Our Editor, Bamidele Fatunde in this special interview with the popular Word-Bank, a lawyer, energy law specialist, Tosin Ayo takes you through the world of one man known as the encyclopedia of words.
Tosin Ayo is a man of words, a witty, excellent communicator who effortlessly expresses himself verbally. He is popularly referred to as the Word-Bank. A great Ekiti man of integrity, a man of impeccable character, and a fashionista.
He was recently recognized and nominated as one of the Special Public Works Committee as a youth. As a youth leader, he represents Ekiti Youth at the Ekiti Youth Agenda (EYA), which comprises some other prominent persons in the state as members.
In this special interview, he takes us through his long life journey, how it was while growing up and now. Tosin Ayo also shares insights into why he’s referred to as Word-bank by many people.
NG Times: Can I have a bit about yourself?
Tosin Ayo: My name is Tosin Ayo. I am a legal practitioner, energy law specialist. I am also a writer, and author. I hailed from Ikere-Ekiti but I was told I was given birth to in Ado- Ekiti. I began my elementary education in St. Joseph Catholic Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, I proceeded to the then Unity secondary school, Ikere-Ekiti.
Having concluded my post-primary education, I proceeded to the Faculty of Sciences, University of Ado-Ekiti, UNAD now Ekiti State University, EKSU as a full science student. But when I was at the 200 level, I left because of my intent to study law. Although I was a science student who self-tutored at Literature-in-English with excellent result, I wrote Jamb and passed, So, I came back to the school to apply to study law. Having graduated, I was at the Nigerian Law School, Buhari Campus in Abuja. After then, I was admitted as the Solicitor of the Supreme Court in October 2011.
I also left to study for my Master’s degree program at the University of Aberdeen to study Energy Law. We were the pioneering set of the program at the University. Having successfully concluded my Master’s, I came back to Nigeria. I’ve been in private practice before I secured a lecturing appointment in my alma mater, Ekiti State University, Faculty of Law as Lecturer in April 2016. I left Ekiti State University, EKSU in December 2019. Presently, I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Ekiti State University, EKSU.
Having said that, I also possess a lot of other certifications in the course of my career progression.
NG Times: Why are you referred to as Word-Bank?
Tosin Ayo: The reason is not far-fetched. I could remember during the popular six (6) months ASSU strike in Nigeria during our undergraduate years, I personally decided to activate my personal development skills, and I was reputed to have read six (6) versions of different dictionary from cover to cover, including the English. It was so bad that I could tell anyone the meaning of most English words in the dictionary, I could the page, the lines where some of the words are in the dictionary. This was how the sobriquet “Word-Bank” came about. People started calling Word-Bank because I was like a bank of words. You do not need to consult your dictionary, Encyclopedia Americana, Oxford e.t.c. to get or know the meaning of any English word, all you needed to do was to ask me (Word-Bank) and I would tell you. Basically, while the dictionary is a companion of some sort on an occasional basis for many people it became a part of me (Word-Bank) that I go everywhere with it just as the Pastor would go everywhere with the Holy Bible. Since then, the name has stuck, most people still call me the “Word-Bank” in person and even on social media.
NG Times: What is your favorite quote?
I have a lot of quotes. One of it is “In matters of style swim with the tide, in matters of principles, stand like a rock.”Rock in this sense I mean like the rock of Gilbratha. I also believe in this nugget that says, “time waits for no mine,” “make hay while the sun is still shining,” “no matter how far you’ve gone the wrong path, you can always make a U-turn and make the best of it.” There is another favorite one that says, “in life dramas, there are no rehearsals.”
There are so many of them and these principles have guided me all along.
NG Times: At what age did you have a first paying job?
Tosin Ayo: I started my entrepreneurial skills right under my father’s, I first earned 250 naira under his watch because my father was a professional. He’ll always treat you as a staff. However, the one I can refer to as a job was outside Nigeria when I worked as a blood cancer charity researcher. I was talking people out of their funds. In the UK, I was earning 9 per hour, so basically, that was my first paying job before I assumed a job at the University as a lecturer.
NG Times: Tell us something that is true that no one agrees with you?
Tosin Ayo: It’s the fact that whether you are Christian or a Muslim or a pagan, the same principle applies to all of us. I believe in spiritual forces, I also believe in physical and market forces. Sometimes when people say you go to church to pray so you make money, it’s funny when people say but the richest of the people don’t even know God. Most people even believe that the grace of God can make you rich, the grace of God can make you have true prosperity. But for you to make money, you have to use your head it does not matter whether you serve God or not. Even though it doesn’t seem right not to serve God, but for you to have “physical prosperity” you can be who you are; you can decide to even be pagan. But for you to have true wealth you have to believe in God. So I think that’s the area that we always get confused about, and that’s why people will tell you if you pay your tithe things will not be hard for you. Whether you pay your tithe or you do not once you understand the principles of making wealth. Wealth only comes to those who solve people’s problems. So I think it’s the misconception in the gospel to assume such.
NG Times: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Tosin Ayo: The need to put food on the table for my family, I want to make them very comfortable. Another is I love money, I love the good life and I want to look good. I love fashion, but I can’t do the unthinkable to have the money, so because I knew the kind of lifestyle I want to live it is only money that can make me achieve it. Besides, I can’t afford to do that which is right to make money because making money makes me happy, it pushes me to get out of bed every morning. There is the need to also give back because there are a lot of people that look up to you so I wouldn’t like to disappoint them. I am what you can call an incurable optimist, a very positive person so I always get out of bed so I can meet up with those obligations that are pending.
NG Times: Can you tell us about your awards?
Tosin Ayo: I was telling someone previously if I should pick up all my awards maybe it would fill up a studio.
While I was in Primary school I got an award for the neatest, in secondary school I received the best English student in Ekiti state. While in the University, I won various awards the most friendly, most brilliant, overall best performance in the environmental law 2008/2009 academic session in the University of Ado-Ekiti, while In the University of Aberdeen, I won the best prize as the overall best graduating student in the energy law program in 2013. Having returned from Aberdeen, as a lecturer in the Ekiti State University I won the most popular lecturer award in the university, I won the best dressed. During my Ph.D. in the 2016/2017 academic session, I had a perfect score of 5.0/5.0 in my course work. I have had several recognitions, one was from the University of Ibadan as one of the young influential persons amongst other awards. I have accepted all these numerous awards with every sense of humility.
NG Times: What was life like when you were in UNAD and now?
Tosin Ayo: When I was in UNAD, it was fun. I live in the hostel in my university days, in fact, I was one of the first set of people that lived in the popular Omolayo hostel. Life was quite interesting, students life was crazy and there was cohesion.
Even as a “brilliant student,” we still had fun. We had picnics like going to Ikogosi Warm spring, there was meaningful friendship. The issue of sexual harassment that has been on the front-burner nowadays can’t be denied then but it was not this rampant. I think then it was mostly lecturers to students, people you couldn’t get ordinarily you want to use your influence as a lecturer to get them. In the few years that I lecture, I noticed that there has been a shift, even students now harass lecturers especially if you are good looking and well-dressed people might want to have a glimpse. But I feel with some decorum and if you knowing why you are in the academic environment, it is not as bad as it is being painted. Most of these students are equally adults, they know what they want even if they are not dating lecturers they could date other people like them. The only thing that now happens is when there is an “imbalance of power.” This is when a lecturer uses his influence as a person to want to take undue advantage of your student. Anybody that is beneath you, you should not even approach them for such because they have no capacity to give a valid consent so to speak. But for social life, I think it’s still the same. However, the stand of education I think has dropped a little bit. Without sounding immodest, I’ve students who are brilliant that when I look at what it takes to be a First Class student it is not the same any longer, there is a bit of laxity. The number one problem with our education system is that those who know do not teach and those who teach do not know. The best brains celebrate outside the country and when they come back they join the oil companies, banks… It is the only people who are unemployed that end up in class teaching the students, so that has a ripple effect on the set of graduates we produce now.
This also applies to our own time too. When you retrospectively look at the old days and those who were ahead of us then, you would say the standard has fallen. For instance, when you see people that have grade II then, they are like professors, they are articulate and sound. Even nowadays, a university graduate can no longer construct a simple and complete sentence. I just think we have to rescue our education system and resuscitate it from the verge of terminal decline that is currently is now.
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NG Times: Tell us your most memorable moment and worst
Tosin Ayo: My most memorable moment was during my environmental law examination as an undergraduate at the University of Ado-Ekiti. My lecturer, Dr. Femi Ogunlade who now works with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) just came into the class and asked to stand up. I was embarrassed, why did he ask me to stand up? He told every classmate that I was the only one who was in 300L that every other person is in primary three (3). He told them that we are not classmates and I began to wonder. Then it was a test, so he brought the booklet to the class where I scored 16/20 marks, while the next person close to me scored 6/20 marks. I still remember the question, it goes thus; “critically examine the legal framework for environmental protection laws in Nigeria.” There are about 32 laws and about 38 sections I quoted it verbatim. This lecturer came to the class to set a trap for me and repeated the same question again to know whether it was possible for somebody to write that much section verbatim. This time he stood behind for about ten (10) minutes to supervise and confirm if I wrote it myself or copied it from the text. To his surprise, I was rewriting the same thing from my head, so he went through it and make that outburst. Something struck me that moment that if you have excellence people will recognize you. He even approached my dad to increase my pocket money that this boy is brilliant. He said even he that set the question can’t in his good conscience write those 38 sections verbatim, so that experience was a memorable moment for me. The worst moment which I don’t like to talk about was when I wanted to have a relationship and it didn’t work out well. Yet people will come and make jest of you saying all sorts like “Laugh!!! Egbon, you lavish money on that girl o, LOL!” “What now happens now?.” When I remember it I just laugh, because I believe I think it’s a good one because, beyond your understanding about education, you also need to learn the street and learn life. It was my learning rope and I am grateful for it.
NG Times: What is your word for students on campus especially those who look up to you as mentors?
Tosin Ayo: The number one thing is to be focused, to understand that education would only suppress the animalistic tendencies in you. It will not necessarily make you successful. Once you are studying in school, learn about it but also learn about the street and learn about the reality of life. To make money you need to activate your sense, develop yourself, maintain, and cultivate valuable relationships that will happen to you. Everything I’ve achieved in my modest way is things that are not necessarily based on my educational attainment but on the kind of relationship I’ve cultivated over the years.
Your connection determines your collection. Your allocation is a function of your location. But irrespective of your location you find yourself maximize it, discover yourself, discover your talent. What are you best at and monetize it? Don’t wait, he who waits to do a great deal at once will never do anything. Start with what you have, wherever you are even when you are in school. I wrote my first book as a university student. I wrote my biography as a university student. For instance, nobody cares what school does the writer of a book attend when they want to read your book, rather they want to know what’s the content of the book. You have to start where you are, you won’t become a star until you start and activate your sense.
Do make sure that every day you wake up you make money. Do make sure you make a legitimate fund. The way to look at life is that every time you wake up you are contributing to another person’s economy. For instance, the person that makes your paste is contributing to you, the anointing oil you buy when you go to church, you are contributing to the manufacturer of the Olive oil economy, even your clothes, and so on. Do find ways that other people will also contribute to your own economy so that there can be a balance of trade, a balance of the business. As you are into every other person’s business let people buy into your business. You must make sure you have something you have created. God says, “I am going to bless the work of thy hand.” God never said job, so you don’t need to have a job. Zero (0) multiply by hundred (100) equals zero (0), but a hundred (100) multiply by hundred (100) will give you multiple of it. Basically, make sure there is something for God to bless.