October 3, 2023

Adejuwon: Silent philanthropist at 80

By Jimoh Babatunde

It was a night of thankfulness and recollection of what Dr. Franklin Ad toejuwon is, as family members and friends converged to celebrate him at 80.

The one-time Commissioner for Home Affairs and Tourism in Lagos State under the Mike Akhigbe and Raji Rasaki military administrations and later served as Minister of Agriculture.

he’s at home with tourism and aviation, helping in the setting up of the National Tourism Board and drawing the nation’s Tourism Master Plan, a feat he achieved in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
For Adejuwon, he believes that whatever success you achieve in life is not by being intelligent or better than other beings, but by the grace and mercy of God.
“When I was young, I had a lot of health problems. At the age of six months, I had smallpox; at that time, any family that had it was an abandoned family; the person was seen as evil, and such a person was discarded in society. By the special grace of God, I was able to overcome that, but my mother went through a lot of problems.
“During our time, there was nothing like science subjects. The best we could do was rural science; you could not imagine my set of 57–61 was an exceedingly good set. Many of us went out and finished as engineers, doctors, and planners. We took science after we had finished secondary school.
“We excelled in it, and our set was one of the most dynamic and pragmatic. We have been together up until now, those of us that are alive.”
For him, God has been faithful, and he needs to appreciate Him given the way and manner in which he later went ahead in his academic pursuit.
“When I finished secondary school, we had the opportunity to go for a Higher School Certificate (HSC). I wanted to do law, but my father wanted me to improve on his job as a teacher.
“Unfortunately for me, I took the exam at the Ohio University educational system in Nigeria at that time, which is now Olunloyo College of Education, and I was one of those who passed and was given a scholarship.
“At the same time, I had the option of going to Christ’s School for HSC, or Hussy College, or even Ibadan Grammar School, but my father insisted that I should go to the college of education. Since I didn’t want to go, I rebelled and got out of the house.
“I had actually been independent from the age of 16+, which was the time I left home and started exploring life myself.
“Relieving the obstacles he had to overcome to get to Bulgaria, where he studied Geography on scholarship, Adejuwon said he has no reason but to thank God for bringing him this far in life.
“My best result in A level was geography, so I told the Bulgarian government that I wanted to change my course. They said they were not allowing foreigners to take that course, as it was meant for the communist children, because it involved the spending of foreign exchange as they needed to send you abroad.
“As for other courses like medicine and engineering, they said they were okay, but geography, tourism, and foreign relations were meant for their children. But because they liked me, they said if I could convince my government to request a change, of course, they could do that.
“I started pursuing it and got in touch with our ambassador in the Soviet Union overseeing Bulgaria, who said he did not have the power to do it.

Encounter with Enahoro

“As God will have it, Chief Enahoro, then a minister, was on a tour of the Eastern Bloc. He was coming to Bulgaria. As soon as he came, I went to meet him at his hotel.
“I told him, ‘This is my problem, sir, and my intention for wanting to study the geography of tourism’. Enahoro asked who gave me the idea; I said geography was my best subject and that our country has a future in tourism.

He was the first person to tell me that tourism was the industry of the future. He promised to do all he could to get the government to allow me to change my course, and as soon as he got home, Signal went to our embassy in Moscow and then the Bulgarian government. That was how I got the course.
Since he returned to Nigeria, he has played a big role in the development of tourism in the country.

Meeting Obasanjo

I was in Morocco working on a resort when I was called upon by Obasanjo, who was visiting Morocco then, to come and work with the government; moreover, they felt that having used a federal scholarship, why should I be working in another place? I fought against it because I never wanted to work with the government because of the bureaucracy. I wanted to help my country, but not as a civil servant. Anyway, the government invited me to prepare a blueprint for tourism; tourism was just under the Nigeria Tourism Association at that time. It was a quasi-government body; it had no serious relevance.

So, I prepared the blueprint. It was what that government used to get me into; General Shua was my minister. I wanted to bolt out at that time too because my company gave me another job to head regional planning in London. I wanted to use that to go out, but I was stopped.
That was how I started the Nigeria Tourism Board and then moved up, but, to be fair, the government gave me all the support. Obasanjo, as then Head of State, gave the ministry the mandate to give me anything that would enhance my job. I was given a house, which was unusual because I came in as a senior research officer.

They did all that for me to remain. That is why I can’t forget Obasanjo easily because once he believes in you, he will support you. People might find fault in him, but, from my side, he did everything to make tourism grow in Nigeria.

How he became commissioner

I was on the Tourism Board, and when politics came, they translated the position of Chief Executive, which I was holding, into a political position.
When things turned that way, we professionals didn’t like it. They brought in a junior colleague of mine to be in charge, and I took a sabbatical to allow them to sort things out. When this was going bad, the minister, Alhaji Jega, at that time, had to call me and start pleading that I should come back, but, in the process, the military took over.
He ended up being appointed by the late Mike Akhigbe to the government as commissioner for home affairs and tourism.
“I ended up being a commissioner for six years in Lagos State, and everything went well. I was the first Commissioner for Home Affairs and Tourism. We tried to make our mark in the state, which, hitherto, remained the landmark of tourism.
“We did a lot of projects. Lagos State was the first to establish a tourism policy in the country, and it was launched by President Babangida. We also went to socials. I started the Sun Splash, which was a hit. I then moved on to take over all the waterfronts. At that time, the governor was such a wonderful person who loved tourism, probably because of his background as a naval officer; he also gave me full support.
“Though we never had money in my ministry, we were more prominent than other ministries because we were always introducing new things, things that could boost the image of the state quickly. So, I took over the waterfront from Ozumba Mbadiwe to Lekki.
“I schemed up the area because, before you get to 1004, it was all markets and rubbish along the coast. When I took over the stretch, Governor Raji Rasaki had been appointed.
“He will say, Bar Beach commissioner, ‘What do you want to do with this?’ I will tell him, ‘Don’t worry, sir; you will see in the future. Just give me the right to take over. He did, and that was how we did everything.
“I told him, ‘Give this land to the people at no price; let them invest their money, and, after they have invested their money, they will not take their investment away, and the state will start enjoying’. That is what is happening today on that corridor.
“We also created awareness of cruises and the usage of waterways. I bought a boat called Eko Touris; it could carry 500 people. Throughout the five and a half years after we bought it, there was never a weekend when it did not work.
“We will cruise with it to Badagry with a live band; diplomats liked it, and they were always using it.”
He was later to serve Nigeria as a minister in the Ministry of Agriculture under the late General Sani Abacha.
Adejuwon says he has no reason but to thank God for his life: “Anything I did, I did it from my mind and from the way God directed me.” There was never a time when I lobbied for any appointment in my life. All that came my way came through my professional recognition.
“All I need to do is continue to give glory to God for all He has done for me.”
And that he has been doing through service to his family, friends, Alma Mata, and society at large.
All these came to the fore during his 80th birthday reception, as did those who have benefited from his generosity.
Though he is not the one at home showing off what he has done to people, beneficiaries could not but reveal what he has done for them.
No wonder the Oba of his village led a large number of his subjects to the birthday.
Also present were his classmates from secondary school and the university in Bulgaria.