Isaac Aremu Omotosho (1946 – 2015), A Tribute
THE business world lost one of its own with the death, recently, of Chief Isaac Aremu Omotosho. Popularly and affectionately known by the acronym Onward, the late Omotosho was born on May 12, 1946, into the family of Mr. Tijani Omotosho and Mrs. Wuraola Omotosho.
They belonged to the Oyenitan family of the Ekuasha Chieftaincy House, Odo-Oja, Ikere-Ekiti. The father, Mr. Tijani Omotosho was a renowned commercial bread-baker at Ondo town where the mother also engaged in trading activities.
Isaac was thus born into business, learning the rope from his parents to be the shrewd businessman he was. His parents provided him the opportunity of formal education, beginning his elementary school at St. Joseph Primary School, Ikere-Ekiti and finishing up at A.U.D Primary School Yemoja, Ondo.
While at Ondo, he was actively involved in the bread-baking business with his father as well as helping his mother in her petty business. Isaac, on completing elementary school and earning the first school leaving certificate, had a choice to either seek admission into a secondary school or go into business.
However, the entrepreneur in him prevailed. His first employment was with Niger Radio, a subsidiary of John Holts Limited, where he was soon discovered to be a young man with great talent and promise. He was equally as industrious, imaginative and hardworking, as he was dogged, honest and accountable.
These attributes recommended him favourably to his superiors, and he was soon exposed to different aspects of the enterprise, gaining such expertise that would later serve him in good stead.
He was never disadvantaged by his limited education. He interacted comfortably with men and women of diverse social strata, helped by superior native intelligence and cosmopolitan outlook which more than compensated for what could have been his shortcomings.
His real journey into the business world, on his right, began in 1968 when he was only 22 years old. He resigned from paid work to plunge into what could have been a risk to ordinary mortals.
With just about 365 pound, six shillings and three pence he saved from his meagre salary, Isaac established his Onward Electronic business. His fiancée and later wife, Miss Margaret Aina Olokebi, suggested the business name to him.
Margaret, a great athlete in her own right, was then a student at St. Catherine Girls’ Grammar School, Owo. The business grew rapidly such that by the early 1970s, Isaac had started to import transistor radio from Europe.
The creation of Ondo State from the Western State in 1976 greatly helped his cause. He took the opportunity it provided to maximum advantage. The influx of civil servants into the new state, as well as the expansion of Akure town with movements from the surrounding towns and villages, created a most attractive opportunity for business to prosper.
Isaac was encouraged to take a major plunge and the Onward Electrical Industries was born. The industry assembled refrigerators, air-conditioners, turn-table and speakers, among other electronic equipment. Like an oasis in the desert, the community of diverse classes latched on the opportunity provided them to purchase their electrical goods right from the factory, within their own community. Onward consequently became a household name, and the business of a charming and humble entrepreneur blossomed.
A great dimension was introduced into Isaac’s business interests when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, then Military Head of State, visited Ondo State in 1984.
The General met with the business community and shared his government policy of wanting to open up the economy to allow more involvement of local industrialists in the manufacturing industry.
Buhari talked of prohibiting importation of products that could be produced locally, such as bottle caps. Isaac was one of those businessmen and women that responded enthusiastically to this clarion call as he proceeded to establish Omotosho Crowncaps Limited. His new venture soon gained the control of major breweries in the country.
The company produced caps for Gulder, Guinness, Trophy, and many other breweries. Isaac later diversified his investment into Omomag Plastics, Omomag Vegetable Oil, Onward Cartoon and Packaging Industry, Omomag Table Water, and Onward Aluminium.
The business soon became a conglomerate, as it branched from Akure into his hometown of Ikere, Lagos and Abuja, providing job opportunities for many. Isaac was not selfishly consumed by his business expansionist ambitions; he was a great family man and one who had time for friendship.
He married his darling wife, Mrs. Margaret Aina Omotosho (nee Olokebi) whom he loved to simply call MA, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ikere-Ekiti, in 1970.
The late Isaac was a great socialite, a regular face at the Recreation Club, Oke Eda, Akure. He was at several times the president of the club. His exploit in social circle was also felt at the prestigious Inland Club, Ado-Ekiti.
He acquired quite a number of chieftaincy titles which included the Ajiroba of his hometown of Ikere-Ekiti, the Jemilua of his business base of Akureland, as well as the Bobadoye of the Ifishin community, among others.
He spearheaded the launching of funds for the construction of Ikere City Hall, a feat that earned him the honorary title of Omo Ayiye of Ikere — a child whose usefulness and value has no limits. A very good Christian, Isaac was a prominent member of the Anglican Communion.
He contributed immensely to promote evangelism and the physical outlook of the Church. He was the Asaju Ijo of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ikere-Ekiti, as well as a member of Christian Endeavour League of the Cathedral of St. David, Akure.
Isaac Aremu Omotosho died on March 24, 2015, at an Indian hospital, survived by his loving wife, Margaret, as well as worthy children and grand children. May his soul find peace with the Almighty God.