THE Deputy President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola Alao,69, on Wednesday died in London, few hours before he was due to return to Nigeria.
His remains will be brought to the country today and the burial will take place tomorrow.
Oyo State governor, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, officially broke the news of the death of the spiritual leader to both President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo.
The state government has declared Friday as a public holiday, while it declared seven days of mourning, during which the flag will fly at half mast.
Immediately the news of his death filtered into town on Wednesday afternoon, people began to put calls across to confirm the authenticity of the news which had flooded the social media. The great Islamic leader was said to have departed the shores of the country for medical check up in London, England, last week Thursday.
Sources informed that late Alao had gone for a medical check up on Wednesday morning and opted to have a little rest. That could not however be as he failed to wake up from his sleep which drew the attention of his family members. Attempts to wake him led to the discovery that he had passed on.
It was also gathered that the business mogul had put a call through to one of his personal assistants in Ibadan in the early hours of Wednesday to prepare his cars for his impending arrival later in the day. This it was gathered made the news more shocking as the crew had filled the tanks of the cars on the convoy list meant to pick him up at the airport, while awaiting further directives.
But to their surprise, the next directive was various calls from far and near to confirm the rumour of his death. Few minutes after, some dignitaries, like Chief Lekan Alabi and Alhaji Lateef Oyelade arrived the Bodija mansion of the automobile dealer.
Nigerian Tribune also learnt that the renowned philanthropist returned from a lesser hajj last week before his last trip outside the country.
As the news of his death was officially announced through various media, dignitaries started paying condolence messages at his Bodija residence.
Thereafter, Alhaji Lateef Oyelade ordered that the main building be put under lock and key, which was immediately adhered to.
When Nigerian Tribune visited the place, people from all walks of life could not control themselves as they betrayed their emotion while expressing their shock at the demise of Alhaji Arisekola Alao.
One of them was a blind young man, who revealed that the deceased had assured him that he had concluded all plans to ensure he regained his sight.
Though, he could not mention his name to our reporter, he was a known figure around Arisekola’s residence. According to him “So, I can’t see again in my life. Daddy told me before he left that he had concluded arrangement with the medical people to ensure that I regain my sight. My hope is dashed,” said the young man who wore a red T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Immediately after he uttered that, he directed the man assisting him to take him for ablution to pray.
The residence was also thronged by various men and women, both literate and illiterate, religious leaders and scholars, most of who just returned from the lesser hajj and those that had been penciled down for the next hajj.
Various Islamic clerics were also not left out, but in their own case, they were consoling themselves that the deceased lived a life worthy of emulation, hoping that he would find favour from Allah.
In addition, the shock of his death was freely expressed as most people who usually thronged his residence for one assistance or the other cried uncontrollably on getting to the residence. One of them, who said he could not believe that “Daddy is dead”. The young man eventually had cause to believe when the state governor arrived at the house. He broke down and was rolling on the ground before some people came to placate him.
As sympathizers were discussing in hush tones the demise of their benefactor, a truck conveying goodies meant to be distributed at the commencement of 2014 Ramadan drove in, those around the gate side broke down into tears.
The Chief Imam of Ibadan land later held a brief exhortation for the crowd he left the venue.
Some of the dignitaries who were around on Wednesday evening were Oyo State Governor Senator Abiola Ajimobi and his wife, Florence, his deputy Chief Moses Alake Adeyemo, Speaker House of Assembly, Honourable Monsurat Sunmmonu and some lawmakers, Head of Service Alhaji Tajudeen Aremu, SSG, and some Local Government caretaker chairmen.
Others included Chief Lekan Alabi, Alhaji Rasheed Adesokan, Dr K.K. Oloso, Chief Imam of Ibadan land, Alhaji Muhydeen Bello; former deputy Governor Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi and Alhaji Akewugba Gold, among others.
…A man of many parts
Alhaji Azeez Arisekola Alao, though never identified openly with any political party, was an acknowledged power broker and kingmaker in Oyo State supporting candidates, who in his estimation, could facilitate the greatest good for the greater number of people in the state. This started as far back as 1978 when he teamed up with the late Alhaji Busari Adelakun (alias Eru o b’odo) to turn the political table against Venerable Emmanuel Alayande, thus enabling Chief Bola Ige to emerge as the governorship candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
Alayande, who was Ige’s Vice Principal at Ibadan Grammar School, had enjoyed the support of the party’s leadership but some young turks in the party believed that a younger man would serve the old Oyo State better.
When neither Ige nor Alayande could reach a compromise as to who should step down for the other, it was resolved that the duo should go for primaries. Alayande, who was from Ibadan, had banked on the high population of the city to coast home to victory but what he did not reckon with was the influence of Adelakun and Arisekola. With Adelakun’s grass roots strength and Arisekola’s deep pockets, Ibadan people were mobilized for Ige to the unpleasant surprise of Alayande. Having won the primaries, the main election was a walk over for Ige.
The rise of Ige also meant the rise of Ariskola Alao in the politics of Oyo State as he became a celebrated force in the politics of the state. However, the romance between Ige and Alao did not last long as they both parted ways before the 1983 elections. What drove the men apart was a comment allegedly made by Chief Ige that Ibadan people were not educated. This angered many Ibadan elite who vowed to ensure the ouster of Ige in the 1983 elections. Alao joined forces with Chief Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye and Chief Richard Akinjide, amongst others, to rally support for the governorship candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, who eventually defeated Ige and became the second executive governor of the old Oyo State.
The eventual victory of Chief Kolapo Ishola as Oyo State governor in 1991 was not without the support of Alhaji Alao. Although Ishola was handpicked by Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the political machinery that ensured his electoral victory was oiled by Alao. Ditto for the electoral success of Alhaji Lamidi Adesina in 1998 as Alao was said to have supported his aspiration and election financially.
When, ahead of the 2003 elections, the people of Ibadan craved for a change, Adedibu aligned with Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Alao supported the alliance. Ladoja eventually defeated Adesina to become the governor. Alao also supported the aspiration of Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala in 2007 before turning against him in 2011, following a disagreement. He never hid his support for the governorship ambition of Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi in 2011.
Two factors were responsible for the sustained relevance of Alao in the politics of Oyo State over a period of 36 years. The first is that he always teamed up with people. The Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland never operated alone; neither did he ever go against the will of the people because he wanted the best for the state. He was very close to the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; and Chief Adedibu. The three of them, referred to as the three musketeers, were (until the death of Adedibu) largely responsible for the emergence of governors in the state.
The second factor is that he was not involved in politics for personal benefits or aggrandizement. Unlike many political gladiators, he never insisted on imposing children or relations on those he helped into offices. Until the appointment of his son, Farouk Alao, as a commissioner by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Alao refrained from nominating his offspring for political offices.
But the late business mogul was not just a local political player; he also played on the national scene. He was very friendly with national political leaders, especially military officers, and he never denied any of his friends. He was close to the late head of state, General Sani Abacha, and despite the latter’s unpopularity, he never denied him.
Alhaji Arisekola Alao was a deeply religious man. He spent and was spent for the course of Islam. In recognition of his commitment to his faith, he was appointed the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland in 1980 by Imams in the South West region of the country. He was later made the Deputy President General (South) of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
As a devout Muslim, Alao was a patron to over 100 Muslim organizations in the country. He was instrumental to the establishment of the Grand Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria in 1996 and the Alasalatu Ibadu Rahaman. He was one of the greatest financiers of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and National Council of Muslim.
Yearly, he sponsored hundreds of Muslims to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage and Umurah.
As a mark of respect for him, after every sallah prayer, political, religious and economic leaders converge on his house to pay homage to him before going to their various houses.
One of the areas of strength of Alao was business. He had a knack for making money.
His journey into the world of business started in 1961 when he delved into the sale of pesticides. But unlike many business people of his time, he did not stay on just one business as he diversified and went into other businesses.
First he set up Lister Motors, selling Nissan products. He made popular the 120Y model which transporters were fond of. The car came with just two doors but Alao was able to talk Nigerian technicians into adding two more doors. The auto business gave birth to other businesses such as Lister Insurance, Lister Property and Estate Company, Lister Flour Mills, Lister Oil Nigeria Limited, Lister Property and Estate Company, Lister Press, Lister Farms and Fishery, Barakat Investment Nigeria Limited, Jubab International, Monitor Group of Newspapers and Aris Corporation.
He also invested in many other quoted companies, including FirstBank Plc.
Alhaji Arisekola Alao’s middle name was philanthropy. He was seen by many as a compassionate person who never allowed any needy person who came his way to go without improving his lot. He supported many indigent students through his scholarship scheme. He fed and clothed thousands, while establishing hundreds in businesses of their own. As a matter of fact, every Friday, thousands thronged his Oluwo Kekere, Orita Bashorun residence where they were feted to their satisfaction. He supported many humanitarian causes. Many schools, hospitals and Muslim organizations benefitted from his philanthropy.
Thousands of people who never believed they could make it to the Holy Land were sponsored by the late businessman.
Life and Times
By Ganiyu Salman
UNDOUBTEDLY, the death of the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Abdul Azeez Arisekola Alao (CON), has created a vacuum in the politics of Oyo State, given his role in the politics of the state.
Alao’s death came a year after the exit of his first wife, Alhaja Risikat, who died on May 23, 2013 at the age of 68 years.
The Alao patriarch would have joined the league of septuagenarians early next year.
Born on a Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1945, to the family of Alhaji Abdur Raheem Olatunbosun Olaniyan Alao and Alhaja Rabiatu Olatutu Abegbe Alao who hailed from Ajia in Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, the young Alao had his elementary education at St. Luke’s School, Adigun, and later ICC Primary School, Igosun, both in Ibadan, after persistent persuasion of one school teacher, Mr J.O. Oladejo, because he initially was not interested in the acquisition of Western education, as he was contended with Islamic education which he began at the age of three years.
On completion of his primary education in 1960, he sat for the entrance examinations into two of the notable schools; Christ School, Ado-Ekiti and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan. He was the best candidate in the Christ School examination, while he emerged as the third best candidate for admission into Lagelu Grammar School.
However, despite his brilliance, he could not advance his western education as a result of the poor economic standing of his parents who were peasant farmers. But his lack of western education was compensated for by his sound Islamic education and a strong resolve.
Buoyed by the zeal to survive and make a decent living, Alao ventured into business, armed with admirable qualities such as intelligence, shrewdness, truthfulness, aggressiveness and the determination to succeed.
He had a brief stint with his uncle as an apprentice at Gbagi Market, Ibadan before going solo in 1961, vending Gammalin 20. Being a shrewd businessman, he was soon to become an agent of Imperial Chemical Industries.
No sooner had he started his business did he become a household name in his locality and the old Western Region. He built up his business and used the platform to build a wide network in politics and religion.
His involvement in and support for religious causes made the Muslim Ulamah in Yoruba land to confer on him the title of Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland in 1980.
Alao was a detrabilised Nigerian, who accommodated people irrespective of their religious or ethnic backgrounds.
Ever supportive of other people’s dreams, Alao, despite the abortion of his dream of acquiring western education, helped the dreams of others with the establishment of Pa Raheem Alao Scholarship Foundation for indigent students of tertiary institutions.
He was a co-founder and highest donor of Barakat International School, situated at Bodija, while he also had endowments in a number of universities including private institutions of higher learning across the country.
A foremost industrialist, he establshed a fleet of business outfits under the Lister conglomerate, which cut across food production, real estate management, insurance, transport, and publishing.
He built the Abdul Azeez Arisekola Central Mosque along Iwo Road, Ibadan and employed a number of workers whose salaries he paid regularly, aside having three Islamic scholars also on its payroll.
Alao was among the Muslims who paved the way for the establishment of the Grand Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria in 1996 while he also financed the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and the National Council of Muslim Youth the Organisations (NACOMYO), among other Islamic organisations even outside Nigeria.
He was a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA until his death.
A compassionate fellow, Alao built a 100-bed ward as part of Oyo State Muslim Hospital which was named Rabiatu Alao Ward, after his mother.
His exemplary contributions to the growth of the nation as a whole earned him a national honour, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), during the administration of the late Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’ Adua in 2008.
Alao was also a lover of sport having elevated Alao Babes Football Club formed by the workers of The Monitor Newspapers and which won the Oyo State SWAN Media Games in 1998/99 to compete in the IFA league in the state.