Sunday, August 9, 2020 8:28 am
By Femi Orebe
This time last week, it was a dirge as we remembered two illustrious Ekiti elder statesmen who recently passed on. Today, we are in sunny times as we celebrate the duo of the Prince polyglot, Julius Adelusi- Adeluyi and Chief (Dr) Deji Adegbite on their 80th birthday.
It is certainly audacious of me to co-join them, knowing full well that Oga Juli will ask “whether Deji can get the one week that separates them to buy in the market”.
I write here of two absolutely brilliant elders both of who have had immense influence on my life, one as a mentor and the other as boss, and role model.
A warning, however. This is not going to be some hard stuff like a Sam Omatseye, or Innocent Duru doing an ode to the Prince, detailing his rare, multi-faceted achievements like graduating in flying colours from the Nigerian law school or traversing the length and breath of the country, as Chairperson of MTN Foundation, helping that company to spread goodwill to all and sundry.
Nor will you be reading too much of Oga Deji being the pillar around which Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi built the superlative administrative team at the then University of Ife, Ile – Ife. Rather, what you will read are nothing more than what we, back home in Ekiti, call: ‘Iresupa’ – a light hearted, moonlike, take by an aburo on his darling egbons; the type that Google will not give you on either of them.
Oga Juli, the multi-talented polyglot, is a very unique person. Versatile in many languages, Nigerian and foreign, I have sat at his table, listen to him discuss with His Eminence, the Sultan, in Hausa language, just as I have watched him waoh us at a meeting of the Professional Practice Group (PPG) of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce.
He is at home, whether practising his law, pro bono, ferreting out from dingy prison cells, some helpless individuals who, not even a charge and bail lawyer would touch for anything; in church, where he is most at home, having spent a good part of his growing up years living with a Revd Father, in a Roman Catholic environment that will shape him for life, or within the Nigerian Pharmacy Academy, together with the leading lights of the profession, putting heads together to shape it for now and the future. He is equally at home with the plebean, just like he is with royalty. I already mentioned him and the Sultan. He is also the eyes of His Royal Majesty , the Ewi of Ado – Ekiti. I have watched him relate with all and sundry on the shop floor, at his Juli Pharmacy in Ikeja, Lagos, on those occasions when I just wanted to stealthily go in, quickly buy some things, but having seen me on the CCTV, would dash down in a flash, accost me, most times with a hand across my neck, to the amusement, if not amazement, of onlookers, cracking some small jokes in his ever flawless Ekiti. And God! You need to see us on telephone, when he launches into those alluring, rib-cracking jokes in Ekiti – I do match him at that though. I guess to his own amazenent.
With him, what you get is the authentic, the original; no quibbling, or any political tongue -in -cheek stuff that defines not a few. A man of impeccable integrity, you can go to sleep once he gives you his word. A lover of people and an unabashed patriot, he never stops agonising over where this country, but especially Ekiti, is. It is a testimony to his patriotism that he founded the UGBIMO URE EKITI, bringing together well meaning Ekiti citizens for development and I feel certain he will not mind my divulging the fact that he gave me the privilege of drafting his inaugural address to that body.
He is respected, equally, by each successive Ekiti governor irrespective of party platform. He is, as you read this, the Chairperson of Governor Kayode Fayemi’s rainbow, Covid -19 Advisory Committee in which the governor assembled Ekiti’s best and brightest, and well connected, to assist him in the gargantuan task of taming the Covid -19 pandemic in the state.
Any write up on Oga Juli is, of course, incomplete without a well deserved mention of his jewel of inestimable value – to quote the Avatar – who has been his pillar of support for over a half century. Their amazing children give them tremendous joy.
Esisa, by His grace, ‘me i bo ya jiyan birthday mi leyin Covid o’ – in Ekiti -speak.
And may the good Lord continue to rest Remi, your incredible alter ego, who recently joined the Saints Triumphant.
That brings me to ‘Taiwo’ , my Oga, the untiring workaholic, the man Professor H.A Oluwasanmi, as Vice Chancellor, University of Ife, Ile – Ife , pulled gently aside at an ongoing interview and told: “tell that young man to report in my office on Monday”.
Though that simple directive would end up changing the columnist from being a university teacher to an administrator, I haven’t the slightest regret as Oga Deji turned out the instrument God used to give me that incomparable grounding in university administration that I would soon be sought after both by registrars and Vice- Chancellors. I recently told that story in my tribute to the late Professor Akinkugbe.
As I wrote above, Dr Adegbite is your quintessential workaholic though I think it is a chicken and egg thing because you could not have worked with Professor Oluwasanmi and be anything less. With a punishing backache, Professor Oluwasanmi, half lying on a settee, would be in that position for hours with his Deputy, Professor A. A Adegbola and Oga Deji, as Executive Assistant, going through tonnes of correspondence, receiving reports from heads of departments, and resolving all manner of knotty issues without the slightest inkling of the ailment that was obv3iously ravaging him. Oga Deji worked at such frenetic pace I never stopped wondering as to where the energy was coming from . It took me long to know that no matter how late we closed, he would still get one or two games of table tennis. That habit continues with him till today.
He had been specially recruited by Professor Oluwasanmi to be the pivot of an administration department that would be the envy of other universities in the country. The time coincided with a period of massive developmental programmes in the university with the trio of the Architect Planner,(Oladeji) the Horticulturist,(Bankole) and the Chief Engineer,(Ogunseinde) literally working their socks out with Chief Adegbite coordinating their reports for the Vice- Chancellor in addition to his own back breaking schedule.
All these so paid off that when he got appointed as the inaugural registrar of the new Ondo state University, the consensus was that he would be a successful registrar of any university, whether here in Nigeria, or elsewhere.
He made such great impact at the University that the institution is, this week, proudly hosting a webinar for his 80th birthday. The topic, fittingly, is: ‘Management of the Nigerian University System Post Covid’, under the distinguished Chairmanship of the Vice- Chancellor, Professor Eddy Olanipekun.
A man of incandescent integrity, he is respected across board.
Oga Deji is a sports aficionado; hardly misses an English Premiership game, just as he plays his table tennis everyday at the up scale Inland club, Ado – Ekiti.
His dear wife, of many decades, and their children, combine to be the bulwark of his life as he continues to age gracefully.
These are only two of the incredible people Ekiti is blessed with that you will not but marvel at our atavistic politics, one in which reconciliation is fast becoming like an accursed word. That, certainly, is not us, and it is obviously not the Ekiti I grew up in, with the likes of Chiefs J.E Babatola and Oduola Osuntokun, as our leading political lights.
I, therefore, wish to seize this opportunity to appeal to our politicians, especially the leaders of both APC and PDP to, for the sake of our dear state, sheath their swords , both inter, and intra party, reconcile, and work in harmony for the progress of the state and the well being of our people.
No state in Nigeria is half as homogenous as Ekiti. This should be a source of strength, not the conundrum Ekiti has found itself for decades, graduating from one political problem to another and thus, negatively impacting development.
Concluding, I have been particularly lucky because just as I am at home with our elder statemen – the likes of Chief Alex Olu Ajayi, Pa Francis Daramola, Chief Deji Fasuan and Chief Dele Falegan to whom I speak often, so am I privileged to be close to our distinguished celebrants of today.
They are men of integrity whose friendship and advise, royalties seek for purposes of communal development.
Ekiti, no Nigeria, is blessed to have them and it is my prayer that the good Lord will grant them long life, in blossoming health.
Credit: The Nation