Yoruba Leadership is not anything you can buy with money—Late Olanihun Ajayi’s last interview + How Politicians destroyed Nigeria

The Late Legal Sage, Sir Olanihun Ajayi

In the early hours of Thursdays
November 4th, 2016 the news of the passing unto glory of one of
Nigeria’s gifted legal luminary and elder statesman, Sir Olanihun Ajayi (KJW) rented the air across Nigeria. Since his
demise, there have been several tributes in his honor from eminent Nigerians
including the Governor of Lagos State, Mr.
Akinwunmi Ambode
.

Sir Lanihun Ajayi, 91, apart from being a lawyer of many years standing, he was for many
years one of the leaders of the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, AFENIFERE. His
law firm is one of the oldest and modern in Nigeria. When you drive around Banana Island, one of the most
expensive neighborhoods in Victoria Island—Lagos, there stands this towering
high-rise called The Adunola owned
by Sir Olanihun Ajayi KJW named after his wife. This high-rise houses one
of Nigeria’s top 3 distinguished law firms. Olanihun Ajayi LP was founded in November 1962 by this London School of Economics trained
legal icon.
The late Sir Olanihun Ajayi has
established a reputation for more than 50 years. His law firm is particularly
proficient in the area of corporate and commercial law, and act on a wide range
of matters relating to financial law, domestic and international capital market
activities, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, project finance and
insolvency. Aside from law where his name will forever be etched in gold
letters because of his monumental accomplishments, Baba Lanihun was also at the forefront of politics. He was a former
Commissioner for Education, and later Commissioner for Health in the defunct
Western State. He is a highly respected elder statesman who has never soiled
his name.
Baba was married to late Lady Adunola Ajayi and the union was
blessed with 4 highly successful children; Dr.
Ola Ajayi
(Medical Doctor); Dr.
(Mrs.) Dara
Odubogun (Medical
Doctor); Professor Kanyinsola Ajayi,
SAN (Lawyer) and Mrs. Olayimika Philips (Lawyer)
In a latest tribute written by one of
his social sons, Barrister Abiodun
Aikomo
Papa was described as ‘a father, a visionary, a bridge-builder, a
peace-maker, an architect, a helper, a Christian, a servant leader in every
sense of the word, an encourager, an entrepreneur, an administrator, a
politician, a farmer, a song composer/band-leader/choirmaster, a political
scientist, a human right activist and freedom fighter, an eminent historian, a
philanthropist, an organizer, a teacher of teachers and a lawyer of lawyers.
Before Baba turned 90 in April 2015,
Baba opened his rich library inside his IsaraRemo palatial home in Ogun State (South
Western Nigeria) to CITY PEOPLE Magazine and gave what seems like his very last
interview on planet earth.  Your Africa’s
number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika
brings you the interview for read. Enjoy the excerpt as Baba talks about his
life in law, corporate Nigeria, politics and why Nigeria as a country is faulty.

      

L-R;  Owa Obokun of Ilesan, Oba Aromolaran, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and late Pa Olanihun Ajayi
You are 90 but you don’t look 90,
what is your daily regimen and diet that has kept you healthy and fit?
I wake up
early in the morning and say my morning prayer. After that I take breakfast and
I might go back to bed from 9am till about 11 am. I have massage therapists who
come once a week but I still do exercises. I eat twice daily. In the morning,
it could be Cornflakes, yam, cooked beans or moin-moin and eko.
As for drinks, I like cold juice and I drink lemon juice every morning. These
days I am too busy, so, I hardly have time for siesta. I just submitted my six
books to the publishers.
Your sojourn in life started in 1925,
can you take us back to your roots; family life and upbringing?
I was born
here in Isara Remo on Wednesday 8th, April 1925 to Benjamin
Awoyemi
Ajayi
and Marian Efundolamu Ajayi. My father was a farmer and my mother
assisted him by selling farm produce. My parents had me at a late age. Dad was
about 40 years old then. My Mom was first married to another man with whom she
had 8 children, and none was a boy. So, she married my father from Isara.
When I was born, she wrote my birth date in a book. She did the same when my
younger brother was born. My father did not even pay attention to what my
mother did then. There was a time I started guessing my age to be 1924 or 1926
until when she died and one of her children gave me the book where she wrote
the dates. On a page in the book, I saw a portion where she wrote ‘Olaniwun
was born this day, April 8, 1925’
.
What Secondary School and University
did you attend?


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I didn’t
attend a secondary school, but a teacher’s training college—Wesley
College
—where I was trained as a teacher and supervisor. My father
became a Christian when Methodist Church was established in Isara
on 11th December 1893. Though he was not educated but he was a
famous man and associated with people in the community who were slightly
educated. He was very keen about my acquiring education. He wanted me to go to
school but there was only one school owned by the Methodist Church known as Wesley School. After leaving Wesley
I became a supervisor of schools for the entire Remo and Ijebu province.
My wife and I then decided that I should travel to the United Kingdom. It was at
the London School of Economics and
Political Science
that I studied law. I also studied to be a chattered
secretary. My wife joined me in the United
Kingdom
and she studied Hotel and
Catering Management
. We returned to Nigeria in October 1962.
Sir Olanihun Ajayi shares the story of his humble beginning to the peak of career
As a sage in the legal profession, at
what point did you start your career?
In 1962 when
I started, I was with a man called H.A. Odufalu. He had his chambers
along Igbosere Road in Lagos, nearly
opposite the High Court of Lagos
State. So, I was working with him as one of his juniors. But then, because he
wasn’t paying me any reasonable salary, I took time to go to court on my own. I
remember on Mondays, I will go to Ikeja
Magistrate Court
to take overnight cases—People who are arrested in the
evening of a day and put in custody for stealing or fighting or whatever. So,
in the morning they will be brought to court, and then one of them could hire
us to get a bail for them at that time. Then on Tuesdays, somewhere I don’t
remember now.  But on Wednesday, I will
come to Sagamu, again, I will start
with overnight cases. On Thursdays, I will go back to Lagos—one of the
magistrate courts. This was just a means by which I could make quick money. And
also, on Thursdays, I will go to Ajegunle
again to take overnight cases, it was sure you will get something to do.  But the question of ‘owo’ (Money) would arise
because that is the whole purpose of my going. Then on Fridays, I will stay
home.
When did you then float Olanihun
Ajayi & Co (Now Olanihun Ajayi LP?)
After
sometimes with my boss, it was then I decided to start Olanihun Ajayi & Co.
Actually the day I was enrolled in the Supreme Court as Barrister-at-law,
Solicitor and Advocate, that was 2nd of November 1962. That was the
day (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo was charged to court for treasonable felony. I was to
be among the lawyers to defend him. But the lawyer who should defend him was
the person who should present me in the Supreme
Court of Nigeria
.  Therefore, he got
one of his friends to present me to the Supreme
Court
so that he could follow Chief
Awolowo
to the High Court. I couldn’t join them; it was after the court was
over that I joined them in the afternoon after I had been enrolled in the Supreme Court. Then, of course, I later went back to my boss, practicing
with him. When I was doing that, the income was very small because I already
had 4 children (2boys, 2 girls). The first two—a boy and a girl—were staying
with my mother-in-law. Then, the next two, one was about 5 months old; the other
was about 3 and half years. Then, when we returned from England, they joined us. When I started Olanihun Ajayi & Co,
we were only two in the office—myself and my typist. Later it became I, typist
and messenger. I think that was how we were at the time. But in the meantime, I
saw an advertisement by UAC, asking for those discerning for
employment as assistant group legal adviser. I applied and they took me. Chief
Earnest Shonekan
was my junior in the legal department of UAC
where I worked for 6 years. I performed my duties very well in the company but
my boss did not like me. I guess he felt I was becoming a threat to him whereas
he was 3 to 4 years older and 10 years my junior at the bar. He didn’t like me
being his assistant. Within one year that I joined UAC, my salary was being
increased every half year. Therefore, he didn’t like me. And I was very
confident. And because of my efficiency, the chairman/assistant chairman would
always welcome me to their office. Whenever there was going to be a meeting of
the subsidiary companies, it was me who would go with the chairman/assistant
chairman to the shareholders’ meeting or board meeting. These were the things
my boss didn’t like. He thought I was just too exposed to these people and the
situation made me to resign. I started Olanihun Ajayi & Co on 2nd
of November 1962. I was called to the British Bar on the 17th of
July 1962. I became Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in November 1962. I was called to the Lincoln Inn.
After resigning from UAC, what did
you set out to do?
Nine months
after my resignation from UAC, I was invited by the then
Governor of Western States, Brigadier General Christopher (Oluwole) Rotimi, to serve as Commissioner for
Education. Some two years later, I was appointed commissioner for health in the
same Western State. I signed a bond with him that I will quit after three years
and when it was time (After 3 years) I told him I was leaving. The Governor
convinced me to work for some more years but my mind was made up. After
leaving, I went into private practice as a lawyer.
Can you talk about your most
memorable matter in court?
It was a
criminal matter of one man who had qualified for prison because it was not a
good case. But somehow, I handled the matter to my own satisfaction and of
course to that of the judge who discharged and acquitted him.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu….The New Yoruba Leader?
Having served as commissioner in the
Western Region, what would you say is Nigeria’s fundamental problem?
The problems
in Nigeria are deep. It was Lord Lugard who separated the South
from the North for over 25 years. The north did not join the South in the
governorship or governance of this country until 1947, having separated the two
sides for a period of about 25 years; they made sure that they ruled. They made
the North to rule the country and the aftermath of their rule is what we are
seeing today—corruption, animosity, suspicion, disaffection, instability in
Nigeria. After all, before 1914, we were not one, we were different countries.
We had the Oyo Empire, the Benin Kingdom, Sokoto Empire, Ijebu Kingdom
etc; they were what we had at that time.

HIM, Oba Rilwan Osuolale Akiolu, the Olowo Eko and Oba of Lagos….Can he carry the cross of leading the Yoruba race?

It was Lugard who put us
together. We were just like Yugoslavia and the USSR.
In Czechoslovakia,
there were two dominant nationalities and there was no love lost between them, until
their leaders met and said they could not continue like that. Eventually they
met and agreed that the Czechs should return to their sides
and the Slovaks to their own side, and there was peace. The book I have
just completed shows everything—all the important secrets from when we were
parts of the British Protectorate—from 1925 till 1964. For this book, I had to
buy 9 books and got relevant parts—like how bribing started in Nigeria. Nigeria
is today just as she was in 1960. Take a look at Singapore, a very small
country which today has one of the best airports in the world. We are not able
to get up and move like Brazil, India or China
because we are not properly constructed. It is in Nigeria they keep killing
their leaders—they killed Bola Ige, nobody questioned them.

Chief Mathew Aremu  Olusegun Okikiolakan Obasanjo….The Real Yoruba Leader?
Talking about Nigerian politicians,
how would you assess them?
In the first
place, we do not have true politicians; we only have self serving people. In
Nigeria, you will see people begging for money around while some are busy stealing
billions of Naira into their pockets alone which is very stupid. The owner of
the money is going to take away the money from them. Nobody is bothered about
whether the Primary Schools in their areas are conducive to learning or not.
They are not also bothered whether the hospitals in their localities are
working as they should be or not. I can only implore them not to invite
disaster in 2015 (Last Year election). In Awolowo’s time, there was ideology
and political ideal. Today, there is no ideology. People jump from one
political party to another for no reason other than for monetary purpose.
People will defect from APC (the All Progressive Congress) to PDP (the People’s
Democratic Party) or vice versa for what they can gain. No ideology at all.
There is no contract between the politicians and the people. That is a problem
that we have.  The fulcrums have run far
away from the four corners. The dogs have gone far away; I doubt if they can
hear the whistle of the hunters. There are governors that the citizens of their
states have not seen for a long time. They don’t even care about the welfare of
the people.

HRM Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Arole Odua and Ooni of Ife….Can he lead the Youruba?

As Yoruba, we have a way knowing who are our leaders are, we know
how to take one of them to be the leader of the Yoruba. Yoruba leadership
is not anything that you can buy in the market, it is not because you have
money therefore; you can become the leader. A Yoruba leader must be
completely an Omoluwabi. That is very significant. Other Yoruba leaders will
follow, obey, respect and revere him, knowing that his hands are always clean.

Sir Olanihun Ajayi….’Yoruba Leadership position can never be bought with money’

You are also a prolific writer, what
motivates you to keep writing even at age 90? What are you currently working
on?
HIM, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi (Ilufemiloye-TELU 1) Oluwo of Iwo….Can he be one of those contesting to lead the Yorubas?
I have
written 5 books. The first one is This House of Oduduwa must not fall.
There is also the one edited by me titled Adunola: In retrospect. It is a
compilation of tributes and speeches for my late wife. I also wrote, Nigeria:
Africa’s
failed asset?;
my autobiography ‘Lest we forget’ and Isara
Afotamodi: My
Jerusalem. I am not in Prison, so,
nothing stops me from writing. My 6th book Nigeria: Political Power imbalance—the
bane and chain-down to our advancement
took me about 1 year to write.
The launch would be part of activities for my birthday if the book is ready by
then.
What is the fondest memory you have
of your beloved wife, Lady Adunola Ajayi? 
It is that
we were together for nearly 60 years and I do not remember ever having any
moment of exchange of hot words. She did what I wanted and never did anything I
disliked. She hailed from Sagamu in Ogun State and that was where we met while we were both teaching.
She was a special gift from God to me.
Since her demise in 2007, how have
you been coping? Did you consider re-marrying at any point?
She died
when I was about 83 years old and of course I miss her so much. Why will I
consider re-marrying? Never, I have excellent children, 2 boys and 2 girls. The
first two (A boy and a girl) are medical doctors while the last two (A boy and
a girl) are lawyers. Why should I get married again? For what? I have 2 cooks,
stewards, security men and 3 gardeners. I am very comfortable with them and
these people add value to my life.
Sir Olanihun Ajayi….An epitome of Excellence in Leadership
You are much vested in the Methodist
Church of Nigeria and your son, Professor Kayinsola Ajayi, SAN is a chaplain in
the church. What influence has religion had in your life?
Religion has
a very good influence in my life because every day, I realize more and more who
God is. For my birthday, there will be a thanksgiving service at the church
here. And already, I have bought a number of gifts—worth millions—for the
church.
What is your motto for life?
‘Be right with your
fellow man’
. You
must be right with your fellow man. If you are right with your fellow man, you
will be right with God. And if you are right with God, He becomes your friend.
He will listen to you and He will do what you want him to do for you.
At 90, what is the biggest lesson
life has taught you?
That is a
tough question. One thing I know for sure is that serving people is the
greatest religion you can ever have. Service is religion to me.
What has been the best time of your
life?
The day I
was called to the British Bar. I felt on top of the world. I attended the London
School of Economics
but that will not make you a professional. But that
I became a barrister-at-law, I felt on top of the world. And I developed a lot
of confidence in myself and I felt that there was nothing under the sun that I
could not become. Provided the will is there, if I want something, I will get
it. So, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel envy
or envious of anybody.

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