31 years ago today,on 7th August,1989,I assumed duty as the pioneer Public Affairs Manager (PAM) of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, Ibadan, Oyo State of Nigeria.
I describe my appointment by OICL as a surprise, because I did not apply for the position, which was not advertised, in the first instance, neither had anyone informed me about it. It was what the Americans call “headhunting”, which I later got know was spearheaded by the Military Governor of old Oyo State (present Oyo and Osun States of Nigeria), the then Colonel Sasaenia Oresanya, who died a Brigadier-General on Sunday, 22nd March, 1998, aged 52. May his valiant and kind soul continue to rest in perfect peace. Amen.
The late Brig.-Gen. Oresanya was the last of the four (1 civilian and 3 military) Governors of old Oyo State whom I had the fortune of serving as the Press Secretary between 1983 and 1989, save for the three-month (1st October to 31st December, 1983) tenure of Dr Victor Omololu Olunloyo.
The four Governors I served were the late Chief ‘Bola Ige, SAN, Major-General Oladayo Popoola (rtd), Brigadier-General Adetunji Olurin (rtd) and the late Brigadier-General Sasaenia Oresanya. May the souls of the departed continue to rest in perfect peace. Amen.
Brig.-Gen.Oresanya had succeeded Brig.-Gen Olurin, on 27th July, 1988.
It was at the 11th KADUNA INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR, on Tuesday, 21st February, 1989, that Brig.-Gen.Oresanya had told me of his decision to appoint a new Press Secretary, adding that, “I won’t, however, leave you in the lurch.” He kept his word, even though he didn’t reveal his plans to me.
I continued to serve as his Press Secretary till Friday, 31st March, 1989, when I paid him a farewell visit, as it were, in his Office, Governor Oresanya asked me to make a request, ANY REQUEST, which he vowed to grant on the spot.
As I was caught unaware by the Military Governor’s gracious offer, it took me some minutes to recover, and when I did, I asked him,”Sir, will you, please, sponsor me to this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah and Medi na?”.It also took him some time before he answered,”If that’s your request, it is approved.”
The following day, Saturday, 1st April, was the day an unprecedented send forth dinner, ever held for any Federal or State Press Secretary, was held in my honour at the OYO STATE LIAISON OFFICE, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS STATE. The invite to the dinner bore Governor Sasaenia Oresanya‘s name as the Host.
Thereafter, I proceeded on a three-month accumulated leave. And it was on the day of Oyo State’s pilgrims departure from the old Oyo State Pilgrims (Muslim Wing) Office, Agodi, to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia via Ikeja Airport, Lagos State, that a State Protocol Officer, Mr Kola Fatunmbi, saw me, on his way from the GOVERNMENT HOUSE, Agodi, where he had gone to collect lunch for the Directors of OICL who were holding a Board Meeting in the Military Governor’s Office, and shouted, “Congratulations, Sir, you have been appointed the first Public Affairs Manager of Odu’a Investment Company Linited. Copies of the PRESS RELEASE announcing your appointment are being distributed to media houses right now.”I was surpised by the news of the record breaking appointment, as I said earlier, because I had not applied for such a position at OICL, even though I had, since 1984, been performing, pro bono, the duties of information/pr officer for the conglomerate, owned by the then three shareholder-states of old Oyo, Ogun and old Ondo States. Today, the shareholder-states of OICL have increased to six – OYO, OGUN, ONDO, EKITI, OSUN and LAGOS. I thanked Kola for breaking the good news to me.
Governor Oresanya was then the Chairman of OICL.
I, thereafter, went back to the Press Secretary Official Quarter 848, Agodi, to break the good news of my appointment to my family.
It was after my return from Hajj that I formally assumed duty at OICL, as her pioneer PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER (PAM), 31 years ago today, on Monday, 7th August, 1989.
I must say that Gen. Oresanya, on assuming duty in Oyo State, in July 1988, as the Military Governor, had once asked me, one day, the amount I was being paid by OICL, for the media/pr services I was rendering to the company, besides my official functions as the Press Secretary. I answered that I had been rendering the services to OICL, pro bono, since 1984. He expressed shock.
Although OICL, since her evolution in 1976, had weathered many storms, the fiercest was the military fiat given by the then self-styled military President of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), after barely surviving the bloody military coup led by the late Major Gideon Orkar, in April 1990, against his Federal Military Government, and had ordered that all platforms that facilitates meetings of states military Governors, officials etc,be they primordial,financial, socio-economical etc, in his words, must be dissolved immediately and their assets shared.
Whereas OICL, complied immediately with Babangida’s military fiat, by setting up an ASSETS DISSOLUTION/SHARING BOARD, headed by the late Oba Oladele Olashore, who was then a Prince, as all the OICL shareholder-states were being governed then by military governors, who were non-indigenes.
OICL’s Northern Nigeria states-owned counterpart, the New Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), on enquiries made by some of us at the OICL Hq in Ibadan,had not lifted a finger!
On why they had not complied with the FMG’s dissolution orders,we were told that “the NNDC does not act on orders made on radio/television broadcasts”.
It was as a result of the NNDC’s refusal,as it were,to comply with the Babangida-led FMG’s dissolution orders that I made an unplanned “SAVE ODU’A INVESTMENT COMPANY LIMITED” visit to the Ikeja, Lagos State home of the late Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR, that day in June 1990.
Unfortunately, Basorun Abiola had earlier that day of my unscheduled visit,told his guards that he did not wish to receive any visitor. But, I was let in,because the staff knew the close relationship between MKO, my mentor, and my humble self.
Basorun Abiola did not grant me audience that day until some minutes to midnight.
He apologised to me,for ‘waiting’ for so long to see him,on getting up to meet him in his private sitting room upstairs.
I explained my mission to him concerning the on-going dissolution processes at OICL, and the refusal of the Board/Management of the NNDC to lift a finger,on their part!.
He expressed disbelief of the one-sided situation and great fear at the economic calamity which the dissolution of OICL portended for her shareholder-states in particular and Nigeria, in general. Abiola immediately went into action.
From the time I was up with him till about 6.00am, Abiola was making telephone contacts with Nigeria’s high and mighty, particularly, Gen. Babangida, on the dire situation. In the end, Basorun Abiola told me to return home to Ibadan, and “tell our people that nothing would affect OICL, as nothing can shake Olumo Rock and Oke ‘Badan.“That was how God, Abiola and my humble self saved OICL from Babangida’s guillotine in 1990.
In August 2006,leaning heavily on the time-honoured maxim that a good actor quits the stage while the ovation is loudest,and having put in 17 years of service to OICL, I put in my letter of voluntary retirement from the conglomerate to the then GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR of OICL, Dr Adebayo Jimoh, who had just been employed a year before. He expressed shock at my decision to go,as I was still qualified for eight more years of employment. The GMD pleaded with me to change my decision.But,I thanked him greatly for his kind appeal,and politely told him that my decision to honourably retire from OICL had been taken four years earlier.
Rather than travel for a scheduled meeting at a subsidiary company of OICL in Lagos from his home the following day, Dr Jimoh instead came to the OICL Hq at the Cocoa House, Dugbe,where he summoned an emergency Meeting of the company’s EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT,to appeal to me to rescind my previous day decision.I stood up and thanked him and the Executive Directors for the great honour,but stood by my decision to voluntarily retire.
Thus,I left the services of OICL as the pioneer General Manager,Corporate Affairs in March 2007,after giving the mandatory six-month notice.
Till date,I maintain a cordial relationship with OICL and her staff,and I am still on the company’s Protocol List.
We thank God for His mercies that endure.