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Deshow: The passing of an icon, Dangote MD, Akin Adesokan

A Tribute to Mr. Akin Adesokan, Managing Director, Dangote Cement, Lagos Terminal.

Bose (aka Sola), Jimi; my brother, Ayo (aka Kunle) and I were toddlers in Imalefalafia, Ibadan in those very good and happy old days.

I did not have any natural sister and Sola is the only girl in her nuclear family. Hence, Sola has always been like a sister that I never had.

I therefore feel the greatest sense of sadness and loss to write this premature tribute to her husband, but thank God for a life well spent.

Naturally, when it came to settling down, the stakes were high. It was always going to be difficult for any man to be good enough for our sister.

I can confirm that Deshow met and in fact surpassed all our expectations. He had a gigantic, larger-than-life personality. Deshow won the jewel-in-the-crown of the Soyebo family.

I believe that the Deshow-Sola partnership was a match made in heaven. Sola is very personable as evinced by the fact that the majority of her cohorts at Holy Child, FSS, UI and London have kept in touch till now. Deshow was exactly the same. I still remember with nostalgia, our various 21st birthday parties which were resounding successes, partly due to the Deshow-Sola partnership. I recollect the tumultuous joy upon playing our favourite KC and The Sunshine Band (“That’s the way ha ha ha ha I like it, ha ha ha ha, etc”). Deshow was central to all that joy.

I recollect going to the then Director of Music, Nigerian Police, to request his services for Deshow and Sola’s wedding. This is what he said:”Doctor, I am also a Pipe Major. From the joy that I can see in your eyes, let us do something different. This lovely couple should be ushered in with the best Bagpipes!”  Hence, the services of the best Bagpipes and pipers in Nigeria were made available to me free of charge for Sola and Deshow. Ushering in the lovely and happy couple with Bagpipes was a joy to behold. Sola was the centre of attention, but Deshow’s joy was transparent.

As a husband, in my view, Sola meant everything to Deshow and the feeling was mutual. Despite the understandable pressures of Nigerian Society and Deshow’s popularity, the relationship endured till the end. I recollect a discussion during Barry Osilaja’s 40th in London, whereby Sola told me: “I know my husband”. That, to me, was the ultimate endorsement of Deshow.

As a father, Deshow was everything. He ensured that his boys got the best possible education. For that we are eternally grateful. I still recollect him saying: “it will be me and my boys” (meaning: Adesokan, Adesokan and Adesokan, Solicitors and Barristers). The dream endured. Deshow won with his Twins in Law: Tunde is an expert in Maritime and Off Shore Law and Jide in Oil and Gas.

However, the defining test, in my opinion, was his tumultuous reaction when his little boy, Tayo got into one of the greatest Medical Schools in the world. He called me up out of the blues. His joy and gratitude were palpable! He prayed endlessly. “Olorun a ke e” (God will bless you, etc). It was Deshow’s finest hour.

At Tayo’s graduation champagne reception and lavish party at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, his speech was so emotional that he was in tears. I recollect also shedding some tears of joy!

Tayo had surpassed all our expectations. He graduated with high distinction (or as they say in America: Magna Cum Laude). He achieved distinctions at both preclinical and clinical stages. Deshow’s joy was endless. Deshow also won with his little boy. Tayo is now an excellent doctor.

As a friend, Deshow was the greatest. One example will suffice. In 2002, my father had just passed. I needed to travel immediately to Nigeria with the whole family for the funeral. There was a major problem, in that the children held British, but not Nigerian Passports. As infants, they previously travelled on their mum’s.

I rushed to the Nigerian Embassy, Fleet Street, arriving at 4.35pm. I recognised a plain clothed military operative. “Esprit de corps”, I said. “Esprit”, he replied. ”I have come to obtain Nigerian Passports for my children today. We must travel tomorrow”. “Impossible, Sir”, he replied. “Passport Section is closed”. “Finance is closed.” “They closed at 12 noon”. In true “esprit”, he got me through the usual cordons into the office of the Education attache who was then doubling as the head of passport section. “How did you get in here sir. We have closed” she exclaimed. “I must get my children’s passports today”. Why don’t you show the papers to the person in charge”, I replied. “I am the person in charge!”, she snapped. “No, I mean the Minister Counsellor”, I retorted. ((I had wrongly assumed that the Minister Counsellor at Fleet Street was my late egbon, His Excellency (H.E.) Gbenga Ashiru (brother to my egbon and friend Professor Dapo Ashiru; and friend Professor Toyin Ashiru (“Soul Papa”)). In fact H.E. Ashiru was based at Northumberland Avenue. “No. The Minister/Head of Consular, Education and Welfare is Mr Ajoje”, she replied, with indicative finality. “Show him the papers and tell him what I have just told you”, I persisted.

The late H.E. Biodun Ajoje, whose acquaintance I had met through the Deshow-Sola axis was the Minister and Head of Consular, Education and Welfare at Fleet Street; and was Deshow’s good friend! Upon seeing the papers and my name he instructed the Senior Attache: “Call Finance not to go yet. Tell your staff to stay put. Nobody is going anywhere today until we issue these passports. Tell Dr. Oyesanya to come to my office. Please ask him what he wants to eat and drink”. That was the Deshow factor!

As an entrepreneur, he was a focussed go-getter. This is evinced by his entire career being in cement: initially at West African Portland Cement (WAPCO) where he rose to leadership of the sales team; and, subsequently, Dangote Cement where he became Managing Director of the Lagos Terminal and Regional Director, respectively.

I recollect sounding out one my Kaduna friends, the late Toks Lanvar about Deshow’s move to Dangote. He had lived in Kano as a young boy with his senior sister (Mrs. Ajoke Mohammed, former First Lady) and therefore knew Dangote well. This is what he said: “Ranka dede; Aliko does not suffer fools gladly. He selects and keeps the best people. That is why he is successful. “Your friend must be very good”. He was right.

It is instructive that at Jide’s wedding to the daughter of My Lord Bode Rhodes-Vivour, JSC; the Chairman, my egbon and friend Dr. John Abebe, despite a few glasses of good champagne gave a wonderful speech. I recollect him saying, in part: “…I asked who is this boy wanting to marry my god-daughter? They said: he is a brilliant boy. A lawyer. His father is in cement”

As a public man, he achieved at the highest possible level. I still recollect supporting him and Sola at the hustings in his campaign for the Presidency of the Student Union of our alma mater, University of Ibadan. His personality was his greatest asset, but to me his nickname, Deshow was a major trump card. We previously had John Nnia Nwodo [later Federal Minister](“Nwodo for President!”); Adegboro (“Osagyefo for President!”); Odia Ofeimun (Odia for President!); but there was only one “Deshow!”.

I still recollect a lanky Ibo friend of mine from Independence Hall seeing me in the streets and shouting: “Deshow!”. “Deshow!”. “Deshow!”. At that point, I knew that he had won.

The evidence of his leadership qualities was his comparatively peaceful tenure.

At Ikoyi Club, he rose to become the Chairman. His achievements and leadership attributes were recognised by the then Lagos State Governor, Tunde Fashola, who said: “I felicitate with my brother Mr. Akin Adesokan whose tenure as the Chairman is coming to an end. I congratulate him also on the achievements his tenure has witnessed, of course with the support of the management, staff and distinguished members of this club”. “Leadership does not make a difference. It makes the difference” (quoting John Maxwell)(Please see: www.tundefashola.com/archives/news/2009/02/21/20090221N21.html).

Deshow, THANK YOU.

You gave my cultural sister, Sola, the greatest joy and gift of all: a happy and enduring relationship and married life; as well as three delightful, remarkable, intelligent, personable and accomplished sons.

You and Sola gave your sons (my cultural nephews) the best possible start in life: appropriate formative development, underpinned by good quality education.

You realised your dream of three generations of intelligent law: Adesokan (Samuel Ilori Adesokan, of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister); Adesokan (Akintunde Adeniyi Adesokan, of Lagos Law School, Barrister); Adesokan (Akintunde Taiwo Adesokan, of Middle Temple, Barrister); and Adesokan (Akinjide Kehinde Adesokan, also of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister).

You also actualised your dream of first generation intelligent medicine: Dr. Adesokan (Akintayo Idowu Adesokan, of London University (with distinction)).

You gave Jimi, Olumide, Ibukun, Fumbi and Yomi (my cultural brothers) unflinching brotherly support and love.

You gave my uncle and late aunty the joy of another doting son in a family that was already full of wonderful boys.

You gave me and my family the tremendous joy of being your cultural in-laws and friends.

You gave the cement industry in particular, and Nigerian entrepreneurship in general, several years of focussed, devoted and meritorious service.

You gave public life your best possible: First, a comparatively peaceful tenure as President of the Students’ Union of our alma mater, University of Ibadan. Second, successful Chairmanship of Ikoyi Club and leadership qualities as recognised by the then Lagos State Governor, Tunde Fashola (supra). Third, and most importantly, you brought panache to your cultural and fraternal relationships.

You lit up every room that you entered. You were larger than life. You were a winner.

We thank you for being Deshow.

When the inevitable end came, you conducted yourself with remarkable courage and dignity.

We thank God for your wonderful life; and for giving Sola the fortitude, dignity and unflinching love to stay with and beside you till the very end.

I respectfully invite the Almighty to grant Sola, Tunde, Jide, Tayo and the entire extended family the strength and faith to bear your irreparable loss.

Akintunde  Adeniyi  Adesokan (1955-2016). Omo Akin ti nje Akin. Omo Aderupoko. Sun re o.

Rest in Perfect Peace, my brother, friend and in-law. My president!

•Dr. O.A. Oyesanya, England, writes from London