October 24, 2020

Kessington Adebutu: Celebrating a gallant trailblazer and colossus at 85

Kessington Adebutu: Celebrating a gallant trailblazer  and colossus at 85

Adetutu and Ogunsan

Adetutu and Ogunsan

There must be something so special about October 24, 1935 that the world has hardly spoken about, let alone have a full grasp of. This is nothing but a rhapsody of reality. There seems to be something so special about that day that everyone has hardly comprehended and be able to fantasize. That day was a Thursday. A twinkling Thursday for that matter.

Yes, it was a Thursday. The US president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat. The UK Prime Minister was Stanley Baldwin, a Conservative. Pope Pius XI was leading the Catholic Church.

Perhaps one of such ontological wonderment on that day was the birth of Chief (Dr) Kessington Adebukunola Adebutu, OON, CON.

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October 24 is that red-lettered day a shining star was born unto humanity. Then that star became a humanitarian. Interestingly, he was not the only star born that day. He shares the day with four other prominent people. On same October 24, 1935, my research proved to me that four other famous personalities were born — Philippe Morillon, Malcolm Bilson, Antonino Calderone and Mark Tally.

Philippe Morillon, a French general who was also a Member of the European Parliament until 2009. He was elected on the Union for French Democracy ticket with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group.

Malcolm Bilson, an American pianist and musicologist specialising in 18th and 19th Century music. Third is Antonino Calderone, a Sicilian Mafioso who turned state witness; and fourth is Mark Tully, an Indian-English journalist and author. He is the recipient of several awards, having authored nine books. He is a member of the Oriental Club.
Interesting you say!
As of today, his 85th birthday, the Adebutu patriarch has spent 31,047 days on planet earth. In months, it is exactly 1,020 months. Of course I had the time to do the Maths!

I may not know anything at all, but I still know Baba Adebutu is highly cerebral. He is hard working and also lionhearted. He is a giver and does it almost to a fault. At the risk of sounding like a praise-singer and why not, permit me to talk about a leader, mentor and father-figure.

A native of Iperu Remo in Ikenne Local Government of Ogun State, Baba Ijebu, as he is fondly called on the streets of Nigeria, is an ace entrepreneur, humanitarian, leader and mentor to many. Feel free to call him a millennial colossus, as he turns gallant 85 today.

Born to the Muslim family of Alhaji Folarin and Alhaja Selinat Adebutu in Iperu-Remo, who both lived up to 97 and 94 years respectively, having started out as a pool agent in the 60s, Baba Ijebu went ahead to redefine the lotto business in the country.

The Remonian is the Chairman of Premier Lotto Limited and Founder of Kessington Adebukola Adebutu Foundation. As a core philanthropist, giving back to the society remains a mandate he seems to have encrypted on the tablet of his heart. In the process, he has had to donate huge amounts of money to the less-privileged and hospital patients. In as many tertiary institutions too numerous to count, Kessington Adebutu buildings are seen standing tall.

Running a multibillion naira lotto company amidst a quite unfriendly business environment like Nigeria comes with a lot of daunting responsibilities. Most entrepreneurs like him soon close shop when faced with the upheavals of a harsh economy, especially when purchasing power continues to nosedive to its worst state. But for him, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

Even when it appears that everything has been rosy for him in life and business, Baba Ijebu won’t deny things have been quite challenging for him. In the words of Dr. Robert Schuller, “tough times never last, but tough people do.”

After managing to scale through secondary school, young Kessington worked briefly with Cable and Wireless Limited, (later metamorphosed into NITEL) and Classic Chemical Limited, a pharmaceutical company that produces Andrew’s Liver Salt and Cafenol. He rose from the position of Salesman to Sales Manager. In 1963, he left the company to start up his own business. He became a pool agent. That same company has, today, grown into a multinational, with billions of dollars in equity. His ambition to study Law soon dies a natural death, but that didn’t stop him from attending several leadership and management development courses, locally and internationally.

While in Baptist Academy where he bagged his secondary school certification, the colossus made friends with the popular late Chief Molade Okoya Thomas and Justice Holloway (rtd).

Thinking out of the box, Baba Ijebu has diversified to other business sectors like agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, entertainment, real estates and so on. He seems to have an eagle’s eye for venturing into businesses where others fail, while he piggybacks on opportunities. He goes in and makes a success of it. A round of applause!

In deed, not all eyes that look see. Eyes that look are common but eyes that see are rare. Who is stopping the self-made billionaire from Iperu Remo?

One lesson here for the younger generation is to not envy a largely successful man but to, instead, study his personality and philosophy. Rising above the ladder to emerge as one of the household names in the business space in Africa today couldn’t have come by a stroke of luck but by diligence and determination.

Amongst his many recognitions and chieftaincy titles, Baba holds the prestigious chieftaincy title of Odole Oodua conferred on him by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi. That is perhaps the biggest in town, as it is more of a kingship title. Since history, he is third to be honoured with the Odole Oodua title. The great Chief Obafemi Awolowo held it first, before passing it down to the late prominent Nigerian lawyer, Chief Godwin Olusegun Kolawole Ajayi, SAN, popularly known as GOK Ajayi.

His other chieftaincy titles include the Babalaje of Lagos, Olotu of Lagos, Balogun of Iperu Remo, Baba Oba of Iperu Remo, Akogun of Remoland, Bobaselu of Ondo Kingdom, Baba Oba of Noforija Kingdom, Epe and the Baba Oba Iperuland. He also has the proud title of the Asoju Oba of Lagos, which makes him second in command in the hierarchy of Lagos title chiefs.

In two consecutive years, the Federal Government of Nigeria honoured him with the OON and CON. That was an unprecedented feat for man who has made his mark at virtually all levels. His day is not made yet until he reads his newspapers.

As the Baba Ijo of the Methodist Church, he is a lover of God and godly virtues: a man who believes in moderation and has refused to take more chieftaincy titles. He knows titles aren’t pizza that one just gets as many at will.

At 85, baba is still very sociable and stylish. He rocks parties. You want to hear the blatant truth? The octogenarian is a fashionista. He knows what fashion and style entail? Can you beat that? You will always see him on his usual agbada regalia, plaited with handmade embroidery and wearing a smile to match, always.

Baba Ijebu is a man of valour and values who, despite his countless achievements, has stayed simple and humble. Being tenacious, he continues to dream even bigger. After all, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “nothing great was ever achieved enthusiasm”.

The story of the rise and rise of the Odole Odua may never be complete for historians and students of comparative  literature if not well told intelligibly, especially from the angle of his success in business. Raking in an annual revenue of about N10billion for government, Premier Lotto constitutes over 50 percent of the stake in Nigeria. Globally, the lottery industry is estimated to be worth more than $70 billion. Suffice to say that the trailblazer of lotto business in Nigeria has largely succeeded in managing his business empire from scratch to one of the biggest in today’s Africa.

Instructively, the real secret of Kessington Adebutu success in business is honesty. He reserves the opinion that honesty is the best policy. This policy gears him to pay up punters’ wins, even when it means going to get a bank overdraft to offset bills. For him, a good name is better than silver and gold.
Meet a man who just won’t let his good reputation to be soiled for anything.

Recall the saying that “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others”. Baba Ijebu, to a large extent, is a team player. At every given opportunity, he realises the fact that human capital development is a sure panacea to business growth. Little wonder why he has a legion of people on his payroll. His business associates are also innumerable. I doubt he can do a counting and be accurate on that.

No doubt, October 24 will remain a memorable and evergreen day to the whole world, as a rising star was gifted to humanity. That star clocks whopping 85 today. In a standing ovation, may the world give 85 hearty cheers to a gallant trailblazer and colossus of international repute.

Dr. Ayo Ogunsan is a Member, Lagos State Security Trust Fund, and writes from Lagos.