The recent weeks have been joyous for the Governor of Osun State. He was one of the recipients of an award for excellence for his contributions to the political landscape and human development by the University of Lagos Alumni Association, alongside Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Bola Tinubu, and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, among others, at its golden jubilee celebration.
At the event held in Victoria Island, Lagos, Oyetola, who is an alumnus of the university, expressed the need for members of the association to come to the aid of their alma mater to enable the institution carry out its mandate efficiently and effectively.
Fielding questions from journalists shortly after the event, the governor, who thanked his alma mater for recognising his efforts at giving his best to politics and humanity, appealed to all stakeholders to join hands with the association to build a better and stronger university that would deliver the Nigeria of their dream.
He also advocated the need for private individuals to get involved in the funding of university education.
“More than ever, the university needs her alumni to perform its mandate to the nation and the world; we need to get involved in the funding of our institutions. More than ever, the alumni must use their influence and positions to facilitate development for their institutions,” the governor said.
Oyetola said the award would spur him to do more: “The award is a product of the strength of character and the analytical skills and competencies that I took away from the university of Lagos 41 years ago when I graduated with a bachelor of science in insurance and came back to touch it up with a Master of Business Administration years later. In my years in the private sector and even as I now serve in the public service, I have always applied these three core skills, ‘In deed and In Truth,’ as ingrained in my impressionable undergraduate mind by a university that has become the pride of Africa, where global leaders are being churned out.”
Earlier in the month, the alumni of the Unilag’s Actuarial Science and Insurance, Class of ’78 hosted a dinner in the governor’s honour in Lekki, Lagos. Many of his former schoolmates were on hand to welcome him and not long after the event was supposed to begin, he came in the company of his wife and retinue of aides.
After everyone was seated, his friends, many whom have known him for over 30 years, took turns to speak on the kind of person he was and the man he has turned out to be. One of his classmates and friends for over three decades, Olutoye Eleoramo, gave the keynote address. He set the ball rolling when took the audience back memory lane on how the Actuarial Science and Insurance department started and how the bond the classmates shared were formed.
“The department started with a postgraduate course before it was changed to first degree programme and that change gave us the oppourtunity to be the first set of people to register then. We started with 24 people but two dropped out and 22 of us eventually graduated. Unfortunately, seven are now late. Our composition was unique; many of us were grade two teachers, while some fought in the Biafran war and the median age was 27. I had the privilege of being in the same reading group with Governor Oyetola and he is a highly intelligent man. Many tertiary institutions today now have department of insurance and we must give kudos to those who started it in Unilag.
“Education is the key to the development of any nation and we urge the governor to ensure that out-of-school children should not be found in his domain. He has raised the bar of governance and we praise God for that. I have known him for over three decades and I can attest to his qualities. Part of the problem we have in this country is that we hero worship our politicians and lead them into problems. Sometimes, someone has to call them by their first names and tell them the truth so that we do not mislead them. We should respect our leaders but we should not also fail to tell them where they are going wrong,” Eleoramo said.
Another of his classmates, Oba Wole Adetimehin, now a traditional ruler, said Oyetola distinguished himself while he was in school and had the uncanny ability to moblise and influence others positively.
He said: “Those of us that were privileged to make the first set of insurance graduates have succeeded in life. When we were in school, we were called all sorts of names because people didn’t understand what insurance was about. Back in the day, Governor Oyetola distinguished himself in many areas.
“He possesses high intellectual capacity and you could see in him all the attributes you find in a leader. He has the capacity to rally and influence people to deliver results at the same time. He can build character and we are happy to rejoice and celebrate him.”
His former colleague, Oye Odukale, testified to his character, saying he was and remains a very hardworking person who, when he set his mind to something, does not give up till he achieves it. “Governor Gboyega was my boss when we used to work in an insurance company. I grew very close to him and both of our families were even closer. I knew his father before he died and his father was very kind to me and my family.
“I have known the governor for 38 years and I can attest to the fact that he is a good person with integrity and he always gives attention to details. He is a very hard worker and expects all those who work with him to be hard working as well. He is the kind of person that we need in government,” Odukale said.
His wife, Kafayat Oyetola, described her relationship with him as a husband and father. She also took the audience back memory lane on how they met and how they were able to raise their kids despite their very busy schedules: “I met my husband on June 16, 1980. When he was transferred to Lagos, many people thought that he won’t cope but he worked very efficiently with his direct boss until she left he company.
“At home, he is always there for me and the kids. He takes the kids to school and I bring them back and I can attest to the fact he hardly missed any of their school activities. He is someone that maintains friendship for decades and I know at least 90 per cent of his classmates.
“When he was called to serve in Osun, I was wondering if he would cope because of his gentility, but he prayed about it for a long time and God spoke to him after he had gone to hajj and that was when he took it up. He initially didn’t want to be governor and that was why he was the last person to come out. But when he eventually answered the call, he told me that he was there to serve and I pray that God gives him the wisdom to lead the people well.”
Governor Oyetola was the last to speak. He expressed gratitude to his friends for remaining in his life through the high and low points and for being a strong support system. He then narrated his foray into politics, telling his audience that he never wanted to be in public service initially but had to take up the challenge when it became clear that it was what God wanted him to do.
“I never thought that I would be an insurer; I wanted to be an accountant. I remember that when the department of insurance advertised, one accountant informed me of it and because it was the only course available at the time, I took it reluctantly. I met people older than me in my class but our class was very unique because we had people from different parts of the country with different professions. My class was full of serious-minded people who, sometimes, were too serious for my liking.
“In my second year, I wanted to change to accounting because it was allowed at the time. I went to the faculty officer but she wasn’t around and I didn’t go back. At the end, I felt that it was what God wanted me to do.
“My journey into politics was God’s wish. I didn’t want to be chief of staff. In fact, I was lobbying for someone to be the SSG to former Governor Aregebesola because they knew that I was close to him. Instead, the then governor insisted that he wanted me to work with him. I eventually took the job and I enjoyed every bit of it but I was careful to recognise the fact that I was there to help the governor to succeed.
“During my campaign, I didn’t have thugs and I was able to run my campaign effectively because the people believed in me. I seriously recommend that people in the private sector get involved in politics because politics is an oppourtunity to make a difference,” Oyetola said.