OLU AGUNLOYE AT 70

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Raheem Adedoyin pays tribute to Olu Agunloye, academic, administrator and pioneer chief executive of Federal Road Safety Corps

Today, Saturday, December 1, 2018, is his day. Actually his day was September 16, 2018 when he turned 70. But friends, family and associates of Dr. Olu Agunloye (aka DOA) have chosen today to celebrate his 70th birthday. It is a milestone.

Dr. Agunloye is known variously as an accomplished physics teacher, two-time former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pioneer Corps Marshal and Chief Executive (COMACE), Federal Road Safety Corps and former senatorial and gubernatorial Candidate and Executive Vice Chairman of National eGovernment Strategies.

That is how the world knows DOA. But to me and our circle of DOA devotees, he is a living legend, an inspirator extraordinaire. It is no surprise that we are active in organising today’s event.

I have known Dr. Agunloye intimately for 30 years. I was a Correspondent (Transport) at The Guardian and he was the boss of the then newly-created FRSC.

One cool evening in 1988, he visited his friend and Director of Public Affairs at the Guardian, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi. On Dr. Ogunbiyi’s invitation, I met DOA and had conversation with him in the director’s office.

It wasn’t a scheduled press interview but if you have nose for news, you know what to do with a newsmaker.

A back-page story in The Guardian the following day hallmarked our relationship that has spanned three decades. DOA was surprised that a story came out of my informal conversation with him and was particularly impressed with the accuracy of the report despite not having a taped interview.

I got introduced to the powerful FRSC Chairman, Prof. Wole Soyinka and was inducted into the inner circle of the corps (the strategy team). I became an integral part of FRSC which enhanced my professional practice especially in the realm of exclusive reports.

I have had a robust relationship with DOA. Simple, loving, humble, inspirational. He is one of the few “Bigmen” I can have a decent argument with and win.

Outside the newsroom leadership, Agunloye was the greatest contributor to my (journalism) career development. Our families are very close; I’m a constant visitor to his ancestral home in Erusu Akoko, Ondo State; he has visited my village in Oro too. I co-chaired the committee that organised his 60th birthday in Ibadan; he chaired my 50th birthday event in Ilorin in 2011 and was Father of the Day at my son’s wedding reception in Ibadan last year. So, we have come a long way.

But beyond family ties and personal relationship, DOA is a towering figure who inspires the best in those around him. He showed us what integrity means in public office; you learn from him the virtues of contentment, moderation in worldly things, hard work, focus and impactful undertakings.

Some of my best friends today are those that I knew 30 years ago through the DOA/ FRSC link. There is a cult- like bond that has withstood over three decades test of loyalty.

Thanks to DOA’s pioneering work, FRSC is today the most notable legacy of the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd). With Soyinka’s lethal cover, no one, not especially military personnel, toyed with Agunloye’s FRSC. For motorists, the fear of FRSC was the beginning of wisdom.

Today, one of the pioneer officers, a disciplined DOA disciple, Boboye Oyeyemi is the COMACE. Oyeyemi is restoring the fading virtuous reputation of the corps.  That’s a testament to the leadership quality of DOA as builder of Leaders.

As they have done every year since their marriage, DOA and his soulmate, his charming wife, the one we fondly call aunty, Dr. Abimbola Agunloye are marking their birthday together.  There are both 70.

When they were 60, we (the Agunloye Clan) threw a great party for them at an event centre in Ibadan. Today, there will be no such lavish celebration.

DOA has evolved politically over the years. He has not made so much success of his quest for elective office in a uniquely merit- tamed Nigerian environment but his experience has shaped his approach to life.

The birthday event at the Omolayole Hall, UI International Conference Centre, Ibadan may be no more than two hours of two items.

The low-key celebration starts with a lecture by Dr. Emeka Okengun who will speak on Empowerment in a Rich Country with Poor Citizens. Prof. Soyinka will Chair the occasion.

The second leg of the birthday programme will be the inauguration of the AG Charitable Trust For Empowerment.

DOA, who denounces the “money-for-vote shenanigans” in Nigerian politics says he has retired from seeking elective political offices but he remains a compassionate and upright politician who wants to serve the underprivileged.

Today’s launching of the Trust fund will lay emphasis on stimulating a future of hope for the young generation and the underprivileged.

The Agunloyes hope that the empowerment programme will encourage young people towards self-reliance and to contribute towards the Nigerian project.

The Charitable Trust will be chaired by Prof. Wole Soyinka with prominent members from the Organised private sector, and kwara political and religious class.

If you do not see any merrymaking and any congratulatory adverts in the newspapers today, that may be because the Agunloyes have requested their family members, friends, associates and well-wishers to channel their contributions towards the Trust Fund.

That’s a new thing I have learnt from the Master.

Many happy returns, the quintessential leader.

Raheem Adedoyin is a Journalist and former Commissioner for Information, Kwara State.