At the interview that preceded our admission to King’s College, Lagos, Sonny and I struck up a friendship that spilled over to 2nd January 1957 when we found ourselves in the same class at the age of thirteen years. Hence it was a privilege to witness firsthand his prodigious intellect which was consistently on display until we left in 1963. Ironically, he was eager to establish his credentials as a “rascal”. In this endeavour he found ready allies in Robert Olabode Johnson (ROJ) and myself. Some of the escapades provided ample ammunition that would have earned us the severest punishment (not excluding suspension or expulsion). Fortunately, our guardian angel ensured that matters did not escalate beyond narrow escapes.
Sonny was in Hyde-Johnson House where he kept his fellow boarders on edge on account of his regular accumulation of “imposition” points (punishment by Prefects or Teachers for infractions / bad behaviour) which severely compromised any prospects of “Hyde-J” emerging as the best in the rankings amongst all four houses – Hyde-Johnson; Mackee-Wrights; Paynes; and Harman’s at the end of each term. Points were awarded for academic excellence, proficiency in sports and good conduct.
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From King’s College, Sonny proceeded to University of Lagos where his haul of academic distinctions at the graduation ceremony from Medical School in 1973 is yet to be equalled.
As confirmation that this was not a fluke, his record at postgraduate courses in UK (Hammersmith, London) and United States of America (Chicago) bear testimony that his superlative achievements have deservedly earned him all the accolades showered on him for his enduring scholarship and energetic commitment to excellence.
I was a witness to the pleadings of his professor in Chicago that without a doubt, Sonny was firmly on the pathway and trajectory for the highest and rarest international awards in the medical profession.
Here we are in Ijebu-Ode to celebrate Ogbeni Oja in recognition of his pedigree and his dazzling accomplishments in numerous areas of human endeavour – business (banking and finance); “hospitality” (as in Eko Hospital PLC); education (University of Lagos; University of Benin) etc.
At the age of 80 he is now entitled to a reprieve, pardon or waiver that would wipe all those “impositions” which over the years have left us in awe and admiration. Be rest assured that the best is yet to come as he majestically glides into the next phase of his eventful life surrounded by his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Kalu Idika Kalu (KIK) who eventually became Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, was a huge restraining influence on Sonny at King’s College. Sonny was KIK’s fag and now that the eagle has landed, the least we can do is to recognize “KIK” as the “Baba Ogbeni Oja of Ijebu Land”. History is always impartial. Alas, whatever “K.I.K” did or failed to do cannot now be undone.
While celebrating Sonny, we must acknowledge the immense sacrifice, support and love showered on him as an only child of his late mother. She lost six pregnancies before he came along – hence, the name “Folorunsho” (which translates as “left in the care of God”) out of fear and apprehension that he too would go the way of the others.
He was fortunate to have two adoring uncles – late Architect Afolabi Kuku and Chief Bayo Kuku, the last Ogbeni Oja.
It was while we were in the Fourth Form at King’s College that (perhaps)due to a surge of testosterone, Sonny and I decided that the dances and picnics were too boring for us. We decided to launch a club – “TINNAZ” which would hold picnics at the pristine Ikoyi Park, Lagos (now known as Park View Estate, Ikoyi) and parties at the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall, Onikan which was recently (wantonly) demolished by the Government, during the long vacation and at Easter as well as Christmas/New Year. We had no difficulty in recruiting the likes of Olusegun Osoba (from Methodist Boys’ High School); George Amu; Benjamin Ohaeri; Chris Okunriboye; Shobo Hughes; Vera-Cruz; Muyiwa Da-Silva and his brother (from St Gregory’s College) as well as Patrick Sebo and Sedewe Koshoni from St. Finbarr’s College). We had great fun. We were hot !! We had swagger and the girls from Queen’s College, Yaba, Methodist Girls School, Yaba; Holy Child College, Obalende etc.. Our classmates at King’s College – Tunde Cole-Onitiri; Kayode Adeniyi-Jones; Robert Olabode Johnson; Olufemi Robinson; and Bola Osinbowale would not stop bragging about being members of Tinnaz Club. It provoked the emergence of a rival – “The Shadows Club” led by Niran Adeniyi and Tolu Cameron Cole.
The achievements of Dr. Sonny Kuku flourished in an environment dominated by geniuses at King’s College. Many of them proceeded to reach amazing heights and perform exceptional feats in medicine; engineering law; judiciary; architecture; civil service; chartered accountancy; military; police; banking; clergy; security services; music; diplomacy; politics; journalism; academia; literature; and commerce and industry. Perhaps I should add Royalty / Traditional Rulers and Public Intellectual to the intimidating list.
Ironically, many of them were active “Rascals” before transforming into super-achievers. In any case, most of the impositions they incurred were for “breaking bounds” (sneaking out of the college without permission to watch a film show or visit some of the night spots that were all over Lagos – Ambassador Hotel; Kakadu; Cuban Bamboo; Maharani etc..).
Long before Sonny entered medical school, he had developed his own “bedside manner.” However, I am not at liberty to disclose further details. It is sufficient to share with you the data, statistics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which have established beyond reasonable doubt that ladies have been wildly enthusiastic about securing his services for ailments – both real and imaginary in order to benefit from his legendary bedside manner, especially what he mischievously describes as “Intensive Care” (not Intensive Care Unit)and TLC (Tender Loving care). POKA!! (King’s College Slang)
When I visited him at Eko Hospital where he was the Chief Medical Officer, my own experiences with him and his medical skills are somewhat different. I shall discuss these experiences with you all in my next column.