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Adisa Osiefa: The making of a social commentator

Osiefa

One of the notable indigenes the ancient town of Epe can always put forward, in terms of exploits in academics, commerce as well as social is Otunba Adisa Osiefa, the 75-year-old whose voice on national issues are difficult to ignore. TUNDE BUSARI writes on what has made him tick over the years.

 

Otunba Adisa Osiefa’s contribution to public issue of interest on popular radio stations in Lagos and newspapers are quite invaluable that reporters and editors always keep his phone numbers permanently in their diaries.

To him, sharing his views on government policies is his passion and his own input into the governance once he has chosen to stay away from partisan politics.

Although he is blessed with enough resources needed to be a big politics player, even at national level, he believes everybody should not be in politics, especially in a society where political might is elevated over political right.

However, he does not have anything against the players. Indeed, a good number of his bossom friends are active members of different political parties and they all enjoy their mutual respect for one another.

His politician-friends know and appreciate him for whom he is as regards party politics and that has always been the strong point of their relationship, for they are always together, especially at social gatherings like club houses and parties.

“We cannot all be politicians. Some of us take the backseat in order to have an objective view of the issues and offer advice where and when necessary. In developed countries, this role is as important as being in the mainstream,” he explained.

Osiefa, in the same vein, could pass for a social critic, though he scarcely flaunts this moniker. Even if a government policy favours him, he is not blindfolded to see the flip side of the policy with a view to drawing government’s attention to it. For instance, he was one of the few beneficiaries after whom Lagos streets are named.

While he expressed his gratitude to the government for the honour, he, however, frowned upon government’s loose regime on the maintenance of the sign post on which his name is inscribed. In his reaction, he drew a comparison between a street in the United Kingdom and Lagos with a strong message that things needed to also be done right in Nigeria.

He said: “Street naming in Lagos State, Nigeria, yes, brilliant idea but very, very poorly implemented. We shall continue to express our mind to ensure things are done differently. If you call this a patriotic role, that is it. We have no other country than Nigeria. It is particularly painful to see things being done right in UK and other countries.”

Osiefa hardly makes a comment on social-political issues without a quick reference to the UK, an evidence of his strong attachment to the Queen’s land. A peep into his history would reveal a man who spent his early 20s overseas after he had completed his secondary school education at the popular Epe Grammar School and a stint at Ministry of Lagos Affair.

In the 60s, he was a student at Manchester Metropolitan University and Liverpool John Moore University, after which he returned home and joined Nigeria Flour Mills plc. He rose through the ranks and became General Manager of the Western zone of the then flourishing company, a position that had made him a beautiful bride to entrepreneurs in the south west and beyond.

When he was expected to hang on to become the Managing Director of the company, Osiefa threw in the towel and started a new life with his private company. That was in 1984. The following year, he commissioned his Adidas Hotel located on the Badagry Expressway.

The occasion witnessed two music giants- King Sunny Ade and the late Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister- in the company of Osiefa’s friends savouring the moment.

“The point is that while I was returning to Nigeria I had in mind to work for 10 years only. My plan was to have my own business because of my belief in my capacity to excel as a private entrepreneur. I have belief in becoming an employer of labour and this was what happened.

“You don’t empower people by giving them free money. You better give them job through which they make a decent living and also learn. After the hotel I went into oil business and had a fuel station at Badagry. Today, I am the chairman Nigerian Petroleum Dealers Association of Nigeria Badagry Chapter,” he said.

Aside that position, Osiefa is the recipient of many chieftaincy titles across Yorubaland, including Badagry. Besides, for close to two decades, he was the president of Epe Grammar School Old Students Union just as he was also an elder of the Epe Club, a gathering of Epe’s first eleven including the governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode.