Arisekola Alao

Aare was a community leader; the reason his Ibadan home was always a beehive of activities. Political and religious associates were always coming to draw from his wealth of knowledge. He was a loving father, not only to his biological children, but to anyone who needed assistance.

Renowned Aare Musulumi of Yoruba Land, Alhaji Arisekola Alao passed on two years ago. Today, he remains tall even in death. In his life time, the Aare made great impact in the lives of many. His infectious sense of accommodation, altruism, generosity, piety and enterprise are virtues that endeared him to me and many others.

I was one of the closest friends the Aare kept and encouraged all through. For this, I miss him greatly. I did not know what hit me on the day the news of his death broke. I was browsing through WhatsApp and suddenly stumbled on Alaba Igbaraola’s portal. She wrote tersely,” Aare Arisekola is dead”. I thought it was a joke, and wondered whether it was April fool stuff. Sadly, Chief Arisekola died on June 17, 2014.

The news of his death went viral on the Internet almost instantly and formed the core of discussions on virtually all radio stations. Television channels were not left out. And that was it. To the Aare, February 14th was very special, and to many, a valentine day. That was the day of his birth and all of us his friends loved to celebrate the day with him. If he were still alive, he would have clocked 72 this year.

I was contemplating writing a tribute on him last week, when Musa, one of Aare’s children, posted a video where he was playing table tennis with him. I watched that video severally and shed tears as his voice resonated. It is still hard for me to believe that the Aare is gone for good. I believe firmly that a horde of people who sucked from his breast of human kindness will never forget him too.

Chief Arisekola carried philanthropy to an admirable level with the good heart he showed the poor and the rich. He was never tired of giving to anyone who sought his assistance, and he did that on a daily basis. For instance, every Friday, hundreds of Muslims and Christians alike made it a ritual to collect stipends from him that would put food on their tables for the weekend. Since his demise, no one has stepped forward to take up that kind of philanthropy.

My first encounter with the Aare was a story rooted in destiny. I intend to give details of this in my coming memoirs. It all started on April 6, 1980 when I was News Editor of the Nigerian Tribune. The management of the newspaper had granted me a N2,000 car loan then. My desire was to purchase a new Peugeot saloon car from Lister Motor Company owned by Aare. But the cost was N4,000.

I consulted with one of his bosom friends, Chief Akanni Aluko, to whom I am also bonded in great friendship. My desire was to deposit the car loan for a Peugeot saloon and pay the balance in instalments over 12 months. A call from Akanni to Aare did the magic. Not only did I get the car, Aare wrote off the balance. I went to thank him, but he told me he did not need my appreciation but friendship. That friendship, which I thought would be short spanned, endured till death cast us apart.

Aare’s image still looms large years after his death. Even though he was a strong Muslim faithful, he, nonetheless, bonded with me very passionately, adopting me as one of his “blood brothers”. Every conversation and greeting from him always ended up with a loving accolade, “My dear Folu”. He was a rare breed. God use people like him to confound the wise.

In 1980 when I was to get married, I was in a fix financially and had no idea of how to overcome the problem. I had no savings. My salary of N3,000 as a News Editor was nothing to write home about then. Once again, God raised Alhaji to provide all that I needed for my wedding.

He did the same when my parents passed on in 1989 and 2011 respectively. Space will not permit me to reel out many interventions Alhaji made to bail me out of deep financial crises. Why I felt comfortable with his friendship was that he did all these things without any condition attached to them. He never asked me for any favour to would undermine my professional ethics. The only time I could remember him soliciting for a favour was when he asked for full media coverage of the ceremony of his turbaning as the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland.

Aare hated liars and lazy workers. He told me once that insincerity was a factor strong enough for him to end relationships, as was the case with some of his friends. A number of these friends had, indeed, taken advantage of his limited education to exploit him. He never took kindly to such. Aare did not attain the heights of education, but he was endowed with a high Intelligence Quotient.

He rose to fame with a high price. He started by hawking Gamalin 20 products to cocoa farmers in the old Western Region and from there became a multi-millionaire. Soon enough, he began to wine and dine with presidents and kings. Not only that, he rose to the highest pinnacle in the Muslim hierarchy in Nigeria and the world. Aare, like all human beings, had his weaknesses but his philanthropy overshadowed his flaws.

As a shrewd businessman, Aare refused to be identified with any political party. Yet, he was smart enough to have a warm relationship with every reigning leader, both at the state and national levels. He had to do that to protect his chains of businesses. He got along so well with political leaders because they saw in him unflagging loyalty and integrity. Aare often professed a belief; “To keep your friends let your loyalty be 100 percent”.

Aare was a community leader; the reason his Ibadan home was always a beehive of activities. Political and religious associates were always coming to draw from his wealth of knowledge. He was a loving father, not only to his biological children, but to anyone who needed assistance.

Chief Arisekola gave all his children qualitative education both in Nigeria and abroad. Today, many of them are spread all over the world, blessed with highly rewarding vocations that make them self-sufficient. Here was an Ibadan-based business mogul who touched the lives of many all over Nigeria.

The question is; when comes another great mind like him? May his soul continue to find eternal rest.

Folu Olamiti, a Media Consultant, writes from Abuja.