Pa Animashaun at 90: A lesson in humility, sacrifice in leadership
“Almost any difficulty will move in the face of honesty. When I am honest, I never feel stupid. And when I am honest, I am automatically humble.”
The above quote by Hughes Pratter, vividly encapsulates the personality and exemplary leadership style of Pa Adebisi Teliat Animashaun, a leader, mentor and activist, who recently clocked 90 years.
In a speech during an event to mark Animashaun’s 90th birthday, Kayode Steve Adaramoye described the celebrant as a frontrunner who is committed, dedicated and has sacrificed to lay the foundation that has shaped and is shaping many lives, thereby providing priceless memories. “It is one thing to be a coach; it is another thing to be a mentor,” Adaramoye said.
While delving into his early life, Adaramoye said though Animashaun manifested traits of rebellion in his childhood, he later became an activist, fighting for the rights of others.
Animashaun graduated as a Textile Technologist in London. He subsequently came into the employ of the Nigerian Textile Mill at Oba Akran, Ikeja. While there, he could not stand the oppression, injustice and repression of the black workers by the white men.
He immediately followed this up with a written petition to the parent company in Italy, highlighting the repression and oppression of Nigerians by their white colleagues. As a result, the authorities directed that the complaints be investigated.
Adaramoye said in response to the mutiny against the established status quo, the management plotted to compromise Animashaun. “They asked him to send his foreign account, which he opened while schooling in Blackburn in England so that they could put some money in it, to bribe and silence him.”
He said that based on Animashaun’s consciousness that such a gift is destructive, he simply replied: “Thanks a lot for your “lovely” gesture. Kindly change the money into Nigerian currency and share it among the Nigerian junior staff in the company.
“Animashaun’s employer launched a subterfuge. It saw a rebellion that must be crushed in its infancy. It must tame this shrewd with untemper mortar! Consequently, he was redeployed to the hazardous lifeless spinning section of the company. To say the least, for a man of his calibre, it was a journey to Siberia!”
Adaramoye explained that for the company to further make him prostrate, they denied him the 13th-month salary, which each worker of the company was entitled to at the end of the year.
Continuing, he said: “It is pretty necessary to say that his wife vehemently remonstrated his activism. In fact, she told him bluntly that their children were too young to be put in the ravenous mouth of hunger and deprivation. And she herself did not sign for a marriage of “suffer-suffer!
“Animashaun rebuffed his wife. He told her in unmistakable words that she either takes him as he finds him or takes her exit from the matrimonial alliance. He further told her that he could not abandon his God-given assignment to the convenience of a wife.”
Animashaun, drinking from the fountain of Awolowo in his Adventure in Power, was quoted thus: “Relying on the justness of the cause which God had, over the years, inspired me to espouse, I was not in any doubt as to the triumph of that cause. In the faith, of that ultimate victory, I made up my mind to go forward and fight and do so every inch of the way with courage, grimness, resolution, relentlessness and defiance.”
Adaramoye recalled that the day Animashaun was denied the 13th-month salary; he received divine approval of his assignment. “On his way home, on that day, he bought a newspaper, where he saw a raffle draw, which he played and miraculously won the exact amount they had denied him!
“On getting home, he told his wife that his 13th-month salary had been paid, and she received the news with overwhelming joy!
“When the Oyinbo people’s attacks were becoming fiercer and ferociously corrosive, he thought of relocating to Canada. He went to tell his father, Alhaji Yusuf Ibironke Animashaun that he wanted to travel to Canada. The elder Animashaun asked, “Which one is “Kandara”? You are not going anywhere. Please stay here and make Nigeria great.”
While recalling how they met, Adaramoye, who said he knew Baba through one of his friends, Pastor Dapo Adeniyi, noted that since their paths crossed, he has been a good mentor, a confidant, a helper and a benefactor. “I remembered when I was contesting in 2003 for the House of Representatives in Ekiti, Baba was the first to donate money to finance my cause.
“In the course of our relationship, he lectured me on doing good always and taught me the law of Karma. He reminded me constantly how to keep a clean hand, a pure heart and sundry other virtues. I can confidently say that I share a lot with him. He introduced a lot of people to me, including Mama Elizabeth Mobolaji Alabi, another great soul.
“Animashaun’s consciousness very early in life made him a rebel and whenever he rebelled, he became more conscious. Blame him not! Remember
‘Rebels and non-conformists are often the pioneers and designers of change,’ crooned Indira Gandhi. ‘It is not rebelling that makes trouble, but trouble that makes rebels,’ Ruth Messinger insisted. Our own Wole Soyinka, in his own immortal contribution, said, ‘The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.’
“About 12 years ago, Baba was sorely sick and got admitted at Ikeja General Hospital (LASUTH). On his sick bed, he became an instant leader of the sick, advocating for better treatment for the other patients. He fought some nurses’ dereliction and negligence of their duties to the patients. Perhaps because of this, he was discharged prematurely. People thought he was going to die.”
He said when he returned home from the hospital, after some time, against all expectations, Baba rose up like a phoenix and one day, he jumped on his bicycle and rode far and near to the amazement of all and still continued with his activism!
“Animashaun holds court in his house at 12, Modupe Street, Ikeja, where he solves problems among the community members on a daily basis. He, in 1968 invited some of his friends to establish Ikeja Club, assuming the role of Secretary, conceding the posts of President and Vice President to his friends – a lesson in humility and sacrifice in leadership, in spite of him being the initiator.
“At M.A.N Centre, Animashaun with some people donated the building at the Police station, which means the security of the environment that houses the mighty and the low, including Baba Miliki, Chief Ebenezer Fabiyi Obey, the legendary Juju music exponent.”
Adaramoye, who portrayed the celebrant as a leader, providing priceless memories, said: “It is one thing to be a coach, it is another thing to be a mentor. A completely different thing is to be a leader…
“Now, how do we celebrate this quintessential icon? How do we lionise this paragon? How do we praise this Iroko that lived tall and untainted in the forest of a thousand demons?
“How do we honour the eagle that soared far above the fiery burning mountains? How enough do we extol the virtues of this blazing sword of selflessness and empathy? How enough do we eulogise the one and only Adebisi Teliat Animashaun, the titan, the illustrious Prince of Modakeke?”