Pat Utomi: Olashore – A torch in the dark

Leaders who keep a common touch live long in the hearts of their people.

EVERY life has a purpose. You do not have to be Rick Warren to know that. The trouble is many never discover their purpose and fail to live a purpose driven life. The purpose of my own being was made clearer and enhanced by association with a remarkable older gentleman who knew me before I knew him, because I was a baby then. Then I got to know him when I had become a precocious adult and he had run a career track from the accountant at BP when he worked with my father in the early 1960s in Kano, to times as a central banker before arriving at the position of Chief Executive of Afribank.

This remarkable gentleman would become a policy thought leader, manage the biggest bank in Nigeria, found another bank and return to his roots as traditional ruler and change the face of that community.

Oba Alayeluwa Oladele Olashore brought from this rich background an unusual personal touch that affected many. I have the good fortune of being one of them. When we last spoke, he was going off for medical checks in the UK and wanted me to promise to spend the weekend of the commencement at Olashore International School in Iloko so he could catch up with me, my thoughts about where Nigeria may be going etc, after I would have delivered the commencement address. I gave my word and he left for London.

It would be our last review of the Nigerian economy and the state of the world for he took a long walk from London, past many seas, rivers, mountains to the domain of his ancestors. Thankfully he left on this side of the big chasm a legacy that assures immortality in the consciousness of generations touched by the robustness of his vision.

The Prince of Iloko who was part of that tribe of central bankers that moved in to lead commercial Banking in Nigeria following the 1976 decision to ‘nationalise’ banking and the Okigbo Commission’s work on the Nigerian Financial System set a pace at Afribank. That was where he was when my policy advocacy and economic growth activism brought our paths to crossing again.

He was very comfortable with activist younger types, bringing in Victor Ogundipe to set a new tone in Corporate Development. His ability to reach out to clear thinking policy works kept him on top of the game. That no doubt attracted the envy of his peers.

After his dramatic exit from the Chief Executive position at First Bank I found myself spending more time in his company urging him not to let the system get to him. Then he seemed to turn to legacy. In an amazing show of visionary zeal he turned a sleepy community into a host of nationally acclaimed secondary school and hospitality centre that has become a sought after place of retreat and such economic activity as a bakery from which my family has been lucky to enjoy tasty bread.

Leaders who keep a common touch live long in the hearts of their people. He stayed close. I can remember him being present at every major birthday I have had in the last 20 years. He was always concerned with quality of governing and resented the way things have gone in the last few years.


*Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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