By Tunde Akanni, PhD

Between Alhaji Abdul Lateef Olumide Lawal and the late first Executive Governor of Osun State, who later became a two-time Senator, Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, there is a most mysterious yet pleasant connection. Adeleke passed away in 2017, but not a year has passed without Lawal paying tributes from a fresher angle every year. Countless Ede compatriots appreciate Haji Lawal’s loyalty to friendship. Alhaji Lawal’s unwavering commitment to the bond is probably the least the community would jointly volunteer because of the lifesaving intervention that Adeleke’s emergence as governor symbolized. His disposition towards Adeleke only characterizes his most remarkable quality – being grateful for kind gestures, no matter how insignificant.

From Uncle Olumide to children, nephews, nieces and his precious younger colleagues, each encounter is regularly filled with prayers and inimitable words of inspiration and encouragement. Not one who submits to fate where action is essential, he relentlessly seeks out opportunities for people as if he were the potential beneficiary, even though he is the last person who can be called an opportunist. Who can believe that Haji Olumide is not tempted to plunge into compromise to solicit the favors of Davido, the famous musician publicly recognized as an indomitable spendthrift, despite all he has done for Davido’s uncles Isiaka, Ademola and Adeeyo? ? Uncle Olumide wouldn’t ridicule anyone either for not patronizing him. Obviously, his life is about gratitude, through faith and personal conviction, I would say.

Uncle Olumide now relishes the tranquility of his country home in Ede as a supposedly retired journalist but he still radiates vigor. He had moved to Ede before the death of former senator Adetunji Adeleke in 2017, as was the commander of the Serubawon political campaigns who won victory even as he had to compete with digital natives on the opposition side.

Serubawon’s death hardly impacted anyone as much as the extremely depressed Uncle Olumide. But that did not deter him from protecting Serubawon’s interests even after his death. Quickly, he rose to wake up the campaign facilities of Ademola, Serubawon’s brother who offered to finish Serubawon’s term in the Senate. This he did so much that he became the cross-generational bridge for Ademola’s success, attracting young and old to Ademola’s support. Although this writer, for example, was Ademola’s classmate, it was at the request of Uncle Olumide that Ademola gained his support.

The uncle’s philosophy constantly manifests the continuity of a good heritage. Descended from the large Lawal family of Ailaka Compound Ede, uncle happened to be one of the top science students in his class at Seventh Day Adventist Grammar School in Ede, clearly the most expensive in the entire Osun division in that time. But one of the teachers had succeeded in introducing a Marxist-leaning political education to the more intelligent among the students who would do their best to achieve a better Nigeria.

One of the world leaders presented as excelling in the ideology of the young Olumide was Fidel Castro. Due to his obvious outspokenness, the young man earned him the label of Fidel Castro. The young Olumide was also remarkably always neat, so replaced the Fidel with Finni (short form of Ajisefinni, meaning one whose most constant priority is cleanliness. Ajisefinni was the nickname of arguably Ede’s most renowned barber in the 70s and 80s). Therefore, the young Olumide had his nickname properly coined to Finni Castro and the name stuck through the ages. He is hailed Castro to this day by his contemporaries.

Beyond “flying” out of school with the Castro label, he had his mind shaped. Rather than pursue a science-based career, he chose journalism, the path of his uncle, the late Chief Sola Lawal, a pioneer journalist with Tribune Newspapers, Nigeria’s oldest newspaper. “Having been politically cultured in Seventh-day Adventists, there was no stopping the fire in me. I saw a compelling role model in Uncle Sola Lawal. My uncle was a very principled professional, but he was socially and economically successful in the category of superlatives.This is how my career in broadcast journalism, particularly in radio, began.

He continued in a recent conversation with this writer, “I like to write frequently, another strong practice cultivated at Seventh Day Adventist. So, for me, advancing the cause I believe in should be done through every possible window. But that is why I have defied all odds and threatening risks to support Senator Ademola Adeleke when he needed to speak out through the media during his difficulties. I’ve invited all the reputable media to Ede to come hear his side of the raging story. Fierce-looking security guards had flooded the entire state just to make sure Ademola had no access to the world through the media. But what quality would a journalist appropriate if not tenacity? I had to change locations about three times and finally I mobilized Senator Ademola’s friends to speak for him and today the rest is to the glory of God.

Beyond the Adelekes, Uncle Olumide also remained loyal to Sir Eyo as he fondly referred to the late Dr Wale Adeeyo, editor of the old Anchor newspapers. Isn’t it surprising that someone who, in addition to being a well-established man of letters, was the editor of a national newspaper, did not elicit quote-worthy published tributes? at least some of its former employees? Beloved Castro is the last man standing!

All of Haji Olumide’s good gestures were just expressions of aniyan to daa (or good wishes) rather than for pecuniary gains because this new septuagenarian is reasonably endowed materially and visibly radiates as much contentment as perceptible. About five years ago, the wedding ceremony of one of the children which he personally financed was held in a “full service hotel” (to echo Fuji founder Ayinde Barrister) in the heart of Lagos . In addition to the monarch of Ede, Kabiyesi Muniru Adesola, Laminisa 1, the Timi of Ede, the guest list was a spectacle of who’s who of Nigeria, though the lowly were duly catered for in keeping with the spirit of Finni Castro. .

A distinguished broadcast journalist for decades with Nigeria’s largest radio network, Hajji Olumide’s professional trajectory has been characterized by uncommon and high profile engagements at different times: spanning the entire decade, 1990-2000, he has served as a public relations consultant for the defunct Nigeria Sugar Company, Bacita. In 1993, due to his scholarship and drive, he doubled as chairman of the Directorate of Information, Public Relations and Think Tank formed by Governor Adeleke of Osun State. Prior to all this, the energetic professional had been assigned to cover the Hajj in 1984. That was the same year as President Buhari’s chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, whom I learned later from my long-time brother friend date, Afolabi Gambari, has arrived. being Sir Eyo’s soul mate, performed the hajj.

As one of the outstanding and shining stars of Edeland, Alhaji Olumide Lawal, in a book edited by an Ede-born and world-renowned historian, Professor Siyan Oyeweso, is described as a: “…self- made man who walked through the crucible and the fire, and came out unscathed and unscathed, the fruit of hard work… of spartan discipline and an abundance of native intelligence”

Haji Lawal assiduously repaid his contribution by rendering journalistic and humanitarian services. It’s safe to say that the recipients of his good heart can consider this special 70th birthday anniversary to be reciprocated and even replicated.

Akanni, PhD, is Associate Professor of Journalism at Lagos State University, Nigeria.