A gentle mien. A kindly face and a dignified carriage – these are the hallmark of Chief (Mrs.) Gladys Aduke Vaughan. And so it should be. She was born into greatness but she does not have to flaunt it. She is the product of the union of two illustrious families in Ibadan.
Her mother was the daughter of the famous Pa. Samson Okeowo, a distinguished and well-to-do Ijebu immigrant who made Ibadan his home and contributed to its growth in many ways. Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan’s mother had the privilege of a good education in her days. Apart from Pa. Okeowo being the father of other distinguished sons and daughters whose descendants continue to make significant input into Ibadan’s development, it is on record that he offered his house at Alekuso as the first home for the first secondary school in Ibadan, the famous Ibadan Grammer School, which has produced many of the illustrious citizens and leaders of this country. Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan’s father was from the famous Egunjenmi family; he was himself a successful cocoa farmer and at different times businessman, a politician; he was reported to be the first young man in the Itutaba Oje neighbourhood to own a car. Although a Muslim by birth, he also attended St. Peter’s Church, Aremo.
When Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan was born therefore in 1924, she landed into the home of enlightened parents who were already exposed to the new western civilization with its emphasis on education; while not forgetting their own culture, they embraced this new culture in such a way that it left a positive mark on their lives. It is not a surprise therefore that they decided to send their daughter to school, and to no other place than Kudeti Girls’ School. For most of what is now South Western Nigeria, it was the foremost school for girls, established by the counterpart, CMS Girl’s School, in Lagos. The United Missionary College, the famous women’s teacher-training college, would have been her next port of call but an attack of mumps at the time of the college’s admission made it impossible and she later made her way to Mount Carmel School in Lagos. There she still had the rudiments of the training necessary for a teacher; thereafter she taught for a few years in schools like Ake Primary School in Abeokuta and St. Stephen’s School, Inalende in Ibadan.
Then came marriage, she met and got married to Pa. Chief A. A. Vaughan in 1944. Like the marriage of her own parents, it was a union of two distinguished families and of two young people with similar backgrounds. Papa Vaughan’s family of Gbenla Quarters, Ibadan with connections in Ogbagi Akoko, in Lagos and in Oje Alafara is a Christian; it is on record that a member of the family, Reverend Vaughan, was a famous Catechist, one of the priest who facilitated the spread of Christianity in Ibadan. Pa Vaughan also had a good education like the young men of his days, such as Pa. James A. Ayorinde and others under the leadership of their senior, Pa. S. A. Oloko, he had joined the Ministry of Agriculture and contributed to the development of Moor Plantation. That union produced children who are now making a mark in their different professions in this country and abroad.
But Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan was not done with education and the general acquisition of knowledge, she left for Britain in 1958 with approval of her husband in search of the golden fleece at a time when many of her mates would have been sitting back, relaxing at home. It was in London, at 61 Brackenbury Road, the home of the Morohundiyas, that many of us, Mrs. Bisi Akpata, Justice Atinuke Ige and I, Bolanle Awe, had the privilege of observing her at close quarters and learning very salutary lessons about humility and at the same time the display of tremendous dignity; she did not think it was beneath her to slug it out like any other student; she appeared unmindful of the inconveniences and difficulties of a student’s life in Britain, hers was always a smiling face, cheerful and uncomplaining without knowing it, she taught us all a great lesson in humility, fortitude and grace.
Fate however directed her away from nursing and led her back to her old calling. She enrolled at Wandsworth Technical College in London for the Montessori Nurses Course which she completed in record time. She quickly went back home to be reunited with her family; she top up a teaching appointment with Maryhill Convent School; a woman who loved story telling and singing was back in her natural habitat; with her Montessori Certificate she had acquired a new confidence which encouraged her to launch out on her own and to establish her own school. The Reverend Sisters in Maryhill School who quickly saw the potential in her and were aware of the need for another private school in Ibadan encouraged her. So did her many relations, especially her siblings Justice Olayinka Odumosu and Chief A.M.A. Akinloye, her friend, late Mrs. Ronke Aribasala, was also a pillar of support. Thus was born on the 1st October, 1962. Omolewa Nursery and Primary School, in a private house very near the school’s present site with eight pupils, it now has a population of about 1,000 pupils. That school made history as the third indigenous private school to be founded in Ibadan. And the second by an Ibadan woman.
The establishment of that school highlight one significant aspect of Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan’s life: hers has been a life of service to others: the brochure of the school and the achievements of the graduates speak for themselves: but first impressions can also convey a great deal of information about the quality of school: for me, the red and green uniform carefully designed and patended for that school alone makes a statement: it reflects the thoughtful care, love and concern that must have gone into the upbringing of the children of Omolewa Nursery and Primary School.
But Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan’s service is not only to education and the school. A true Christian and regular member of St. Peter’s Church. Aremo and All Saints’ Church, Jericho. She has devoted time to improving the quality of life of those of the Red Cross Society, as a Matron of the Motherless Babies Home, and as a Matron of the Alanu Fund which caters for unfortunate patients of the University College Hospital and their relations. Service in all these areas must bring recognition and the encouragement to do more. That is the whole essence of chieftaincy in Ibadan; the titles are not hereditary; That is the whole essence of chieftaincy in Ibadan; the titles are not hereditary; they are only conferred on those who have given service in Ibadan, protected Ibadan and worked for its development. Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan has done all these; it is therefore no surprise that is an Ibadan Chief. She had worked her way through the promotional chieftaincy system which is peculiar to Ibadan; she has risen from the lowest ranks to become the Osi Iyalode, the third in rank to the Iyalode, the leader of the female chiefs in Ibadan.
These female chiefs are the queens of women, they are their spokespersons and watchdogs to ensure that all is well with the city; theirs is truly selfless, dedicated service whose ultimate reward is paradoxically more giving!
Chief (Mrs.) Vaughan fits so snugly into this genre! After all she is:
Opomulero - the Pillar that upholds the house
Omo odu ti ko ni inu aakoro si - Child of the Cauldron with an open mind
Omo oloosa kin lo ri bunmi - Child of the deity from whom things are demanded
Aleeba, omo onile iyun - One who cannot be subdued. Child of those who possess coral beads
We salute you on this 40th anniversary of the school and on your 82nd birthday. May you continue to prosper and grow old gracefully. May the school continue to grow from strength as it gives dedicated service to the children of this city (Amen).
Prof. (Mrs.) Bolanle Awe
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Ibadan.
Director Inst. of Africa Studies.
On the occassion of the school's 40th Anniversary, 2002.