Saturday, May 10, 2014 12:15 pm
When news of the death of Sir Michael Otedola, former governor of Lagos State, filtered across the state last Monday, it was like a rumour. Many government officials and residents made frantic calls seeking to verify the information. Alas! P.M. NEWS, our sister publication, confirmed the incident: Otedola, father of billionaire businessman Femi Otedola, died that morning at his Odoragushin residence in the Epe area of the state.
The late Otedola, who served as governor of Lagos between January 1992 and November 1993 – one of the shortest political dispensations in the country – on the platform of National Republican Convention, was aged 88. Family sources said he had been sick and returned from overseas where he went for medical reasons in January. According to them, Sir Michael suffered from a stroke-related ailment which kept him away from major public events until he passed on.
In a condolence message to the family of the deceased, the government and residents of Lagos State, President Goodluck Jonathan, through Reuben Abati, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, called Otedola a very distinguished politician, elder statesman and philanthropist. The President added that Otedola served “with commendable courage, wisdom and fortitude” and, thus, promised the people and the family of his solidarity with them in their hour of grief.
The President urged all those affected by Otedola’s demise to take solace in the knowledge that he served God, his community, state and country to the best of his notable abilities during his long life, “and in passing on, leaves behind indelible legacies and very worthy heirs to build on his achievements”.
In their separate reactions, Governor Babatunde Fashola and his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, expressed sadness over the incident, with Fashola declaring a seven-day mourning period in which all flags must fly at low mast in honour of the departed. Fashola, who said he knew the late Otedola long before he was governor of the state, confirmed that he was a success as governor of the state. “His indelible records of service are still there. The centre for excellence that we proudly proclaim today was his choice when he was invited among other governors to choose a sobriquet for Lagos. That will remain evergreen in our memory. The contributions he made to the development of the state are appropriately documented,” Fashola said, just as Tinubu described the late Otedola as a great man of virtue.
To Professor Pat Utomi, former director of Lagos Business School, Otedola became a symbol of governance because of the success recorded by his administration. Utomi said: “I have the good fortune of knowing him well, he is a remarkable person and God-fearing. God used him and we will surely miss him.”
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state and its opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, both agreed that Otedola’s demise is a sad loss to the state. In a condolence letter to the bereaved family and the state government, APC said his death is also a loss to Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation. The PDP said Pa Otedola is a classical example of who a Governor Emeritius should be, adding that he served the state with sincerity and become a statesman afterwards.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State said the late Otedola was a fulfilled politician and an accomplished technocrat. “Baba contributed his bit to the development of Lagos State as governor between 1992 and 1993 before that democratic dispensation was truncated by the then military junta,” he said, while Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, his Ondo State counterpart, described Otedola as one with a robust sense of administration, whose death is a big loss since it occurred at a time the nation needed his experience.
During a condolence visit to the residence of the former governor, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, an indigene of Epe and Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, said until his death, Sir Otedola’s love for his community and the state was overwhelming. To the Speaker, “…The man demonstrated the biblical injunction that says: ‘love your neighbour as yourself and also have the fear of God.’ He was a great inspiration particularly to us…He was a godfather to everybody; it would have been difficult to say he was a godfather to somebody.”
On her part, Mrs. Sinatu Ojikutu, former deputy governor of Lagos State, said within the short while Otedola served as governor, he brought stability and peace to the state. She recalled that it was the period of the June 12 struggle and there was tension, which was curtailed by strategies put in place by the former governor. “He was an educationist and philanthropist and tried his best within the limit that the military allowed his administration to function. He lived a good life and had the interest of Lagosians at heart,” Ojikutu said
Born on 16 July 1926 into a Muslim home, Sir Otedola converted to Christianity. He also won a scholarship to study Journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London, graduating in 1958. He started his career as a teacher, then moved to the St. Pancras Chronicle, where he worked as a reporter. He also worked at The Guardian and The Times in England as sub-editor before returning to Nigeria in 1959, where he got appointed as an Information Officer in the Western Nigeria government. Later he got appointed as Editor of Western Nigeria Illustrated.
In 1961, he found his way into public relations and worked for the Western Nigeria Television/Broadcasting Service between 1961 and 1964 before working for the Mobil Oil Group of Companies between 1964 and 1977. After this, he continued as a consultant to Mobil.
His administration as governor was cut short by the emergence of General Sani Abacha as Head of State, but before then, he had established the Yaba College of Education campus in Epe, his hometown.
He was among 15 eminent Nigerians who won ThisDay Lifetime Achievement Awards in February 2010.
At the time of this report, his wife, Lady Doja, said that funeral arrangement would be announced as things unfold.