Arisekola: Death, the lion and dog
He died on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 in his London (UK) home, aged 69 years, and was buried on Friday, June 20, last year in his home at Oluwo Kekere, Basorun, Ibadan, Oyo State. May Allah (SWT) forgive him his sins and keep him in Aljannah Fridauous. Amen.
To say that Aare’s death has created a big vacuum in religious, economic, traditional, social and political realms in Nigeria and abroad is an understatement. A man of huge means and influence, whose open palms and gates are legendary, but yet very humble and jovial, Aare had friends, admirers and protégés across class, religions, tribes and nations.
The celestial realm influenced the title of the piece. Aare’s Oluwo Kekere home at Basorun area of Ibadan is expansive and comparable in size, structures, amenities, population and traffic to some towns/countries in Nigeria and abroad. In there is a zoo which boasted of a family of lions (until he donated them to the UI zoo), camels, crocodiles, ostriches, tortoise, and many species of birds, fishes and animals.
Now, to the “Baba l’Egba” nexus. In the Sakara music genre among the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria, Yusuf Olatunji, alias “Baba l’Egba”, was no doubt a philosopher-king, going by his numerous highly melodious and philosophical songs. Until he died on December 15, 1978, the Abeokuta, Ogun State-born musician waxed the largest number of LPs (40) in Nigeria, apart from small records and EPs.
In his volume no 2 LP titled, “O wo’le Olongo k’eyin”, “Baba l’Egba” sings a dirge for one of these many fans, the late Mr. Ramon Alao, from Ijaye-Quarters in Abeokuta, Ogun State (track 2 on the flip side of the said LP) in Yoruba. A notable fan of “Baba l’Egba” was the late Aare Arisekola Alao, who possessed all the recorded works (singles, EPs & LPs) of his music idol, Yusuf Olatunji and other great musicians.
“Baba l’Egba” sings about the impunity and the audacity of a dog as it swaggers past the dead lion’s den! A suicide bid on the part of the dog were the lion to be alive. But death has taken the lion, the king of the jungle!
Born on February 14, 1945 to the late Pa Abdul Raheem Olaniyan Alao and the late Alhaja Olatutu Alao at Adigun village of Ibadan, in Ona-ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, young AbdulAzeez attended St. Luke’s Primary School, Adigun and ICC Primary School, Igosun, Ibadan where he persistently topped his class until he obtained the Grade ‘A’ Primary School Leaving Certificate in 1960, the year he came to the city from his village. Till he died, he kept referring to himself as an “Omooko” i.e. Villageboy. He, thereafter, successfully passed the entrance examinations into the prestigious Christ School, Ado-Ekiti and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan, but could not take up his admission in either school due to the poor financial position of his parents. A scholarship opportunity was not allowed by fate to be utilised by him either.
Nonetheless, the determined AbdulAzeez studied Western, Arabic and Quranic education privately, and comfortably transacted business with the brightest and the best in the corporate world.
Young AbdulAzeez first joined his uncle, the late Alhaji Karimu Olasupo Jenrola at the popular old Gbagi Market in Ibadan as an apprentice trader. After successfully understudying his uncle, he started the sale of Gammalin 20 products vide the incorporation of his Azeez Arisekola Trading Company in 1961 with a loan of 310 pounds given to him by Mr. Olaniyi Owodunni. The Western Regional Manager of Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI) of England, Mr. P.K. Hampel, discovered in the young AbdulAzeez, great business acumen, a fantastic impetus for hardwork, integrity and creativity and, therefore, appointed him a dealer of their products in the now – defunct Western Region of Nigeria. From there, the future business magnate took off, combining charity as a hobby.
He also had a fair share of social life and became the toast of parties and juju bands. But all the social circuit stuff stopped in 1980, when he became the first Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland. His business interests included oil and gas, banking and insurance, food and beverage, farming and animal husbandry, real estate, publishing, transportation and food processing.
From his league of friends, staff and admirers, Aare was a detribalised man as his love for Nigeria was great. His avowed love was based on a popular saying of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W) that: “The love of one’s nation is part of faith”.
He had amongst the staff of his business conglomerate, all ethnic tribes of the federation as well as foreigners. Knowing the importance of education, Aare gave scholarships to indigent students both at primary and tertiary levels within and outside Nigeria. He established a scheme for that purpose in honour of his father, Pa AbdulRaheem Alao. In appreciation of his love for his place of birth, Ibadan, he was honoured with the chieftaincy title of Aare of Ibadanland in 2006 by the immediate past Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Yinusa Bankole Oladoja Ogundipe, Arapasowu I.
He was married and blessed with children who are successful professionals at home and abroad.
• Oloye ’Lekan Alabi, D. Litt (h.c) is Aare Alaasa Olubadan of Ibadanland