Zard: A lesson in uprightness and humanitarianism

A review of Biola Layonu’s book, Ray of Hope: Gentleman of Honour, by Jare Ajayi.

Do all the good you can

By all means you can

In all the ways you can

At all times you can

To all the people you can

As often as you can.

Presidency yet to received list of ministerial nominees ― Senator Ita…

The above lines, originally penned by John Wesley, is a favourite quote of Chief (Dr.) Raymond Assad Zard, the Babalaje of Ibadanland and Baaloro of Ife, in whose honour, this 295-page book , Ray of Hope: Gentlemen of Honour; is written.

As we know, many people espouse a lot of lofty ideals but only a few succeed in reflecting them in their conduct and interactions with other people. Going by the testimonies of those who have had direct and indirect contacts with Raymond Zard however, it can be emphatically stated that the man who came to be popularly known as Ray of Hope exhibits the ideals he espouses very religiously. Indeed, his kind gestures also made some to call him Mr. Philanthropy!

A scholar and medical doctor, Olufemi A. Ogunlusi, in his tribute, says that one major lesson from Chief Raymond’s life is that success is not about one’s acquisitions but about one’s ability to positively impact on fellow man and his environment. “If you want to learn about life, about handling success and disappointment, you may never find a better mentor”. – p254

Born on May 27, 1938 at Jericho Nursing Home, Ibadan, Raymond is the fourth child and the third son. He has a younger brother in a family that boasts of five children altogether.

Raymond was named after a Spanish who, although a relation of the Spaniard king, won many souls for God and acted heroically so much that he was knighted after his death at 100 years of age. And although he is not yet knighted, the godly deeds of Raymond Zard are so noteworthy.

Raymond’s parents, Assad  Khalil and Latife Zard, are both from Lebanon. But they sailed to Nigeria in pursuit of business. They started with cocoa business. Today, the business which began in Ibadan and Ile-Ife has grown into a big colossus under a group of companies known as Zard Holdings. Each of the family members, William, Nadia, Maurice, Elie and Lilly are involved in the business. But Raymond came to wield more influence, in part because the older ones moved to Lebanon and mainly because of Raymond’s acumen and geniality.

In spite of his heading the conglomerate however, Raymond always gives unwavering credit to his family. He does this whenever he talks, either about his business, family or even philanthropy. For instance, when being conferred with a Merit Award by the Oyo State Government in January, 1991, he stated that:

“… whatever I do in my life … is dictated, and in most cases, directed by domestic forces, … my beloved mother, Mrs. Zard; my brothers, William and Chief Maurice, the Babalaje of Ibadanland; Elie and his beautiful wife Marie-Rose; my sisters, Mrs. Gamra and Mrs. Aboujaoude; my wife and children.”

Former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Oyo State, Mr Oluseun Abimbola, asserts that “you can hardly leave a meeting with him without being improved in wisdom, and understanding what it means to build relationships and a cross-generational legacy.”

A book with a very beautiful cover, this book has areas that need to be improved upon for the quality to really shine. Some of these are highlighted below, not necessarily in order of importance. First is the narrative style. Readers get to know the subject from tributes much more than from the prose of the writer/editor.

The book would have been better served were the story told in a narrative form with views of contributors used to corroborate the facts presented.

One of the lessons that Zard’s life teaches is the fact that the loss of one’s father early should not be a hindrance to becoming successful in life. This point is worth underlining, especially for some youths who usually wring their hands seemingly helplessly on the excuse that they do not have caring parents. By coming out with this book, Biola Layonu has surely enriched our bookshelves with the knowledge of someone from whom one can draw a lot of inspirations.

For the above reasons and more, this book Chief (Dr.) Raymond Assad Zard, OFR: Ray of Hope, A Gentleman of Honour is worth possessing and digested for its immense values.

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