Many people don’t know that Otunba Biodun Onanuga, the NUGACON boss and media guru, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the MD/CEO of NAN, are cousins. Their fathers are brothers. Both Biodun and Bayo, also lived together in Ijebu-Ode. Below Bayo Onanuga recounts their growing up years.
There are so many things to recall about Otunba Onanuga, while we grew up together in Ijebu-Ode. Although we attended different schools, both primary and secondary, he always stood out among his peers during the growing up years. Though, born in Ijebu-Ode, he was bred and polished in Lagos. I was not sure there was any holiday when he was in primary school at Emmanuel School, Italupe, that he spent in Ijebu-Ode. He was always going to Lagos for holidays with his maternal relations. In today’s parlance, Biodun will qualify as ‘Aje butter’ or ‘Tekobo’.
He didn’t speak Ijebu language early. His language was ‘Yoruba Eko’ and I am amazed now how, over the decades, he has brushed up himself and now speaks original Ijebu. And even more amazing is that he is now neck deep in Ijebu cultural matters. Biodun was focussed very early on his studies and to do this, he almost avoided the company of some ‘bad boys’ in Alhaji Captain’s house or in the Ososa-Isoku axis. For example: he didn’t always follow us on our expeditions to the streams at Oke-Owa, Imoru or ‘Igbabeto’ or to ‘cricket hunting’ in the then rubber plantation, near Moslem Primary School, near Ijagun Road.
He was also never a part of the Agemo Welcoming Party at Imoru, when youths latched on the licence issued to us the ‘termites’, by the Agemo, to invade the farms and pluck corn cobs. His role for the Agemo was different: He usually waited at Ishado, for the Agemo Ogegbo from Ibonwon, now Lagos State: his duty was to hand over to the Agemo and his aides, some traditional gifts. I must confess I am not so clear, till today about the link between the Fetuga Household in Ishado and Agemo Ogegbo.
But when we went to the GRA at weekends in the 60’s to pluck mangoes, guavas and other fruits, illegally, Biodun used to be part of the party. There was never a time the White man’s dogs usually unleashed on us, ever succeeded in catching us. After all, we had an U sain Bolt in our midst. Though shorter than some of us, he was athletic, he could outrun us, outjump us, then at an improvised field opposite the family house on Oguntuga Street. I believe that he got his sporting abilities from his father’s DNA.
I was not surprised when he represented Ijebu Ode Grammar School in the sprints. But he was not so good in soccer and I could not remember now that he was part of the crowd on the fields of Moslem School, Isoku or Italupe that played soccer after school hours. After his senior school certificate, in 1974, Biodun left Ijebu-Ode for School of Arts and Science on, Victoria Island, Lagos. It was from there that he was given admission by Yaba College of Technology to study Building Engineering. I believe the course was tailor-made for him, as it marked a defining point for his future.
After OND, and during the compulsory one year IT at Lagos Town Planning in Ilupeju, Biodun began to draw building plans for people and earn some extra-income. From drawing plans, he began also to supervise the building. The job at the Town Planning was Biodun’s first and last. He never worked for anyone else, except himself after graduation.
He bought his first car while doing the IT, around 77/78 and a few years after, he also built his first house in Ijebu-Ode. He was in his twenties. By this time, his young company NUGACON was beginning to bear fruits and he was on the march to earning a living from the skills he learnt at YabaTECH. He had never looked back since then. While he got the sporting bug from his father, his entrepreneurial spirit was cut from the mother, who ran a successful sewing business in Ijebu-Ode for several decades.
At YabaTech, Biodun inspired the formation of a social club, YAH Club. I didn’t know the philosophy of the group, though I was at UNILAG contemporaneously with him. In later life, he also inspired the formation of our age grade group, Bobakeye, displaying as the group expanded, his ability to mobilise his peers to identify with the town, by joining the Regberegbe.
It was while living in Somolu that Biodun met his wife, Yetunde. And the way their romance blossomed at the time, was not surprising. They tied the knots in 1984, five years ahead of my own marriage. This is one of the reasons I always refer to him as a trail-blazer in our family.
–Culled From ROOT Magazine