Tribute: Olayinka Simoyan in the eyes of the people
Every inch of Bashorun Olayinka Simoyan’s selfless life, he lived for the people and country. Therefore, it was not a surprise for the flood of tributes that greeted his call to glory at 85, on October 20, 2019. For Oba Ayodele Irukera it was a very rude shock, totally unexpected and really devastating.
Apart from being a colossal loss to the community, it is also a monumental personal loss! Although we were classmates in the then West Yagba Central School, Egbe where I was only a tiny little boy amongst the Big Brothers, he never took advantage of his age and size over one. Accordingly, we related very well and that paved the way for our close and lasting relationship. The life of Chief Simoyan is such that one cannot fully and judiciously cover in a short tribute to his memory.
Attempting to do so would amount to taking over his penchant love for writing as we all know that he was a renowned author, particularly in the area of the history of Egbe. Some of his works, both published and unpublished, remain reference points. Chief Simoyan was an accomplished civil servant who served meritoriously in Nigeria’s foreign service. He was also a successful banker. Also, Chief Simoyan was a very patriotic personality. He loved Egbe most passionately and contributed to its development diversely. The Egbe Community will miss him dearly.
Notwithstanding the above, the appreciation of an extraordinary civil servant/diplomat according to former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, at a time like this, it is often very difficult to situate the beginning and end of flattery. When words appear “too sweet” to be true, people tend to ignore them or take them at face value. When these words are “too true” to be ignored, people tend to ask if they refer to some gods or goddesses. This is because, in history and across the ages, very few people, male or female, young or old, have had the good fortune of being showered with practically every superlative adjective in the English language. Fewer are the people, alive or dead, for whom these encomiums ring true in every situation. Chief Olayinka Simoyan, was one of those that deserved this.
Olayinka Simoyan was an accomplished and patriotic civil servant. He was a gentleman, a diplomatic officer whose duty postings from Second Secretary to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (1965-68), to Charge d’Affaires to Dahomey (now Benin Republic) between 1971 and 1974 and then Charge d’Affaires to Austria between 1974 and 1976, often placed him in the brick of history. This was especially so in 1975, when I was scheduled to meet him in Vienna, Austria on a state visit after attending the Organization of African Unity (OAU) meeting in Kampala, Uganda. This was not possible because of the 1975 coup that overthrew my government while at the meeting. He was never out of his depth in whatever situation he found himself. That was a mark of greatness.
Personally, I will continue to remember Chief Simoyan as a most caring husband, father, bridge builder among nations, as well as a disciplined, selfless civil servant/diplomat. I believe that, by whatever standard, you cannot get a more caring, extraordinary and talented man.
Death may have silenced Ambassador Simoyan’s physical voice, but his works will always be the loud and articulate voice that cannot be missed in the wilderness. His works will continue to speak for him, and like all past national heroes, his labour of love for Nigeria will never be in vain. For Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President the passing away of Olayinka Olasehinde Simoyan, an elder statesman, and a diplomat of great repute was a sad one. We met during my first posting as an officer of the Nigerian Customs Service at the Idiroko border crossing post along the Lagos – Porto Novo Highway in 1971, shortly after completing my training. During that period, Basorun Simoyan was the Charge d’Affaires at the Nigerian Embassy in the then Republic of Dahomey (now Republic of Benin). He was a very accommodating and hospitable officer who was always ready to provide support to needy Nigerians in the area. As a young Customs Officer, I found his residence a great refuge for weekend escapes. The late Basorun Simoyan was a quintessential diplomat who was very loyal to his profession and who also had a highly dignified life as a leader in the banking industry.
Although the professional callings that brought us together in 1971 later separated us when I was transferred out of the Idiroko Border crossing in 1972, we remained in regular contact with each other for a very long time afterwards. What a joy at the hearing of the way and manner our great Basorun Simoyan departed to the world beyond. Echoed J.B. Adeyemi (Fas-Ade) Oba of Ijalu According to him, it was a glorious and precious death (Num 23:10, Psalm 116:15), not death after a protracted illness in pain and agony. Oh! Glory be to God! Basorun Simoyan’s life was loaded with God’s blessing. I could summarize his life in this phrase – “love livelihood”.
Everything I know about him was driven by love; love for God and his church, love for his children and family, love for distant and close relations, and also love for his town (Egbe Mekun) and everyone in the community. He wrote many books on the history of Egbe to enlighten the upcoming young ones. He was very kind, merciful and generous. He shaped people’s destiny by providing employment for them at all levels, in the banks, federal and state ministries and companies. His impact on people’s lives cannot be quantified. What a great asset to the community of Egbe and its environs. He gave life and hope to the hopeless. If we have one more of his type in Egbe, there will be a turnaround in the personal development of the people of Egbe.
For his early education, the young Olayinka Simoyan was tutored at home by his father. He later went to work with American SIM missionaries, Reverend Harry and Garnet Wagoner, after which he attended the prestigious Titcombe College. Olayinka passed out of Titcombe College with the top grade, First Division, in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination. That automatically earned him the Northern Nigeria Regional scholarship to study at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria. Olayinka later studied public administration at the University of Ife – Ibadan Branch. He joined the Ministry of External Affairs, Olayinka was the Second Secretary at Nigeria House.
He was later appointed Charge d’ Affaires of Nigeria to the Republic of Dahomey (now Benin). In June 1974, he was transferred to Vienna, Austria as Charge d’Affaires. In February 1977, Olayinka Simoyan withdrew from the foreign service to become a banker, with the International Bank for West Africa (later known as Afribank) where he rose to become an Executive Director in 1984. Thereafter, he returned to the University of Ibadan as a postgraduate student to complete his work on Yagba History. He was a prolific writer and researcher and authored several books. Most recently, his book, “Oibo Egbe, Reflections on the Legacy of Thomas Titcombe in Nigeria”, was launched on the 1stof November, 2017. His involvement in the progress and the welfare of the people of his hometown, Egbe, was honoured with a chieftaincy title, the Bashorun of Egbeland. He was a member of the Elegbe’s Special Advisory Council and served as the Chairman of the historical subcommittee of the Egbe 2008 Centenary Committee. He remained a close confidant of the Elegbe of Egbe until his death. Chief Olayinka O. Simoyan was a gentleman to the core, a devout Christian who carried himself with dignity.
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