DAWN Commission celebrates Honourable Wale Oshun, Chairman of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), on the occasion of his PLATINUM Jubilee Birthday Celebration
The organisation he leads, ARG, birthed the Western Nigeria Development Agenda which culminated to the setting up of DAWN Commission by the Governors of the States of Western Nigeria (SoWN)
Happy 70th Birthday to an Icon, an omoluabi par excellence
We rejoice with you as you officially join the league of Septuagenarians
Birth and Education
Honourable Olawale Oshun was born on Sunday, March 26, 1950 at Ijebu-Mushin to the family of Alhaji Teslim Olayide Oshun and Alhaja Falilat Bewaji Oshun, both of Ijebu-Mushin, Ogun state. He is the first child of the family of nine.
He attended Moslem Primary School, Ijebu-Mushin from 1956-1961 for his elementary education. He went to Ibadan Boys High School between 1962 and 1967 and for a short spell Ijebu-Ode Grammar School between January and June 1968, for his secondary education.
Olawale Oshun attended University of Ibadan from September 1968 to 1973 for his tertiary education where he studied Agricultural Economics and Extension and graduated with Second Class, Upper division.
Coincidentally, it was the year of his graduation-1973, that the then Nigerian Government deemed it fit to inculcate the spirit of selfless service to the community in Nigerian youths and involve the graduates in nation building, national integration and the development of the country. The government then established National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to drive these imperatives. So, the young graduate Olawale Oshun was among the first set of the scheme and served in Sokoto state from 1973 to 1974.
From 1978-1979, Oshun was also at University of Lagos for his Post-Graduate Diploma in Development Planning. In 1981, he was also at SIET Institute, Hyderabad, India, where he studied Small Industries management.
Early in his life, his ambition was to study Law, perhaps influenced by one of his Uncle’s wives who could not call him by his name as Yoruba culture demand and resulted into calling him ‘Lawyer’, he however, got fascinated by Science later in his life and had his first degree in Agricultural Economics.
As fate would have it, the exile experience provided him the opportunity to have a professional certification in Law. While in London on exile, he did not stay idle. Even during this trying period, he found time for the Common Professional Examination in Law at Thames Valley University graduating in 2000. He attended also Newham College, Stratford, London, and Times Journalism Institute, Lagos where he respectively studied advanced courses in Information and Communication Technology and Journalism.
Meanwhile, education appears to be in his gene. He was born into a home of education-oriented people; both his father and grandfather were well-read at those times when a lot of people were not interested in education. His father was in the same class with the late Senator Abraham Adesanya. They were both at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School (in Ogun State).
Oshun as a Diligent Civil Servant
Olawale Oshun began his career at Federal Civil Service Commission immediately after his mandatory National Youth Service as an Administrative Officer Grade Five in 1974. Although, he applied for Agricultural Officer being a fresh graduate, his exemplary performance during the interview must have earned him such an enviable appointment into the administrative cadre, then the most coveted career line in the Federal Civil Service.
Administrative officers were core to the decision-making process and policy formulation in the mid 70s to 80s. He played his part diligently but with the increasing politicisation of the civil service, Oshun could not play along and had to bow out of the system.
From 1974-1985, he served respectively in the Federal Ministries of Agriculture, Industries and Transport, and rose through the ranks before he voluntarily retired then as an Undersecretary and went into business.
Transition to Tycoon
In 1985, Olawale Oshun started his business life by setting up setting up a private consultancy firm, Joint Services Limited, where he was consulting for small industries. Fortunately, the series of On-the-Job-trainings he had as a civil servant had prepared him for policy consultancy.
He also traded in paper and his flagship product, Josel Exercise Book, was a market leader. He later also ventured into plastic manufacturing and became a model in small industries economy. His political incarceration, however, adversely affected his fortunes and crashed all his businesses.
An unrepentant farmer
Honourable Olawale Oshun had always enjoyed farming. He would say to the hearing of anyone that farming will continue to be non-profitable ventures for as long as governments at all levels choose to neglect it.
Activation of Political Gene
Honourable Olawale Oshun, driven always by the imperative of a just and an egalitarian society, has been in the frontline of major socio-political landmarks and reforms in Nigeria.
Oshun’s political gene was dormant until his late 30s, having not shown any political inclination throughout his secondary and tertiary education, according to testimonies of his classmates. He joined politics in 1987 after a chance encounter with late Chief Lamidi Adedibu, who bestrode Ibadan politics in his lifetime, at one of his Alma mata‘s Old Students Association meeting. He was thereafter inducted into the Awoism politics through his friend, Ebun Sonaiya and he has remained on that trajectory till date.
At the Old Student Association meeting in Ibadan, Oshun was marvelled that a person like Chief Adedibu who was a strong opponent of Chief Awolowo, could sing the Sage’s praise after his death. The young Oshun challenged Adedibu at the meeting and this secured him a political discussion appointment with Ibadan political maestro. It was the discussion with Late Adedibu that spurred his interest, and led to announcement of his interest in politics in 1987. Alhaji Adedibu would later refer to Olawale Oshun as his child and they later belonged to the Shehu Yar’Adua political structure, People’s Democratic Movement, which later coalesces to become the Social Democratic Party during the short-lived Nigeria’s Third Republic.
Meanwhile, he had read a lot about Chief Obafemi Awolowo and got fascinated by his politics prior to his friend’s initiation. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo was founding the United Party of Nigeria (UPN), his father was one of the leading local political figures and his parents’ house in Abule-Ijesha was just a stone’s throw away from the UPN secretariat. This really had a lot of impact in his political ideology and trajectory.
Prior to Chief Awolowo’s death in 1987, Ebun Sonaiya had put together a few of his friends, including the already motivated Olawale Oshun to form a group they named Awolowo Cultural Foundation; the group which Awolowo took special interest in. On March 6, 1987, they had the luncheon of the group at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and Awolowo was personally in attendance; sadly, he died two months later.
Oshun and Ebun always visited Awolowo’s house after his death. It was at Awolowo’s house that he started interacting at close quarters with the likes of Alh Lateef Jakande, Michael Omisade and other frontline political figures. His friend, Ebun Sonaiya – an Ikenne indigene and a well known face to the Awolowo’s family, was a member of the burial committee and that strengthened Oshun’s resolve to support his friend’s role.
Being a cool-headed introvert, his friends took the announcement with a pinch of salt and turned it to a hilarious discussion. It was only one of them, the late Engineer Adeoye that took him seriously and encouraged him to go ahead with the political ambition because it would be great to have a friend in politics. That was how Olawale Oshun threw himself into politics.
His first major political engagement was the 1987 Mainland Local Government chairmanship election which he contested and lost having polled the fourth highest number of votes out of twenty-two contestants, incredibly beating a lot of experienced politicians.
Honourable Olawale Oshun won the second election to represent Lagos Mainland Federal Constituency at the formal Dictator, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s 1989 Constituent Assembly in Abuja. He served in the Constituent Assembly between 1988 and 1989. It was this election that catapulted him into national politics and as a key player in the national politics, he bonded with a number of people of diverse political, cultural and religious persuasions from across the country like Atiku Abubakar, Baba Gana Kingibe, Peter Odili, and particularly members of Shehu Yar’Adua’s political family.
Thereafter he participated fully in the processes leading to the establishment of political parties in the country to herald in the short-lived Third Republic of Nigeria. He was consequently a founding member of the Social Democratic Party, SDP on which platform he was elected into the House of Representatives in 1992. He was subsequently elected as the Chief Whip of the House, a position that gave him the platform to take decisive decisions during the sit-tight military rule.
When late Chief M.K.O Abiola signified interest in joining the presidential election race, Oshun played key roles in the campaign as a strategist. Such was his prominent role that he was publicly commended by Abiola who told him to prepare to join him in Aso Rock and forget being a Chief Whip.
A bold heart in a fragile frame
When Babangida annulled the election, coincidentally, Honourable Olawale Oshun was on a flight with Abiola, returning from Kastina. That moment marked the beginning of his activism as he was resolute on standing by Abiola and helping him reclaim his mandate.
Oshun was one of the thorns in the flesh of the military oligarchy, after the collapse of the Ibrahim Babangida transition programme and the entrance of the infamous Interim National Government.
Oshun joined other well-meaning Nigerians and pro-democracy activists in resisting the annulment of the 1993 Presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola, a struggle that eventually led to the foundation of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which he duly served respectively as Secretary, following erstwhile secretary, Opadokun’s arrest and detention.
He was soon arrested also and spent about eight months in Ikoyi prison, where he shared the same cell with Pa Adisa Akinloye. When he was taken to Pa Akinloye cell, he received Oshun very well, as a father would receive his son and within a short while, they started getting along and began to exchange ideas. Pa Akinloye was tried for treason and anytime he went to court and returned, there were times he would be dejected or excited but he would always be eager to return to cell to give Oshun the gist.
One of the harrowing tales of his prison experience was how he had to hide the communication gadget that was smuggled in for him. One day, an emergency raid was conducted by prison warders and he had no choice but to hide the gadget in the cell’s stinking toilet pit, from where he picked it up. It important to note that the process that produced the democracy we enjoy today was a messy affair.
After his release, attempt was made to re-arrest him in his Ijebu-Imushin home. He had to scale the fence to escape and this led him to join his colleagues in exile, known as NADECO Abroad, which he also served as the Secretary
When NADECO was split into two over the question of whether or not to participate in General Abdusalam’s transition programme without first securing a new Federal Constitution for Nigeria in 1998, he joined the group that chose to stay away, thus sacrificing what could have been a longer partisan political life.
After, the pro-democracy forces won a hard-fought and bloody battle that returned Nigeria to democratic rule in 1999, Oshun was a founding member of the Alliance for Democracy and its successor political parties. He was also a founding member of the Save Nigeria Group and a delegate at the 2014 National Conference.
In 2006, he joined forces with others to settle the rift between the two Afé̩nifé̩re factions. This effort led to a 3-day pan Yoruba retreat in October, 2007, which had in attendance every who’s who in Yorubaland and Afé̩nifé̩re political family. However, when that truce fell apart, the group that organised the retreat decided, with support of elders on both divide, to move on with the implementation of the Afé̩nifé̩re agenda. This led to the founding of Afé̩nifé̩re Renewal Group (ARG).
Hon. Oshun is currently the Chairman of Afé̩nifé̩re Renewal Group, an organisation in the frontline of the campaign to restructure Nigeria. His firm belief in the need to restructure Nigeria, without which democracy will not deliver expectedly, was the reason he has not sought any political office till date.
Through ARG, Oshun and his colleagues have worked hard to put the issue of restructuring on the national front burner and they continue to work to re-enact, the 21st century demand of the time-tested slogan of “freedom for all, life more abundant”, the catchphrase that encapsulate the political philosophy of Afé̩nifé̩re Renewal Group and the founders of Afé̩nifé̩re.
ARG in the last 13 years has played key roles in Yoruba sociopolitical affairs and by extension, that of Nigeria.
Oshun as a Writer
Honourable Olawale Oshun can be regarded as one of the few with insider knowledge of Nigeria’s politics. He has written a lot of publications that reflect his sociopolitical experiences and recommend way out of Nigeria pathetic sociopolitical situation. Particularly, his three books – Clapping with One Hand: June 12 and the Crisis of a State Nation (Josel, 1999), The Open Grave: NADECO and the Struggle for Democracy in Nigeria (Jose, 2002) and Kiss of Death: Afenifere and the Infidels (2005) – chronicled Nigeria and Yoruba’s sociopolitical landscape.
Oshun as a Philanthropist
Honourable Olawale Oshun in a tireless giver and has continually deployed his welfarist credentials to pursue projects and policies that deliver greater good for the greatest number towards socio-political development of Yoruba nation and Nigeria.
Honourable Oshun has committed substantial resources to youth development and welfare of the aged through his self-named non profit organisation, Olawale Oshun Foundation. The foundation has a dedicated edifice located at his hometown which hosts annual literary completion for secondary schools and other programmes that give young people an opportunity to display their potentials.
Though a conservative and very reserved individual, Olawale Oshun’s social life is impressive. As a youth, he belonged to A-club, a gentleman’s social club. He was very active in the club at a time that the former Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji was the President of the club.
He is a member of the Ikoyi Club and recently was decorated with the club’s long service award, having been a member for more than 35 years.
He is a Paul Harris Fellow as a strong member of Rotary Club and a onetime Rotarian President of Yaba East chapter.
Honourable Olawale Oshun got married in 1975 to Anthonia Oshun. He has six children who are doing well in their respective areas of specialisation.
Honourable Olawale Oshun is undoubtedly a man with many sides; he is a professional economist, a successful industrialist, an incorruptible politician, political activist, passionate farmer, prolific writer, an altruistic utilitarian, a loving husband, caring father and dogged nationalist. His is, indeed, an epitome of an omoluabi.