•Reveals Eulogy To Father
I stand here before God, my family and you, our friends to celebrate and pay tribute to the life of my father, Chief (Dr.) Harry Ayoade Akande.
My father was a leader and a visionary, not only within our family, but to everyone he came into contact with. My father was integral and fair to all, a man who cared, never shunning responsibility for others in need, a man who sought to move Nigeria forward, a man who wanted to lead Nigeria; a great leader Nigeria never had.
My father was born on the 3rd of March 1943 to my proud grandparents, Pa Joseph Afolabi & Chief (Mrs.) Regina Akande. My grandparents believed in strong education, a trait my father bestowed on me and my and sisters, followed by an ethos of hard work and diligence. He was determined and once minded, achieved his goals; a determination his children, would inherit.
My father’s education was marked by both academic prowess and sporting excellence. Ever competitive, always striving to win and to win fairly. My father was a keen sportsman and athlete, excelling at high jump and javelin. I also excelled at high jump, something in which he reveled, apparent by the proud Cheshire grin on his face when visiting at school sports days or track meets. Education took my father to the US, first Hampton University from which he graduated with honours in Accounting and Finance (as we all know, he was financially disciplined, shrewd, prudent but generous when necessary). My father continued his post-graduate education in the US securing an MBA and making history as the first graduate of African ancestry from the prestigious Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management. The first of many firsts in my father’s life was driven by always being at the forefront, destined to be as he was, someone special. My father was further recognised by his Alma mater in receiving the outstanding 20 years Alumnus Award in recognition of his achievements in industry and in recognition of his caring philanthropy.
My father’s insatiable desire for knowledge, learning and experience took him over the course of his career, into multiple fields of industry; Aviation, Telecommunications, Petrochemical, Oil & Gas, Civil Engineering, all culminating to his focus in Major Infrastructure Development here in Nigeria; projects that made the life of the average Nigeria, better – more firsts! My father was committed to his work, including Electricity Projects at Ughelli, Ijora, and Delta II-IV, multiple Water and Irrigation projects in Bauchi, Plateau, and Gombe; Hydroelectric schemes, the Oyan Dam, Balanga dam, and the Osogbo Water Scheme, Africa’s largest water project at the time. These projects represented more firsts for my father (and Nigeria) with many more diverse and challenging projects successfully mastered and delivered – such as the Ibadan-Ilorin Highway, Benin City and Warri/Effurun water supply schemes.
Naturally, he reached internationally too – Point-a-Pierre refinery in Trinidad, the Crystal Palace Hotel & Casino in Nassau, University of Health Sciences in Antigua – these are but a few examples of what my father built in his lifetime.
My father was globally recognised for his works by both international business people and world leaders. His business reputation was built on a simple ethos – Conceive, Finance, Design, Execute,
Deliver on time, every time, no matter how complex the challenge. His personal reputation was built on so much more – kindness, empathy, sharing, caring, selflessness, and humility!
My father was somewhat of a paradox, at least to the casual observer. Living the highlife from a relatively early age, many may think that his life’s purpose centred around expensive cars, private jets, star-studded soirees at the Cannes film festival and the like; and while yes, he did indulge in that lifestyle from time to time, he was actually more comfortable at home, with his family and friends. Chief would oftentimes stay at home for weeks on end, not venturing beyond the boundary of his homestead, preferring rather to entertain family and friends who would pop by for a visit. He was truly comfortable in his own skin, with his own thoughts, the quintessential extroverted introvert. Most people are surprised to learn that my father was quite the recluse, and this is more reason why we shouldn’t judge a book, simply by its cover.
My father was always a dedicated husband, married to my mother for 46 years – what an indomitable but caring couple they were. My father ever the family man, a true and strong father to my sisters and me and an unabashed, doting Grandfather to his grandchildren. It is fair to say my two girls were not only the apples of my and their mother’s eye but also of their grandfather and grandmother’s eye. His smile and happiness in their presence glowed as only his smile could, ever infectious and endearing. I can honestly say I never saw him happier than when he was spoiling his grandchildren.
My father’s family ethic reached way beyond our household; he was a father to those in need, especially children, assisting to alleviate their troubles with warm embracement, care and consideration. All who knew the good works and relief he brought laud my father’s support of AMFAR, the Anglican Church and many other charitable institutions. Meanwhile, he never sought distinction, his focus always being to support those in need; driven by the adage that it is the duty of the strong to help the weak.
My father was also a mentor and big brother to many successful men and women, who in their own right have rightfully laid claim to the title of captains of industry in their respective fields. Undoubtedly, he was proud of all of us who doggedly meandered through the gauntlet of the Harry Akande Mentorship Program, oftentimes not knowing one was under tutelage, only to come out better on the other side.
My father’s caring further extended to the love of Nigeria and its people. He was a true Patriot and his spirit lives on as such. As Chairman of the APP Board of Trustees and convener of the APP/AD alliance, he sought to bring his skills, values, ethics and love of Nigeria, to leading the Nation by becoming its President. My father did not succeed in this challenge and I consider Nigeria was denied a great leader, with all the necessary skills to bring our Nation solidarity and progress, fairness and opportunity for all, a leading Nation not only in Africa but in the global community. He was the true and visionary leader we never had; a loss Nigeria will never know.
My father was a whole man, a true gentleman in every respect. A giving man, a man who inspired by example. His legacy beyond his family is vested in the aspiring Nigerian business youth, who seek to emulate his achievements and drive Nigeria to greatness.
My father’s values and ethos is still alive as is he in the memories and heart of those that loved him and those that knew and respected him. As I speak today, I see him in each one of you.
My and my siblings’ loss, my mother’s loss, our family’s loss, our friend’s loss, Nigeria’s loss, is without a doubt heaven’s gain. God has recalled one of his Angels.
Rest well Dad, you are at peace. We, your family, friends and Nation, mourn whilst celebrating your life and your achievements. One day, we will all meet in heaven to rejoice evermore. Mom, Foluke, Tinuke, Ola and I, along with the throngs of family members, friends, associates and well-wishers, will continue to move your legacy forward.
I miss you Dad!
Olumide ‘Lou’ Akande