As Nigeria celebrates her 58th independence anniversary, as it does every year, the name Taiwo Akinkunmi crops up again. WAHEED ADEBAYO was at the Ibadan residence of Akinkunmi to chat up the octogenarian. His report
For the first time visitor to the residence of one of the Nigeria’s heroes of October 1, 1960, Nigeria’s (Independence day), Pa. Taiwo Akinkunmi, may be a little bit difficult, as nothing is attached to his status apart from being the designer of the Nigeria’s Green-White-Green flag which has become the national symbol
Though, the house is not located in the remote area of the Oyo State capital, Ibadan, there is nothing special to indicate that a man who produced the country’s symbol, the national flag, lives in such area.
Going to his house located at the Bishop Phillips Academy, Monatan area of Ibadan, some of the motorcyclists plying the route and who know the man, will ask you, “Do you mean you are going to Baba Nigeria’s house, the man who designed the National flag?”
If your answer is affirmative, they would take you there without stress. The only difference between the house and other houses on the same street was, it was painted Green-White-Green, Nigerian colour.
The first visitor may first think or believe that it is one of the government official residences. However, apart from the colour, there is nothing special to indicate that a prominent Nigerian lives in the area.
This is a man whose name will continue to ring a bell and be remembered as long as Nigeria exists and most especially anytime Nigeria is celebrating her independence. This is a man who has contributed immensely to the country’s unity by designing the national flag.
Pa Akinkunmi, who is now 82 years old, was born in Ibadan, precisely at Idi Ikan area of the city on 10 May, 1936. His parents were traders who travelled a lot and this made it easy for the young Taiwo to have the feelings of different parts of the country and have the opportunity of staying in the north, Sokoto. In fact, he spent most of his youthful years in the northern part of the country.
Though, he was born in Ibadan, his parents hailed from Owu, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
He started his education in the northern part of the country before returning to Ibadan to continue his elementary education at Baptist Primary school in 1949 and Ibadan Grammar School in 1955.
He worked briefly at the Ministry of Agriculture before proceeding to Norway Technical College, London in 1958 to further his education which was sponsored by his parents.
It was while in London that he saw an advertisement requesting for the designing of Nigeria’s national flag.
The father of four and husband of one wife told our correspondent that it was after seeing the advertisement that he went back to his hostel and decided to participate.
According to him, he later sent his entry through the High Commissioner in Nigeria and that he was happy and excited when his entry was selected among the over 200 entries.
Initially, he said it was surprising that his entry was picked by the judges as the nation’s symbol which is the flag.
He explained that the Green-White-Green colour of the National flag represents peace and the agricultural potential of the country.
As compensation, he was given 100 pound and this was followed by several years of neglect by various governments.
He said not until Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became President that he decided to honour him with the National honour of Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).
He was also appointed Special Adviser to the President and was placed on monthly salary which he enjoys till date.
The national flag designer who debunked claim that his present residence was built for him by the Federal government, said it was built by money he won at a programme organised by the MTN Nigeria (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire).
Akinkunmi who was delighted by his ‘little’ contribution, expressed optimism that any of his children could contribute to the socio-economic development, even in a bigger way.
Speaking on the country’s 58th independence anniversary, Akinkunmi thanked God for taking the country this far.
While noting that there is peace in the land, he said that it called for celebration.
On whether this is the Nigeria of his dream, he declared that Nigeria has come of age and there had tremendous development in the country.
He explained that successive governments have frantic efforts aimed at improving on the socio-economic living standard of the people.
He called on Nigerian to continue to support government in its efforts at ensuring peace, growth and development.
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