HAD he not died in his sleep on 18th June, 2014 in his London, UK home, the first Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, third Aare of Ibadanland and Vice-President General of the Nigeria Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao, CON, would have yesterday, February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, celebrated his 73rd birthday. He died, aged 69, and was buried on 20th June, 2014 at his Oluwo Kekere, Basorun, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria home. Among the many constituencies that have been missing the amazing support, presence and influence of Aare Arisekola are religious (Islamic, Christian and Traditional), economic, social and charity circles. He was not only visible, Aare was a cheerful giver, ardent follower and pleasant participant. His involvement cut across tribe, class and faith divides. To know him, invite him or involve him was the green button for Aare Arisekola’s financial and moral support. May his kind, valiant and beautiful soul continue to rest in Aljanah Fridaous. Amen.
From his humble birth on 14th February, 1945 at Adigun Village, Ona Ara Local Government Area of Ibadanland, Oyo State, primary school education, struggles (he used to describe those periods of his life as ‘Baranda’time i.e buying and selling Gamalin products with quickwits), rise to national and world fame, and peaceful death, Aare was a great lesson in divine favour. Without the slightest intention to commit blasphemy or heresy, Aare successfully accomplished the terrestial mission chosen for him by Allah (SWT). The Valentine’s Day coincidence given by me earlier in this piece connoting today as spectacular is added testimony. Aare Arisekola was a special being. Aare was, apart from being special and favoured, also sweet, kind, humble, jovial, loyal, patriotic and open. He had an open heart as were his hands, and the gates of his palatial homes here and abroad. All a beneficiary – human, corporate bodies, governments, strangers and relations needed to do to enjoy Aare’s acclaimed charity was just to ask for his favour. Rather than turn away seekers of succor empty-handed at moments when cash was yet to arrive from his many sources, Aare, would placate the seekers thus, “Won ti ‘deal’ pelu mi loni, jowo pada wa ni ojo…. (Translation: “Beneficiaries have drained my purse today, please come on……)
He would thereafter promise succor to the seekers, (rich, poor, famous, old, young, strangers etc) on a chozen day or hour without fail. Such was his large heartedness. Little wonder, therefore, a deluge of genuine heartfelt condolences flowed from clerics, presidents, governors, royals, ministers, public and private officers and the masses, particularly plebeians, Aare’s beloved constituents –when he died. I have stated publicly before that I, and other close associates of Aare Arisekola regarded his Oluwo (Ibadan) home as a “University of Life”. Aare was our beloved “Vice-Chancellor”. For those whose genuine attraction to and attendance at Oluwo were not based or influenced by pecuniary, political or social gains, our “VC”and the “Uni of Life”designations fitted Aare and his home perfectly. Of course, Aare was a strong rallying point for religion, tradition, culture, commerce, with politics coming distant last. Born on February 14, 1945 to the late Pa AbdulRaheem Olaniyan Alao and the late Alhaja Olatutu Alao, at Adigun Village of Ibadan, in Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, Aare attended Saint Luke’s Primary School, Adigun and ICC Primary School, Ibadan, where he topped his class throughout and obtained the Grade ‘A’Primary School First Leaving Certificate in 1960, the year he came to the city from his village.
Till he died, he kept referring to himself as an Omooko, i.e village boy. He, thereafter, successfully passed the entrance examination into the prestigious Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan, but could not take up his admission in either school due to the poor financial position of his parents, caused by a slump in his father’s cocoa business, as a result of an illness. A scholarship opportunity was not allowed by fate to be utilized by him either. Nonetheless, the determined AbdulAzeez studied Western, Quranic and Arabic education privately, and comfortably transacted business with the brightest and best in the corporate world.
I have titled this tribute, as above, “Aare Arisekola, the gate is now left ajar” because, the gaps created by his death continue to widen by the day. What would Aare Arisekola have done to prevent the ugly, bitter and unimagined (and unimaginable) chasms in religious, tribal, national, economic, social and traditional fields, that we now witness per hour in the country? As the late Sakara music icon, Yusufu Olatunji, alias “Baba l’Egba”admonishes in one of his many LPs, goats, chickens, rodents etc now feed on the unprotected yam-flour basket in the corridor of the gate left ajar. (Eran lo nfi elubo inu agbon ti o ni oluso je). Conjunctures –I, like thousands, if not millions, who were truly close to him, can boldly say that Aare Arisekola would have prevented the recurring ugly scars with his natural charm, emotional intelligence, connections and immense wealth, among others. But pitifully, Aare Arisekola, the gate is now left ajar, now that you are gone.
The late philanthropist, successful businessman, champion of the poor and downtrodden was married and blessed with children who are successful professionals at home and abroad or currently in higher institutions of learning. The training he gave them makes excel intellectually and morally. A blessing which he always ascribed to God. Can one complete a piece such as this on Aare Arisekola without a mention of his passion for “oka”(amala) and ooyo (ewedu)! He once had his favourite menu packed from home while on a transatlantic business trip to China. Today, we celebrate the 73rd posthumous birthday of a legend. May Allah (SWT) continue to show His mercy in Aljannah Fridaous to our dear Aare Arisekola, a man of the people.
- Chief Alabi (D.Litt) is the Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland