Glorious Exit For Engr Olajonpo Awosika
Scores of family members, friends, colleagues and dignitaries from all walks of life besieged the Archibishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja, Lagos, penultimate Thursday, November 19, for the burial service of the late Engineer Olajonpo Awosika, a former Commissioner for Works in the old Ondo State.
The funeral rites of the renowned engineer, which began with a night of tributes at Excellence Hotel, Ogba, a Lagos suburb on Tuesday, November 17, witnessed several dignitaries who had come to recount the unforgettable memories of the man many described as disciplined, honest and kindhearted.
His bosom friend and former boss, Chief Olabode George, described the late Jonpo, as the deceased was fondly called during his eventful life time, as an extra ordinary being and his alter-ego. George said since they met in the 50s, he has simply not met any other person like ‘Jonpo’. He described his values and honesty as second to none and that his passing has simply made life more meaningless to him.
In an emotion-laden voice, Roli, wife of George, the former military governor of Ondo State under whom Engineer Olajonpo served, described him as her ‘guardian angel’ that was always there for her, her kids and family as a whole.
Similarly, Rear Admiral Abiodun Olukoya (rtd), a former governor who took over from George in Ondo State, who was also present at the tribute night, relished how tenacious and committed ‘Jonpo’ was on his job. He described him as a key member of his administration and that he contributed a lot to make his tenure a success.
Members of the Archbishop Vining Church, where late ‘Jonpo’ headed the council meeting during his sojourn on earth, humorously recounted his acts through a short play where he was depicted as a time-conscious, thorough, no-nonsense yet generous man. They replicated how he gave to the needy and assisted the church quietly.
Baba, as many called him, was said to have kept account of all the activities during the church service and would scold whoever erred in a subtle, jovial manner during the council meetings. It was said that he never kept anyone waiting, and he never worked with the highly celebrated ’Nigerian time’. Rather, he would always get to functions right on time.
As a mark of honour for his respect for time, the three-day programme for his burial rites began at exactly the time they were scheduled to begin, without a minute late.
The Christian wake-keep, which held Wednesday, November 18, had a larger number of people in attendance. Tunji Alapini, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, and Husband to Ibipo, the deceased younger sister, described the late ‘Jonpo’ as an older brother, a confidant and one of the two people who could talk to him about anything and he would listen. He described the void he left in his life as one that cannot be filled.
Oba Adeleke Adelekan, the Alaperu of Iperu, also described Engineer Awosika as a caring man. He said, even though he met him through his friend, AIG Alapini, he was there for him.
The Christian wake keep was coordinated by the chapel of St. Luke’s The Physician of the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja.
By 9a.m on Thursday, November 18, family friends and dignitaries were seated as undertakers from Ebony funeral home brought in the remains of Jonpo in an Ebony Casket for the final service at Archibishop Vining Memorial Church.
Present at the burial service were Engr Funsho Kopolukun, former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; Prof. Ibidapo Obe, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos; former Inspector General of Police, IGP, M.A.K Smith; Rear Admiral Abiodun Olukoya; Most Reverend Benjamin Kwashi, the Arch. Bishop of Jos; Chief Bode George, among other dignitaries.
After the service, alongside some closely knitted family members, the corpse was taken to the Ikoyi cemetery for burial. His children, Olufunke, Tiwalola, Mowaninuola and Olamitanka all relished the fond memories of their father whom they said loved them unconditionally and showed them the path of dignity, honesty and hard work.
Olajonpo Omosola was born in Ondo town on June 5, 1947 to the late Ayoola Joseph and Late Omotunde Juliana Awosika (nee Olowosuko) as the third child and second boy of seven children. His father was a civil servant, whilst his mother was a renowned trader. Jonpo, was the favourite child of his grandmother Ajimodeke Awosika. He would later move with her to Lagos in 1952 at the tender age of five. His parents and siblings joined them shortly afterwards.
Jonpo was enrolled at the Massey School, Tokunbo-Lagos Island for a year after which he was admitted in St. John’s Primary School, Aroloya. There, he met and established a lifetime friendship with Olabode George and Bola Ogunkoya. In 1960, Jonpo spent a year at the National High School, Ebutte Meta after which he was admitted into the CMS Grammar School. He was a member of the school choir, an avid basketball player and member of the Yoruba Cultural Society. He later became the senior prefect of the school whilst he was in upper six and graduated with honours in 1967.
In 1968, he was admitted into the department of Civil Engineering, University of Lagos. As an undergraduate, he took part in campus politics by making campaign posters for his close friends Yemi Adefulu, Akin Odunsi & co. It was there he met and fell in love with a shy undergraduate from College of Education – her name was Aderonke George and she would later become his wife on April 28, 1973.
After graduation, Jonpo was employed from 1971 to 1978 by the Federal Ministry of Works, Lagos, starting out as a pupil engineer under the mentorship of Engr. A.B.O Ajai. He was the site engineer during the construction of the Maryland/ Odo-Alaro underpass and in subsequent years, regaled in reminding his children that his wedding ring was buried within the bridge’s concrete columns.
As an engineer, he dabbled into fashion design and tailoring with his former classmate and colleague, Bolaji Giwa, when they created the label Jon Blast, a fashion outfit exclusively for men. 1977 proved a turning point in his life when he picked up an appointment as a director in the Malaysian International Company (MINCO) in Jos, Plateau state. His stint in MINCO exposed him to hinterlands in the north. From Bagauda in Kano to Kainji in Niger and Odubo in Bauchi, designing and supervising dual carriageways and bridges which are still plied today.
Jonpo later partnered with his fellow Grammarian and best man Sewanu Togonu-Bickersteth, an architect, as well as the late Prof Shofoluwe, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, to set up Joint Konsult, a 33-year-old Architectural, Civil Engineering and Planning Consultancy outfit in 1982.
Between 1988 and 1992, he served as the Commissioner of Works in Ondo State under his childhood friend, Commodore Olabode George, the then Administrator of the State and later Commodore Abiodun Olukoya, who took over from George. He and his wife relocated to Lagos between 1999 and 2000
He loved to spend time with his family, teaching his children to play squash, a game in which he won many trophies. He became a Rotarian in the early 80s and by the mid-eighties, rose to become the President of the Rotary Club of Jos, formerly District 912.
Jonpo was a devoted Anglican. His widow, Aderonke Awosika said life has been tough since she lost her prayer partner and a lifetime friend who was disciplined yet sweet and humorous. Olajonpo Omosola Awosika is survived by his wife, children and grand-children.
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