To Mr. integrity, good night
FOR years to come, ripples shall remind Nigerians that the country once had a man of uncommon honour and integrity in the late Deacon Gamaliel Oforitsenere Onosode, who lived for 82 years without a whiff of scandal. In a country where many are manipulating the system to be reckoned with, a man came and taught Nigerians that a life of holiness and godliness is possible in the midst of worldliness, wickedness and prevalent perversion.
Onosode radiated a rare mix of humility, simplicity and integrity as well as corporate savvy to an uncommon level.
Born in 1933, Onosode attended Government College, Ughelli from 1947 to 1952 before immediately proceeding to the then University College, now University of Ibadan where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics in 1957. He gave his best and made invaluable contributions in key areas including investment and finance, education and Christian faith.
For instance in education, the late Onosode served as pro chancellor and chairman of council of three federal universities including Ibadan, Lagos and Uyo as well as a private university-Bowen University.
Prior to his appointment as University of Ibadan council chairman in 2005, Onosode, along with Dr. Michael Omolayole had served the University of Ibadan Endowment Fund for 30 years. While Dr. Omolayole was the chairman, Onosode was the vice chairman. They nurtured the endowment fund from a modest beginning of just a little less than a million Naira capital grant in 1973 to a net worth of over N1.5 billion by 2005 when the duo retired from the Fund. The newly constructed multi-million Naira gigantic International Conference Centre (ICC) located around the second gate of the university is the major profit of the Fund. The ICC has now been yielding good money to UI as part of its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Coming as pro chancellor in 2005, Onosode contributed in no small measure to the uplifting of his alma mater. He shunned the stipends accruing to him as his sitting allowance, donating it to the development of the institution. More striking was his contributions through the then Zain Telecommunication as the chairman of its Board. At an event with the directors of the company, Onosode casually remarked that it would soon be 50 years since he graduated from the university. The shocked directors, some of who had not been born then asked Onosode how he wanted the company to celebrate the golden jubilee of the graduation. Deacon Onosode urged them to celebrate UI, which produced him. Consequently, the Directors got in touch with the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro who promptly gave the list of the needs of the university. Eventually, Zain donated a million US dollar, which was equivalent of N130 million as at that time.
Even though he has been self- employed for several years, records show that he never defaulted on his taxes in a country where tax avoidance is the norm. The late Onosode also taught Nigerians to do away with the culture of “African time”. He hardly arrived late to any event he was invited to. As a matter of fact, he was a man who respected time so much so that he has embarrassed his hosts by being too prompt for prescheduled events. He appeared so stern, standoffish and unapproachable, but behind the facade was a very friendly, kind-hearted and jovial persona.
According to one of his children, Mrs. Toyin Olowo-Ake, “it’s amazing how you can find such contrasting qualities in one person: strict, yet, so soft, a disciplinarian, yet, very caring and a tough man, still, not ashamed to shed tears.”
Onosode has never allowed materialism to define who he was. He lived in the same house at Surulere for more than 40 years. He never lived beyond his means. He taught his children by the way he led his life, putting the fear of God first in all his undertakings. The University of Ibadan graduate of Classics was a personification of oratorical eloquence. His voice was distinct and resonated with wisdom, knowledge and experience. He has great love for details and a strong penchant for perfection. He was highly sensitive to errors, either in writing or speech. Onosode was a quintessential model.
In his tribute, the out-going Vice Chancellor of UI, Prof. Issac Folorunso Adewole described Onosode as a colossus who would sorely be missed by all who cherish excellence, perfection and integrity. Prof. Adewole noted that Onosode’s contribution to the development of tertiary education was legendary. He recalled that the deceased mediated in the face off between government and Academic Staff Union of Universities when it mattered most.
In the same vein, the UI in-coming VC, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka described Onosode as one of the greatest alumni of Ibadan who brought so much value to their institution. Prof. Olayinka remarked that Onosode would forever be remembered as a leading light that graduated in Classics but excelled in all fields he touched particularly in banking sector.
When will Nigeria parade another Onosode? Does the country internalise the virtues evinced by this giant? This is the time Nigeria really needs the like of Onosode in sufficient quantity.
• Saanu is with Directorate of Public Communication , University of Ibadan.