My address at the 2016 Kings College, Lagos, Founders Day LectureApril 2, 2017
Floreat Kingsmen! KCOBA NORTH AMERICA 3rd Annual Reunion.May 14, 2017
Book: Floreat Collegium 100 YEARS OF KING'S COLLEGE, LAGOS.
Publisher: Third Millennium Publishing Limited 2014
Cover Price: N20,000 (hard cover)
N10,000 (paper back)
Reviewer: Bukar Usman
Floreat Collegium 100 YEARS OF KING'S COLLEGE, LAGOS is the title of a book published by the King’s College Old Boys’ Association (KCOBA). The book in the colour of the college and with a high picture quality was published to mark 100 years of the establishment of King’s College (KC) as the first public school in Lagos colony in 1909. Floreat Collegium a Latin expression meaning ‘May the College Flourish’ was King’s College’s old motto which was subsequently changed to Spero Lucem (‘I Hope for Light’). It still stands as the beginning of the first stanza of the college’s anthem. Floreat is also the common expression in exchange of felicitation among current and old students of the college. Although reference is made to ‘boys’ in the old students’ association, sight should not be lost of the fact that a few females were admitted into KC prior to 1960.
The book has 9 Chapters categorised under 4 Sections and 6 Appendices. The Chapters are composed of articles subscribed mostly by notable former and current executive members of KCOBA.
Section One tells the story of the college from its inception right through the ages to the current millennium and looks at issues beyond its centenary celebration. It is in this section we learn of the lofty objectives of the founding fathers, the modest beginnings of the college, the standards set and the commitments of the British colonial administrators. Some of the pioneer staff (expatriates and Nigerians) who selflessly gave of their best to put the college on a proper footing towards the attainment of its immediate and long term objectives were recognised and honoured by naming prominent features of the college after them.
It is remarkable to learn that the establishment of KC preceded the amalgamation of the Lagos Colony and the Protectorates of Southern and Northern Nigeria in 1914 to form what was subsequently known as Nigeria. Only a few private schools were established earlier than KC. These were CMS Grammar School, Lagos established in 1859; St Gregory’s College Lagos 1876; Methodist Boys’ High School Lagos 1878; Methodist Girls’ High School Lagos 1879; Baptist Boys’ High School Lagos 1885 and Hope Waddell Institute Calabar 1895. However, it should be noted that “all the missionary post-primary schools mentioned were not full secondary schools as they were unable to present candidates for secondary certificate examinations. It was not until after King’s College was established in 1909 that graduants of these mission schools had the opportunity of going to King’s College and taking the final secondary schools examinations. This explains why many of the pioneering students of King’s College in the early years were ex-students of notable mission schools” (P. 34).
Perhaps even more remarkable is the revelation that King’s College known initially as King’s School was a 10,001 British pounds sterling project. That meagre amount by current estimation was sufficient to put up a structure of 8 lecture rooms, a laboratory, an office and a hall to accommodate 300 students on a choice land on Lagos Island, the seat of the colonial administration. The school was open to anyone who could afford to pay the annual fee of 6 British pounds sterling in contrast to Barewa College set up in Zaria in 1921 primarily to cater for the children of the nobility. King’s College curriculum was said to have been designed similar to the existing University system in Britain. The college was therefore, set off as a nucleus and precursor of tertiary institutions such as the University College Hospital Ibadan and the Yaba College Lagos. Subjects such as Latin and Philosophy were in the curriculum up to 1960s.
There was an aura of mysticism or some might say fetishism about the opening of KC. Once the legal instrument was promulgated preparations were made to open the college ‘at the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year of the century’. However, the college was opened with 10 students on September 20, 1909.
Section 2 throws up lots of information about the heritage of King’s College, the ideals and extra curricula activities of the college. In addition to these, the section emphasises that academic discipline was relentlessly pursued by the college administration since inception to nurture the students, in and out of the classrooms. The overall objective of the college was to produce ‘gentlemen’ as well as manpower to meet the needs of government and the private sector. The emphasis was on leadership qualities of chivalry, truthfulness, camaraderie, obedience and perseverance embodied in the College Anthem. This was done with practical demonstrations in running the affairs of the college through active student involvement and institution of military discipline. To that end innovative Student Representative Council (SRC) that teaches students’ participation in governance and parliamentary procedures, and a cadet unit were established in the college. The cadet unit, the first of its type in Nigeria was hailed as the spring board for quite a number of students of the college who were motivated to take to military profession with distinction.
Section 3 which is taken up entirely by Chapter 9 being the last chapter of the book contains reminiscences of the KC old boys. It ended with a unique write-up by one of the oldest boys living, Adedapo A. Adeniran (Form 3A 1939/40). He gave account of events surrounding the challenges of the World War II which saw the students of Government College Ibadan and Government College Umuahia housed at King’s College. They were taught separately throughout the duration of the war. The step was taken to conserve resources and offer maximum protection to the students. Other old boys in their reminiscences recalled with nostalgia their participation in sporting and social activities with several institutions including Achimota College in Ghana and Lycee Behanzin High School in Benin Republic. Many became members of National Teams and captained several sporting games. This Section also offers a Picture Gallery of some of the old boys and a stunning aerial view of the college and its neighbourhood including the sprawling native dwellings of Igbosere, Sandgrouse and Okesuna wards of Lagos Island. The Picture Gallery also includes such prominent features as the Supreme Court, the Federal Ministry of Works and the Race Course now renamed Tafawa Balewa Square.
Section 4 which contains the Appendices provides, among others, a 6-page chronology of important events, bullet by bullet, in the life and times of the college embracing the centenary period 1909- 2009; acknowledgement list of individuals, groups and organisations that facilitated the publication of the centenary book; a comprehensive roll of students who went through the college year by year from the inception of the college in 1909 to the centenary year 2009 and up to 2012; and an index.
The write-ups in general underscored the humble beginnings of King’s College which started with a modest admission initially of 10 students rising to 11 on one site in the first year. The students’ population rose staggeringly to over 4,000 on two sites by the centenary year 2009. Following the success of the college in turning out qualified professionals in nearly all fields of human endeavour, Government had sought to replicate the college across the country. This led to the establishment of several Unity Colleges modelled after King’s College just as King’s College was modelled after Eton College and similar institutions in Britain of the time. That national endeavour seemed to work to the disadvantage of the college, as KC turned out to being treated as only first among equals. The KC staff strength was depleted by the deployment of a number of them to the Unity Colleges in an effort to bring up those colleges to King’s College standard.
The upkeep of King’s College and the Unity Colleges to optimal standards poses formidable challenges in the face of limited resources. Not the least concerned are old students who lament the serious deterioration of infrastructure in their former institutions. How to proceed from there has thus become a nagging issue which has rightly engaged the attention of KCOBA well before the centenary celebration and more so since then. Advocate of Government-KCOBA partnership remains central to the agenda for improvement and yet the modality for funding and management is debatable. Should admission into King’s College be restricted to cope with available resources and maintain high standard or be thrown wide open to meet the thirst for education in the country and put up with perceived low standard? This is the question currently agitating the minds of the stakeholders.
The conception and publication of the book Floreat Collegium by KCOBA is highly commendable and worthy of emulation by old students of other educational institutions in the country. It serves to not only commemorate the efforts of the founding fathers but also provide the opportunity for stakeholders to update themselves and draw inspirations from the invaluable lessons of history. The next publication of Floreat Collegium stands to gain from attention to minor editorials and having more diversified and better categorised pictures of people and places. Inclusion of a picture of the Victoria Island Annex of the College would also be an added complement to the next publication being that the ‘present, past and future form one mighty whole’ as extolled by the highly inspiring college anthem.
Bukar Usman, OON, KCOB
Former Permanent Secretary in the Presidency
January 22, 2016