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Outside distractions don’t allow today’s wives to be sober enough or submissive –Pa Centenarian Pa Shoduke

Antonia Duru 
For 35 years, Papa Augustine Olajide Shodunke worked with the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC. That was until 1984 when he retired as a station manager. Before then, Pa Shodunke, who would hit a century years old this month had traversed the country, working in different stations. After retirement, he was made a court president. In that capacity, he presided over mostly divorce cases at the magistrate court. He is alarmed by the rate of divorce these days unlike in his time when he easily reconciled feuding couples. He spoke with Anthonia Duru, who visited him at his Lagos home.
“Baba, the journalists are here to interview you, sir,” a lad beckoned on Papa Augustine Olajide Shodunke when our reporter called at his residence, located at Alimosho Road, Lagos.
Walking into his serene living room directly opposite his bedroom,  armed with a transparent file, Pa Shodunke welcomed The Nigerian Xpress reporter to his home.
“I am Pa A. O Shodunke; I will be 100 years old on the 28th of August, 2021,” he introduced himself as if our reporter didnt know.

For this centenarian, who was born on August 28, 1921, and blessed with  successful biological children and grandchildre, as one grows older, there are a lot of things that affect you.

He said: ‘‘It is either you are affected in the eyes and you are unable to speak or see well again, or you have acute rheumatism which affects the knee and the waist. That is what I am currently facing, but I have a doctor, who is treating me at home,” he said, adding that he started battling with mild arthritis, which has restricted his mobility since outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic

Shodunke worked with the Nigerian Railway Corporation e (NRC) where he in different stations before eventually retiring as a station master in 1984.
According to him:“These are the people who are responsible for the running of the trains from one station to another. They monitor the movement of the trains, passengers in the trains and offer services to the passengers. I worked as a station master for 35 years and attained the height of superintendent grade one before I retired.”
The retiree rail man recalled that having worked at the head of the Northern Terminus in Minna and also at Shakwatu, both in Niger State, he retired at the Lagos Terminus in Iddo.
“My wife and children were in Lagos all the while I was transferred out of Lagos mostly because of my children’s education. They needed to be in a location to focus on their education because I spent a minimum of three years in each station I was posted to,” he said.
He narrated memories of what the train service was at the time: “The attraction to the railway was the opportunity it afforded us to bond with friends, share meals while on a trip. Also, people got attracted to the railway service then because they paid well and on time and when you have to work over the weekends, your remuneration is almost like your salary. However, promotion was not coming easy or may never come, but whether it does or not, you are making enough money, especially from working overtime.
“I remember a time when my late wife had to go to the railway management to voice her frustration over not being promoted after 20 years of working, but then I didn’t feel so bothered. However, with the help of the Nigerian Labour Congress and the pensioner’s organisation, who agitated for promotion, it came.”
Shodunke a staunch Catholic whose son is a knight in the Catholic Church is a member of different societies in the church. Upon his retirement from NRC, he became a court president. He worked as President Grade A at the customary court in Ikeja.
After my retirement at the Railway Corporation, I was offered the job as president in a magistrate court where I presided over various cases. I went through tutelage for about six months to prepare myself for the job. I served as a court president for over ten years till I couldn’t continue due to old age, so I came home to rest.”
Speaking on what it was like taking up the job of a court president, he said: “There were more of divorce cases; couples disagreed and we ensured they resolve their differences. They were very domestic issues, so it was more like having me as a father and me bringing my experience and fatherly advice to mend broken homes. Virtually all the cases we had then were settled amicably, we didn’t have divorces at the end of the day.”
On what he considers a major issue with couples who seek a divorce, he said: “People are not satisfied with the little with which God has blessed them. Husbands and wives don’t sit down together to settle their matters amicably. In most cases, a lot of outside distractions do not allow the wife to be sober enough or submissive to their husbands, and most importantly, no reverence for God.
“In my days, not many of divorce matters, but nowadays, it is alarming. My tenant here left her husband and her children and went to marry another man; I don’t understand this. I was married for 60 years before my wife passed away. I enjoyed my life with my wife with the little that we had; it is truly sad today that people are not patient and willing to manage.
“Those who brought me up were strong Catholics. I grew up with my uncle, Pa Michael Akinsonwon, at 20, Oil Mill Street in Lagos and we attended the Holy Cross Cathedral. Although my parents were Muslims, my mother got converted at Regina Mundi, Mushin, and died a Catholic. My father was a Muslim all his life,” he said.
Shodunke, who attended St. Gregory’s College, Ikoyi, reminisced: “In my time, St Gregory’s College was one of the premier colleges. Others were Methodist Boys High School, Igbobi College, Kings College and Christ The King College, Onitsha. These were among the major high school institutions in Nigeria then. These four colleges were well-established and manned by Europeans . The source of attraction was that they were maintained and managed by people from overseas.
“When I was about to enter college, I passed the entrance examination at King’s College but there was no more vacancy, as they had exceeded the number of students to be admitted. So, I had to go to St. Gregory’s College. The boarding house was almost filled up, remaining a few slots for day students and so I was admitted. We were staying at Yaba at the time. My parents bought me a Hercules bicycle that I rode to school every day alongside other students. Things then were also very cheap to buy and life was very sweet unlike today with its complexities. Then, we were comfortable.”
When asked how he feels attaining 100, he responded with a broad smile: “This is undoubtedly a feat. I have always been a man of prayer, I pray my Rosary everyday, interceding for my children, loved ones, family, the church and Nigeria. I do this kneeling everyday. I love singing hymns and songs of praises to my Maker and I also love dancing. I  love to dance and sing a lot in church. Age has really slowed me down and i cant do that anymore. They come here to see me and tell me they missed seeing me in church. But after staying away for this long, it has become difficult to reintegrate. The church usually comes here to give me holy communion and say Mass with me.”
Speaking on his eating habit, the centenarian said: “I eat salad and bread. I also take Alabukun to help to relieve me of pain. In my active years, before I left for work, I always had my breakfast, no matter how little.”