Chief Moses Inaolaji Aboaba belongs to the league of distinguished men in the real sense of it. This 79 year-old pioneer Head of Service to the Osun State government, who doubled as a Permanent Secretary, has demonstrated uncommon passion for human emancipation even as he remains patriotic enough to believe good days are ahead for Nigeria. Chief Aboaba, through his foundation, Chief Moses Aboaba Trust Fund has impacted on lots of indigent Nigerian students. In this interview with WOLE ADEPOJU, he speaks about his career and humanitarian work
Could you tell us why you are often described as a product of grace?
I know the kind of difficulty my parents went through for me to get educated, particularly my mother. Before I could get my secondary education, it was not easy. Then no matter how brilliant you are, if you don’t pay school fees, they will send you home. In my case, God was always sending help through one person or the other. Another thing that also helped me was that God put some brilliance in me such that nobody would come around me and want me to leave. At a critical time when they were giving S75, not school certification, I wanted to take that and go away, but our then principal told me to wait because he knew I could do better. He even told me to come and pay after my result was out. There was also an association in my community then, they call them Igbajo Development Group (IDG); they gave a bursary of E20 that time. My principal said I should share the money. He said, ‘give your mother E10 for her petty trade, so that she can feed you and use E10 to buy relevant books to prepare for your final exam. As it turned out, when the result came, only eight of us passed, and I was the only person from Igbajo.
How then did you manage your university education?
It was the same story, but then I was married with two children. I don’t know how I was going to do it, but God did it and I was able to go. I sold a Vesper Scooter that I was using to go to work and it was proceeds from it, about 100 pounds that I used to pay for my first year in the university. After my first year, I became an indigent student. As God would have it, one company called Richware came to my school to advertise for part time workers. I was one of the 100 they interviewed. They eventually took 10 of us, but after a week, it was so rigorous that I was the only one that remained because I had no alternative.
You had no alternative how?
As at that time, I already had a wife and two children staying with my mother at Osogbo. I had to take care of them and I had to pay my school fees. That was the job I did till a week to my final degree exam in 1971.
Why did you return to the civil service?
When I left the service, I left with the notice that I was coming back. Upon my graduation, I later bought a new car. You know what it means to buy a new car in 1971. There was the temptation to stay, but I resisted because I had written the competitive exam to return to the civil service. There were people who left the civil service with me. They are people like Olu Adeyemo, the Oba of Aramoko, who was my class mate. There was also Olubayo Balogun who later turned Tafa Balogun. They call me his brother. I told them lets go back and we went back to the civil service. They took the three of us because we were very brilliant and from the University of Lagos.
You became a Permanent Secretary, let us into it.
Asides rising to become a permanent secretary, I was also the first head of service of the government of Osun State when the state was created in 1991. However, I retired in January 1992.
You were the Permanent Secretary in which of the ministries?
I was Permanent Secretary, Cabinet. Previously, I was the Secretary Cabinet; I was head of the state Tender Board and servicing the secretariat of the cabinet. You know that is where all the critical things including the secret of the government are planned. I think I was number 15 on the seniority list. The service was so stressful because a lot of my seniors who thought that I was going to supersede them were not happy. There were people appointed into the civil service before me. I was promoted ahead of them. So, if you look at it all, you will realise that it has just been God’s grace. Honestly, if God has helped me in such a way, what is the worth of life if I cannot in my own little way impart life in whatever I do?
One would have expected you to dabble into partisan politics?
If you go abroad, you will find out that political scientists and lawyers are the ones who feature more in politics. But honestly, I very much enjoyed the service before the military. As at that time, the legislature of the old western seat had members who were on part-time basis. Only the ministers were earning full fledge and how much were they earning? Permanent Secretaries were earning N2, 700 and they had the power to influence policies. If you compare the three regions that were there, then particularly under Chief Simi Adebo, there was symmetry between him as head of service and Chief Obafemi Awolowo as head of government. No wonder they achieved the much they did. The Western Nigeria civil service with regards to the other regions was the best paid and best working in terms of impact on the society they were serving; no other region equaled them. I believe to be a politician is for you to be ready to serve the people not for you to go and serve yourself. But the situation we have now, people think that politics is the best way to become rich overnight. They think politics is all about earning what you have not worked for and denying the society what they deserve, I can’t be part of that.
Your life experience must have made you to start a foundation, is that right?
Before we started this foundation, we had been touching lives. About 20 years ago before my late wife died, we established a foundation for widows. They didn’t need to beg from anyone, they didn’t have to fornicate around before they can sustain themselves. So far, we have spent close to about N10 million in trying to assist them. Annually, on July 6th, which is the anniversary of the death of my late wife, we give out to widows.
How did the Chief Moses Aboaba Trust Foundation start?
My children came to me and insisted that since I was getting old, it was important to have a foundation that will embrace all. That of my wife will not stop working, but this will encompass all. That was how the Chief Moses Aboaba Trust Foundation started with the objective of helping the poor.
What would you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my impact on the common man through the assistance of God. This is because I have been a product of God’s grace and people have helped me at every stage of my life. Even when there was nobody to help me, God was always there for me. And I just believe that God has spared my life to be able to impart not just my generation but the generation coming behind me. This is because some of my mates are already gone; it is just God that is keeping me. When you look at every stage of my life, to even go to secondary school, it was God that made it possible not to talk of going to university. Even in civil service, I was the first person from Igbajo to be a clerical officer. Igbajo people used to be educationists, most of them principals. I was the only senior civil servant from Igbajo at that time, and I was the only one to rise to the position that I was. Nobody knew me, but it was only God that knew me. On reflection, I think God has a plan for every one of us and it is not until we have stolen Nigeria’s money or are as rich as Bill Gate that we can make an impact. Honestly, what I am doing now is to live my life for the people and for God. The legacy I want to leave is to be remembered for the positive impact I made. Is it in the civil service which is my constituency, I am doing my bit via the annual good governance lecture, to help the poor, to help the widows. The foundation I setup for my wife has been helping widows for over 15 years. I want to be remembered for what God has used me to contribute to the society.
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