He would have been 80 on Friday November 2, 2018. We his children were already planning a simple, albeit symbolic commemoration to coincide with that date. He lived a strikingly simple, peculiarly modest and exemplary Christian life and the envisioned event was to reflect these attributes which he worked hard to impact in his offsprings, wards and mentees.
The plan was to work in conjunction with his church, organise a thanksgiving service in his house in his honour that November 2, 2018 and have as many of his children, grandchildren, relatives and family friends who could make it from their respective abodes at home and abroad, to be in attendance, energizing and electrifying the environment with that kind of noise and buzz, which gratifies the aged.
Man had his mortal programme, the Almighty Creator had His divine designs.
Saturday August 25, 2018, less than three months to that milestone, however, Jacob Adeniyi Olusunle, an ordained Pastor of the Christ Apostolic Church, CAC, and my beloved father, breathed his last. That ended the life, career and times of an uncommonly good, distinctly inimitable and exemplary personality. Happily, he did so in the presence of his loved ones who had been with him and by him in the months and weeks preceding his eventual demise.
Entrepreneur, farmer, clergyman and community leader, Olusunle was the last in the family of five children, born November 2, 1938, by Daniel Arowosegbe and Maria Igunnu Olusunle. Before him were two brothers and two sisters: Moses, Elizabeth, Michael and Janet, in that order.
His father who was also a Pastor of the CAC and one of the progenitors of Christian evangelism in modern day Okunland in Kogi State, hailed from Isanlu, Yagba East local government area of Kogi State.
He began his elementary education at the Anglican Primary School, Ijowa, Isanlu in 1945, continued at the Anglican Primary School, Mopo, Isanlu and completed that phase of his education at the Baptist Primary School, Zaria, in present day Kaduna State in 1952. The itinerant character of his early education was understandable since his parents were practicing clergy who moved frequently from one community to another, in the course of missionary work.
In January 1955, Pastor Olusunle obtained a scholarship into the Government Trade Centre, GTC, Bukuru (an institution that has since been rechristened Government Technical College), in present day Plateau State for his secondary school education, completing his studies in December 1959.
He led his class convincingly and had a ‘First Class’ endorsement on his certificate. His teachers and instructors regarded him highly as ‘a well rounded student’, given his active pursuit of spirituality as leader of the Christian Students’ Association at GTC, Bukuru; his abiding interest in sports as Vice Captain of the table tennis club and his dogged commitment to his academic pursuit.
Between 1959 and 1963, he worked as a civil servant in the Ministry of Works of the erstwhile Northern Region in Kaduna, as a Technical Assistant (Hydrological). He was soon head-hunted by the former Northern Nigeria Spinning Company, abbreviated ‘Norspin’, as Trainee Supervisor, from 1963 to 1966.
With the establishment of its presence in Northern Nigeria to boost agro-care, the primordial Pfizer (now Neimeth) Livestock Feeds Ltd, appointed Olusunle its Mill Supervisor in 1966. By dint of hard work, exemplary carriage, sterling discipline and commitment to duty, he was promoted substantive Mill Manager in 1970, after the Nigerian civil war which he witnessed substantially from his vantage domicile in Kaduna.
Side by side with his secular engagements, Olusunle took his spiritual development very seriously. His deep involvement in church work was recognised with his ordination as an Elder of the Christ Apostolic Church, CAC, Kaduna, in 1968, when he was just 30 years of age.
His elevation as Mill Manager of Livestock Feeds Ltd, Kaduna was followed by his redeployment to Aba, in contemporary Abia State, at the heartland of the former East Central State, in the second quarter of 1972, Livestock Feeds Ltd made a foray into the heart of the primordial Midwestern State, establishing an ultra-modern feed mill in Benin City, in present day Edo State. From its crop of young and dynamic managers, the Board of Directors of the company deployed Olusunle to pioneer the setting up and entrenchment of the new concern. He was appointed the substantive Manager, (later redesignated Area Manager), with concurrent responsibility for production, administration, marketing and sales.
He built the new business branch, located on Sapele Road, Benin City, into a flourishing venture, second only to the Lagos plant, in terms of profitability.
Having aggregated nearly 15 years of active and eventful service with Pfizer Livestock Feeds Ltd, Olusunle retired voluntarily in 1979, to set up his own privately-owned, small scale feed-milling outfit in Ilorin, Kwara State, as a franchisee of his former employers.
He christened his agro-based business concern ‘Gladsome Enterprises Nig. Ltd,’ when the company was incorporated, a name which was an agglomeration of the initials of all the names in his nuclear family: his wife, children and himself.
He always had an entrepreneurial desire and had first established a printing press in Kaduna in 1970 was simply called Emmanuel Printing Press after his first child. The new initiative was to be much more encompassing to reflect his expanding family and accommodate everyone.
While the business flourished on one hand, the name Gladsome rapidly developed a life of its own, true to its dictionary meaning, a haven of joy and mirth.
Olusunle’s house located within the physical premises of his business will rapidly become a melting pot where his relatives: nephews, nieces, in-laws, distant acquaintances, children of his friends, friends of his children and more, found happiness and fulfillment under his accommodating, selfless, God-fearing, strict and inspirational guidance, as they variously pursued their education, professional careers and vocations.
He was a stickler for justice, equity and fairness even in the family. As we his biological grew up with uncles, aunts, cousins, even those unrelated by consanguity, he taught us to subjugate ourselves to age and seniority as ordained by God and practiced in the African context. Even when he was the breadwinner, his own children had to take their place behind older members of the household, like the disciplinarian he was.
In the course of his service in the private sector, Olusunle attended several courses, conferences and seminars at home and abroad. These include: Supervisors’ Training Course at the Technical Institute, Kaduna, October/November 1965; Supervision and Supervisory Techniques Course at the Continuing Education Centre, University of Lagos, July 1971, and an Effective Marketing Skills Course at the Nigerian Institute of Management, NIM, Lagos, February 1973.
Determined to pursue a post-retirement life in the full service of God, Olusunle in 1989 attended pastors’ training at the CAC Seminary, Ile-Ife, Osun State and was ordained a substantive Pastor the same year, 39 years after his father was ordained a Pastor of the same Ministry.
Pastor Olusunle was wedded to his wife, my mother, former Miss Elizabeth Ajayi Ibilola, Saturday April 26, 1964, at CAC, Kaduna. The union was blessed with seven biological children, several grand children and many more spiritual and adopted children.
His wife, my mother trained as a nurse and midwife under the School of Nursing and Midwifery, under the former Northern Regional Government. She began her career in the civil service of present day Kaduna State and obtained transfers to Midwestern and Kwara States respectively, as her husband’s duty posts changed. She retired from the service of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, UITH, in 2000, where she rose to become acting Assistant Chief Nursing Officer.
With his beloved wife, Deaconess Olusunle, Pastor Olusunle visited several countries including Togo, Kenya, Israel and the United Kingdom.
My father encapsulated decency, simplicity, modesty, and humaness among several other attributes. Perhaps because of his broad-based career which took him across the country, he was very cosmopolitan, drawing admirers and acquaintances from different parts of Nigeria. In addition to his indigenous Yagba, Yoruba and English all of which he spoke fluently, his Hausa was impeccable.
He taught us the fear of God and the virtues of diligence, industry, integrity and honesty. He had an unusually large heart and a patient ear. He lived a thoroughly sacrificial life ever bending over backwards to put a smile on people’s faces.
All his life, I recall he was only admitted into the hospital just once. That was over 10 years ago when he had a surgical procedure to remove a cataract from his eyes. I recall travelling from Abuja to Ilorin to see him and I insisted a photograph of him with my mother and one of my sisters who and where all with him be taken, just for the records. I recall him smiling as the photograph was being taken why he had his meal, because the journalist in me admonished there must be life in the photoshot.
His funeral rites begin on Wednesday December 12, 2018, with a Service of Songs and Night of Tributes in his residence in Ilorin, at 5pm. On Friday December 14, 2018, there will be a Christian Wake in the family residence in Isanlu, beginning from 6pm. His internment will take place on Saturday December 15, 2018, followed by a thanksgiving service at the Christ Apostolic Church, Oke-Adeye, Mopo, Isanlu.
We will thoroughly miss him, even as we thank God for the privilege to have been sired by him, for the exemplary father and a solidly inspirational life he lived and for the grace of having him for so long.
+Tunde Olusunle, a doctoral student in media arts and Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, was a presidential aide in the Obasanjo/Atiku administration from 1999 to 2007