His Type Is Rare: Dapo Oyekunle Olorunyomi @ 60, By Frederick Adetiba
…Uncle Dee has kept an open heart for mentoring hundreds of young people across the country. In a clime where there is a paucity of worthy mentors, my generation has been blessed to have Uncle Dee, a rare gem who believes so much in young people. He believes young people can change the world, and he often demonstrates this by creating opportunities for us, within his capacity, to excel and do great things.
I didn’t have my father in my life, growing up. He was one of those absentee fathers. This left me without an authority figure at my crucial teenage years. As much as growing up with my mum was exciting, in my early twenties I began to see the effect of not having an authority figure in my life. It was at that point that I started looking out for people I could look up to and learn from. Today, I can say that I am a combination of a number of people I have been privileged to interface with, as every one of them has shaped me in one form or another, including – rather paradoxically – my absentee father. For some of them, I learnt ‘how not to’, and for others it was ‘how to’.
While quite a number of people have impacted my life, a few of them have exceptionally done so. Mr. Dapo Oyekunle Olorunyomi, popularly referred to as Uncle Dapsy, is one of those exceptional few. Uncle Dapsy whom I love to call Uncle Dee, is the publisher and CEO of PREMIUM TIMES, my boss. I met him in 2010 during the run off to the 2011 general elections. When I met him, I noticed there was no air around him; he was calm and unassuming. A colossus of the Nigerian media, democracy and good governance, presented himself as an ordinary man in the midst of young people, where I first saw him. The image of that first sight in 2010 is still vivid in my mind. I had been invited to be part of a strategy team to set up a youth volunteer movement for the Nuhu Ribadu Presidential Campaign, which became Team Ribadu.
Uncle Dee is a man of many parts and quite a lot has been written about him. For starters, he is an icon of Nigerian media, owing to his unmatched brilliance, passion and commitment to media development in Nigeria. This has seen him leave his mark in the sands of time through different media platforms, from the old Concord newspaper to Tempo, TheNews magazine, 234Next and now PREMIUM TIMES. He is also an icon of democracy, owing to his role in the fight for the return of democracy during the various military juntas in Nigeria. He was one of those who fought and suffered severely for our present democracy through different platforms, including the famous NADECO and Radio Kudirat, among many others. In addition to all these, he is also a champion and advocate of good governance – an enterprise he has unflinchingly devoted his life to after the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999. This saw him play an important role in the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), where he served as the chief of staff to the pioneer chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
There have been a number of commentaries on the different aspects of his life and I believe more would still be written, including his detailed biography. While I and many others like me out there would continue to look forward to an autobiography that would detail all his exploits and travails, covering these different aspects of his life, I would rather focus on how Uncle Dee’s life impacted mine personally.
Aside professional experiences, I have learnt invaluable lessons through the life of Uncle Dee. He is one of the very people from whom I have been taught great values and principles that continue to shape my life. His life taught me the practical demonstration of generosity, selflessness, sacrifice, love for fellow human beings and country, kindness, empathy, hard work, patriotism, humility, among many other values.
When I met him in 2010, I knew there was something about him that I could not immediately put a finger to. As a spiritual person, I am not easily drawn to people unless there is something quite unique about them. After a series of meetings on the project we were kick starting at the time, which gave birth to Team Ribadu, I got to know him better. I remember after positions were created in the structure of Team Ribadu, I was appointed to head the project management unit, which was the hub of the entire team operations. At this point I had known Uncle Dee to be a man of wisdom and supersonic intelligence. I went to him to confess that I didn’t have any experience in the new assignment I had just been given. Rather than express disappointment, he encouraged me instead. Parts of his words to me that day were, “Fred, you will be fine. Use this opportunity to learn”. That brief conversation with Uncle Dee did not just make my day, but also made the many years that followed till date. The statement gave me the confidence I needed on that assignment and several others that came after. This turned out to be the beginning of many more amazing years with Uncle Dee.
After the project ended in 2011, I thought he would be relocating to Lagos, and I said to myself that I would take a break of at least one month and go to Lagos with him to serve and understudy him. That was my plan, until he invited me and my team to start work on another project, right here in Abuja. This gave me the golden opportunity I wanted to understudy this amazing human being. Again on that new project, he encouraged the team that we could do it, even though most of us had little or no experience in the field we were researching into. All that eventually gave birth to PREMIUM TIMES, a successful and growing enterprise committed to promoting transparency, integrity and accountability in our governance system.
The opportunity to be part of the team that started PREMIUM TIMES has given me tremendous experience in start-ups, human resource and strategic management, among other great experiences. Uncle Dee also encouraged me to write, which prompted me to start making periodic opinion contributions on faith and governance on PREMIUM TIMES and other platforms. Aside professional experiences, I have learnt invaluable lessons through the life of Uncle Dee. He is one of the very people from whom I have been taught great values and principles that continue to shape my life. His life taught me the practical demonstration of generosity, selflessness, sacrifice, love for fellow human beings and country, kindness, empathy, hard work, patriotism, humility, among many other values. As a person who did not have an authority figure growing us, Uncle Dee has been a huge blessing.
Dapo Oyekunle Olorunyomi, an epitome of sacrifice, humility, generosity, hard work, patriotism, has been such an amazing mentor, father, boss and a friend to me and many more like me out there. He does not like being called a boss; he would rather refer to everyone in the office, including office assistants, as his colleagues.
In addition to his busy life, Uncle Dee has kept an open heart to mentoring hundreds of young people across the country. In a clime where there is a paucity of worthy mentors, my generation has been blessed to have Uncle Dee, a rare gem who believes so much in young people. He believes young people can change the world, and he often demonstrates this by creating opportunities for us, within his capacity, to excel and do great things. He has impacted the lives of hundreds and thousands of young people, cutting across different age categories, both closely and remotely. When the success stories of a number of people, including myself, would be written or told in this country, his name will definitely be mentioned.
Dapo Oyekunle Olorunyomi, an epitome of sacrifice, humility, generosity, hard work, patriotism, has been such an amazing mentor, father, boss and a friend to me and many more like me out there. He does not like being called a boss; he would rather refer to everyone in the office, including office assistants, as his colleagues. When he hit the big 60 on November 8, 2017, it was a struggle to organise a dinner in his honour. With all his travails and achievements both in Nigeria and beyond, Uncle Dee does not like to be celebrated, and he is shy of the spotlight.
I join hundreds of people to celebrate this iconic man on the attainment of 60 years on earth. A statue may never be erected in his honour, even though undeserving people get that kind of honour in this clime, but assuredly, his legacy is deep rooted and stands tall in many hearts. When my nine months old daughter, Jahdiel and her siblings come of age, I will tell them about him, his exploits, and the impact he’s made and will still be making in our country and in many lives. My hope and prayer is that he sticks around for many more years for them to meet and get to know him personally.
Fred Adetiba, a HR Practitioner, Researcher and good governance advocate, is Head of HR/Administration/Finance at Premium Times. He can be reached via email@example.com and @fredor4c on twitter.