Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oluwole Awolowo: Tribute by Tribune Newspaper

Chief Obafemi Awolowo's heir Oluwole Awolowo is dead. Below is a tribute to him by the Tribune Newspaper

Oluwole Awolowo: 1942 - 2013

Born at Ibadan on the 3rd day of December, 1942 into the illustrous family of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was the third child and second son of Papa Obafemi Awolowo and Mama Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo.  He grew up among his peers without any elitist trait.  He never discriminated against friends and relations who knew him as “UNBREAKABLE,” a sobriquet given to him by Papa Awolowo himself for his tenacity of purpose.

His contemporaries always described him in the superlatives as kind, considerate, compassionate and diligent.  Studious and enthusiastic in sports, his main forte was the game of soccer.
From Ibadan Grammar School, he proceeded to Leighton Park School, Reading, Berdshire, England for further studies.  He was admitted into the famous Leeds College of Commerce where he graduated in Business Studies in the early sixties.

After sojourning abroad successfully he returned to Nigeria when the inclement clouds were gathering on the Action Group party and his revered father was unjustly being buffeted by the perfidious political turbulence of that era.  Making a virtue of the necessity, Oluwole took his destiny in his own hands and set to work with several organizations at the middle level managerial cadre at the Nigerian Tobacco Company, Ibadan, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and the Nigerian Television Service, Lagos.  Having acquired experience in the public service, his entrepreneurial spirit propelled him into the business of transportation, petroleum products dealership and estate management and eevelopment among others.

In keeping with the title ‘UNBREAKABLE” given to him by his visionary father, the responsibility of manning the family forte fell squarely on his young shoulders when his father was incarcerated and his beloved elder brother and lawyer, Segun Awolowo, passed on in 1963.  Those were the difficult times that tried men’s souls; but in spite of the gloom that enveloped the Awolowo family, he still managed to remain UNBREAKABLE.

This was when he became very active in politics.  He joined the UPGA and effectively participated in the successful election of Chief TOS Benson as an Independent United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) in 1964.
With the emergence of the military on Nigeria’s political landscape in 1966, he veered away completely from politics to active full-time business.

Apart from transportation, petroleum products dealership and estate development, he was also a director of Dideolu Stores Limited, Sopolu Investment Ltd, amongst others.

As a committed welfarist, he always regarded service to the generality of the masses as of primary importance.  He said in an interview – “For me, politics has always been a subject concerned not with theory but primarrily with human beings, what service one can render to alleviate their sufferings.”

He won his first elective office in 1975 as a Councilor representing Apapa in the then Lagos City Council.  For discharging his responsibilities creditably in various city council committees, he had virtually no rival when the time came in 1979 to pick a UPN candidate for the Lagos State House of Assembly to represent Apapa Constituency.  He won a landslide victory and remained a Member of the Lagos State House of Assembly till 1983 when the military came calling the second time in the chequered history of Nigeria.

A successful parliamentarian, he had a reputation as a smart political operator.  With a high sense of responsibility and unusual capacity for hard work and vigour which are the hallmark of the Awolowo family, he was able to head several legislative committees on Environment, Education and Health.

He led the delegations that visited UK, Canada and USA on special assignments.  Little wonder why a famous Nigerian politician remarked that “Wole is the best politician in the Awolowo family”.
When in 1984, the Board of the African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc appointed him Publisher/Vice Chairman of the Tribune titles, a position which he held till death; he took up the responsibility with his characteristic legendary sense of duty.

As he became the Publisher, he said “I am not really interested in sitting for hours in office doing paper work. But rather, to put in place strategies that would encourage all staffers, from the managing director to the cleaners to see themselves rather as one family, who are joint owners of the business, than employees.
His style of leadership by example, predicated on his characteristic sense of duty, brought love, direction, discipline, unity, loyalty, positive progress, service and propriety to the Tribune family.  An unbreakable heritage.

For his relentless humanitarian services to various communities, he was rewarded with many chieftaincy titles among which are – The Ajiroba of Ota, Lagos State; the Sobaloju of Ijanikin, Lagos State; the Bobajiro of Isolo, Lagos State, the Odofin of Owo, Ondo State; the Ogboye of Ijeun, Abeokuta. He was also a member of several organizations and societies like the Island Club of Lagos, Founder and first President of Doma Club, Lagos, Apapa Club, Abeokuta Sports Club, Special Marshall Road Safety Commission.  He was 2nd Vice President, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) between 1984 and 1986.  A member of International Press Institute, Vienna, Austria, Patron, NUJ and several philanthropic organizations.

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