I speak for many Nigerians. The title above is apt. There is only one ‘Mayflower’ in the world. I don’t know of any other.
Mayflower is the name of a school founded by a sage, a philosopher, a teacher, writer, newspaper columnist, social activist, humanist, and proprietor of a unique school he built in his ‘image and likeness’.
Myths and legends have been built around both the man and his school: the school was built from day-one by the students themselves; the schools farmlands fed the students; the man was never seen in clothes other than his ‘uniform’ of simple Khaki shirts and shorts, over his workman’s boots or sandals; the only other times he wore anything different were at his wedding to the only woman he ‘knew’ in his life, Sheila, and at the inauguration of the board of the only public office he accepted to serve in his life – the Peoples Bank – he wore the cheapest Ankara buba and sokoto in the market that he made everyone of his pioneer staff to also wear; he did not believe in any deity; he did not practise any religion; he was very deeply philosophical.
Such were the legion of stories around Dr. Tai Solarin that with his gifts in terms of talent, ability, capacity and knowledge, many people considered him worthy of a place amongst the gods. The school that he founded was built around his principles, philosophy and life. His life was a model of unpretentious conduct and moral uprightness. No one could truly live his kind of spartan life and of complete servitude to humanity and to his environment – nature.
So, if you never met him whilst he was alive, (as I never did) and you want to have an experience of him, your best bet is to go to Ikenne, where he came from, and share ‘communion’ with his family that still live there and continue to run the greatest legacy he left behind – the Mayflower Schools.
One of my dreams in my days in Ibadan was to either meet the man, or to visit Mayflower one day and ‘experience’ the man through the school community he built, lived in and died some 20, or so, years ago. This past week I fulfilled that dream.
I honoured an invitation extended to me by Corin Solarin, his daughter and current Proprietor of the Mayflower Private School, one arm of a group of Mayflower schools, to be a special guest at the schools’ annual inter house sports meet.
The invitation was also extended to the students of the Athletics academy of the Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy, SOCA, to take part in the glamorous, ceremonial Invitational Relays for visiting schools from around the country. The selected schools came from far and near – Abuja, Lagos, Delta, Niger, Oyo, Ogun and others.
What an experience and what a memorable day it turned out to be. I saw the school from close up, carved literally out of the Ikenne village of dense vegetation, plantations and trees, with the school community blending seamlessly with the village community. The union reminded me of several similar European and American schools that are embedded into their towns and villages, each feeding off the other in a mutually beneficial relationship. You could not separate the institutions from the communities! That, by the way, is my long term dream for SOCA and Wasimi Orile. It will happen one day down the line.
The games were well organised and well attended. The greatest athlete in the history of Ogun State, the legendary Falilat Ogunkoya, MON, headed the galaxy of ‘stars’ that were in attendance.
Significantly, Lee Evans, one of the greatest runners in history, World record holder in the 400m, double Olympic Champion, African-American Civil rights activist, distinguished member of the US Hall of Fame, a current teacher and special trainer at SOCA, was in attendance also to add international flavour to the great event.
SOCA athletes participated in their first track competition since Lee started his ‘Rapid Results College’ of developing sprint-athletes in the school. The results have been phenomenal. The athletes were perfect ambassadors, standing out in performance, conduct and their beautiful running kits and uniforms. I was so proud of them.
I was in the environment for 2 hours, sitting between the Kaabiyesi, the Oba of Ikenne, and Corin, soaking in as much as I could of the excellent ambience, the superlative performances, and the beautiful immediate environment.
I shall surely go back there to have a better conversation with Corin and her brother, Tunde, that I am told keeps some exotic reptiles as pets.
We have agreed on a collaboration between our two schools, with SOCA coming to ‘drink’ from the fountain of the great works of the Solarins.
I took a few pictures that tell their own little stories. Enjoy Mayflower with me.