By Seun Awogbenle
One of my established pattern, over the last 5 years is to speak with the people, I consider very dear on their birthday. It is a ritual that I have sustained over the years, because I have come to realize that it is perhaps the only chance I get in the year to speak with some people, but for most, it is an opportunity to express my gratitude for their invaluable role and contribution, either as family, friends, associates, acquaintances or as any other categorization that conveys kinship.
For Mr Ashaolu, calling him on the morning of his birthday, Saturday, February 26, 2022, was not just a demonstration of that commitment, it was also a rare moment, of camaraderie with a man whom, I have come to admire for his highest ideals, deep sense of commitment to duty, and strength of character; particularly that of humility.
At exactly 9:46am, our conversation ensued “Good Morning sir, and Happy birthday to you, I wish you many happy returns, and cheers to the good life” he responded and said, “Thank you my brother, thank you for all your support”.
We went on to speak for another 2 minutes, we spoke about our mutual interest – the media, his commitment to APCON – Advertising Practitioners council of Nigeria and our NIPR membership. I ended by asking him to enjoy his day, and he promised “I will”.
In the preceding days, we have had to speak more often than usual. About a month before then, he had called me, to ask my input on a project he was leading, and I gladly obliged. We have had to stay in touch more frequently since then.
Before this time, Mr Ashaolu, had remained a solid pillar of support, in the build up to the presentation of my book, he was very charitable, and constantly reassured me even when I was in doubt.
This was why, when Hajiya Bilikisu Oniyangi, the former commissioner for Education, informed me of his sudden death on Sunday night, I could not get over my shock. I responded by saying, this is a big loss to the PDP, a visibly terrified Oniyangi, immediately quipped “if there is any word more than big”.
Hajiya Oniyangi was very right, Mr Ashaolu, “Egbon or Oga mi sir”, as I always called him, was a very unassuming and all-round gentleman, who had the highest respect for everyone, irrespective of age, class or social status.
In Egbon, I found a deeply gifted mind and an incredibly talented human, who deployed his skills, for the advancement of common good. He had an uncanny eye for talent, and was a good manager of people.
He understood the importance of team effort, and remained a professional to the core. In all that he did, it was impossible to deny his class, and brilliance. In like manner, he embraced everyone warts and all, particularly the younger generation.
I am still devastated, I can hardly reconcile how that a man I spoke to barely 24 hours before, could be described as no more. But I am reminded, by the holy book, that the righteous are taken away before the evil day!
May the heavens receive him, and the light of God lead him home. May God keep his family and comfort all of us who mourn.
By Seun Awogbenle