Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola: An Enigma

John F Kennedy, the 35th American President while addressing the American Congress shortly after his inauguration in January, 1961, said among other things:

For those to whom much is given, much is desired. And when at some future date, the high Court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recalling whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure will be measured by the answers to four questions.

First, were we truly men of courage.
Second, were we truly men of judgement.
Third, were we truly men of intergrity.
Finally, were we truly men of dedication.

Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola was a man who constantly proved in the short span of his existence that the revered American president who was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963 had him mind when his fertile mind was raising the consciousness of his fellow Americans to the virtues of humanity. The reason is not far fetched. Although while Kennedy was making his historic speech at parliament, Taju was just a-seven year boy, still wet behind the ears. However, today Taju has fulfilled that great American’s prescriptions for an absolute human being. Adeola has not only been courageous in his approach to life issues, he has proffered sagacious judgments in his interactions with his fellow human beings, he has not only displayed unparalled integrity in his professional calling, he has served and is still serving humanity with profound dedication.

Born in the South West Senatorial District of Ogun State in January 1954 and christened Tajudeen Afolabi, the son of Adeola. Taju began laying the foundations of what will lead to the series of his astounding achievements in the fields of public services, philanthropic dispositions, academic involvements, colossus private sector engagement coupled with his copious humanitarian dispensations, and paternity virility which in 1973 when he enrolled at Yaba College of Technology where he graduated with a diploma in Accounting in 1975. No human being aiming to enviable heights should be satisfied with this level of attainment in western pedagogy. So, our own dear Taju was at various times acquiring professional accounting training with the best in the trade in the world. Deloitte, Haskins and Sells, an accounting firm based in the United Kingdom and D O Dafinone, an accomplished Nigerian accounting concern, benefited from the patronage of the then rising financial guru. In 1980, exactly five years after obtaining his National Diploma from Yaba, Adeola became a Chartered Accountant. That onerous accomplishment was an indication of the quality of the courage of our guest lecturer.

This financial cyclone was not yet done; he was gathering the storm that should jolt the Nigerian banking sector. Because in 1990, he established and became the first Managing Director and Chief Executive of one of the banks that has not experienced any form of distress, mismanagement, misadventure or financial misdeed. In actual fact, the bank became listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange Market in 1996; a mere six years after it debut. Who else, other than a focused entrepreneur, an astute planner, a dedicated and honest accountant like Fola could have steered the ship of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to such enviable heights in the twelve years he was the Chief Executive of the bank? Today, GTB Plc has branches not only spread through the nook and crannies of Nigeria but also in African countries such as Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and of course, the United Kingdom.

Having established his mark on the sands of the banking time in Nigeria and abroad, Taju handed over the reign of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to his deputy, Tayo Aderinokun, and retired. With these intimidating but rewarding achievements, men of inconsequential worth would have raced to Ikoyi, Victoria Island or other exotic places and enjoy a blissful living. But not so for this boundless, complex and intriguing financial and management institution. Soon after handing over to his deputy in 2002, Taju packed his bags and took up a fellowship at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, based in Washington D C. His research interest which he went to the corporation to continue was, ‘economic development, looking at pension’s reform, entrepreneurship and financial services provisioning for poverty alleviation.’ On his return, he principally initiated a bill tagged the National Pension Bill and it was passed into law by the then National assembly. The Nigerian civil servant should begin to sense where the laudable idea of the National Pensions Reforms (which added dictions like pension administrators, CRIB, PAL, to their dictionary) emanated from.

Perhaps, one should utilize the benefit of this opportunity to invite the Nigerian Federal Government team in charge of her re-branding drive not look to far if they hope to achieve any success in the foreign aspect of the scheme. The man they should not tarry in consulting is Taju because, in the course of chalking up his enviable effectuations, he had re branded Nigeria at the international level.

A few instances should convince the doubting Thomases. In May 2004, Fola was invited by Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain to serve as a commissioner on the Commission for Africa, an invitation that enabled him attend the 2005 G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland. What was recently denied a Nigerian political power wielder, Fola was willfully given! Until 2006, Taju was a member of the Global Advisory Committee on Philanthropy at the World Economic Forum. He was also a member of the HRH the Duke of Edinburgh Commonwealth Study Conference in the UK. Taju was the only Nigerian business mogul ever to be invited to join other 24 business leaders for the Institute’s Initiative for Social Innovation Through Business otherwise known as 1SIB Annual Business Leaders Dialogue in Aspen, Colorado, USA. It does not end there, Taju, in the course of sharpening his accounting teeth, carried the Nigerian banner to the prestigious Havard Business School and the International Institute for Management Development. Such is the consuming sense of judgment, nature has imbued in this guest lecturer.

If Tajudeen Adeola did shine so brilliantly at the international level, the logical question is what has happened to him at the local level? He has shown like a billion star at home, too. He was Chairman Lagos State Disaster Relief Committee, the body set up following the January 27, bomb blast disaster in Lagos. He is currently the Chairman, Ogun State Development Trust Fund Committee. He is a council member and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. A fellow of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria, he is. He is also a Director of UTC. What I personally considered his greatest appointment was the one he was given November of 2004: a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University because the university is the greatest in the world. GREAT LASUITES. What more can we allude an unalloyed sense of integrity to?

It was the mildly cold night of a day in March of 2000. Tajudeen was lying motionless beside his beautiful wife on their water bed. He was not asleep. Rather, this embodiment of passion and magnanimity was ruminating over what he could do to alleviate the agonies of the poverty stricken Nigerian youths; he was agonizing over how to make the unemployed graduates self reliant. Taju held an intimate conversation with his subconscious. It is my pride to report that, that communio

n between body and soul that March night resulted in the birth of a non-governmental body called FATE Foundation by Taju. The following day, he invited his friends, more than fifteen of them, all of them Nigerians to come and hear his dream. I want to regard those Nigerians, those selfless Nigerians who have joined Fola in the course of actualizing the dream of FATE as Taju’s actual soul mates.

Since it became operational in March 2000, FATE, the child of Taju’s brain has provided jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for more than 5000 Nigerians and the non-governmental body is still waxing stronger while charting new courses for the underprivileged Nigerians. The projection is that in the next six years (2015) more than 50,000 jobs would have been provided. Fola’s dedication to progressive Nigerian entity can never, ever be faulted.

Therefore, fellow Nigerians, it is with an unqualified humility and pride, honour and passion for this veritable role model, a consistent servant of Nigerians that I am introducing to you Tajudeen Afolabi, the son of Adeola, the husband of delectable Hajara, a virile Nigerian father of six healthy children; a national recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the current Chairman of Eterna Oil and Gas plc; and one of the guest speakers at the 1st Annual Muritala Mohammed Memorial Conference.

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