How Mr. Integrity, Gamaliel Onosode passed on at 82
• Buhari, Anyaoku, others mourn
NIGERIA yesterday lost one of her finest technocrats, Deacon Gamaliel Offoritsenere Onosode, fondly referred to as ‘Mr. Integrity’ by his admirers. He died at the age of 82 after a protracted illness.
The family spokesperson, Ese Onosode, told The Guardian that the elder statesman was, on Sunday night, flown in alive from the United Kingdom in an Air Ambulance in line with his wishes.
He died at about at 8.15a.m. at his Adelabu Street home in Surulere, after spending a day in Nigeria.
The family had, in a statement, also signed by Ese, announced the passing on of the boardroom guru, who in his lifetime traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria’s corporate world as leader in different capacities.
The statement reads: “It is with gratitude to God for a life well-spent that we announce the passing of our great father, grandfather, brother, uncle, Mr. Gamaliel O. Onosode, who joined our heavenly father in glory at 8.15 a.m. on Tuesday, September 29, 2015. He spent a day in Nigeria before, he finally bowed to the undisclosed ailment,” he said.
And as expected, there have been torrents of tributes from far and near including President Muhammadu Buhari, who in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina extended his heartfelt condolences to the family, government and people of Delta State, and the Nigerian Baptist Convention on the passing away of their illustrious son and evangelist.
According to Adesina, “the President joins them in mourning Mr. Onosode, who apart from being a colossus in Nigeria’s private sector, also excelled in public service on various occasions.
The President urges his family, friends, associates and other Nigerians to honour Mr. Onosode’s memory by upholding the virtues of integrity, honesty and dedication to service, which he passionately promoted in his long and highly successful career in the private and public sectors.”
On his part, the Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode expressed sadness over Onosode’s death.
Ambode, in a statement yesterday said Onosode was one of the few Nigerians who ruled boardrooms in style.
According to him, “He was a quintessential businessman, a master in his field and deeply religious. It was not therefore surprising that he rose to become a leading boardroom player in Nigeria’s corporate environment.
“He will be remembered for the dexterity he brought to bear when he served as chairman and board member of several multinational companies. I wish to convey my deepest condolences to the Onosode family on behalf of the good people of Lagos State. This is indeed a sad loss,” he said.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku described the late Gamaliel Onosode as a true symbol of integrity, an outstanding patriot and an icon of the best of Nigeria’s national values.
‘‘An iroko in the corporate world has fallen,’’ he said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“Gam’, as he was called by his contemporaries, was a true symbol of integrity in the boardroom. He was an outstanding patriot and an icon of the best on Nigeria’s national values,’’ Anyaoku said.
He also said Onosode was outstanding in his support for religious activities.
‘‘He was a man of God who deployed a significant part of his righteously acquired resources to supporting the church in his hometown of Ughelli and in Lagos where he lived an exemplary modest life,’’ Anyaoku said.
The former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, described Onosode’s death as a big loss to the nation, especially the Nigerian university system.
Noting that he was a man of exemplary leadership, Okebukola said: “He was forthright during the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike while I was in office. He was like a radar which helped to steer the ship away from the stormy waters that we faced. He will be sadly missed.”
Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, said the passage of Onosode is very sad indeed.
“He was a man known for those sterling virtues of integrity and clear vision for university education and overall impact of quality education on national development. He worked hard and lived well. We shall miss his advice and support for the university system. May his kind soul rest in perfect peace,” Ibidapo-Obe said.
Members of the University of Lagos community led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Rahman Bello, were among the earliest callers at the Onosode residence in Lagos.
According to Bello, the late Onosode’s tenure as Pro-Chancellor of the university redefined the way the university operates.
“He will forever be remembered and his impact relived for ever. Adieu Papa. May your Soul rest in Perfect Peace,” he added.
Former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan yesterday also paid tributes, describing Onosode as Mr. Integrity who was not opportuned to govern Nigeria.
In a condolence message, Uduaghan said that Onosode’s death was a big loss to Nigeria and Delta State in particular.
He said that the immediate family and Nigerians in general must take solace in the fact that he lived a fulfilled and an accomplished life that anyone can be proud of anywhere in the world.
Also his former colleague and former Managing Director of Dunlop Nigeria, Mr. Dayo Lawuyi described the late technocrat as a great man.
He said: “A great man is gone. I was privileged to work with this man for 23 years and I testify to his greatness, honesty, integrity and industry. I was an immediate member of the external family. May God grant him eternal rest.”
Onosode had hinted of his fight against an undisclosed ailment from his London base in an exclusive chat with The Guardian last year when he spoke on Nigeria’s 54th independence anniversary. Pointing out that he had to defy his ailment to lend a voice to the call for integrity, the elder statesman, industrialist and boardroom guru had expressed deep sentiments about the country, saying he was disappointed with the kind of progress made so far.
He told The Guardian that he had been receiving medical treatment in the United Kingdom for about one year, but stressed that he was not ready to give up on Nigeria.
He said he would wish Nigeria and its leadership are committed to higher standards of morality at all levels of governance. “It does not matter at what level people seek office, they should think of what to give back to the country and not what they could get out of it,” he said in the telephone conversation with The Guardian.
“Those, who love me, love me for the same reason others hate me. I have strong views about my country, Nigeria and I have no other home; I never believed in any other country. Nigeria is the only country I know, have and love. God bless Nigeria,” he concluded.
He had, also in a separate interview with The Guardian, hinted of how he was ‘opened up” nine times in major surgeries but survived the ordeal.
Onosode’s love for Nigeria manifested in his desire to join politics — first during the regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha for Senate seat and then under the Abdulsalami Abubakar regime as Presidential aspirant.
Ambassador Akporode Clark, the man who attended the Government College Ughelli, Delta State, with the late Onosode between 1947 and 1952, said he lost due to the intra-part squabbles.
Clark was full of praises for him yesterday. He described him as “the best of our class 1947-1952,” of 24 pupils.
Clark, who subsequently moved on to the University College Ibadan, with Onosode in the post 1952 years, described the Deacon of the Goodnews Baptist Church, Surulere, as being “very good in academic,” a feat he attributed to the discipline imbibed in him by the father who was a head teacher and pastor of the BaptistChurch, Sapele, at the time.
“The father’s interest in him, he said, was quite evident because he was a very well-behaved student — the best of our class, an all-rounder, very good in every subject. We knew he was going to go places,” Clark said.
Onos was a gentleman; he believed that only the best was good enough for Nigeria. That was why he wanted to contest election to serve Nigeria, according to Clark.
Also, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ibadan, Prof. Olusegun Ajiboye, described the late Onosode as an exemplary human and an advocate of excellence.
Ajiboye, who was reacting to the news of the death of Onosode told the NAN yesterday that the late Onosode “was knowledgeable about everything and a big technocrat of note.”
He said that as the former pro-chancellor and the chairman Governing Council of the University of Ibadan, Onosode performed creditably.
“The late Onosode performed creditably for the good and development of his alma mater. Through him, a lot of projects were funded in the university.
“He was an exemplary human being who pursued ideas. He made sure that the University of Ibadan got back from its fortune and regained its lost glory,” he said.
The ASUU chairman said that Onosode would be remembered for his forthrightness, patriotism, transparency and honesty.
“Many universities used him as their Pro-Chancellor because of his transparency and service to humanity. We pray God to give the Onosode family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” he said.