By Adekunle Agboluaje
The death of veteran public relations practitioner and author, Mr. Olu Ademulegun (who I fondly called Egbon Olu), on Sunday, the 14th of February, 2021, a day short of his 75th birthday, must come as a shock to family and friends, including professional colleagues who shared fellowship with him in public relations circles in the 70s and 80s. He succumbed to Covid 19 in Lagos.
I first met Mr. Ademulegun around 2002 at Festac Town, Lagos, at the home of my Great Uncle, Surveyor Fehintola Olumide, and that marked the beginning of our relationship. Born on the 15th of February, 1946 to the Most Reverend Joel Ogunmade Ademulegun, late Primate and Arch-Bishop of the African Church Organisation, and Madam Rachael Awawu Ademulegun, both of Owo, Ondo State. He was a blue-blood, Indeed, his late Uncle, Colonel Ademulegun (Rtd) was the immediate past Olupenwen of Ipenwen-Owo, Ondo State.
Egbon Olu had attended Imade College Owo, under the principalship of the late revered educationist and first Civilian Governor of old Ondo State, Chief Adekunle Ajasin. He had his Higher School Education at the Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan, under another titan, late Archdeacon Emmanuel Oladipupo Alayande.
He taught briefly at Adesola High School, Aperin, Ibadan, before entering the University of Ibadan, completing an honours degree in English Language in 1970.
He once told me that his initial choice of study was law and political science, in that order. However, his-priest father had objected to both, saying that lawyers were rebuked in the Bible, while the practice of politics turned his (the father’s) friend, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, into a political prisoner.
Mr. Ademulagun had a very short teaching spell at a secondary school in Lagos before joining the insurance brokerage firm of T.A Braithwaite & Sons as a public relations executive.
He honed his skills at this establishment for a while before eventually starting his own practice in the name of Olu Ademulegun & Associates, with an office at Western House, Broad Street, Lagos.
While in private-public relations practice, he also wrote a weekly column in the Punch Newspapers under the title, Public Affairs, from the mid-70s to the early 80s. He wrote essentially on the polity, and was known to hold progressive ideas.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, lawyer/politician, also had a law office in the same Western House. One day according to Egbon Olu, the chief came calling at his office. After meeting and introducing himself, Chief Adebanjo commended his efforts as a columnist, saying that the ‘Leader’ (meaning Chief Awolowo) was also an avid reader of his essays and considered him as possessing very progressive ideas. Put bluntly, Chief Adebanjo said Awolowo was desirous of meeting him (Ademulegun).
According to Mr. Olu Ademulegun, he felt over-whelmed, and almost thunder-struck, by the invitation, considering Awolowo’s immense political and social stature. After overcoming the shock, he immediately agreed to meet the icon and an appointment was fixed for Awo’s Park Lane, Apapa residence.
Apparently, Awolowo kept a file where tear-sheets of Ademulegun’s essays were kept. The file also contained biro-marks on controversial or debatable points in the various essays. The Chief took him up on grey areas needing clarifications /explanations, and generally engaged him in a healthy intellectual debate on several issues.
There in 1978, Awolowo told him that although the ban on politics was yet to be lifted by the outgoing Obasanjo regime, meetings of like-minds were unstoppable. Considering the young man’s progressive ideas, Awolowo pointedly asked him to make himself available to brainstorm with them, preparatory to the start of the Second Republic politics. To Mr. Ademulegun, that was his rites of passage and initiation into the Awolowo political school .
As a public relations practitioner, he consulted for a number of organizations and associations (local & multinational) including Leyland Motors Assembly Plant in Ibadan and the National Association of Nigerian Aircraft Pilots and Engineers. A veracious reader and prolific essayist, Mr. Ademulegun had a huge collection of books on public relations, advertising, economics, management, philosophy, history, motivational studies, biography and culture.
He was a published author who wrote WHO IS ODUDUWA? (Impaqt Publishers, Lagos 2005). He was especially passionate about Yoruba history and culture. He was founder, YORUBA AFFAIRS AND PROMOTION CENTRE, through which in speeches and writings, he advanced the cause of the Yoruba race.
He wrote the Foreword to my first book, MEMO TO THE YOUNG NIGERIAN (Mead & Mayer Limited, Lagos 2006) and also wrote the Outside Back Page endorsement of my second book, WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH THE YOUNG NIGEIRAN AT SCHOOL (Mead & Mayer Limited, Lagos 2009).
In the first book, I had cause to pay compliments to his as follows: “I owe Mr. Olu Ademulegun a debt of gratitude. Apart from consenting to write the Foreword to this book, he also graciously made available to me, the first three books under Bibliography, from his huge personal library”.
Mr. Ademulegun was a selfless, caring person, never hesitating to offer advice/opinions to advance others in their pursuits. At Festac Town Lagos where he previously lived, he created the YOUTH SUCCESS FORUM where several young people were treated to weekly talks on career and personal advancement. I had cause on a few occasions to partner with him (at his instance) on his free YOUTH ASSISTANCE/EMPOWERMENT programmes in 2006.
He was loyal in friendship, always speaking fondly and appreciatively of his friends. He never deserted his friends and would not fail to make modest contributions to, and personal presence at their social and other engagements. He was perhaps the greatest optimist I came across, always looking at the brighter side of things. On a personal note, he was my big fan, counsellor and motivator.
Handsome, tall and athletically-built, Egbon Olu was a stickler for healthy-living. During my several associations with him in Festac Town, I used to refer to him as regularly going through a “punishing fitness schedule”. It remains a biting irony that this health-and-fitness conscious person would be subdued by Covid 19.
But then, that is life!. He was a man alien to malice. He had a large heart and was humble to a fault. Despite being over six years older than me, he always shied away from calling me by my first name Kunle (which by tradition was his right!). He would rather call me by his own invented nickname of “Sir Akunle”.
May his soul rest in peace. Amen. May the good Lord comfort his wife and children, and his “army” of friends, including the nonagenarian Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the octogenarian Mr. Sam Amuka, Mr. Mac Ovbiagele, Professor Biodun Jeyifo, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Mr. Dele Adetiba, Surveyor Dele Odesanmi, Chief Niyi Alonge, Mr. Theo Ayeni, Mr. Gbenro Oluwole, Mr. Ron Mgbatogu and Mr. Cyprian Enwefah.