By Eric Teniola
THE South West governors have reconstituted the board of directors of Odua Company Limited. The new board is headed by Dr, Lawrence Olusegun Aina (65), past President of West Africa Bankers Association and former President of Otan-Ayegbaju Development Association in Osun State.
Other members of the new board are Chief Segun Ojo, a former Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning in Ondo State, Dr. Tola Kasali who served as Commissioner for Rural Development in Lagos State between 2003 and 2007, Barrister Seni Adio, SAN, the Managing Partner of Copley Partners (Solicitors & Barristers, Mr. Olusegun Olujobi who is ex-Accenture and Energy Industry player and Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, a renowned banker and immediate past Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in Ogun State.
The group managing director of the company is Mr. Adewale Abiodun Raji, a former Managing Director of PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc., who was recently reappointed for another term. The inauguration of the new board is a welcome development, for Odua Investment Company is one of the three regional groupings in the country. The other two bodies are the Interim Common Services Agency for Northern Region and Eastern States Interim Assets and Liabilities Agency, ESIALA, which we don’t hear of, these days.
Profitability was achieved by Odua Company between 2014 and 2018, while an unprecedented dividend of N1.2billion was paid. The fulcrum of credible strategic partnership is gradually taking shape with the recent strides in the Imeko Tomato to Paste Project and the Westlink Iconic Estate JV at Alakia, Ibadan.
These and many more like the Power Generation Project at Ikeja, The Farming Company Limited JV at Oke-Ako Ekiti, the Vitalo Brand Project are initiatives that are unfolding to grow the revenue base of the Company. The Odua Investment Company is an offshoot of an Economic body of the Action Group, which came to power in 1952 in Western Region. The Action Group (Egbe Afenifere) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo was formed on March 21, 1951 at the Oke-Bola residence of Chief Awolowo in Ibadan.
The house still stands today. I remember with nostalgia when I was a reporter in the Nigerian Tribune in 1972, I used to collect stories on phone in that house on the Oniru land case dispatched by the Nigerian Tribune correspondent in Lagos, Mr Bayo Osiyemi. It was that time I met Chief Awolowo for the first time in my life. I almost fainted seeing the man bearing in mind the myth I grew up with about Chief Awolowo in my home town in Idanre in Ondo state. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, its leader later stated that the party had been formed by himself and seven others at a meeting in his house in Ibadan on March 26, 1950.
The seven others who formed Action Group with Chief Awolowo were Chief Samuel Olatunbosun Shonibare (1920-1964), then manager, UAC (Technical) Ltd, Lagos, later Managing Director of the Amalgamated Press of Nigeria Limited and Federal Publicity Secretary of the Action Group; Chief Abiodun Akerele, a lawyer; S.T. Oredein, Secretary of the British-American Tobacco Company (BATC) Workers’ Union, later Principal organizing Secretary of the Action Group in the Western Region; Olatunji Dosunmu, a journalist, later Administrative Secretary of the Action Group in the Western Region; J. Ola Adigun, a journalist; Adeniga Akinsanya, Manager of the African Press Ltd, Ibadan and Ayo Akinsanya, a chemist and a druggist.
At the convention of the party later, the following were elected – Chief Obafemi Awolowo (President), Dr. J.A. Doherty (Vice-President, West), Dr. E.O. Awduche (Vice-President, East), Alhaji Sule Maito (Vice-President, North), Mr. Ayotunde Rosiji (Federal Secretary), Alhaji S. O. Gbadamosi (Federal Treasurer), Mr. S.O. Shonibare (Federal Publicity Secretary), Mr. A.M.O. Akinloye (Legal Adviser, West), Mr. A. Adeoba (Legal Adviser, East), Rev. E.O. Alayande (Party Chaplain), Malam M.S. Yabagi (Party Imam), Dr. Akinola Maja (Father of the Party), Chief S.L. Akintola (Deputy Leader), Mr. S.T. Oredein (Principal Organising Secretary), Mr. O. Agunbiade- Bamishe (Party Manager) and Mr. Olatunji Dosunmu (Administrative Secretary).
The other members of the party at the convention were Chief F.R.A. Williams, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief T. A. Odutola, Chief G. Akin Deko, Mr. M.A. Ajasin, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, Chief S.A. Tinubu, Mr. S.O. Ighodaro, Mr. Nduka Eze, Mr. O.N. Rewane, Mr. E. O. Eyo, Mr. S. G. Ikoku, Prince R.N. Takon, Mr. A.J.U. Ekong, Mr. S.J. Una, Mr. Okoi Arikpo, Mr. J.A. Agba, Chief Okim Okwa Ahang, Mr. George Lawson, Miss R.T. Brown, Mr. B.E. Mbalu, Mr. J.S. Olawoyin, Chief D.O. Sanyaolu, Mr. D. Adesina, Mr. M.O. Ikongbe, Mr. O.Olu Pinnock, Mr.J.S. Tejuoso, Mr. G.B. Olowu, Alfa K.S. Oba, Mr. D.O. Ogunmade, Mr. Omoniyi Olanipekun, Mr. Peter Onu and Mr. Alex Peters.
The party held its first inauguration in Owo in the present Ondo State on April 28, 1952 and they were hosted by the legendary Olowo of Owo, Sir James Titus Olateru Olagbegi II (1910-1998). The motto of the party was “freedom for all, life more abundant”. It was the party’s belief that “the people of Western Nigeria in particular, and of Nigeria in general, would have life more abundant when they enjoy freedom from British rule, freedom from ignorance, freedom disease and freedom from want”.
In setting up the Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR, had two broad objectives in mind, one was political, and the other was economical. Chief Awolowo believed at that time that political party funding are the methods that a political party uses to raise money for campaign and routine activities.
As for the political, he enlisted Chief Akintola, Chief Enahoro and others. That political arrangement broke down later. As for the economic, he enlisted Chief Samuel Olatunbosun Shonibare (1901-1964), Chief Sule Oyesola Gbadamosi from Ikorodu and Chief Alfred Ogbeyiwa Erewarone Rewane (1916-1995) alias Osabokolo from Warri, who later became Chairman Western Nigeria Development Company. In terms of managing business, Chief Shonibare, Chief Rewane and Chief Gbadamosi were gifted. They were capable of turning anything to an asset.
It was the same scenario that played out in South Africa in 1994 when President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013) encouraged the then Vice President Thambo Mvuyelwa Mbeki (77) to be in charge of government while the present President of South Africa, Mr. Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa (67), then secretary of the National Union of Mine Workers to be in charge of the businesses for the African National Congress.