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