Remembering a True Philanthropist Chief Theophilus Adediran Oni

19 May 2013

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(May 10, 1913 - February 15, 1975)

Truly a great, humble man, the philanthropy of late chief Theophilus Adediran Oni, commonly known as T.A Oni of Oni and Sons, was not limited to his lifetime.

Even in death he continued to show his love for his community by willing his residence ‘Goodwill House’ to be used as a Pediatric hospital by Oyo State/Western State Government.
Today his residence, now known as ‘Chief T.A Oni Memorial Children’s Hospital’ in Ibadan, is one of the few dedicated children’s hospitals in Nigeria. The hospital has been attested by those who have benefited from this act of philanthropy, as a blessing to the parents and children who reside in Oyo State. A family estate cited on a 15 acre piece of land, 65 rooms with all the modern conveniences, Olympic-sized swimming pool, stable for horses, and fountains etc.

Chief  T. A. Oni was born in Oke Padre, Ibadan on May 10, 1913, to Prince James Joseph Adeyemi Oni  of the Fadumila family from the Aponlese Royal Ruling family of Oke-Imesi, Ekiti State and Mrs. Funmilayo Oni  of Igbajo, in Osun State.
He attended and gained School Leaving Certificate in St James Primary School, Oke-bola, Ibadan and Methodist Primary School, Ogba, Abeokuta. He died leaving six wives and 35 children, all ranging between 37 years and seven years old and several grandchildren.

Chief Oni’s Legacies
The history of the construction industry in Nigeria will be incomplete without the name of T.A Oni & Sons. His company was the first indigenous construction company in Nigeria.
His company constructed and completed over 40 major roads, bridges, and historical buildings over the years, including  Asaba-Ogwashiukwu road, Obiaruku-Sapele-Warri Roads, Ife Township Roads, Ibadan/Iwo road, Ilisan-Iperu Road, (Ogun), Nawa to Yauri Road (Niger State), Ibadan-Iwo-Osogbo Road (Osun), Opeki Bridge, Flats for Members of Assembly, Lugard Avenue Ikoyi Lagos, WAEC quarters, Yaba, Lagos; just to mention a few. His most notable act of kindness was willing his family estate to charity.
Quotes from Family and Friends

Mrs. Tokunbo Awogboro (Daughter)
“The love of my life, I learnt the true meaning of unconditional love and accepting everyone for whom and what they are. It took me 21 years to get over his death.”
Debola Sosanya (Daughter)
“Papa was a very strict disciplinarian almost to a fault. He was very straightforward and extremely kind. He loved all his children with passion, and was very protective of his girls (daughters). He took the children away from their mothers to live together in a block referred to as the Boarding House. This created a great bond among all the children regardless of who the mother was. He was a workaholic who was also full of life.”

Tutu Okobaroh (Daughter)
“Papa was a very strict and disciplined man to the core. But he was a lover of his children, a caring and protective father, especially his female children. Papa was a shining pillar of integrity, courage and a source of inspiration of hard work and honesty to many people”
Toun Adebiyi (daughter)
“I remember vividly that fateful day when a call came through that Anpapa (as we used to call him) had gone! Little did I know how my life will be altered for life.

From then on his words echoed constantly in my head telling us “your only will is your education”. It took a while for those words to sink in. I told my daughter those exact words throughout her years in school. How I wish he stayed around long enough, I love him so so much”

Ronke Kuye (Grand-daughter)
“My grandfather was an illustrious son of Nigeria, a pioneer Road and Building contractor, a Philanthropist, a shrewd business man, a lover of the people and a good family man. I am extremely privileged to be the granddaughter of this great man. Today, the T.A Oni family celebrates 100 years of our legend with Love, Joy and Gratitude in our hearts.”

Ore Asuni (Grand-daughter)
“My dearest grand-dad, a terrific planner and precision executor in life and death, a true visionary per excellence.” I never met him, but I have the great privilege of writing briefly about his work, I was born 3 years before he died and returned to Nigeria to attend his funeral. Despite this the impact he has had on my life and the lives of so many of us has been a profound one. That we gather here to honour him so long after his death is a tribute to the man he was and the legacy left behind, that we follow to this day. My one abiding desire is that I do not tarnish his memory by not fulfilling the potential his genealogy has placed within me, by living with the strictest honour, truest integrity and the most profound kindness I can while following the faith that is our own. For this I truly thank him’”

Yemi Oni (Grandson)
“My grandfather was an astute business man, who was way ahead of his time. He realised that to compete with the foreign companies of the time, he needed 3 important factors which were responsible for the success of his company - T.A Oni & Sons Ltd - strategic foreign partnership, recruitment of local talents and strong business network”.

Tosan Harriman (Grandson)
“I would urge young Nigerians to look at the life of Chief T.A Oni and see therein the innate potential of Nigeria and to take from there the courage to participate in the development of their nation. And I hope that his life will serve as a beacon of inspiration to them, as it has to me”.

Words of Late Chief Bola Ige
Late Chief Bola Ige made a statement as the Executive Governor of Oyo State during the handover of Goodwill House to Oyo State Government for use as Children Hospital in 1980

“Throughout his lifetime he devoted his energy and talent to the development of the old Western State in particular and Nigeria in general. Evidence of his devotion to duty and development of his fatherland are noticeable in the field of Civil Engineering with particular emphasis on highway construction throughout the country.

As a Nigerian pioneer in that field, he excelled in enterprise, which the expatriates and some doubting Nigerians thought no African could venture to enter....”  “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world.
This was a man indeed; a man whose life was well lived and utilised”.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Philanthropist

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