By Nurudeen Oshinlaja
Today, 15 October 2023, marks the 85th glorious birthday of ‘our’ patriarch, Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Basorun. I am enthused to join millions of well-wishers to felicitate him on this landmark achievement and wish him happy birthday.
When the thought of penning this tribute cascaded into my mind yesterday, I felt a gushing trepidation like one feels before a major examination. I took a short walk to calm my nerves and the trepidation subsided. Then, I started the writing. I felt the trepidation because the celebrant is quite simply a colossus. Although I recognised that this time of celebration should involve less exploration, I however sensed that not doing this would be negligent of the positive lessons his attributes afford us. I also vacillated between writing about Baba as an embodiment of Asiwaju or under his paramole cognomen. It was hard for me to settle for one or the other. Alas, his Asiwaju and Paramole duality does it!
Among Baba’s many inspiring parts that are clearly beyond the full awareness of a man half as old as he is, three of them stood out. Professionally, Asiwaju Basorun ‘is’ an eminent banker and a reputable legal practitioner. Socio-culturally, he is a selfless community leader and an enigmatic renowned politician. Reverentially, he is a clergy man with a gratifying posture – a Baba Aladura in deeds and in truths.
One may be tempted to see his banking foray as fortuitous but he was prepared as a young man with excellent business and mathematics prowess. His dutifulness, integrity, panache, purposefulness, and enthusiasm on the job made him rise from a CBN clerk to a CBN Deputy Director in two decades before exiting the bank in 1979. He reached the top echelon of his banking profession by being decorated with the fellowship of the Chattered Institute of Banking, London. He is also an astute manager with an associate membership of the British Institute of Management added to his ever flowery cap. By dint of determination, he completed a law degree, became a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and had a stint at T.O.S. Benson & Co until year 2000. He, thereafter, established and advance his own private practice. To him, right things must be done at the right times. Like a paramole, Baba demonstrates innate and acquired intelligence that cannot be rivalled.
His political journey (which started in 1979) was and is still being driven by his exemplary community development service. At the risk of leaving out details, Baba leveraged on, for example, his work as an asset of the youth body of the defunct Action Group, his stellar roles in the projectification of the “Jakande administration’s 14 Point Programme”, his enviable position as Secretary to the State Government (and later Commissioner for Education) of Alhaji Lateef Jakande’s administration from 1979 to 1983 to herald his meritorious service to Lagos State, and Nigeria as a whole. Holding many other exalted positions including entrepreneur/business leader, public administrator, and political leader, Baba’s imprimatur of excellence is always affixed. Away from official setting, Baba remains a consistent leading community development contributor for almost seven decades. He severally and jointly attracts tangible assets and champions the development of intangible possessions for Ikorodu division and the people. His top political pedestal as a member of the Governance Advisory Council, GAC, Lagos State enables him offer transcendental political leadership.
Like a paramole which distinctively builds comfortable nests, Baba builds a welcoming ambience around himself. Like a true Asiwaju, Baba charitably provides bespoke solutions to various issues facing many individuals and groups. He has been honoured on numerous occasions for his solemn contributions to youths’ empowerment and development, meaningful support to educational advancement in our society, and gracious actions on improving humanity in our society, in general. Baba’s paramole’s visionary instinct is positively used to encourage a lot of people.
Whilst his professional and socio-cultural importance appeal more to many of us, a significant number of people is awed by his Baba Aladura stature. For example, a couple of people I recently met in the UK talked glowingly to me about him as a true believer in God and a prayer warrior. Although he rarely proselytises, his position as the Spiritual Head of the Gospel Church of C & S, Oke-Ayo Igbala Irapada canonises him and validly places him in the rank of eminent men of God.
Baba is an enigmatic societal mentor of mentors who is inimitable and un-hateable. He is one of the most principled human beings I have known and heard about. He does not usually take serious actions nor make serious decisions impulsively. He is a man of details; clearly, he is a repository of history; and he is excellent with local geography. He identifies and assesses all perspectives surrounding a matter before making a justified decision. Only few can boast of his high retentive memory; his recollections of events suffer from no impairment. Added to his excellent numeracy is his exceptional literacy which he often demonstrates with his wisdom-garnished oratory. As an avid reader, he spends much time on regular reading.
Baba is a first in his own right: first SSG to the first civilian government of Lagos State, first state chairman of PDP Lagos State, and first to give structured scholarships in Igbogbo kingdom. He is quick to encourage positive actions. He simply believes that if one does not, in a strict sense, fit into the world, one can create one’s own ‘happy’ world.
Baba possesses the marvellous disposition to be warm always, ardent about life, non-irritable, astoundingly quick-witted, direct and clear in his aims, highly tolerable, compassionate, and consistently receptive to people; yet he can be visibly disagreeable but without the slightest pretention. He is a smart reader of situations and he is not easily blindsided. I sense that there is an un-deciphered furtiveness about him even as I contend that nothing is obscured about him.
With Baba’s candour, it is easy to picture his younger days as being full of exuberance and fun. Definitely, those days would have been filled with the exultation of his forward looking imagination and ideas which later combined to make him a leader of leaders that we have today. No wonder discussion and interactions with him never become perfunctory.
Baba’s responsiveness to happenings within his immediate and extreme purviews drives proactivity and innovativeness rather than startle progress. The ‘’Call Basorun’’ catchphrase underscored in Soji Omotunde’s Paramole O Koro Iwosi: Asiwaju Reuben Olorunfunmi Basorun (a biography of Baba) epitomizes Baba’s responsiveness. Baba is a giver par excellence but he is not extravagant nor limited by asceticism. What else do we expect from a top manager and leader who understands the value and rarity of resources?
Baba mi, you deserve all the outpouring of affectionate tributes and testimonies from family members, friends, political leaders and actors, traditional leaders, religious leaders, acquaintances, and all well-wishers on your 85th special birthday celebration.
I thank you for the nudges you give me and the support you gave me from my formative years. It would have been hard to find a lamppost for my life path if you had not stepped in. I appreciate how your spoken and implicit advice, guidance, mentorship, and great inspiration have helped me further in my life. Words cannot fully describe how much you mean to me. You are priceless. Your life is a blessing to many of us. I am grateful for the understanding and hope you have imparted to me and many others. I acknowledge your unparalleled contribution to family ties and to the liberalisation of our community and division.
Because we have you as our Baba, we are spoiled for sustained rewarding experience. So, I thank you profusely. I promise to hold on to the profound life lessons that you facilitate.
Sir, I proudly share in your joy today. I wish you many more glorious years. I wish you continued joy, peace, good health, and happiness. I pray God grants you many more years to spend with us. I wish you the best of everything because you deserve so much more today and always. I hope you have a splendid birthday, sir. Congratulations, and happy birthday, sir!
Omo Meri Ipara
Omo Olisa Ajuwa
Omo Olubi r’ebikowo
Wen a tun bo pe re ni o, Amin!
Nurudeen Oshinlaja writes from Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.