Samson Afolabi Adebajo, One Year On
A MAN of integrity, disciplined, highly principled, with strong Christian and family values, the late Chief Samson Afolabi Adebajo was a well respected role model and an inspiration to many.
A patriarch whose life was worthy of emulation, he was born on March 25, 1928, in Ijebu-Ode, to the late Pa Isaiah Adebajo and the late Madam Abigail Adetounwa Adebajo (nee Obisanya) of Oke-Eri descent. Adebajo’s lineage is that of the Adebajo/Adebanjo royal family of Oba Ademolu, the second Awujale of Ijebu land, as well as the Olisa Oluboyede royal family of Ijebu-Ode.
Unsurprisingly, with his father being the first treasurer of Holy Trinity African Church, Wasimi, Ijebu-Ode, Adebajo’s primary education was at Wasimi African School. He then proceeded to Ijebu-Ode Grammar School in 1944. During this period, he lost both his parents and took on the responsibility of looking after his three younger siblings. In spite of the fact that he had to sit for his exams shortly after this loss and was observed as crying during the exams, his brilliance still shone through and he passed with flying colours.
His intelligence was soon noticed by the Christian Mission Society, which provided him with a scholarship to attend the esteemed St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, for a four-year teacher training course between 1947 and 1950. On completion of his teacher training, he taught at several schools including Anglican Schools in Aiyepe, Ijebu-Ode and Okun-Owa. There are many who testify that he was a very inspirational teacher to them.
Adebajo was however determined to further pursue his education. While providing for his siblings, he saved up to attend the University College of Ibadan (now University of Ibadan) and graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. Prior to enrolling into the university, he had won the heart of a charming young lady, who had been a childhood friend —Miss Frances Adesunmola Adekoya —, also a qualified teacher. Due to his financial commitment to his siblings and to his studies, they both decided to wait before getting married, leading to seven years of courtship. They eventually got married on July 21, 1957, at The Chapel of Resurrection, University of Ibadan. The sermon at their wedding was titled “Togetherness in Marriage” and this underpinned their marriage which was admired by many.
In 1958, Adebajo joined the civil service in the Local Government Service Board in Ibadan. He worked there till 1960, when he was posted to the Office of the Agent General for Western State in London and was accompanied by his wife and his then two young children. He started off as the Recruitment Officer but was soon promoted to Principal Students Officer. At the Students’ Office, his impact on numerous Nigerians studying in the United Kingdom was considerable, with many receiving practical support from him. Moved by the experience of a Nigerian he met by chance on a street in London, he single-handedly solicited the change of the UK rule to allow Nigerian students on completion of their teacher training course to stay and work in the UK.
Adebajo returned to Ibadan in 1963 to work in the then Western Region. He rose through the ranks working across different ministries including the Ministries of Finance, Information, Trade and Industry, Education, and Works and Transport. He rose to become the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Western State, Ibadan.
His vast experience and having obtained a distinction in Industrial Development diploma from the prestigious Arthur D Little Inc, Cambridge Massachusetts, made him desirable to many organisations, which sought to make him a Non-Executive Director on their boards. He served in non executive roles at more than 15 companies spanning the banking, real estate, printing, petroleum and manufacturing sectors. Adebajo was headhunted for his leadership talent to become the first non-expatriate Executive Director of Dunlop Nigeria Industries Limited. He retired from the civil service to take up this position in 1974.
The whole family then relocated to Lagos. His immense contribution to the company earned him the name “the Dunlop man”! Adebajo left Dunlop in 1982 to work with his close friend, Chief A. B. Adebowale, as Group Managing Director at Adebowale Group of Companies. He commanded respect among other manufacturers, serving as a Council Member of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Governing Council of Nigeria Employer’s Consultative Association (NECA) and Chairman of Precision Electrical and Related Employers Association of Nigeria (PEREAN). Adebajo also served as Coordinating Director of Nigerian Lamps Industries Limited. He finally retired from active work in 2000.
Upon his retirement, Adebajo and his wife further threw themselves into serving in the Lord’s vineyard at Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral (AVMCC) where they were already Patron and Matron of several church societies. They served in different capacities in the church including through the Parish Council and Greater Chapter. In 2001, after shunning the many opportunities to take local chieftaincy titles, he gladly took on the honour of “Jagunmolu of Holy Trinity African Church, Wasimi, Ijebu-Ode” which was bestowed on him by his family church.
Adebajo was passionate about supporting young people, particularly in helping them reach their full educational potential. Education was very important to him as he knew the difference it made in developing the individual and in setting them on a path of service to humanity. Many people today are grateful for both the financial and fatherly contribution he made in this area of their lives. His generosity of spirit was such that he was always seeking to do good for others, giving sacrificially of his resources to family, friends and the church alike. This made him a dependable friend, confidant and father figure to many.
He lived an exemplary family life, demonstrating his profound love for his wife, children and grandchildren. His devotion to his wife, Chief (Mrs) F.A. Adebajo was second to none, their almost 57 years marriage being a great inspiration to others. His children were a source of joy to him and he guided each of them in getting to the top of their careers.
One year on, Adebajo is sorely missed but his long, fulfilling and exemplary life, touching the lives of many, continues to be an inspiration. He lived a truly exceptional and extra-ordinarily blessed life.