June, 2019, is the fifth anniversary of the death of one of the world’s kindest philanthropists, successful businessman and a great wit, Alhaji Abdul –Azeez Arisekola Alao, CON, the Aare Musulumi of
Yorubaland, Aare of Ibadanland and Vice –President –General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. He died in his sleep in his London, United Kingdom, home on Wednesday, 18th June, 2014. He was buried in his Oluwo Nla, Basorun, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria home on Friday, 20th
June, 2014. He was aged 69.
This tribute to Aare Arisekola is slightly edited from my January 2009 tribute to him upon the conferment of Nigeria’s award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) on him by the late President Umar Yar’Adua on Monday, 22 December, 2008 in Abuja. The tribute was first published in major
national newspapers under the title: “Aare, this is your life”. For ease of reference, the Saturday Guardian newspaper issue of January 17, 2009. But, now that the amiable Aare Arisekola is no more, I have amended the original title of my ten-year old tribute to the above.
Please enjoy the 2009 CON tribute, as the message therein is relevant.
“As a mass communication student in England 33 years ago (1976), one of my favourite television programmes was ‘This is your life’, produced and
presented by Mr. Eamon Andrews of the Independent Television of London, United Kingdom, ITN. The well-researched, highly motivational and spell- 2 bounding documentary connects its guests, or shall I say great achievers with their pasts, oftentimes forgotten. The pasts in the lives of its guests included exteachers, classmates, childhood friends, professional colleagues, mentors, protégés etc who recall in unsolicited and candid manners, their experiences with guests on the programme.
“The high point of the programme is when Mr. Andrews, in the course of the live interview session in the television studio, asks a guest if he/she remembers, say, his/her deskmate at high school/college and present whereabouts. Most guests, often looking askance, scratch their heads and after
usually long pauses, reply for example, “Oh that was the time! We lost contact about 40 years ago”. Dead silence follows. But presto, the ‘lost’deskmate suddenly appears from behind the television studio curtain! Usually flown in (across continents if need be) by the television station. Such reunion of soulmates cannot but bring tears of emotions and joy followed by bear hugs, and backslaps, as they recall great moments shared in decades past. At the appropriate point in the programme, Mr. Andrews tells his guest, “This is your Life”.
“This piece is not a full-length review of Mr. Andrews’great productions, but a recall which, at the same time borrows the title of the inspiring documentary. Secondly, the principal subject of this piece will be shocked, if not embarrassed (pleasantly though, I hope as he naturally avoids publicity) on
reading this. As Mr. Andrews’This is your life programme has pleasant surprises as an unwritten objectives, so be it then with this piece.
“My ‘guest’here is Aare Alhaji Abdul Azeez Akanmu Arisekola Alao (A7), the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland and Aare of Ibadanland who, last month, was confered with the prestigious national award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON); an award many consider to have been long
overdue. But, as they say, God’s time is always the best. A detribalized Nigerian with friends, in-laws and business partners/staff across Nigeria and the globe,
Alhaji Arisekola Alao, hereafter, referred to in this piece as Aare, is a publisher, industrialist, religious leader, but best known for his philanthropy.
“As this tribute is borne out of one of my professions’(journalism/PR) ethos that achievers deserve due honours and praises in their lifetime, in order to motivate our youths, and in tandem with the objectives of our annual national honours awards, I assure dear readers, on my honour, that this piece is devoid of
primordial sentiments, however. “I derive tremendous joy in the honour and privilege of older friends
company. Not for any pecuniary reason(s) but far more importantly, for the wisdom derivable. This habit started from youth. In school, most of my friends were my seniors. The habit grew in the course of my public/private service life as a village school teacher-editorial assistant –reporter-editor –press secretarygeneral manager, till I voluntarily retired from the private sector two years ago.
It continues to grow, as one is the better beneficiary.
“At persona/official levels, I have had the good fortunes of drinking from the deep wells of wisdom/achievements of, among others, Baba Emmanuel
Alayande, Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemesi), Dr. Yemi Farounbi, Chief ’ Bola Ige SAN, rtd. Generals Oladayo Popoola, Adetunji Olurin, Sasaenia Oresanya, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, Otunba Jobi Fele, Prince Julius Adelusi
Adeluyi, Bashorun Kola Daisi, Sir Bode Akindele, Olubadan Ogundipe Arapasowu, Mama Janet Bolarinwa, Mama Gladys Vaughan, Mama Folake
Solanke, SAN etc. May the souls of the departed among them continue to rest in peace, while God spare the lives of the living. Amen.
“I also study and ponder on the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Ahmadu Bello, John Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, Bill Gates,
Nelson Mandela, Elvis Presley, Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Wole Soyinka,
Duro Ladipo, D.O. Fagunwa etc. All these great men and women share common qualities, vision, creativity, discipline organization ability, among others.
“Aare belongs to the class of these greats not because of his immense wealth but for those aforementioned attributes His humility, humour, loyalty and philanthropy are added gems. Before you say it, God, of course, is the Giver.
“It is public knowledge that Aare and other eminent Nigerians were confered with national honours of various grades by President Umaru Yar’Adua
in Abuja on Monday, December 22, last year. The night before though, his friend of many years, Senator Kura Mohammed hosted a private dinner chaired by Alhaji Umar Shinkafi, also Aare’s long time friend at the Chopsticks, a Chinese Restaurant in Abuja. In his speech, Alhaji Shinkafi revealed that Aare had shunned invitations, and pleas, many decades ago, to join partisan politics.
Rather, he, Aare, remains a bridge to all, as a humble, kindhearted, loyal and cheerful friend. The only man on earth qualified to endorse those attributes, especially Aare’s loyalty, is his brother, Oba, the boardroom guru.
“Recently, I was inducted into Oba’s Idi-Ishin ‘royal court’. In his congratulatory message to Aare on the conferment of the CON award, Chief
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, his in-law and friend, described Aare as a deserving recipient.
True, no human being is perfect.
“Many times, however, blurred views, hearsay or outright spite paint otherwise quiet, hardworking and kindhearted patriots as villains. For commercial, political or other social reasons, a great number of such innocent beings hire publicists, image makers and lobbyists derisively called spin-doctors’ to launder their image, while others shrug off their shoulders and move on with life. Aare belongs to the latter, hence my caution at the beginning of this piece that he may be shocked on reading this piece about him. However, Nigeria, through our president, has spoken, with the CON award given to Aare.
“So, who is the true Abdul Azeez Arisekola Alao then? I shall attempt an answer by condensing an 11-page citation prepared and submitted by my humble-self, Dr. Kamil Oloso, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, and three of Aare’s children –a doctor -son, lawyer- daughter and another accountant- daughter, to
the National Merit Award (NMA) Committee in Abuja, last December.
“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 Abdul Azeez attended St. Luke’s Primary School, Adigun and ICC Primary School, Ibadan where he persistently topped his class until he obtained Grade ‘A Primary School Leaving Certificate in 1960, the year he came to the city from his village; till date, he still refers to
himself as an “Omo Oko”i.e village boy. 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 to the two schools
due to the poor financial position of his parents. A scholarship opportunity to
Aare was not allowed by fate to be utilized, either.
“Nonetheless, the determined young Abdul Azeez studied Western, Arabic and Quranic privately and today comfortably transacts business with the brightest and the best in the corporate world.
“Young Abdul Azeez first joined his uncle, the late Alhaji Karimu Olasupo Jenrola at the popular Gbagi market in Ibadan, Oyo State 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 a business partner of his uncle. The Manager of Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI) of England, Mr. P.K. Hampel, a Briton, discovered in the young
Abdul Azeez great business acumen, a fantastic impetus for hard work, integrity and creativity and therefore appointed him a dealer of ICI products in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria. From there, the business magnate took off, combining charity as a hobby.
“Within a year, he received a commission of ₤1,000! An astute young man, he purchased a pick-up van at the cost of ₤400 and by 1970, he built his first house at the age of 25 years. In 1972, he registered his motor company,
Lister Motors, becoming the star dealer for the Japanese brand, Datsun. It was during that era that Aare’s fame as a philanthropist soared as he donated cars to institutions and individuals like one donates loaves of bread. 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 Aare Musulumi.
“His business interests today include automobile, oil and gas banking and insurance, food and beverages, farming and animal husbandry, real estate, publishing, transportation and food processing.
“From his league of friends, staff and admirers, Aare is a detribalized man as his love for Nigeria is great. His avowed love is based on a popular saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW); that; “The love of one’s nation is part of faith”.
“He has amongst the staff of his business conglomerate, all ethnic tribes of the federation. Knowing the importance of education, Aare gives scholarships to indigent students both at primary and tertiary levels within and outside Nigeria. He established a scholarship scheme for that purpose in honour of his late father, Pa Abdul Raheem 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 Ogundipe Arapasowu I.
“He performed his first holy pilgrimage to Mecca in 1971, and was turbaned the first Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland by the league of Imams and
Alfas in Yorubaland on July 14, 1980. Being a celebrated Muslim leader, he established the Abdul Azeez Arisekola Mosque. He founded the Grand Council for Islamic Affairs (GCIA) in Nigeria in 1996 to complement Islamic propagation efforts just as he set up the Alasalatu Ibadan Rahmam Society for
the spiritual advancement of the womenfolk. He is patron and foremost financier of more than 100 Muslim organizations in Nigeria and abroad. Since 1980 when he became the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, he has been extending annual Hajj scholarships to hundreds of Muslim faithful just as he sponsors Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem annually too.
Aare is one of the privileged few honoured by the Chief Imam of Makkah to send delegates for the annual ceremonial washing of the Holy Ka’bah. He is also invited to the annual Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs International Convention in Cairo, Egypt.
“Aare is on record as the one who mobilized support for the settlement of the internal rift amongst the members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church,
Oke Seni, Ibadan and ensured the settlement of their rift out of court. The said church eventually confered on him the title ‘The Defender of Faith’, in recognition of his love for religious peace and harmony.
“He is married and blessed with children, most of whom are successful professionals at home and abroad. The training he gives them makes excel intellectually and morally. A blessing which he always ascribes to God. Can one complete a piece such as this on Aare without a mention of his passion for oka (amala) and ooyo (ewedu)! He once had his favourite menu packed from home while on a transatlantic business trip! May his system savour amala and ewedu for long.
“As Mr. Andrews usually signs off his programme, Aare this is your life. May you live long. Amen”. Alhaji Arisekola Alao was buried at his Oluwo Kekere, Basorun Area, Ibadan home on Friday, 20 June, this year after the Fidau (open air service) at the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba, Ibadan, Oyo State.
“We remember you, our dear Aare Arisekola Alao, today, the fifth anniversary of your passage. Rest in peace.