If you grew up in the 80s around Ijebu-Ode, South-Western parts of the country, there is no way you would not have heard about Oduwole Fisheries or Oduwole Eleja aka Teru Teru. Yes, Chief Olanrewaju Abdulfatai Oduwole was that famous. He was a leading frozen fish importer and distributor in Nigeria back then. The highly intelligent Oduwole was very rich, influential and above all, he was a philanthropist. He touched several lives with his wealth. His connection then cut across the business and social circles. His contemporaries in business were the likes of Chief Great Ogboru, a popular businessman and politician; Chief Agbaje and co.
To say late Oduwole was intelligent would be an understatement for a man who studied Agric Science from U.I, worked briefly at Lagos Ministry of Agriculture and later went back to his Alma mater, Molusi College, to teach before venturing into business and built a business empire within a very short period of time. It speaks volume about his intellect. His junior colleagues at Molusi College, who he later taught, include Senator Lekan Mustapha, Senator Gbenga Kaka etc. Lanre Oduwole was cut off in his prime. He was murdered in 1989, at age 42. But his legacies live on and that is why his wife and the children have decided to celebrate him 30 years after his death.
In this interview with City People’s Correspondent, Dare Adeniran, late Chief Oduwole’s first child, Dr. Olayinka Oduwole speaks on many things you may not know about their dad and their plans thereafter to immortalise him. He also spoke on why they have decided to remember their late dad 30 years after, and how they will shake the whole of Ijebu-Ode with the remembrance program, which comes up on Saturday 3rd August, 2019, with Fidau prayers at his residence in Ijebu-Ode. After the burial there would be reception and entertainment of guests at De Glory Hall, near Bishops Court, Eijirin Road, Ijebu-Ode. The colour code for the program is yellow headgear/cap on white. Read the excerpts of the interview.
What informed the idea of celebrating your late dad 30 years after?
Our dad was a great man. He lived an exemplary life; he touched peoples’ lives in many ways that words cannot convey. We used to live in Ijebu-Ode and there is no one that lived in Ijebu-Ode in the 80s that our dad didn’t touch their lives, either business-wise or philanthropic gesture or what have you. I mean he was sending students through school all the way to university and empowering people. People would come all the way from Ijebu-Igbo, Sagamu, Remo, Iperu and even Ibadan, to come and do business with him. And he would sell to them on credit and some of them won’t be able to pay back, but he was a gentle, absolutely loving man. So, it is because we didn’t have a chance to say proper goodbye then; he died when we were young. I am the first of seven children, and I was in my teens when he died. But now that we are of age and the Lord has been good to us, we want to celebrate his life and all that he stood for as a man. That is why we are doing this.
What kind of business was he into?
He was an entrepreneur. He was into fishery, he studied Agric Science from the University of Ibadan. He would import fish products from Norway, Europe and then he would come distribute in the South West. So, his business tentacle cuts across Lagos, Ijebu, Ibadan and other parts of the South West.
Tell us about some of your fond memories with your dad while growing up?
If I start, I will not finish. Even though I was in my teens but like I said, my dad was a role model. He was absolutely an exemplary man; I have never seen his kind even after he has passed.
He left us fond memories though we spent not too long time together. Being the first child I was close to him, and even though we were young, he co-opted us into his business; we worked for him. When his containers come from Europe to Lagos, from where his fleets of lorries would take the products to Ijebu and its environs, he would ask us the children to come down and we will literally off-load the products from lorries into the coldrooms. He would have a long cane, and I was not particularly strong for such task, I was more academic. He would be warning us, ”as you are going don’t let this drop”. There was this event where I mistakenly dropped a carton of the frozen fish on the floor, and he just hit me with the cane. How can one forget such memory? After we were done, he will pay us. He pays us good money; 20, 30 naira in the 80s. There were several people working for him as well. So, we were always looking forward to when the containers would come from Lagos. Aside that, there are other memories like coming to pick me and my siblings from school. We were so proud of him and we always wanted to show him off because he had cars, Mercedes. He was one of the first persons that drove brand new Mercedes in Ijebu then. He was very popular, very tall and handsome. Whenever Ileya festival was would coming we buy the biggest ram in town.
How has his life and teachings impacted on you and your siblings?
Though he lived a very short life, but he left us with legacy, I am part of that. About ten years ago, I forrayed into politics. The reception I got was great and it was as a result of his goodwill, the legacies that my dad left us. Whenever we went to talk to people, they said oh! You are Lanre Oduwole’s son, and because of your dad, we’ll support you. Everywhere we went, Oduwole Eleja, Oduwole Eleja was on their lips because that was how my dad was popularly called back then. He was also known as Teru Teru. So, once they know he is my father, they support us. He left us lasting legacies, legacies of goodwill, good name. In Ijebu-Ode, when we started preparation for this remembrance people started giving us free stuff, they donated.
What happened to his wealth?
That was due to circumstances leading to his death and after, which I would not want to delve into now. But the legacy our father left us is unquantifiable; the good upbringing and all. We had very decent education to start our lives early. Those are the legacies he left us.
Any of the children taking after his line of business?
I personally, I am not business inclined. Like I said I am academic. I have a PHD, I am into education and I am also a politician. I don’t buy or sell like my dad. I don’t see any of us who particularly has that entrepreneurial kind of skill that my dad had. Having said that, we have different skills in the family. We have Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers and all, but no one surprisingly, took after him in terms of running a business.
Tell us about his social life?
He was very sociable and famous. He was once the Social Secretary of Ijebu-Ode Club, a member of Ijebu Country Club. He was fashionable as well. He was a philanthropist, very kind and humane.
With the kind of life your dad lived; a successful businessman, philanthropist and all, how do you plan to immortalise him apart from the remembrance ceremony?
We always had the plan to resuscitate his business, the plan is already in the pipeline. We believe if we do that, it is going to be an enduring legacy for him. That the business he started about 40 something years ago, the children are able to keep the legacy going. Talking about immortalising him, we have been doing some of that already. Like I said I forrayed into politics and what we do is that we also give scholarships, myself and my siblings, we help indigenes of Ijebu-Ode through school. But not on the scale of my dad, in our own little way. We have helped people through school, helped people pay hospital bills, especially those from Ijebu-Ode community. But going further, after this remembrance, what we plan to do is to set up a foundation in his name, so that we can do more for our community and the society at large.
Tell us about your late dad’s background?
My dad was born in Ijebu-Ode, to the family of late Alhaji Nola and Alhaja Safirat Oduwole. He was born in the 1940s. He started his education at Porogun Primary School, Ijebu-Ode. After that, he attended Muslim College again in Ijebu-Ode, he was the 1962 set. He then proceeded to the prestigious Molusi College, Ijebu-Ode, for his HSC program. He later gained admission to the University of Ibadan, where he studied Agricultural Science. Highly intelligent, that we took after him, we have intelligent children in the family. Like I said Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers.
He did his NYSC in Sokoto, Talata Mafara, for a year. He came back to Lagos and worked briefly with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Ijede. He also taught briefly at his Alma mater, Molusi College. Some of his junior collegueas were Senator Gbenga Kaka, Senator Lekan Mustapha, Prince Segun Adesegun etc.
After that, he came to Ijebu-Ode and set up his own business, Oduwole Fisheries. He met my mum, they married and their union produced loving children to the glory of God.
Who were his contemporaries in business then?
Chief Great Ogboru, he was his very close business associate, he is still very close to the family. There is Madam Nilex, she was one of the renowned distributors of frozen fish products in Nigeria then. There is also Chief Agbaje from Epe. He had many other social friends as well.
In summary, how would you describe your dad?
If I should write a book about my dad, it would be in volumes. He was a very kind man. He made money for people. Everyone that he met, he touched. He was a lovable man, very jovial. He was highly intelligent, a man of great business acumen. He was a disciplined man as well.
Tell us about his last moment?
Unfortunately, the night that he died, I was supposed to be told off. He was not feeling too well, but went for a party, alongside my mum. There was this musical gadget, imported from the U.K, my dad was one of the first set that bought it. I wanted to play the record then I mistakenly knocked off the pin of the player. There was this KSA’s album, ‘Good Shepherd’ then. He loved to listen to it a lot so that was what I wanted to play. My mum returned first and discovered the damage I had done on the player. She was like, ‘you have destroyed this thing when your dad comes back I will tell him”. But unfortunately that was his last night.
Hired assassins came to the house and attacked us, he was murdered. That was June 6 1989. I don’t want to go into the details. My dad loved KSA and Obey but his favourite was KSA.