exposed already and that year, 1961, I did the Institute of Commerce examination and passed Stages I and II with first-class honours. People who had been writing it for four years had not been passing it but I passed it. Later, I did the Royal Society of Arts Advance Stage III in 1963; I did four subjects and passed. That same year, I took the exam of the Fellowship of Bookkeepers and I was the only person that passed four subjects in the Fellowship of Institute of Bookkeepers exam in the whole of West Africa. The following year, I registered for the Association of International Accountants and the Industrial Accountant exams, and I passed both courses in one sitting, so I got increasingly encouraged by those results.
Later, I got a job at the Nigerian Marketing Produce Company, a Federal Government corporation. The company was an umbrella for all the regional marketing companies. All other bodies in the East, West, South and North came through that particular marketing company for export to Europe and many places. The chief accountant of the company insisted that if I wanted to be an accountant, I had to sit the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants exam. I applied for ACCA part one and two at the intermediate, though the chief accountant still discouraged me from sitting the ACCA one and two, so that he would not approve my tuition fees. Because I was so confident that I would pass, I went for the exam and I passed part one and two of the intermediate in one sitting. The people for whom he approved loans all failed. I was the only one who made it. When I showed him my result, he was very unhappy that I passed. However, he ended up congratulating me. After the examination, I claimed my tuition fees. That was when Nigeria was good. Then, you could claim your money if you write any examination. When I wrote to claim my money, my chief accountant did not approve it. It was Mr Chicks, a white man at the company that was also one of the bosses, who later helped me get the money after two months. I later worked at the Nigerian National Shipping Line Ltd. The company’s board of directors later sent me to England in 1968 to understudy the branch accountant in Liverpool and I eventually took over from the accountant. I subsequently worked as chief accountant with several other companies in Nigeria. I was successfully made chief accountant to the West African Technical and Engineering Company Ltd in Iganmu, Lagos, Nigeria.
When did you leave active service?
I left service in 1989.
When did you get married?
I got married early, on December 24, 1960, before I was 20. We had both church and court weddings. I had several children and I am happy all my wives are alive. My first wife had eight children for me. One died but the others are all doing fine. Some are doctors, lawyers and teachers.
How many wives do you have?
I am married to seven wives. Out of the seven wives, only four have had children for me. The other three do not have children for me. My first wife has seven for me. The second one has one. The third one has two. My youngest wife has four for me and my last wife does not have a child for me. Out of the three that don’t have kids for me, I regard only one of them as my wife for some reasons. Others whom I do not regard as wives because they have no children for me never changed their names. Out of all, only three are currently with me.
Does any of your children take after you as a chartered accountant?
Yes, I have my younger brother, Phillip Ogunfuwa, who is taking over the practice. He is a chartered accountant and also two of my children, Lolade and Oluwadara Ogunfuwa, who are at the final stage of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria. They just wrote the last stage of the exam. I believe that each person is the architect of their own life. I decided to be a polygamist because my first wife offended me. She’s the most trustworthy wife in the world but she has a character I don’t like. She was not submissive. My father wasn’t happy then, because I married two wives, but I loved to have many children. I learnt that my grandfather had just one, but it was my desire to have many children.
Do you have any regrets?
There’s nobody who would not have something to regret and as a young man who has made mistakes in my young life, I smoked. I was stubborn and erratic, but I don’t regret that, because as a young man, you get exposed to so many things. I look at my whole life as one, but the only thing I regret is that I am not a billionaire like most of my contemporaries.
Is there any difference between now and then in your profession?
There’s a lot of improvement in the accountancy profession. When we were qualified, the accountancy body was nowhere near unified globally. But today, you find that the accountancy practice is virtually the same all over the world. There is a general compliance with international financial standards. All internationally recognised standards are not exempted in Nigeria because everything develops and Nigeria, as a country, develops alongside. There has been a lot of improvement in the profession. Personally, I have been in the stock market trying to do as much as I can. I don’t think that is business. Maybe I will go into business now that I am 80 – I want to start selling beer. In my profession, there’s a big improvement.
Did you nurse any ambition to be a politician?
In my early life, I had the ambition to become a bishop and a programme was written for me by my uncle who was a clergyman – Rev Odunsusi. Having lost the opportunity as a regular secondary occupation, he wrote a programme down for me because, according to him, he only had a diploma in Theology. In those days, without a university degree, you couldn’t become a bishop. Without a PhD now, you cannot become a bishop. These days, you must read wide. In fact, in the Catholic Church, you must have a profession, but in the Anglican Church, which I belong to, I don’t know of any bishop who does not have a PhD. You must have a PhD in Theology, something that is related to religion, before you can become a bishop. That is the development all over the world.
What is your favourite food?
The most popular food in Yorubaland is eba and it is the food I enjoy most.
What exercises do you do?
I have limitations on what I can do. I can’t do exercises because I have damaged lungs from smoking.
How do you relax?
I walk around. I drive myself occasionally. I go to local eateries. I read my books and I observe the way common people live their lives – so many people begging for food – and I go there to see how enlightened some people are. I also see how ignorant people are and it makes me understand the way the country is.
What kind of drinks do you like?
I drink beer, whisky and brandy.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I don’t listen to all music, only traditional music.
At 80, what is the secret to your long life?
I don’t know any secret to long life. I don’t even see myself as old. I know that I am 80, but I don’t think that is old age. I have elder brothers from distant relations who are 85 to 87 years old. They walk around and they are happy. They consider that I am still young.
What is your advice for single youths?
The first advice I have for youths is not to be discouraged. Anyone that wants to get married should know he should have a job and he or she is capable of taking care of children produced from the marriage. That is one of the problems of this country – they cannot afford a wife and they cannot afford to take care of their children. Youths of nowadays don’t want to get married because of the situation of the country and those are the problems of this country. If you want to marry, you must have a means of livelihood; if you don’t have a means of livelihood, don’t marry.
What is your view about the nation?
The state of the nation is unfortunate. The situation is hard if you look at Nigeria. Look at what is happening from the North to the South; you will think that Nigeria is a goner. The situation is hopeless and our leaders don’t think about us. They think about personal advantages, but if you detach yourself from the system and start to see and evaluate the situation, you’ll know that Nigeria has a lot of problems and our leaders are not attending to them or maybe they don’t even know Nigeria has a problem.
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