He has an uncommon way of making impact. And out of several instances, two occasions have critically stood out. They remain evergreen and everlasting. They were my decisive moments. They have lasting effect and left indelible marks. They were at critical periods, hard to wish away with a wave of the hand.
It is all about Pa Noah Babatunde Ogunniyi, Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Architects (FNIA), a devout Christian, administrator, grassroots politician and community leader.
I grew up to know him as an educated adult. That was in the sleepy town of Omido, Irepodun Local Government, Kwara State. But my first intimate encounter with him was in faraway Kaduna, in January 1971. Strange? Wonder how?
I was staying with my elder brother and mentor, the late Timothy Olatunji Adeoti. He was an engineer with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
We had cause to stay with the Ogunniyis while my brother was on his annual vacation. He was equally transferred from Bauchi to Kano.
I was innocent and naive as a small boy. He gave me pep talks many times over. I picked very useful lessons from those talks. They remain helpful till today.
He practically supervised the birth of my brother’s first child while he was away in Kano in the line duty. That “baby boy,” Yemi Adeoti, is now Pastor-in-Charge, Dare to Dream Christian Centre, Oshuntokun Avenue, Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Pa Ogunniyi would come to chart the course of my life again in 1987. He virtually smoothed my way into active journalism. Again, this is how:
He is mutual friend to Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Mr. Felix Adenaike and the late Peter Ajayi, the three musketeers of the famed Lagos-Ibadan media axis. He introduced me to Osoba, then managing director, Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN). I went to see him at his Kakawa Street, Lagos, office.
I couldn’t get into Daily Times because there was an embargo on employment. But Osoba immediately put a call across to Adenaike, editor-in-chief of Tribune titles in Ibadan. With that and a note from Ogunniyi, I joined Tribune on January 3, 1988, in Ibadan. That was how I came into mainstream journalism.
Pa Ogunniyi is a very strong personality. He throws everything into what he believes in. And it has always paid handsomely for him. That principally explains his success in his endeavours.
His “short” sojourn in politics was effective and like no other. It was spectacular and exemplary; full of service to humanity. He never saw politics as a cash cow. He had ample opportunities to make easy money in politics but the irredentist Igbomina in him would not allow that. He was steadfast. He refused to soil his hands and name.
He was a prominent participant in Kwara politics of the Second Republic. He played major roles between 1977 and 1983.
He was a “blind” follower of the Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and ardent member of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He never for a second looked back in regret. He was in the forefront of the late Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin’s bid for governor on the platform of the UPN.
For his unalloyed loyalty, dedication and commitment, he was appointed a director of Sketch Publishing Company. It was made possible by the old Oyo State Government of the late Chief Bola Ige in 1979. That made the bond with Osoba, Adenaike and Ajayi to wax stronger.
He was more involved in the emergence of Senator Cornelius Adebayo as governor of Kwara State in 1983. Even at that, he refused to take any political appointment until the “khaki” boys came calling on December 31, 1983. They wickedly derailed that democratic arrangement through a coup.
Pa Ogunniyi was born 80 years ago in Omido. He had his primary education in Esie, and attended Titcombe College, Egbe, now in Kogi State. In 1962, he went to the Federal Emergency Service School, Onikan, Lagos, for his GCE ‘A’ Level. He ended up in Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, to study Architecture.
He was the first Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Architecture (FNIA), in the whole old Northern Nigeria.
He means different things to different people. That is not unexpected. He is like an elephant. You can only assess him from whichever side you are privileged to access him.
He lives an inspirational life worthy of emulation. He has very strong belief in communality and communalism. And he does not fail to display these in his actions and inactions, as well as in his body language. He preaches them and lives them. That is extremely impressive.
So? On Saturday, August 31, 2019, all roads lead to Omido. There, huge drums are anxiously waiting to be rolled out as the community celebrates one of its foremost industrious sons, an icon at 80.
That is my honest and sincere memo on Pa Noah Babatunde Ogunniyi (FNIA). Where is yours?