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Celebrating Joshua Ayodele Ajayi at 70

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Late Line: September, 1969

It was the first day in class, for the 1969-1972 set of future Economists. Seated in that room was among others, Solomon Ayo Oladunni, a future Vice Chairman of Mobil Oil Producing Unlimited, Durojaiye Olatunji, a future Executive Director of ICI and later Managing Director at R.T. Briscoe, Oluseyi Brickersteth, a future Chartered Accountant and until recently, the Head, KPMG Operations in Nigeria and Africa; Bismarck Rewane, the famous Economist and Finance Consultant, Olateju Alabi, a retired Director of Petroleum Resources, Cecilia Mong, now a retired GM at NNPC, Temitayo Okubote, now a retired Group General Manager at NNPC, Olaore Oyemakinde, a future Director of Budget and Planning In the Federal Civil Service, Gbenga Olowu, a successful business man and a past District Governor of Rotary International, Jaiye Lewu, a future Ambassador of Nigeria to many Countries, Akinwunmi Famodimu, now a Successful Businessman and an Evangelist, Bismarck Rewane, now a famous Finance Expert and Consultant, Temitayo Okubote, now a retired NNPC Group General Manager, Aderonke Haruna, now Alhaja Aderonke Busari Adebisi, a Grade A School Principal in Oyo State.

Now retired, Olumuyiwa Runsewe, Executive Chairman of Singafrique Engineering Limited and Runimex Holdings Limited, and the last but certainly not the least, Joshua Ayodele Ajayi who later in life became the group Managing Director of UAC Group, and who, during his tenure helped to coordinate and influence the “Production Possibility Frontier Curve” of UAC Group Operation rightwards.

The great Oracle of Economics, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade was being expected to deliver his first lecture in ‘Theory of Economics’.

There was an evident anxiety on everybody’s face, that variety of anxiety that is laden with some dosage of fear. That was understandable. Prof. Aboyade was reputed to be an unsparing and no-nonsense teacher, who, if you messed up, could throw you out of his class.

Soon enough, the great man walked in majestically, clad in a simple khaki colored French suit. He went straight to business. ‘Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my class. Trust everyone of you has a copy of Professor Lipsey’s Introduction to Positive Economics’.

Who can tell me what is the difference between Wages and Salaries?’ Not wanting to dare and inadvertently put the wrong step forward, everyone kept quiet. That cold grip of anxiety and fear still gripped everyone.

Of course, having recently worked in UBA, Dugbe, Ibadan Branch as a cashier, I knew the answer, but was feeling too intimidated by Prof. Aboyade’s charisma and reputation. Somehow, a rather thick and confident voice bellowed out from the back of the class, saying: “Excuse me sir, I know the answer sir;” “stand up,” said the Prof. What is your name?

“I am Joshua Ayodele Ajayi from Ayede Ekiti and coming from Muslim College, Ijebu-Ode.” Having commended Ayo for spotting the difference, that wages are paid directly to the beneficiaries in cash and salaries are paid through bank cheques or lodgments directly into the beneficiaries accounts, the Prof. opted to bring out the humorous part of himself.

“Ayodele Ajayi, why are you the only student in the whole class, whose shirt is tucked out of your trousers? Ayo replied him confidently, but respectfully, “ that is the way I feel better with myself sir.”

From that first day in class, Ayodele Ajayi was spotted by the great Prof. as a bold, confident and intelligent student. Having become Aboyade’s soft spot, every one of us started courting him for friendship. Within a short time, he had emerged as the unannounced class prefect and given the opportunity to safeguard our common interests.

Ayo was not a frontline students politician, but from his Hall of residence in Tedder Hall, he had become politically relevant, something akin to an ‘Adelabu Adegoke,’ of Ibadan, with Tedder Hall and the neighboring Mellanby Hall as his sphere of influence without his voice and support, no frontline student politician would go far.

Once the students Union Executive took a stand on any local or national issue, it fell on the “Area Commanders” like Ayo Ajayi to attempt to influence students within their sphere of influence.

On the Social circuit, Ayodele Ajayi passed through the University of Ibadan and allowed the University of Ibadan to pass through him. We both enrolled along with some other close friends in the prestigious Embassy Club.

In all the three years we spent in the University we had lots of fun.
Our final year in the 1971-72 session was as interesting as ever.

However, something happened in Sapele in February 1972, which, to me was God’s indications of the future of Ayodele Ajayi in the UAC Group.

As a part of a compulsory exposure to manufacturing outfits and some of the “Commanding Heights” of the Economy, the Economics Department organized an excursion to the Oil Rich Areas of Warri and Sapele.

We had visited some oil installations, with AT&P as a last whole – day facility tour. After visiting all aspects of the industrial wood and rubber complex, the management of AT&P, a subsidiary of UAC Group, arranged a Complimentary lunch for all of us, including our team leaders.

At the close of Lunch, the famous professor of Development Economics, Prof. Emman Edozien, and the famous Professor of Industrial Economics, Professor Kayode, both of whom led us on the trip, conversed amongst themselves as to who amongst us would stand up to deliver a thank you speech to the management of AT&P Sapele.

Perhaps guided by the Holy Spirit, Ayodele Ajayi was chosen. After delving into some history, tracing the origin of UAC to the Royal Niger Company and their commercial activities in Akassa, Asaba and Lokoja, and their various commercial influence in the Niger Delta Area, Ayo Ajayi concluded as follows “On behalf of myself and my classmates I thank the Management of AT&P Sapele for their generosity to us and our professors. I am so impressed that UAC, such that such a caring company is where I would love to work for and build my career, until my retirement.”

We there after retuned to our classes in Ibadan. That was in February 1972. In March 1972, the UAC of Nigeria came on a recruitment drier to the University. About 50 students were shortlisted, tested and interviewed.

Out of the 50 students, only 3 were recruited. Joshua Ayodele, Olumuyiwa Runsewe, and Henry Oraka were recruited and posted to GB Ollivant, Palm Line Agencies and A.J. Seward respectively.

Also recruited from the University of Ife was a brilliant final year pharmacy student, Modupe Olorunda who was also posted to AJ Seward.

As that Famous African proverb goes, 20 young friends are not likely to stay in one place for 20 years! Olumuyiwa Runsewe was the first to leave Palm Line Agencies, first to shell Nigeria, as Industrial Sales Representative for Western and Kwara States and later, for a Master’s Degree Programme in Business at the University of Lagos.

• Chief Olumuyiwa Runsewe wrote from Ogbogbo-Ijebu


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