My Early Life

MY NAME IS JUSTIN ODUNLAMI SANWO.

I was born at Ilorin, in Kwara State, on the 2nd of December, 1943, to Mr and Mrs J.M.O. Abraham Sanwo. My father was a Forest Ranger in the services of the then Govenment of Northern Nigeria. This involved the transfer mobility of government staff to anywhere in its domain. By implication, such transfers would involve the movement of the family members of each serving staff to the locations of service. My mother and I and my maternal cousin went to all his stations with him to Gudi, Jimeta and Kafanchan towns, for varied lengths of time, for which the transfer lasted. It availed me the opportunity of cross cultural exposure to different Nigerian ethnic groups in their domiciled localities.

I started my Primary school education in the Catholic Primary School in Jimeta where I read Primary 1 and Primary 2 classes before my father was transferred to Kafanchan. I completed my primary education from Standard 1 to Standard 6 at the Saint Peter Claver’s School in Kafanchan in 1956. Kafanchan gave me the opportunity to acquire eloqunce in the three major Nigerian languages – Yoruba, which myself and my immediate family members spoke at home; Ibo, which was the lingua franca at school with my school mates and my teachers who were all ibos; and Hausa, which was the language for general communication in Kafanchan town.

I was admitted into Saint Anthony’s Grammar School, Esure, Ijebu-Imushin, where I sat for and pssed the West African School Certificate Examination in 1961 in seven Arts subjects and one Science subject, Mathematics. Saint Anthony’s Grammar School was a new institution and it offered no Science subjecs such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Additional Mathematics in its early years. I passed all my subjects at distinction and credit levels except in English, where I had a P 7 pass grade. My determination to read Science spurred me on to Abeokuta Science Evening Classes (ABSEC) run by the Oyewole brothers at Abeokuta Grammar Scchool in 1962. While at ABSEC, I taught latin at MACJOB Grammar School for subsistence. After a year at ABSEC, I sat for the GCE London Ordinary level in Biolgy, Chemistry and English. I passed them all at credit level.

In further pursuit of my ambition to study the sciences, I relocated to Lagos and sat for Higher School Certificate admission examination to CMS Grammar School, Lagos, Husssey College,Warri and Federal School of Science, Lagos (FSS). I was admitted in all but I opted FSS for two reasons:  (i) It was for 18 months instead of two years in the other two, and (ii) It was free and I would be paid a monthly stipend by the Federarl Government of Nigeria under a special program by the Government to encourage the study of Science subjects by youths, I passed the GCE London in Botany, Zoology and Chemistry after 18 months at FSS and got admitted into the University of Ibaan to read Agriculture in the Fall of 1965. By June 1968, I graduated at UI in a Second Class Upper Honours Division and I also bagged the Pfyzer Prize for that year. By 1969 Fall, I was admitted to read a Master of Science Programme at the University of Gueph, Ontario, Canada, under the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship award. This Masters programme tickled my fancy in the area of Crop Improvement via Genetic manipulations. After my return to Nigeria in 1971, and a few years of plant breeding exposure in Tree Crops, I went to Cornell University, New YOrk, USA to study Plant Breeding at the Ph.D. level in 1974. My Ph.D. degree was awarded in 1977.

 

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