Edward Akinlade


AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao: Why Now With The Multitude Behind You?

By ’Lekan Alabi 

TODAY, the world celebrates lovers day (Saint Valentine’s Day) and we, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao’s people (family, staff, business partners, friends, admirers, beneficiaries) all over the world also celebrate his posthumous 70th birthday, having been born at Adigun village of Ibadanland, Ona Ara Local Council Area of Oyo State on February 14, 1945. Little wonder Aare was lovable.

  In his lifetime, more so upon his installation as the first Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland in 1980, the late businessman and philanthropist downplayed the social aspects of births, deaths and birthdays. Rather, his main focus was on the religious plane of such anniversaries – that is prayers, charity and supplications for forgiveness of sins. Understandably, because of his octopus connections viz relationships, business and culture, Aare, his best-known title, could not but partake or sponsor (social) ceremonies. And they were many.



  While we respect Aare’s standpoint on celebrations as explained above, one cannot allow this remarkable day to pass unsung. May Allah (SWT) continue to show his mercy in Aljannah Fridaous to the late Vice-President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Aare of Ibadanland and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) award. Amen.


  From his humble birth, he rose to national and world fame, and died a peaceful death. Aare was a great lesson in divine favour. Without the slightest intention to commit blasphemy or heresy, Aare successfully accomplished the terrestrial mission chosen for him by Allah (SWT).


  Aare was, apart from being special and favoured, also sweet, kind, humble, jovial, loyal, patriotic and open. He had an open heart, as were his hands, and many benefitted from him. Rather than turn away seekers of succor empty-handed at moments when cash was yet to arrive from his many sources, Aare, would placate the seekers thus: “Won ti ‘deal’ pelu mi loni, jowo pada wa ni ojo… (Beneficiaries have drained my purse today, please come on…). He would thereafter promise succor to the seekers, (rich, poor, famous, old, young, strangers etc) on a chosen day or hour and never failed to honour such promises. Such was his large heartedness.


  By the way, the title of this piece was borrowed from the exclamation of Helen Baskin Liston, mother of a former world heavy weight boxing champion, the late Charles, alias Sonny Liston – the Big Bear of USA when her son suddenly died on December 30, 1970. Jolted by Sonny’s death, she exclaimed: “Sonny, with all the friends you had in Las Vegas, why did you die?” Ditto to Aare. One, like all his admirers, exclaimed: “With the multitude behind you, Aare, why must you die now”? 


  In Yorubaland, if an influential, kind and popular person takes ill, his/her well-wishers would pray for quick recovery and admonish him/her to think of the multitude behind him/her. But, as true believers, we cannot query God. Everyone was taken by surprise by Aare’s sudden exit. 


  Little wonder, therefore, that a deluge of genuine heart-felt condolences flowed from clerics, presidents, governors, royals, ministers, public and private officers and the masses when he died in his sleep in his London home on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. He was buried in his Oluwo, Ibadan, home on Friday, June 20, 2014, after an open-air Fidau at the ’Lekan Salami Sport Complex, Ibadan, Oyo State. I have had the privilege of going through the manuscript of a forthcoming book of tributes on Aare, as the writer of the book’s foreword, and I can say that I am yet to read or hear of any private citizen who attracted the volume of sincere condolences from the broad spectrum of the society as Aare did. He was a true man of the people.


  I have stated publicly before that I, and Aare’s very close younger sister, Ambassador Ibironke Vaughan-Adefope, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Zambia and Malawi, regarded Aare’s Oluwo, Ibadan, home as a “University of Life”. Aare was our beloved “Vice-Chancellor”.


  For those whose genuine attraction to and attendance at Oluwo were not based or influenced by pecuniary, political or social gains, our “VC” and the “Uni of Life” designations fitted Aare and his home perfectly. Of course, Aare was a strong rallying point for religion, tradition, culture and commerce, with politics coming a distant last.


  What subject, personality or event under the sun was Aare not an authority on? None. If a topic appeared unknown (and this was rare) to Aare, he would plead that we allow him search his, “forest bedroom” (because of the cluster of documents, books and hardware), to fish the answer(s) vide documents – pre-colonial, independence and post civil war eras. On the next day/date of appointment given by him, our beloved “VC” would start reeling out names, places, dates, etc of events that happened centuries ago wherever in the world. He was a genius. 


  True, no human being is perfect. Aare had his foibles like us all. But today, we celebrate the 70th posthumous birthday of a legend. May Allah (SWT) continue to show His mercy in Aljannah Fridaous to our dear Aare, a man of the people. If one may ask again, “Aare Arisekola, with the multitude behind you, why must you go”? But Allah (SWT) knows best.


• Oloye ’Lekan Alabi is the Aare Alaasa Olubadan of Ibadanland




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