By Tunde Akanni, PhD
Between Alhaji Abdul Lateef Olumide Lawal and the late first executive governor of Osun State who later became a two-time senator, Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, exists a most mysterious but pleasant tie. Adeleke died in 2017 but no year has passed without Lawal dispensing tributes with fresher angle each year. Countless fellow compatriots from Ede, appreciate Haji Lawal’s faithfulness to friendship. Alhaji Lawal’s undying commitment to the bond is probably the least the community would jointly volunteer on account of the rescuer intervention that Adeleke’s emergence as governor symbolized. His disposition to Adeleke only typifies his most outstanding quality-being appreciative of kind gestures no matter how insignificant.
From Uncle Olumide to children, nephews, nieces and his treasured younger colleagues, every encounter is routinely laden with prayers and inimitable words of inspiration and encouragement. Not one that surrenders to fate where action is indispensable, he relentlessly scouts for opportunities for folks as if he is the potential beneficiary even as he is the last person describable as an opportunist. Who can believe that Haji Olumide doesn’t feel tempted to plunge into compromise to seek favours from Davido, the renowned musician publicly acknowledged as an indomitable spender, in spite of all he has done for Davido’s uncles Isiaka, Ademola and Adeeyo? Uncle Olumide would not deride anyone either for not patronizing him. Quite clearly his is a life dedicated to gratitude, by faith and personal conviction, I would argue.
Uncle Olumide today savours the quietude of his country home in Ede as a journalist supposedly retired but he still beams with vigour. He had relocated to Ede before the former late Senator Adetunji Adeleke died in 2017 and so was the commanding officer of the Serubawon political campaigns which yielded victory even as he had to compete with digital natives on the side of the opponents. Serubawon’s death hardly impacted on anyone as much as Uncle Olumide, extremely depressed. But that didn’t deter him from being protective of Serubawon’s interest even after his demise. Promptly, he rose to rouse the campaign facilities for Ademola,Serubawon’s brother who offered to complete Serubawon’s term in the senate. This he did so much to the extent that he became the trans-generational bridge for the success of Ademola beckoning the young and the old for Ademola’s support. Although this writer, for instance, was Ademola’s classmate, it was at the instance of Uncle Olumide that Ademola earned one’s support.
Uncle’s philosophy consistently manifests continuity of good legacy. A descendant of the great Lawal Family of Ailaka Compound Ede, Uncle happened to be one of the leading science students in his class at the Seventh Day Adventist Grammar School Ede, clearly the most expensive in the entire Osun Division of that era. But one of the teachers had managed to introduce political education of Marxian leaning to the smart ones among the students who would want to do their best to realize a better Nigeria.
One of the world leaders showcased as excelling with the ideology to the young Olumide was Fidel Castro. On account of the young man’s obvious outspokenness, he earned the label Fidel Castro. The young Olumide was also outstandingly ever neat , thus had the Fidel replaced with Finni (short form of Ajisefinni, meaning one whose most constant priority is neatness. Ajisefinni was the sobriquet for Ede’s arguably most renowned barber in the 70s and 80s). Consequently, the young Olumide had his nickname properly indegenised to Finni Castro and the name has stuck through ages. He is hailed Castro till date by his contemporaries.
Beyond ‘flying’ out of the school with the Castro label, he has had his mind moulded. Rather than purse a science inclined career, he chose journalism, the path of his uncle, Late Chief Sola Lawal, a pioneer journalist of the Tribune newspapers, Nigeria’s oldest surviving newspaper. “Having being politically cultivated at Seventh Day Adventist, there was no stopping the fire in me. I saw a convincing model in Uncle Sola Lawal. My uncle was a highly principled professional, yet was socially and economically successful in the superlative rating. Thus began my career in broadcast journalism, specifically radio.”
He continued in a recent conversation with this writer: “I love writing frequently, another strong practice cultivated at Seventh Day Adventist. So, for me, advancing the cause I believe in has to be done through all possible windows. But that’s why I defied all odds and threatening risks to stand by Senator Ademola Adeleke when he needed to speak out through the media during his travails. I got all reputable media invited to Ede to come hear his side of the raging story. Fierce looking security operatives had flooded the entire state just to ensure Ademola didn’t have access to the world through the media. But what quality would a journalist appropriate to himself if not tenancity? I had to change venue some three times and finally I got Senator Ademola’s friends mobilized to speak for him and today the rest history to the glory of God.
Beyond the Adelekes, Uncle Olumide has equally remained steadfast with Sir Eyo as he fondly referred to late Dr Wale Adeeyo, publisher of the defunct Anchor newspapers. Is it not surprising that somebody who, beyond being grounded man of letters, was a publisher of a national newspaper, didn’t attract published tributes worth citing from at least a few of his former employees? Beloved Castro is the last man standing!
All the good gestures from Haji olumide were merely expressions of aniyan to daa ( or good wishes) rather than for pecuniary gains as this new septuagenarian is reasonably endowed materially and visibly radiates contentment as much as discernible. Some five years ago, the wedding ceremony of one of the children which he personally bankrolled held at an “all amenities completed hotel” (to echo Fuji founder, Ayinde Barrister) in the heart of Lagos. In addition to the monarch from Ede, Kabiyesi Muniru Adesola, Laminisa 1, the Timi of Ede, the guests’ list was a spectacle of who’s who from around Nigeria, even as the lowly were duly catered for in line with the spirit of Finni Castro.
A distinguished broadcast journalist of decades with Nigeria’s largest radio network, Hajji Olumide’s professional trajectory was characterized by uncommon, high level engagements at different times: Spanning whole decade, 1990-2000, he was Public Relations Consultant to the defunct Nigeria Sugar Company, Bacita. In 1993, on account of his erudition and dynamism, he doubled as the Chair of the Directorate of Information, Public Relations and Think-Tank constituted by Governor Adeleke of Osun State. Ahead of all these, the energetic professional had been tasked to cover Hajj in 1984. That was the same year the sitting Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, who I later learnt from my long time brotherly friend, Afolabi Gambari, happened to be a soulmate of Sir Eyo, performed hajj.
As one of the outstanding and shining stars of Edeland, Alhaji Olumide Lawal, in a book edited by an Ede born, globally renowned historian, Prof Siyan Oyeweso, is described as a: “ …self-made man who passed through the crucible and fire, and came out untainted and unscathed, a product of hard work…spartan discipline and abundance of native intelligence”
Haji Lawal has diligentlypaid his dues in rendering journalism and humanitarian services. It may well be said that beneficiaries of his good heart may deem this special 70th birthday anniversary to reciprocate and even replicate such.
Akanni, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Journalism at the Lagos State University, Nigeria.