United by man they all loved10 years after, the Apata widows are still together
By TOYIN OSAWE and CONFIDENCE OGONNA NJOKU
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

•The Apatas, Mrs Olayinka, Mrs Ify Gladys and Fola Apata
Photo: Sun News Publishing

For the reporters, it was first time at the famous Apata Memorial High School. The edifice, which stands atop a hill, nestled at the heart of Isolo, Lagos could pass for a monument in itself. Not just because of the architectural excellence which it represents but because it stands as a reminder of a man who started small but achieved much.

He was gunned down in his home before his loved ones 10 years ago. But somehow his presence, his values, still pervade the ambience of the school. At every turn, a framed portrait of the man, Simeon Olaosebikan Apata peers down, overseeing a legacy he left behind impromptu a decade ago.

The family, three wives and 10 children will tell you that the man still lives in their hearts. Those values he imparted to them have become their way of life.

Early this year, the family remembered the man who was their husband, their father and much more importantly, their mentor. The memory of his gruesome murder, is still fresh in the minds of members of the family. The first wife of the Apata family, Mrs. Gladys Ify Apata recalls vividly, how her husband, (whom she fondly refers to as S.O Apata) was killed in her presence.

“I remember the day vividly, it was on the 8th of January 1995. We were in my younger sister’s room (the younger sister referred to is the youngest and last wife, Mrs Fola Apata, fondly called F.O), me, S.O, his step brother, F.O and her new baby who was 16 days old.

“When they came in, they were confused because they didn’t know him. S.O. now begged them to take money, if that’s what they came looking for. But they shouted at him and asked if he wanted to disarm them because my husband usually carries a pistol with him. They collected his pistol and one of them shot at the door and asked us to lie on the floor.

I was begging them as I took the baby and gave him to his mother. As I did that, one of them snatched the baby and held him upside down, pointing a gun at his head. They asked for our jewellery but we didn’t have and we told them so. This was true because S.O had always warned us against acquiring gold and we have kept his word even after he died.

“That day, they told him that he had been disturbing them from operating in that area. So, they had to kill him. They shot him once and I screamed. Then I was told that I’d be killed if I didn’t shut up. It was that one shot that killed him and they ran away.”
According to Mrs. Gladys Apata, prior to his death, their husband had been receiving death threats and he was already putting his house in order.

“When he was alive, being an ex-service man, people always called him whenever there was a robbery attack. He will go even as far as Ajao Estate to help. So, because of this he was receiving death threats. Sometime in December he now called me, the school’s administrator, Mr Adeleye, head of the kitchen department, we call her Mummy Cook. He told us not to allow his vision for the school to die.

He said we should not allow him to labour in vain. And I know he’s happy that the vision has not died. His plan was to ultimately establish a university and by the grace of God we shall accomplish that”.

S.O. Apata served in the Nigerian Army till he retired in 1978. He was a man who believed in the power of education and had the vision to provide quality education, with the necessary values that should go with it. Starting with extra mural classes with five desks and benches, the actual school kicked off in 1980. It became one of the first set of private schools to be recognised by the state government.
Starting out was not easy but over the years, any observer would agree that it was a worthwhile effort. The first wife, Mrs. Gladys relived the Apata journey to where it stands today.

“We started out small and the four of us had similar backgrounds as none of us was born with a silver spoon. I remember the time that we were running a canteen, S.O and the three of us. Then he couldn’t afford to pay the rent. One Christmas, the landlord came and requested for the rent. I remember him saying, “So you this man will not pay my rent, you’re busy paying Ludo with your wives.” S.O now told him that he would pay when he has the money.

“I also remember quite well when the school was being built. He would insist that all of us should come to the site and work with the builders, including him. There was a particular festive season, maybe Christmas or New Year and the children were complaining that their father kept them working at the site while their mates had gone to Lekki to enjoy themselves. And I remember him telling them that the school belongs to them and would they rather that some other people do their work for them.
“The secondary school which started in 1986 was housed in different places before it finally came to rest in its present location”.

If there is anything the late Apata would be remembered for, it was his penchant for discipline. As an ex-student of Apata Memorial Secondary School, Mr. Segun Ogunsakin an IT professional remembers the man for his discipline.

“I remember his cane very well (laughter). He was the final solution to all naughtiness. If you’re a truant and you’re warned severally and you don’t repent, then you’ll have to face Mr.Apata. If you see him, you see discipline. Then, you dare not loiter around, because he was always going round”.

 



 

 

 

 

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