Olayinka Simoyan (Feb. 1, 1934 – Oct. 29, 2019): Diplomat, banker and author
Diplomat, banker and author, Nigeria’s former Charge d’Affaires to Benin Republic and Austria, Chief Olayinka Olasehinde Simoyan, Bashorun of Egbe, died recently. He was 85 years old.
Chief Olayinka Simoyan was born to Mr. Angus Aremu and Madam Yeyeolu Simoyan in Egbe, Kogi State, Nigeria on February 1, 1934.
The young Olayinka was tutored by his father in his early years, and later attended the SIM Central School and Titcombe College, both in Egbe, Kogi State. He then attended the Nigerian College of Technology in Zaria and later studied public administration at the University of Ife (Ibadan branch).
As he embarked on his diplomatic career, he studied at Universite de Montpellier in France and the American University in Washington, DC. He also received a Certificate in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Studies. After leaving the Foreign Service, he trained as a banker at the BIAO Banking Training School in Paris, France. He also studied at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru (Jos), earning the designation of “m.n.i.” (Member of the National Institute). He undertook postgraduate studies at the University of Ibadan and wrote a doctoral dissertation on Yagba history.
During Chief Simoyan’s illustrious career, he served as Second Secretary at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC between 1965 and 1968. He was later Charge d’Affaires of the Nigerian embassy in Benin Republic (1971-74) and Austria (1974-76). While serving in Vienna, Austria, he was Nigeria’s alternate permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Panel, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and a permanent member of the Nigerian delegation to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
He was Deputy Chief of Protocol for the Ministry of External Affairs during the Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 (FESTAC ’77). After leaving the Foreign Service, he entered the banking industry as the Deputy General Manager of International Bank for West Africa (later known as Afribank) and served as Executive Director between 1984 and 1986.
Chief Simoyan was appointed Bashorun (Prime Minister) of Egbe in 1977. His other traditional titles are Omoba ni Ketu (Prince of Ketu, Benin Republic) and Gbokunniyi (uplifter of the people of Okunland). He had a brief stint in politics in 1997-98 as a gubernatorial aspirant for Kogi State.
Bashorun Simoyan was the patron general of the Teachers of Yoruba Language and Culture of Nigeria and a member of the Nigerian Historical Society and the Association of Nigerian Authors. He was also a member of the Bible Society of Nigeria, the Chartered Institute of Bankers (UK) and the National Geographic Society (USA). At various times, he served as a board member for Egbe Hospital, Titcombe College, Mushin High School and the Nigerian Heartcare Foundation.
His publications include historical works (Egbe Chronicle, Egbe Notes and Oibo Egbe) and works of fiction, A Life of Life and Rainbow in the Night. Other written works include Humor on the World, a book on diplomatic jokes and his autobiography, which are pending publications. He was a columnist for Sunday Times from 1999 to 2004, and an occasional columnist for The Nation and The Sun newspapers.
He had many hobbies, including farming, collection of rare coins, pebbles, stamps and paintings. He enjoyed country walks and was a lover of animals. He had various pets over the course of his lifetime, including a deer, a monkey, dogs and birds.
As documented in his book Oibo Egbe, an account of early missionary work in Egbe, Chief Simoyan’s early life was “enshrined in the SIM/ECWA Christian institutions.” He further acknowledged that he became a Christian on his own conviction in 1945, while attending the SIM Sunday School. He was a member of the First ECWA church in Egbe and the ECWA church in Ebute Metta, Lagos. A man of conviction and integrity, he was committed to helping and encouraging people, a Divine mandate that he fulfilled till his last day.
Family was of the utmost importance to Chief Simoyan. He married Modupeola Afolabi on the November 23, 1963 and they had three daughters and three sons. She passed away on April 18, 2008, after which he left Lagos permanently for Egbe. He spent two of the last three months of his life visiting his children and grandchildren in the United States and Lagos and passed away peacefully in his home at Egbe on October 29, 2019, a little less than a month after his return.
He is survived by his children, eight grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of others to whom he was a father figure, trusted friend and mentor. He will be greatly missed.