I opened Facebook today to read about the passage of Chief Emmanuel Olatunji Adesoye, Asiwaju of Offaland, Founder of Okin Group of Companies (Okin Biscuits, Okin Malt etc) and Proprietor of Adesoye College, Offa.
Although I was aware he had been battling health challenges in the last few years, I was shocked at the news of his death that filtered into Offa-sphere today.
We all grew up knowing Chief Adesoye as the richest man in Offa. Almost everyone agreed he was the richest man in the community. He was the poster boy of wealth in the community. He was the example on the lips of everyone when it came to wealth. I’m talking about 1980s through 1990s, and probably earlier for those that knew the era.
In fact, some schools of thought – which I was part of as a curious kid with imaginary knowledge of the men of timber and caliber in Kwara state – used to rank him as the second richest man in Kwara state after Prince Samuel Adedoyin (Doyin Agbamu) of Doyin Group.
I formed that opinion after reading in 1997 a 1986 edition of Herald Newspaper when Kwara State did its own edition of what was called Industrial Development Fund, where each of the 19 states gathered then who-is-who in their states to pool fund together to fund industrial development. Chairman of the Kwara edition was Chief Adesoye while Prince Adedoyin was the Chief Launcher. Adesoye donated N150,000 while Adedoyin donated N160,000, the two biggest donors. In Bendel state edition, Esama Gabriel Igbinedion donated N1m and it made front page the next day. Of course, MKO Abiola, at Ogun state version, was the national highest donor.
Reading about this event 11 years later made me form opinion that Adedoyin and Adesoye were the richest Kwarans of the era because each state put its best feet forward for this event organised by miliary government. I was a naive 15 year old when I read old newspapers on this 1986 event, but I think the basis of that opinion had merit.
In classes, we would spend hours arguing on who is richer between X and Y, who was the richest man in Kwara and other childhood fantasies.
I would later outgrow such arguments starting from the early 2000s. If you ask me who is the richest man in Offa or Kwara today, I will just tell you I have no idea. I don’t know anyone’s bank account or net assets. We have Forbes to reference now, even if Forbes doesn’t do local ranking.
That was during the days of innocence.
Adesoye was well schooled. He finished from OGS (my alma mater too) in 1958 before proceeding to England to study Quantity Surveying, making him the first qualified Quantity Surveyor in Northern Nigeria and the second in Nigeria.
He was Kaduna-based for the better part of his youthful years before relocating home to Offa in the 1990s.
He owned the famous Okin Biscuits and Adesoye College. Okin Biscuit was unarguably the most popular biscuit in West Africa in the 80s through early 90s. His Adesoye College, which he founded in 1987, arguably redefined private secondary education in Nigeria. Before the Lekki British Schools and the Dowen Colleges of this world came, Adesoye College had made a name for itself as the secondary school of choice for the richest Nigerians. No less a person than then President Babangida had children in that school then. A woman of class like Maryam Babangida would not put her children in a school if it was not the most prestigious in Nigeria of the era. Other big men and women of the era, including Alhaji Umaru Mutallab and Haha Bola Shagaya, had children in that school. Some parents dropped their children in school with helicopter.
He put Offa on the map of Nigeria.
He sited most of his businesses in Offa, more for social than economic reasons.
When his wife died at 57 in 1997, Offa was practically shut down with dignitaries from all over Nigeria attending the burial. I personally witnessed the event (his church was just beside our secondary school, so we went to feed our eyes). TY Danjuma was there.
I remember Herald Newspaper cast their reportage of that event in the next day’s edition: Exit of a Virtuous Woman.
After the death of Chief J.S Olawoyin (one of Awo’s disciples) in 2000, the title of Asiwaju (usually given to the most important personality in a town) was, deservedly, given to him.
He also replaced Professor M.O Oyawoye (Africa’s first professor of Geology) as National President of ODU (grand body of all Offa indigenes) around same time.
He also shut Offa down at the iwuye (coronation?) ceremony to celebrate his new title, Asiwaju, in April 2001. The musician of choice for the richest Yoruba men of their generation, King Sunny Ade, confirmed Adesoye’s iwuye was the first event he was sprayed with N500 notes. N500 note was launched shortly before that event.
You can’t be such big and not get the attention of FGN, hence his conferment with the national honour, OON, which, among other things, grants a holder the right to use VIP section of Nigerian airports.
I had the opportunity of meeting him one-on-one and interviewing him in, I think, 2002 when as the first president of my set of OGS Old students (2000 set), we the excos paid him a visit in his sprawling mansion in Offa.
That house, which he named Olohunkuse (Thank God for job well done) House, is another fairy tale house. When he opened the house in the mid-1990s, it was (and probably still) the most palatial edifice inthe community.
Like many other businessmen of his generation, most of his businesses, Okin Biscuits inclusive, experienced bad fortunes as he grew old.
Chief Adesoye died today.
Ladies and gentlemen, there goeth the pride of Offa.
Credits: Suraj Tunji Oyewale