The little boy did not know that the owner of the opulent mansion was seated on the balcony. When his friend shouted from the opposite side of the road to ask where he was going, he shouted back his response in Ekiti dialect: Mo lo is’ule Abel Olohun Lele (I’m going to the house of Abel with the thin voice). The owner of the house sprang from his seat and asked that the boy be brought to him. The boy ran away. The old man was just kidding, for he knew too well that everyone in Emure Ekiti called him by his nickname: Abel Olohun Lele. His real name was Abel Gbadu’a Oluwafemi Oguntuase.
Early in life, the deceased carved a place for himself in enterprise management. He had a hand in several business pies, from block making to saw milling to agriculture and to petroleum products retailing. He was a jack-of-all-trades and master of all. The success of his enterprises, under the umbrella of O’Kadara Nigeria Ltd, made him a household name in the old Ondo State. All his businesses were home grown and headquartered in Emure Ekiti. But his profile loomed larger than his immediate community so much so he was unanimously elected as chairman of the Motor Dealers’ Association in the state in the 1970s and ‘80s. And he was a patron of the Civil Defence Corps.
Oguntuase’s business acumen was hinged on hands-on native intelligence, not creeds from any highfalutin business school. To this, he added what a friend likes to call the ‘blindness of stubbornness’. It works this way: each time he nursed a business idea and someone told him it was impossible, he launched headlong into it. He hated the word ‘no’. But he was not stubborn for its sake. He invested time and resources to bring himself up to speed on his areas of interest, so he was seldom caught unawares in his pursuit of any business. His strategy allowed for quick entry and exit, nothing sentimental.
Though, Oguntuase lived the good life, he was not flashy. Name the fancy and popular cars of the good old days: Citroën, Range Rover, and Mercedes Benz 190E aka Baby Benz – he drove them all. But it’s only for a little while before he dispensed with each because, in his worldview, they had no intrinsic value beyond ‘show off’.
Rather than display wealth, Oguntuase concentrated on giving his children the best education money could buy. Unlike many men of his age, he did not discriminate between his boys and girls; if you showed aptitude for learning, he paid. Simple. The result is that in Emure, his household parades one of the highest numbers of university and polytechnic graduates, including many with Master’s degrees from some of the best and most expensive private tertiary institutions in Nigeria. His love for children and education moved him to establish a nursery/primary school in Emure, modelled after the popular Christ’s School Nursery/Primary School in Ado Ekiti, where he had enrolled several of his older children.
Oguntuase was a child of destiny whose success was long foretold before his birth. In appreciation of God’s benevolence, he founded and solely financed the construction of the cathedral of Universal Chosen Church, Emure Ekiti. The measure of his success in life is demonstrated by the fact that he personalised the name, ‘Abel’ in Emure. Just mention the name and every description would lead to his house. Hence, his demise is a big loss to Emure Ekiti in particular and Ekiti State in general.
Chief Abel Oguntuase, my father-in-law, passed on in March. His remains will be interred on Saturday, August 3, 2019.