By Festus Adedayo
There are some persons – even though very few – who climb to new class from very humble backgrounds, and who still keep a potent link with the facts and situations of their humble background.
Having known the tragedy of poverty, they try all they can to ensure that the number of those currently battling it is reduced to the minimum.
These very few people, it is said, take this approach first, as a way of depopulating that class of poor people and as a memorabilia of the unpleasant period they spent in lack and poverty.
One person who personifies the latter category is Zaccheus Adelabu Adedeji, erstwhile Commissioner for Finance in Oyo State. Adedeji clocked 40 on Monday Jamuary 8, 2018. He regales those who come close to him with the myth-like facts of his growing-up years. They were years lived in the countryside, in a village called Iwo-Ate, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. They were years when cock-crow met his family inside the thick forest cultivating cash crops and sipping contaminated water from the streams..
From childhood, Adedeji manifested some qualities which marked him out from his peers. His sense of reasoning and ability to penetrate issues with teleological clarity was baffling. His teachers in primary and secondary schools noticed this rare quality and didn’t shy away from underscoring it. When he gained admission to the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Adedeji manifested this quality at a far clearer level.
As an accountancy student, he combined the native intelligence that he scooped from years of engaging elderly ones in mental athletics at the countryside, with the modern modem that he learnt in school.
Perhaps the area where Adedeji, often called Zacch by those who knew him, demonstrated an uncommon deposit of nature’s wizardry is his grasp of issues of life. Many were thrown into bafflement when they learnt that the young man who demonstrated such a precociousness and grasp of the complex issues of life was born only in 1978.
Those who knew him during his student years told the tale of an extremely brilliant young boy with an eye on the top. They concluded that the challenges of being at the top didn’t meet him suddenly. He had prepared for this period.
After his national diploma, Adedeji crossed over to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife to study accounting. At moments of joke-cracking, the young Zcacheus would tell anyone who cared to listen that he might not have proficiency in any other subjects but when it comes to mathematical calculations and accounting procedures, providence had deposited the modus operandi of solving knotty problems in his oblongata.
The humility which he has in a huge deposit would not allow him to acknowledge that this was same way providence had tossed deposited in him the art of solving, with mathematical precision, the life problems of many who came to him with their problems of existence.
It was said that he was still a student at the Obafemi Awolowo Univeristy when he attended an aptitude test conducted by the multinational giant, Procter & Gamble where he came tops among the hundreds who sat for it. Rarely ever allowing a nugget it discovered being snapped off its palm, P & G was said to have snatched up the young Zaccheus and started appropriating his God-given endowments, even as he continued to wind up his course of study at the university. From there, he moved to the top of the multinational company, becoming one of the top management staff of the American corporation. He was there till 2011 when he took a leave of absence to participate in the Abiola Ajimobi government of Oyo State as its pioneer Commissioner for Finance.
While he was commissioner, Adedeji demonstrated an understanding of finance beyond comprehension. He exuded a depth that was said to be legendary, which he spiced up with rare native intelligence. Beyond accounting and figures, Zacch understands the facts and issues of life more than even those old enough to be his father.
Apart from finance which he had a legendary grasp of, he also has a grasp of the vocation of politics that he was just coming into. When he lectured his father’s age mates on how the political should be run, he cut the picture of a young man who was far older than his age. He marveled those who had bested Methusellah in their years in politics. Adedeji is a professional in politics, a technocrat who demonstrates that it is not the age of the man but the age of his ideas that marks the man out.
If you say that the difference he made in the places he worked, especially in government, was borne out of the voracious appetite for reading the lives of others that he cultivated, or his humility, you would not be wrong. He gobbles volumes of books, especially biographies, scooping messages from the strides of great men and learning from their mistakes in life decisions.
One of his imperishable acquisitions is the Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity by Matt Miller. Adedeji engages his friends with the thinking that the problems of today and the future cannot be solved by the current thinking and past nostalgic feelings. That is why, upon electing to move on from active participation in government, he found it easy to integrate himself back to the private sector by founding a consultancy firm which provides Public Finance and Management Consulting services to government at all levels, including its parastatals and agencies..
Going by the filth and scum that mark out current politicking in Nigeria, it would be a misnomer to call the young man a politician. If you engage him in a discourse on any subject around the world, everything emanating from him will sound refreshingly different from what you had earlier heard. You will come away from a discourse with him with the impression that you had met a man who probably had researched the issue of discussion before hand and ostensibly experienced it in life. This conclusion would be due to how Adedeji, in discussing life matters, approximates real life situations into theories so as to drive home his points.
His vastness about life matters, socio-political issues and matters of our contemporary society belie his young age. From infrastructural finance to education and agriculture, health to politics and development studies, Adedeji provides a perspective that is refreshing and markedly different from the rest of the crowd. He will not only analyze and discuss these issues at length, he proffers solutions to them and provides the geography to tread if one doesn’t want to be entangled by the cobwebs.
Even though he understands local politics, he deploys his intellectual depth and real life situations to explain how it should be run. Today, there is nostalgia in the Oyo State government and the state in general for what beneficiaries call the Zacch Years which is basically euphemism for his generosity in terms of material, time and advice for those who needed it.
A philanthropist who wants to deposit something to remember in the life of anyone he encounters, the story was told of one early morning when he and one of his friends, sitting in a car, had searched frantically for another friend’s house in an Ibadan neighbouhood without any success. Frustrated, they were compelled to ask two young men they stumbled upon on the road who were apparently coming from an all night vigil of a church. Happy that the two young men had solved a complex riddle for them, Adedeji was said to have given the two young men a financial assistance which must have made them to conclude that God answered their all-night prayers by sending to them that early morning an angel with Ogbomoso tribal marks on his cheeks.
Here is wishing a technocrat, financial genius and a man whose skull, like a biographer once wrote about French philosopher, Voltaire, contains ideas that can move nations forward, a very happy 40th birthday.
*Dr. Adedayo is on the editorial board of the Tribune