Foremost Awoist, Olaniwun Ajayi Exits The Stage | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Foremost Awoist, Olaniwun Ajayi Exits The Stage

Posted: Nov 4, 2016 at 6:46 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)





TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI – LAGOS — Members of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the Yoruba race and Nigeria are in mourning over the demise of elder statesman and foremost  Awoist, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi who died on  Thursday, at an undisclosed hospital in Lagos at the ripe age of 91.

Born in in Isara Remo on April 8, 1925 to Mr. Benjamin Ajayi, a farmer and Mariam Efundolamu, who traded in farm produce, the late Yoruba icon had his early education at Islamic Primary School, Epe. After spending only three months there, he later enrolled into a primary school in Ode Remo, Ogun State, in 1937 where completed his primary education. Upon completion of his primary school, he later decided to go to Wesley College, Ibadan, Oyo State, for a four year teacher’s course.

After leaving Wesley College, he became a supervisor of schools for the entire Remo and Ijebu province. After a rigorous decision with his wife to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) to study Law, he attended the London School of Economics and Political Science and also studied to become a chartered secretary. His wife, Madam Adunola Ajayi later joined him in the UK where she studied Hotel and Catering Management until October 1962 when they returned to Nigeria.

On returning to Nigeria, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi worked with the UAC where he rose to the position of the assistant group legal adviser with Chief Ernest Shonekan as his junior in the legal department of the company (UAC). He worked with the UAC for six years until his resignation. Almost a year after his resignation from UAC, Sir Olaniwun was appointed by the then Governor of Western State, Brig. Gen. Christopher Rotimi as commissioner for education until after two (2) years he was appointed commissioner for health. After about three years of public service as Commissioner for health, he went into private practice as a lawyer.

Mourning his death, Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin titled ‘We Lost A Rare Leader’ said Ajayi was a consistent Awoist and one of the worthy successor of the late sage.

The statement reads “Afenifere mourns the passing away of its oldest surviving member, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi who transited to higher glory in the early hours of Friday at the age of 91.

We received his passage with mixed feelings .We are joyful that in a country with life expectancy of 53, Papa made it to 91 aging graciously and in good health till the last 24 hours of life when he had to be hospitalised for some health complication”.

“We are however sad that his exit has robbed the group of the wealth of experience of a philosopher, prolific writer and memory bag that is irreplaceable.

One remarkable trait of his life was his consistency in the Awolowo political family where he put almost 70 years of dedicated service as a lieutenant of the sage and one of his worthy successors after his transition”.

“He had a sense of history and lived his life deliberately to make impact on his environment.

Either in Afenifere, the National Democratic Coalition, The Patriots and the Methodist Church where he was a Knight, he left his indelible footprints on the sand of time”.

“The last days of his life were spent in worries over the state of affairs in Yorubaland in particular and in Nigeria at large. He was not just lamenting but he was taking practical steps to find verb for our noun in the syntax of human experience.

It is hoped that all those involved in such intervention would keep those efforts on as a memorial for this worthy son of Oduduwa.

The great man of sound intellect may not have much good news for AWO as they meet in yonder but the seeds he planted in the last moments of his life must grow to trees that would bear the fruits of freedom” .

“While waiting for burial arrangements from the family for the good man of sartorial elegance, it is a promise that we shall pay his shade the right due.

Our heartfelt condolences to the good family he has left behind and it is our prayer that the Lord will take his place in their lives. Adieu, Papa. Goodnight to a worthy leader”.

When asked in a recent interview on how he met the Awolowos, Ajayi said “I gained admission into Wesley College, Ibadan in 1946. At that time, a childhood friend of mine was working at the Cooperative Bank which was headquartered in Ibadan.

He was residing in the boys’ quarters of the Awolowos at Oke Ado. Whenever we had free time, I would go to Oke Ado to see my friend and I would greet Awolowo. The relationship started from there on a very low-key note. I finished from Wesley College at the end of 1949 and I was posted to Sagamu in 1950, where I taught. But then, I was the secretary to a number of organisations, one of them was the Wesley Guild”.

“Politics was about to start, particularly around 1951. By then, Awolowo was already in it. But before then, he was a councillor at the Ijebu-Remo Divisional Council; together with S. T. Oredehin of Ogere, who later became the Organising Secretary of the AG; and Dosunmu of Iperu, who was the Administrative Secretary of the party”.

“Occasionally, the Wesley Guild would organise events and as the secretary, I might be asked to write to Chief Awolowo to come and lecture us. I remember between 1951 and 1952, AG was new on ground and I was asked to write to invite him to come and deliver a lecture. I wrote him and I followed up to make sure that he acceded to our request. Thus, the relationship continued to develop and when the AG came, I enrolled. I joined the party in 1952 and I formed a branch of the party here in Isara”.

In one of his last interviews granted before his demise, Sir Ajayi also warned President Muhammadu Buhari against taking steps that could cause the country to go the way of the former Yugoslavia, a Balkan Confederation that violently split up in the 90s into smaller nation-states over ethnic conflicts. He also noted that between 1980 and 1990 Yugoslavia tried to stave off disintegration, until tensions came to a boil in 1991, when the state began its split into Croatia (1991), Slovenia (1991) Macedonia (1991), Serbia (2006), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992), Kosovo (2008), and Montenegro (2006).

While reacting to the on-going agitation in the Niger Delta and Eastern Region, he said the President should not reject the persistent calls for the restructuring of Nigeria by well meaning Nigerians across the south. He pointed out that there was no way the president or any leader could think he could force a multiethnic country like Nigeria to live same way, saying the ideology and ways of life of Fulani and Igbo are not the same as that of the Yoruba and Kanuri, for instance.

“Yugoslavia has about 6, 7, 8 nationalities. They’ve done all they could to make sure that every nation in that country went his own way, but their leaders said no all the time up to the time of Josep Broz Tito in 1980.”

He noted that Nigeria should be ran along the existing six geo-political zones and let every zone develop in accordance with its own pace.

“We are not a one monolithic country. We are a federation of different nations as a result of our nature, from the point of view of our ethnic nationality, our languages, culture. And if we are so different we should be managed according to our nature and culture,” he said.