As Sir Olaniwun Ajayi goes home

Papa Obafemi Awowolo’s eldest child, Segun and I were registered to start school at Agbeni Methodist School, Ibadan in January of 1943. Later, we both were admitted into the prestigious Igbobi College, Yaba for Secondary education. The Okebola residence of the Awolowos and that of the Olasopes at Ekotedo in Ibadan were home for Segun, myself and our friends. Thus, I came to know from close quarters, the leading lieutenants and associates of Chief Awolowo  in and out of government — the Akintolas, Adegbenros, Odebiyis, Adiguns, Adeyis, the Osuntokuns, the Bamises, the Oredeins, the Omisades, etc. There were some other notable ones who were not in government but who were close to Chief Awolowo. They were waiting in the wings for the leader to become prime minister and be part of the cabinet. It was to this group that the Akomolafes, the Iges, the Olaniwun Ajayis and Ayo Adebanjos belonged.

When, in 1980, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, as governor of Ogun State, appointed me his first Chief Press Secretary, the Head of Service then, Abayomi Oduntan, disclosed to me that I had been nominated for the appointment by Papa Awolowo. Papa had known me and taken me like his own son.

From time to time as occasion demanded, the inseparable duo of Olaniwun Ajayi and Ayo Adebanjo visited the governor’s office to see Chief Onabanjo. Because of my intimate knowledge of the gentlemen, I never wasted time to let Chief Onabanjo know of their presence, and of course, they were promptly invited in and attended to. Both men were highly knowledgeable, intelligent and well spoken. They were bold like a lion and they booked no nonsense from anybody. Of course, one could not be close to Chief Awolowo and be an idiot. Papa knew how to pick his team who were usually among the best available. Seeing Sir Olaniwun Ajayi and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, you would not mistake them as ardent Awoists. They were usually well dressed, smart-looking and confident of themselves and the political class to which they belonged. The popular Awo cap was the distinguishing hall-mark.

One thing that struck me about the two great men was that even though the younger Adebanjo started politics before the older Ajayi and, therefore, tended to get some precedence, he nevertheless conceded seniority and respect to his older friend. This was remarkable and showed the sterling stuff the two men were made of.

I was not surprised to read the account of the part Sir Olaniwun played in the courtship and marriage of Chief Adebanjo preceeded by their being together in London during their student days. They kept this close brotherly togetherness till the very last.

I just wonder what life will be like for Chief Adebanjo without his ‘twin brother’ and egbon, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi.

I can only hope that the children of Sir Olaniwun will not be far from Chief Adebanjo, otherwise the gap will be there for the rest of his own life.

It is my prayer that God will comfort him and grant him the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. I urge other Awoists, Afeniferes- Femi Okurounmu, Olu Falae, Supo Sonibare, Tony Adefuye, Kunle Olajide, to join hands with Chief Adebanjo and Pas Reuben Fasoranti and Ayo Fasanmi to keep the flag flying.

It will be a shame if the Yoruba nation is allowed to be pushed down the precipice.

Adieu, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi. Your rest with God is assured with the way you led your life and your monumental contributions to society.

Indeed, your re-union with Papa Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Uncle Bola Ige, Mama H.I.D. Awolowo, the Jewel, and others will be a sweet one. Rest in perfect peace!

  • Otunba Olasope, a veteran journalist, sent in this article from Efon-Alaaye, Ekiti State.