Why Odutola rejected Awo’s loan request of £1,400

Why Odutola rejected Awo’s loan request of £1,400

Saturday, February 27, 2016 1:01 pm


Chief Adeola Odutola

Chief Adeola Odutola

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

In the past one week or so, the £1,400 student loan request that the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo wrote to the late industrialist, Chief Adeola Odutola (the Ogbeni Oja of Ijebu Ode), has been making the rounds on social media. However, what has not is the explanation offered by the late Odutola before his death. However, he spoke exclusively to TheNEWS.

On 25 March 1943, Awolowo made a loan request of £1,400 from Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola and vowed to refund the money by 1955.

However, Odutola did not oblige him as a result of which Awolowo failed to make the trip that year as planned to study Law in England. Not a man to say die, Awolowo worked harder and sought alternatives and travelled on 14 August 1944 to the UK. He was called to the Bar in November 1946 and became Premier of Western Region in 1954.

However, TheNEWS management, in 1994, sent Waziri Adio (now the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) and Ayo Arowolo to Ijebu Ode to interview the old man.

According to Odutola: “I did not know him (Awolowo) then. I knew him only as a letter writer. He said he was going to study abroad, I should give him money. He did not tell me how much he wanted and how long it would take him to pay it back. If he had told me these, I would have probably acted differently…” Read excerpts of Odutola’s interview after Awolowo’s letter to him, published below:

Awolowo

Awolowo

Dear Mr. Odutola,

I think it will be an exceeding saving of time and more business-like if I avoid all sweet preliminaries and go straight into the object of this letter and say that I am writing to ask you to be good enough to lend me a sum of £1,400 (One thousand and four hundred pounds) free of interest for twelve years.

It is a staggering figure! More staggering indeed does it become, when it is realised that I, who am asking for this loan, have nothing in all the world to give as a security for this money, excepting my good faith and my brains which again are of value only so long as I continue to breathe the breath of life!

Nevertheless, I here proceed to outline in brief why I want this big loan from you. And I hope you will be kind enough to sacrifice some time to go through what I have to say, even though , in the end you might find yourself unable to do me this grand favour.

One great ambition of mine since my boyhood days is to be a lawyer, a politician and a journalist, rolled into one. I cherish politics and journalism as a career. ; and I desire advocacy as a means of livelihood. For you will agree with me that a politician or journalist who has no money with which to support himself and family comfortably ,is like a blade which has no razor.

Now, at one time, I was on the verge of making enough money with which I could proceed to England in order to pursue the object of my ambition; but I suffered a twist in my fortune, and I crashed. Ever since, I have tried without success to recover lost grounds, financially. But spiritually and intellectually, I have made appreciable advance in spite of towering difficulties, all of which have now been surmounted.

As you are aware, I have just passed the intermediate Bachelor of Commerce Examination. Next year, I am taking the final B.Com. Having a degree is not my goal; I hate to be a government or mercantile employee. Otherwise, there are opportunities for me here and there to get a suitable and well paid job under government or one of the mercantile houses. As you know, however, once I become an employee of government or a mercantile establishment that is the end to my career as a politician and journalist. I have therefore resolved that under no circumstances will I take up such employment.

That is just by the way. I am now thirty-four years of age. After careful thought, I have come to the conclusion that if I could raise a loan free of interest sufficient to cover expenses , I should go to England , this year and within three years, I should qualify as a Barrister –at –law, and also obtain with Honours the LL.B Degree of London University. In addition this degree apart from giving me good backing as a solicitor and Advocate will help me immensely as a politician and journalist.

But where on earth could i get the money? Who in Nigeria today could give £1400 free of interest to help his fellow-man? J.Henry Doherty, Esq., of illustrious memory who did the like to many successful Nigerians is no more. But after meticulous, shifting and weighing, I hit upon you.

I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that out of the bounty with which providence blesses your grit and efforts as a businessman, you can well easily afford to advance such a sum of money. I have no doubt too that as a young and progressive man you will be quite happy to give the money for the pursuit of the project for which I desire it.

But then, could you take this risk?

That is the question. As I have said before, I have no security for this loan. Moreover, I want it free of interest. So that you stand to gain absolutely NOTHING in the whole transaction ,except the satisfaction that by helping me to achieve my ambition you are indirectly or even directly helping Nigeria or even Africa.

This risk becomes greater when it is borne in mind that I might die in the course of my studies or immediately after , so that, since I have no security or surety, you stand the chance of losing not only the money but also the satisfaction which you may cherish that you are contributing to the uplift of Africa. It is indeed a great risk; the greatest any man ever embarks upon.

But, this is a big BUT, if I live, as I have no doubt I will do, you will not only get your money back in full, but you will , to the end of your days , have cause to rejoice that you have done one of the most outstanding and most philanthropic acts any human being ever does. Among other things, I shall make excellent use of the money while in England by breaking records in my examination. On my return to Nigeria, I shall strive to be one of the foremost advocates, politicians and writers in West Africa, and while I do all these, I shall make it a point not only to pay your money back in full, but also to repay your kindness and generosity towards me in every way I can.

All the same, it is a big risk! So , Sir, I like you to think seriously about it, and see if you can take it in the interest of a young man who has brains ,industry and determination to back his ambition , but lacks the money. I know we have never been close friends, but I have a shrewd idea that you may take the risk and help me.

On this assumption, therefore, I proceed to the next and last stage of this letter.

I shall not require the whole £1,400 in a lump sum. To start with, you will help me pay a sum of £208-13s-3d to the Inner Temple. I have already received an application form from this Inn of Court; and from the details forwarded, I gather that the sum of £208-13s-3d will cover all the cost of training as a Barrister, examination fees excluded.

When I am ready to sail, you will advance me a sum of £100 to cover passage, provision for my family and any other incidental expenses( NOTE: If i got torpedoed on the way, you would certainly lose this £100 but you will recover the £208-13s-3d).

At the same time you will remit to a London Bank the sum of £491-6s-9d. It is out of this amount that I shall pay the university fees for LL.B course a, and for special courses in political science and journalism, when I land in England. This is to say, the initial advance will total £800.

At the end of the first year, provided I make satisfactory progress in my studies, you will give instruction to the bank to honour all cheques from me drawn on this account. There will be an arrangement to be signed by me on my return.

On my return, I shall require TWO years within which to establish a solid practice and build a good reputation. After these two years, I should commence to pay at least £200 per annum either in monthly, quarterly or annual payments. So that in seven years after the first two years, I should pay back the whole sum of £1,400. That will be TWELVE YEARS from the time you help me to pay this in April or so this year, then I should be due to pay the whole of £1400 by April 1955.

Now, as you yourself will see, this is the farthest limit within which I can pay the money. It may be possible for me to pay the money within THREE to FIVE years of my return. As a matter of fact, the sooner I pay it off, the better. But it is much better to be on the safe side in a matter like this. It is no making promises now which will be difficult to fulfil in future. On the contrary it is better to mention a period of twelve years and pay within SIX or EIGHT years than to mention FIVE YEARS and fail to pay within TEN years. Personally, I prefer that I should fail to get the loan under theses unattractive but sure conditions, rather than succeed in getting it under attractive but precarious conditions.

Now, this is all I have to say. You have my request before you, and the reason why I make the request. It is left to you to decide whether it is worthwhile to take the risk of helping me in the manner outlined above or not.

If you do me the great favour, not only myself and all that are mine, but also God and Africa will be grateful, I shall have no cause whatsoever to grumble or to blame you, FOR THE RISK IS GREAT.

Since this is a very selfish request, I enclose herewith a stamped addressed envelope for a reply to be sent to me under registered cover.

With very kind regards.
Yours sincerely,

(Sgd) Obafemi Awolowo.
(Culled from the book, Chief Obafemi Awolowo: The Political Moses by Adedara Oduguwa, Page 119-123).

What Odutola told TheNEWS:

Q: What will you say is the most difficult problem you encountered in running the business?

A: I found out that people don’t like the way we do it, but we have no alternatives. The style has served us well.

Q: What is this style they do not like?

A: That I oversee the business myself. They don’t like it. But what do I do? I am still living.

Q: Some of the trading companies are not doing well. The Odutola Stores for example, is quite unlike what it used to be. It is not well stocked. Why is it so?

A: It has to do with the economy generally. The purchasing power of consumers has reduced. Some of the things we used to store there cannot be easily come by again. Sometimes, they are very expensive.

Q: There is something that always comes for mention whenever people are discussing you. There is this belief that you are tight fisted, that you don’t like to part easily with your money. What is your attitude to this?

A: What do you call somebody who is imprudent and extravagant in financial management? (Pause)?

Q: You have just described it…

A: How do you describe somebody who knows how to control his money and dishes out what he wants and at the time he wants it? Naturally, people will call him another name because he is not wasteful. Whatever people say is an opinion. But what is important to me is that I know what I want to do with my money and I use exactly for that purpose. People are entitled to their opinion.

Q: Interestingly, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in one of his books, mentioned that he wanted to go abroad to study and he approached you for part-sponsorship, you did not oblige. Any explanation for this?

Q: I did not know him (Awolowo) then. I knew him only as a letter writer. He said he was going to study abroad, I should give him money. He did not tell me how much he wanted and how long it would take him to pay it back. If he had told me these, I would have probably acted differently. Besides, that time, myself and my brother were running the business together. He needed to seek the consent of my brother before I could release the money to him. But I still don’t know why you are raising the issue when the man is already dead. But do you know how much I expended on him later?

-Excerpts of Chief Adeola Odutola’s interview, published in TheNEWS, 12 December 1994 edition

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11 Comments

  • Adetola says:

    Well, it is clear that Chief Odutola, being “somebody who knows how to control his money and dishes out what he wants and at the time he wants it” wasn’t going to take the “great risk” of loaning that sum of money. Not knowing J.O. Awolowo well at that time, to me, is not a good excuse. People of Odutola’s kind of disposition, status, wealth and exposure, could probably get whatever it is they wanted, including thorough investigation of an individual or entity, if they so desired. How would he have made such groundbreaking wealth, fame and popularity if at that time, some sort or form espionage was not part of the game, to stay onatop his game (business)? Please!

    Let’s rest that side of the dice. Now let’s ask some serious questions here. What if Chief Odutola had invested in the young Obafemi upon his request? Now paint a likely scenario here… The chief sponsors him, he (Awolowo) somewhere along the line derailed whether of his own doing or as a victim of turn and twist of fate and fortune? And pé rad venture Awolowo could not continue with his pursuit and dropped out of school? Forget the loan or money involved now, would he have become what he’s being celebrated for today? The best President Nigeria never had?

    Having said the above with so many points unopened in the last paragraph, let’s move to yet another side of the dice.

    I think not having gotten the loan freely is what may have contributed to the success he achieved. Why do I think in such manner? Maybe if the money kept tranching in at programmed will and interval, Awolowo would have run out of money after the entire £1400 had been fully paid. We may not know what would have happened expect if Awolowo had told us that he eventually ended up not spending up to that amount or he spent more.

    Disappointed, yes. But it made him succeed because he was able to make the money somehow (although I don’t know how exactly) and proceed with his plan.

    My point, at this juncture is that Chief Odutola’s refusal may have been the actual blessing that made Awolowo, Awolowo.

  • Tunde Olushola says:

    Can’t believe what just read.

  • Olugbenga Hakeem Akinsanya says:

    An honest man indeed with an impeccable character. He laid out the risk involved, the amount of money was clearly stated, hiw is going to pay the man back and the time it will take. Chief Adeola Odutola is the only one who knows why he did not loan this visionary leader, Our dear Awo the money. The excuse about his brother. Chief Jimoh Odutola that he needed his approval before he could advanced the loan is
    Lame. If Awo has approach his brother, Chief Jimoh Odutola would have advance him the loan. We thank the almighty God that things worked out for Papa Awo in the end.

  • PANAKI says:

    My dear sister, everything in life is a risk. Consumating a marriage is a risk, getting pregnant to have a child is a risk, eating and drinking is a risk. As of that time Prophet Obafemi Awolowo was a known entity although not at the regional or at the national level. Even the business Chief Odutola was into was not arisk free. This type of stories give me a boost. If Awolowo went through this and succeeded without bitterness, animosity and hostility towards anybody, that’s christlike. He was a great man. Chief Odutola was not the Samaritan destined to be of help to him. If Chief Awolowo never approached him., he would have said years later that he should have approached him. After all, “we are here for each other “.

  • PANAKI says:

    He ( Chief Odutola) had to conjecture an excuse to vindicate himself from the the embarrassment. He was properly nervous of retribution no sooner than he became Premier eleven years later. Just like you rightly stated, what will be will be. Delay is never denial. May he ( Prophet Obafemi Awolowo) Peace be upon him continue to enjoy abundant peace where ever he might be. He was a leader of impeccable character and a visionary. The best gift Nigeria has ever received from the Almighty.

  • PANAKI says:

    Walllahi

  • Idowu Folasade Adetunji says:

    The reason why the loan was NOT approved is embedded in Paragraphs 10 and 11. Chief Odutola was not ready to take a GREAT RISK.

    “That is the question. As I have said before, I have no security for this loan. Moreover, I want it free of interest. So that you stand to gain absolutely NOTHING in the whole transaction ,except the satisfaction that by helping me to achieve my ambition you are indirectly or even directly helping Nigeria or even Africa”.

    “This risk becomes greater when it is borne in mind that I might die in the course of my studies or immediately after , so that, since I have no security or surety, you stand the chance of losing not only the money but also the satisfaction which you may cherish that you are contributing to the uplift of Africa. It is indeed a great risk; the greatest any man ever embarks upon”.
    Any financial institution (Bank) would have turned down Chief Awolowo’s loan application as well.
    My take away here is Chief Awolowo was an honest man to the core, he laid everything out there for Chief Odutola to make his decision and I don’t blame him for declining.

  • Adebambo Yusuf Adebambo says:

    i’m of the same opinion with you Tayo Opanubi

  • Oladeji Y says:

    As at the time the Chief knows Awolowo well enough even the most miserly will stake his money on him. People who chose to help others just do it with the clear believe that it is good to be good and help others. Most times you never get to know the person so well nor expect it may turn out good. Abiola was one shining example in doing good. Another truism is that what will be will be. It may be delayed because you chose not to help when needed. No man has absolute control over the other man destiny.

  • Tayo Opanubi says:

    I totally disagree with Odutola because in Obafemi’s Autobiography he clearly states how much he wanted and how long it would take to return the money while taking different factors into consideration. It is quite amazing to see the kind of character Obafemi has that even in his Autobiography he conceals the name of Odutola in order not to embarrass him. Obafemi Awolowo will always and forever be a Great Leader

  • PRODUCT_OF_CHILD_RAPE says:

    PUNK NEVER HAD ANY CREDIBILITY.

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