Professor Oluremi Longe, a former lecturer at the Department of Educational Management, University of Ibadan, is the first person to deliver an inaugural lecture in her department. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, the first Professor of Educational Managment in UI who will join the league of octogenarians on November 14, 2017 speaks on how she has been handling the challenges of old age and the most defining moment of her career.
Secret of youthful look
It is the grace of God that has made me to age gracefully and the fact that I observe certain routine. There are three components of aging, when you are between 65 and 79, that is what you call young old (agba), at that time you need to read and learn how to take care of yourself physically and issues surrounding old age. At our own time, in academics, the age of retirement is 65 so that is the time to think about life after retirement.
I read a lot of materials to learn what to do to help one minimise the problem of old age because old age is not something you can do much about, it is an irreversible situation that will happen and will eventually lead to death but that time can still be managed in such a way that people will see you and see the grace of God in your life. I thank God that I have that privilege because anytime I tell people my age they find it difficult to believe it.
The second part of old age (agbalagba) where I am now, you need to be careful about what goes into your mouth and I observe that strictly. I don’t just throw things into my mouth. I drink a lot of water and I rest. All that has worked for me. Also, I depend very much on the scripture to guard myself. If you talk about growing older without any physical disability that can only happen if you keep body, soul and spirit properly. And that is where the issue of righteousness comes in. If you are righteous you will be like the palm tree that does not wither.
Finally, don’t go where you are not supposed to go, don’t drink what you are not supposed to drink, sleep at the right time and don’t keep grudges, let your mind be free. The third stage which I am going to next week is 80 years old and above, that stage is very risky and dangerous and one needs to be careful. At that stage, one needs to avoid the bathtub, climbing stairs and wet floor.
On clocking 80 at a time when the life expectancy of Nigeria is 51
I thank God for His grace. We need to ask ourselves why the life expectancy age is falling drastically. What I can say is that for us in this country, we have to be contented with what we have. I retired from the services of the University of Ibadan about 14 years ago and I have been offered all kinds of positions that will involve running around to make a lot of money but I turned them down.
I decided not to chase after money and I also try as much as possible to live a simple life. My husband and I live within our means; We decided to celebrate this 80th because of how God lifted me out of mourning after losing my son. We cannot forget him because he was a very special member of our family but we have been able to rise above the grief. The issue of how to make ends meet is killing a lot of people in this country. There is a lot of tension in the country because of the socio-economic situation of our country.
Choice of career
When we came back from the US in 1973, my husband had already got a job at the University of Ibadan where he started the Computer Department from the scratch. While doing that somebody from The Polytechnic Ibadan wanted to do analysis for his PHD and my husband helped him. He asked my husband what he would like him to do for him and he told him his wife needed a job.
He told him I have B.Sc in Accounting, He got me a job there on a temporary basis and before the end of the month, I was given permanent employment. Two years later, they needed someone at the University of Ibadan to help to fill a gap left at the department of Adult Education to teach a particular course in Accounting that was how I transferred my appointment to the University of Ibadan. From there, I went for my PHD and also got my professorship.
Combining career with the home front
As a woman, you need to use your brain and manage your time properly. If you want to be in the academics, that is not the time to join association of friends. You don’t have time for that. So it is you, your job and the children. You wake up in the morning pack your children’s bag it is when they have gone to school that you go to work. When you are at work you need to concentrate and when you get home devote your time to your children and the home. Also, in our time, we have help; house help and even cook who assist in running the home. It was hard work but it is possible if you are focused on what you want in life and follow it up.
Lessons that life taught me
There is no way you can go on in this life without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Believe me, it is true. I found that way early in life and I have been working along that line. When the chips are down, when there are difficulties, I will just hold on to the word of God. I don’t have friends, they can only add to your problems not solve them. I hold on to God and pray through.
The way will open. That is what I learnt early in life and that is what I taught my children too. That is what life has taught me. When I lost my son, I asked a lot of questions but I was able to now sit and through the help of the Holy Spirit see that was not the end of the world. If it was time for my son to go so be it especially since he made an impact in the family and professionally. God has been good to me and I can see his hands on the other children as well.
Most defining moment
That was when I did my inaugural lecture. I had the privilege to be the first person to deliver inaugural lecture in the Department of Educational Management, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan. I still feel proud of that achievement. It is a landmark achievement.