Ọlaniwun Ajayi: Farewell to a valiant pilgrim
We received the news of the sudden death of Sir Ọlaniwun Ajayi in the early hours of this (yesterday) morning with utmost shock and dismay.
Our sense of disbelief would be easily understood given the fact that, just four days ago, precisely on Monday, October 31, Ajayi was with us for the best part of the day at Ẹfunyẹla Hall, Ikẹnnẹ for a meeting of the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Foundation.
He was his usual erudite and vibrant self throughout the meeting and he, along with Chief Ayọ Adebanjọ, gave invaluable historical and personal insights that helped to appropriately contextualise AWO within the paradigms under discussion.
For Ajayi, Awolọwọ was far more than a political leader- he was an avatar- and he remained completely and passionately loyal to the ideals that they shared to the very end.
Above all, he was considered a bona fide member of the nuclear family of Awolọwọ and Yeye Oodua H. I. D. Awolọwọ, and he also regarded himself as one.
For these reasons, his appointment to the Selection Committee of the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Prize for Leadership came most naturally and he never missed a single meeting of the committee. His profound knowledge and wisdom will be sorely missed.
Ajayi remained resolutely committed to the ideals that Awolọwọ espoused and embodied till he breathed his last, despite the prevailing practices that suggest that they are in retreat.
He had absolutely no doubt about the justness of their position and, therefore, remained fearless in his defence of it till he was called home.
Ajayi was a foremost member of a gradually disappearing ‘band of pilgrims,’ whose vision and mission in public life extended way beyond self and material gain.
As we at the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Foundation continue to strive to keep the legacy alive in our own way, it is our fervent hope that there exist others who possess the gravitas, the moral fibre and the grit to step forward to move the vision of equity and progressivism forward in Nigeria.
Ajayi, at 91, lived well and he lived long. He is blessed with successful children and grandchildren. We urge them, as inheritors of a proud heritage, to ensure that the heritage endures. We wish them God’s enablement as they do so. And we pray that the Lord will guide their every step as they journey into the future.
For Ajayi, the words of the ‘Pilgrims’ Progress’ ring so true: ‘Who would true valour see, let him come hither; one here will constant be, come wind, come weather; there’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.’
And Hebrews 11: 13-16: ‘All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. . they were longing for a better country… therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.’ Farewell, valiant pilgrim. You have earned your rest. Farewell. And Godspeed!