Olasore: From Offa Grams With Love

The passage, on June 1, 2012, of foremost banker and traditional ruler of Iloko Ijesa, Osun state, Oba Oladele Olasore, is no doubt a huge blow to Nigeria, even if this great loss was clouded by the Dana tragedy that occurred two days after. To us old students of Offa Grammar School, Offa, Kwara state, it is a bigger blow.alt

Offa Grammar School may not be in the class of the Kings Colleges, Barewa Colleges, Queens Colleges and Methodist Boys High Schools of this world, but clearly the school has had her fair share of quality contribution to the roll call of men and women that shaped and are still shaping Nigeria. From the military are General Alani Akinrinade, the man that played a central role in bringing order to Nigeria and averting the greater disaster that would have followed B.S Dimka’s coup of 1976, to General David Jemibewon, Group Captain S.A Latinwo, Air Commodore Bayo Lawal and Vice Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye - the last two, like Akinrinade, also former service chiefs. From the judiciary, Offa Grammar School has gifted Nigeria the embattled Justice Isa Ayo Salami, late Justice M.B Belgore, Justice Ibrahim Gambari (current Emir of Ilorin), all former Appeal Court Judges. From the academia, the first African professor of Geology, Professor M.O Oyawoye tops OGS’ list of distinguished alumni, a list that has not less than five Vice Chancellors, including Professors A.B.O.O Oyediran and S.A Adeyemi, former VCs of University of Ibadan and Federal University of Technology, Minna, respectively. The list is endless.

But if OGS old students were picked at random and asked to pick the greatest product of the school, I am willing to guess that Oba Oladele Olasore will feature top of the chart. That is how much we revere this banker, who was not only very active in old students activities but also a former president of the national body.

When the Pa James Osanyin-led Offa Grammar School admitted the 16-year-old boy into the school in 1951, little did they know a future shining star had just been enrolled into the community secondary school. Like a prince that he was, Olasore was not the most gentle pupil in the school, as Chief Emmanuel Adesoye of the Okin Biscuit and Adesoye College fame, and a one-year junior to Olasore in OGS, narrated how the prince used to send them to buy wine outside school in the mid-1950’s. Interestingly, today, both men are founders of two of the most successful private secondary schools in Nigeria, Adesoye College, Offa and Olasore International School, Iloko Ijesa.

Olasore completed his secondary education in 1956 and proceeded to Ghana and later England for further schooling. He returned to Nigeria to pick up a job as an Accountant in British Petroleum Nigeria Limited, before venturing into banking as a director in Central Bank of Nigeria. He rose to become the Chief Executive Officer of International Bank for West Africa (later known as Afribank and now Mainstreet Bank) before being poached by First Bank to continue in the same role. He was named Nigeria’s Banker of the Year in 1988. He went on to found his own bank, Lead Merchant Bank. Olasore, who later became Secretary (Minister) of Finance during the interim Shonekan government, was no doubt one of the finest bankers to have bestridden the financial landscape.

Olasore, even in the midst of his very busy personal and official engagements, never forgot his alma mater. He was very active in old boys activities. Before, during and after his tenure as President of OGS old students association, he took active interest in the students’ and alumni welfare. The first time I saw him live was in 1995 when I was in JSS 2. As the president of the alumni body then, he was chairing the national convention holding at the Ludlow Hall of the school, while I, alongside other attending students, was watching from the back of the hall. When I was made the pioneer President of the 2000 set chapter of OGSOSA few years after we graduated and formed our chapter, we made efforts to pay a courtesy call to a number of alumni achievers, including Oba Olasore. Still in the university and most of us struggling with personal activities, we were not able to actualize the Olasore visit plan but we were able to see Chief Adesoye in his sprawling mansion in Offa.

Oba Olasore’s death came less than four months after we lost another distinguished old boy, a banking guru like Olasore, Dr Femi Adekanye, CEO of the defunct Commerce Bank. When the list of ‘who is who’ in Nigeria’s banking history is drawn, clearly these two products of OGS will occupy top space. All old students of Offa Grammar School are very proud of you sirs. OGS shall never perish.

Oyewale, an MBA student at Edinburgh Business School, is former president of Offa Grammar School Old Students Association ( 2000 set).



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