Late Chief Segun Olusola
Curtain falls on the multi-faceted career and life of one of Nigeria’s cultural activist, broadcaster and distinguished diplomat, Chief ‘Segun Olusola. Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports.
The only art and culture events he did not attend were those he was not invited to. Always ready to serve, he probably died from pushing himself too hard. Many at his age (close to 80 years) had learnt to stroll on the easy lane, but not Chief ‘Segun Olusola, one of the most consistent patrons of the arts in Nigeria. Death crept in on the old man last week, without a hint to the various communities that he had endeared himself to.
Olusola would be remembered for many things, but it was to the arts that he gave more commitment. At the time of his passage at 78 years, there was hardly any serious arts, culture and tourism project to which he did not lend his time and/or reputation. All you needed to do was make a request of him and he never turned down a request to serve in an executive or advisory capacity.
You could trust Olusola to deliver an excellent paper or engage any audience, even if ex tempore. His knowledge of diverse subjects was enriching to any gathering and he was one who loved a good debate. Perhaps, this inclination towards the scholarly helped him to retain a razor-sharp memory. He has addressed international gathering on refugees, election processes, media development, conflict resolution, tourism, culture and the arts.
With his trademark flywhisk dangling from his wrist, Olusola carried himself with the dignity of one who understood the urgency and importance of communicating the Nigerian and African cultural essence in a world that threatened to swallow it. The flywhisk was both a symbol of authority and decorative instrument to connect with his title as a chief. Olusola might not have wielded it in the manner that is characteristic of a Yoruba communal leader as it was with Kabiyesi (Dejumo Lewis), a leading character he created in 1968 the Village Headmaster, one of his most acknowledged artistic offering to humanity, which is generally acclaimed as the longest running drama series on television in Nigeria. He stood out as a dogged defender of the African way of life.
Born at Iperu-Remo, Ogun State, on March 18, 1935, he attended the Roman Catholic School Iperu- Remo between 1941 and 1943. He was also at Wesley School Iperu from 1944 to 1947 and the Remo Secondary School, Sagamu from 1948 to 1953.
His working career began with the ECN now PHCN. His stay in the accounts department was short-lived. A broadcasting career had already beckoned. He took up the offer to work on the small screen in 1955 at the Ibadan station of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service. He had the distinguished honour of becoming Africa’s first producer on television in 1959 at the WNTV now NTA Ibadan. His career on television endured till 1987.
Even though he was essentially on the administrative side, he expressed his creative abilities with equal gusto, leading to his pursuit of other interests in the broad spectrum of the arts. This made him to excel in both areas. Television easily set the stage for much of the achievements that he would be associated with. He served as Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON). He supervised the coverage of the Second All Africa Games in 1973 and became NTA’s director of Commercial Operations in 1986.
He loved to steer the course of a creative vehicle as a writer, producer and director, while remaining in the background. He knew where his strength lay and employed it effectively. For instance, instead of writing himself into a role in the Village Headmaster, he would rather leave the glamorous part to his first wife, Esie (Sisi Clara) who passed on several years ago. He would later marry Chief (Mrs.) Beatrice Fehintola Olusola, a former classmate of his, who has survived him.
In furtherance of his broadcasting career, he attended various institutions including the Syracuse University New York (USA) 1960, BBC Management of Resources Course (UK) 1974, Pittsburg University Management Program for Executives (USA) 1980, and at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Jos 1982.
On 1987, the Ibrahim Babangida administration helped to open a whole new chapter in his life with an appointment as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Resident Representative to the Organisation of African Unity. He held this office till 1993 when he returned home. This was at the height of the crises in the Horn of Africa, leading to the worst period of suffering ever recorded. The experience set Olusola on the world stage and fired in him empathy for displaced people anywhere in the world. His eternal intervention in this area was recorded with the establishment of the African Refugees Foundation, a non-governmental organisation devoted to the management of the root causes of refugees and internal displacement. He was Chairman of the OAU Commission on Refugees (1988 to 1993), leader of the OAU Zambia Election Monitoring Team (1992).
Olusola’s life could be broked into four broad categories. In the arts and culture, he was a committed actor, playwright and a founding member of The Players of the Dawn, an amateur theatre outfit. As an art connoisseur, he took his family gallery, Ajibulu-Moniya Gallery to a whole new level, especially after his return from Ethiopia. His travels around the world gave him the opportunity to collect works of art from diverse cultures to enrich the gallery. He was a broadcaster per excellence. He was Nigeria’s longest-serving ambassador to Ethiopia (1987 - 1993). Olusola was also a civil society activist with his African Refugees Foundation.