By Aduralere Oluwagbohunmi
As the saying goes, people mould nations, nations mould people. Such above assertion cannot be said to be an overstatement.
In the making of the present day Ekiti state, and in her identity construction as the intellectual capital pool of Nigeria, the exceptional story of a courageous man that stands as one of the legendary stories that formed the fulcrum of Ekiti intellectual dynasty cannot go without mentioning.
Though his name might not ring a bell among present day billionaires, however, he was, arguably, the most resourceful person in his generation. He was a paragon of academic excellence and an epitome of native intelligence.
The story you are about to read is one of the unsung geniuses of Ekiti extraction, particularly, those who did not have the opportunity of acquiring big academic titles and accolades, and yet made an indelible prints on the sand of time.
Welcome to the world of Pa Ebenezer Ajayi Adeloye, the Ekiti genius who invented 2 Agricultural machines in the 1940s.
While Ekiti is known as the home of erudite scholars, it is worth knowing that Ekiti also derived her epithet- “Fountain of Knowledge” not just on the basis of professors she has produced but also from the contributions of “village geniuses” and “forgotten heroes” that constituted her mental power.
Late Ebenezer Ajayi Adeloye was born in Usin, Ikole Ekiti in 1902 and died in March 1992. He was quite advanced in age and in the study and practice of traditional medicine before he went to St Luke’s School, Ikere Ekiti where he made history as a student of exceptional brilliance. Pa Adeloye had in on record as completing his primary education within 18 months.
Pa Adeloye started his primary school education at the age of 21 years in 1923. However, because of his age, he was excused from reading Primer 1 and 2. He was sent straight to standard 1 where he spent the rest of 1923.
Towards the end of that year, due to shortage of teachers, Standard 2 and Standard 3 were concertinaed into one year, and Std. 4 and 5 into another year. The implication was that if he could pass the exam in 1923 he would go to Std. 3 and he did. He left Ikere to Osogbo in 1924 and started a business which he did for that year.
He returned to school in 1925 and participated in the combined Std. 4 and Std. 5. No one believed in his ability to pass the exam since he was not qualified to write the examination. However, Adeloye insisted on writing the exam.
“I will test you on words and meaning. If you get five out of ten, then you can do the examination.” Mr. Longe, the school’s Head Teacher yelled out at Adeloye.
But surprisingly, rather than chickening out, Adeloye replied the Head Teacher, “If I do not get all the ten correctly, I will consider myself not ready and will not come for the exam.”
He was so confident in his ability to excel. He demonstrated the real trait of an Ekiti person. An average Ekiti man never sees second position as good enough; it is either the best or nothing. However, his astonishing performance cannot be considered as an isolated happenstance.
While doing his buying and selling business in Osogbo, he borrowed “Handbook of English Grammar” from his friend and devoured it. He read it from cover to cover. Little wonder that he got all the ten questions correctly. Out of the seventeen students that sat for the Standard 5 examination, only Ebenezer Adeloye and Michael Doyin passed the exam.
In all, he spent just 18 months instead of five years for his primary education and became a pupil teacher at Egosi (now Ilupeju Ekiti) in 1926. Within four years, he rose to become the Head Teacher of the school in 1929 before resigning to study motor mechanic at J. Allen & Co Ibadan between 1930 and 1934.
THE TALENTED MOTOR MECHANIC
Rather than pursuing a career in education and become a professor as most of his contemporaries did; the inner drive to exploit and utilise his talent made him changed the course of his life, and consequently became a renowned motor mechanic. Instead of competing in an arena filled with great and erudite scholars, he made name for himself where no shadows could obscure his presence.
Adeloye established his own mechanic workshop in Ilesha in 1934. His reputation as an expert motor mechanic won him many apprentices from Ilesha and beyond. He was known for handling difficult mechanic faults and for inventing parts of vehicle. His huge intellect influenced all he laid his hands on.
As a result of second World War (1939-1945), he relocated to Ikole fearing that in spite of his age and lack of interest in serving in the Army, he could still be conscripted to the Army on account of his expertise. This voyage to Ikole afforded him the opportunity of discovering himself as a machine inventor.
ADELOYE, THE MACHINES INVENTOR
CASSAVA GRATER – While at Ikole during the second World War, Pa Ebenezer could not live a life of physical and mental inactivity. It was the need to grate large amounts of cassava to provide gari for his people that saw him inventing a machine called Cassava Grater in early 1940s. This village genius used wheels from old cars to turn graters on circular blocks of wood to make his Cassava Grater which worked effectively and provided succour to Ikole people at that time.
The great famine and drought of 1944 destroyed many farm products except cassava, being draught resistant. As a result of this development, gari processing became the hottest business of that era. The introduction of Pa Ebenezer’s machine was timely, and he made four of the machine for use in Ikole and its environs.
COTTON WOOL SPINER: As a man who truly understood what it takes to be famous, he was unmindful of his previous achievements. He never allowed himself to be lost in the achievement of past years. As Roberts Greene reminds us in his book- “48 Laws of Power”, “only the weak rest on their laurels and dote on past triumphs; in the game of power there is never time to rest.”
In 1944, “Engineer’” Ebenezer Adeloye surprised everyone again when he invented another machine called Cotton Wool Spinner. According to Adelola Adeloye, the first son of pa Ebenezer Adeloye : “As far as I was concerned, this was Baba’s most ingenious invention; he made it to help Yeye Agba, my paternal grandmother who brought me up to spin the enormous cotton wool she had into cotton threads. It was a machine that was complicated to make, but the operation was easy enough even for my grandmother. When the experimental one he gave Yeye Agba worked satisfactorily, Baba made three more. He sent one to the Elekole, one to the District Officer in Ado Ekiti and the third one was kept as exhibition material in our house. The year was 1944. The invention became the talk of the town. “Baba Ebenezer has made another machine”.
THE MEDICINE MAN
Ebenezer Adeloye was a man of many parts. While he did not only excel as a teacher as well as becoming one of the famous mechanics in his generation, as time went on, his talent continued to blossom. He also became famous as a repairer of guitar and as a celebrated musician.
Another notable area where the talent of Adeloye blossomed was in the study and practice of traditional medicine. The few years he learnt this trade before enrolling in school gave him unusual insight into the treatment of diverse diseases in later years, particularly at Ilesha where he did free consultations and performed healings on some people that are suffering from dangerous and terminal diseases.
He covered exercise books with details of his native medicine pharmacopoeia. He was reputed for using Pakodudu (the root of anogeissus), Ewuro (vernonia spp), Atare (afromomum) and Orombo Ibaragidi (Citrus Medica) for the treatment of Akokoro (tooth decay). Similarly, he treated Yoro (gingivitis) and Segede (mumps) with Lapalapa (pignut) and afromomum respectively.
In all his endeavours and everywhere he lived, he blossomed as a man of enormous talent, be it in the study and practice of traditional medicine; in the playing and organisation of music and melody, in particular guitar music; in his profession as a motor mechanic and repairer of anything and everything mechanical; as an inventor of parts of vehicles and maker of machines and other things. His huge intellect, abundant energy, and unique philosophy influenced all he did and touched.
Perhaps, the words of E. Latunde Odeku, the first Professor of Neurosurgery in Nigeria find its most meaningful expression in the story of Pa Ebenezer Adeloye and other unsung village geniuses in Ekiti as he declared, “It is often difficult to appreciate the paradoxical structure of the African community. Their annals of intellectual development have no celebrated Aristostles or Einsteins, because their men of wisdom are filed into the tombs of their ancestry unwritten, humble and unclassified. When they are great, in their humility, they make no issues out of it. Their sages are restricted and known (right or wrong) only to their own clans. Their peoples, their elders and their wise men belong in general to no known universities or institutes or “learned societies”. They have no academic honours but their simple names. They carry their philosophies and their intellectual adornments “inwardly on their souls.” Their ALMA MATER is the School of Life.”
Painfully, like many other great inventors before him, Pa Ebenezer’s success lacks any known successor. And unfortunately, as the saying goes, success without a successor is a blatant failure.
Instead of commercialising the machines he made, Pa Adeloye did not collect money for the service he rendered. He was busy sending them to traditional authority and colonial representatives as a showpiece of his enormous talent. Similarly, it was reported that he found satisfaction in the inventions rather than the economic benefits, and without economic motivation, there was no inner drive for him to turn his local discovery into a global phenomenon.
This is a great disease that is affecting Africans. We do not see invention as a potential source of economic empowerment; we see technological innovation as a source of fame. Africans have failed to build on their native intelligence and technological prowess. Both the government and the inventors have failed to consolidate on whatever insight they have received in technological innovation and that is why the continent is being misconstrued as a “dark continent” without any significant contribution to science and technology.
Only God knows how many machines that have been invented in Africa but were later adopted and repackaged by the West and exported back to us as a 21st century mechanised tools!
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