By Louis Odion, FNGE
Not until playwright Sophocles sired character Oedipus in his definitive Greek play was human imagination tempted to consider the fact of pre-ordained parricide. Pushed by forces beyond his control, the heir of ancient Thebes ended up felling his own patriarch in the chilling fulfillment of a grim prophecy.
Several centuries later, a psychiatric clarity was brought to that ancient puzzle by Sigmund Freud as Oedipal Complex, to explain the maze of complexities and complications in the emotional tie between son and the father in the family context.
According to the 19th century pioneer of mental health in the landmark quest to illuminate the dark recesses of the human mind, the tension that begins to build just as the toddler becomes aware of self, if mismanaged, often prepares the grounds for possible estrangement from the father later in life.
But in no way could that fatalist – if not esoteric – characterization by the acclaimed father of psychoanalysis be said to apply to the bond those of us who consider ourselves the proud children share with the one we affectionately call “Daddy” – the very consequential Pa Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi.
Doubtless, pharmacy taught him the ancient secrets of medicine. But in choosing instead to engage the Nigerian public at a much deeper level in the last half a century, Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi has amply demonstrated that the duty of care to society is much more than administering injection or dispensing medication. He is obviously one of Nigeria’s surviving doyens of medicine and arguably her most iconic pharmacist in the past five decades.
In transcending science to make a bigger career of the art of inspiring the wary, raising the weak, comforting the traumatized and reconciling the estranged, Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi has certainly touched a far greater number across various disciplines and continents more intimately than the possible reach of the ether-smelling lab of medical research and solutions.
There can be no better show of an acute understanding of the sixth of the “7 Deadly Social Sins” Mahatma Gandhi famously remonstrated against – “science without humanity”.
As the Ekiti prince now joins the restricted club of octogenarians (born on August 2), little wonder, therefore, that those whose lives have been impacted positively by him feel compelled to blow some trumpet, even though the man would have preferred to mark the moment in meditative tranquility.
Note, in our society, when the appellation of “Daddy” is invoked outside biological affiliation, it is often an emotional submission to the authority of another and emplacing such individual on a higher social pedestal. It is undoubtedly the highest form of cultural veneration. Of course, it presupposes a hand that provides daily-bread and direction, a voice which resonates for compassion and solidarity.
Were a survey to be conducted today, far more are surely those who fondly address the Ekiti prince as “Daddy” than his biological brood. Few, if any, would indeed rival Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi in contemporary Nigeria in terms of the turnover of mentees in various sectors. His own exertion is certainly on industrial scale.
So, unlike the Freudian kid who eyes the father with malicious envy, our calling the Ekiti patriarch “Daddy” is by far a gesture of affection – a worship and appreciation of not just his ever cheerful and accommodating airs, but much more of an instinctive mentoring spirit. His enigma lies not only in the generosity in donating time to mentor, but also the humility to befriend those who, by all accounts, are his distant juniors and inferiors.
Again, there is something compelling and enthralling about the aristocratic carriage of the man under public spotlights, resplendent with a badge of “Iyi” (Yoruba for honour) earned undoubtedly from a life-long commitment to countless charity causes, garnished with the epaulets of “Lakaaye” (Yoruba for wisdom) gleaned from rich experience. To say nothing about his sartorial impeccability – the trademark all-white ensemble, rimless glasses and a dimpled smile. More, not many have his remarkable gift of a flawless command of eight international languages.
Through him, we learnt the great power in little things. Being visible without being voluble. Accessible without being cheap. That there is a stark distinction between being in the service of society and indulging in the vanity of a socialite. It is possible to be sociable without being vain.
Let me illustrate the latter point by declassifying a secret. Long before the disruption of Covid-19, some conspirators had begun to hold nocturnal meetings, plotting a coup in form of an elaborate commemoration ahead of time. Among them was my friend and brother, Azubuike Ishiekwene. I was conscripted at some point. We had agreed among ourselves to keep everything discreet, hoping to make it a big surprise to our common benefactor.
But even before an action plan could crystallize at the drawing-board came a freezing order from the man himself. Till now, what remains a puzzle to some of us is how the secret leaked to him. Perhaps, maybe it was by sheer intuition. The seasoned hunter is probably able to foretell a mischief even in the seemingly impregnable forest by simply reading the lips of its denizens.
Considering how Covid-19 would later unravel this year with all its forbidding protocols, Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi’s earlier restraining order would then appear clairvoyant indeed. It was as if the old man saw the pandemic ahead of all of us. The shrewd elder, it would seem, derives his own fortification from the sixth sense more than anything.
Even then, his objection to our proposal was lovingly expressed. To him, any form of revelry would be utterly meaningless at a time of great distress in the land, again confirming an abiding understanding of the third social sin Mahatma Gandhi talked about – “pleasure without conscience”.
Otherwise, why feast when increasing number of our compatriots are unsure of their next meal? Why make merry and dance wildly in the shimmering marquee when at several locations across the country, millions are huddled in makeshift tents, daily tortured by the anguish over homelessness inflicted by relentless Boko Haram terror and cruel banditry.
Rather, he would wish a tranquil atmosphere for deep national introspection and true healing.
We listened and understood his concern.
Everything considered, yours sincerely will surely be counted among the legion of his mentees. In the media industry alone, the list is endless. Since the torrent of tributes began a week ago in celebration of his 80th birthday, media heavyweights like Sam Omatseye, Dr. Reuben Abati, Segun Adeniyi, Azu (Azubuike Ishiekwene), Femi Adesina, Simon Kolawole have individually given touching testimonies.
Indeed, these renditions have celebrated his many trophies and laurels in multiple fields of human endeavor. But it will require tomes and tomes to document his positive impact on the lives of so many. I have known him for close to two decades. Within that period, I often depended on his wise counsel for direction at defining moments in my career.
When offered to be Sunday editor of start-up Sun newspaper in 2002, he didn’t hesitate in encouraging me to take the risk of giving up the certainty of being deputy editor of daily Thisday. His golden words: “Never become content in your comfort zone. Fortune awaits the brave and the daring.”
Five years later, he would again encourage me to resign as editor of the Sunday newspaper that had become the highest selling within the Sun group to start National Life newspapers because “There’s nothing for you to prove there anymore”. The same way he counseled in 2011 that accepting the invitation to be Edo Information Commissioner would enrich my private-sector experience with that of public sector. Ditto the offer of Senior Technical Assistant on Media to the President last year.
From his vantage position, he certainly sees far and is ever eager to push the younger ones to attain their full potential. Back in 2005, he had assembled a number of us in the media he considered equipped with “critical skills” to dream of jointly authoring a book to set agenda for the nation in the decade ahead.
That included “The Monumental” Reuben (Abati), Azu, Simon and this writer. After a couple of sessions at his Ikeja office with him presiding, we developed a content of ideas. But hard as he pushed, the book project became stalled at some point due to some technical challenges.
As for Azu, if The Interview has moved faster than he planned, the credits entirely belong to Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi. Regardless of perceived saturation of the market, he never stopped goading Azu not to become contented with merely running a “corner shop” printing facility in Abuja. For the public presentation of The Interview magazine in 2016, the old man was committed enough to fly to Abuja from Lagos, sit through a gala night as a curtain-riser and following day, preside over the main event at the Yar’Adua Centre as the Chairman with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo delivering the keynote address.
More, he was generous enough to donate a space at Juli Pharmacy super-store in Ikeja, Lagos for copies of The Interview to be displayed.
At inter-personal level, his sense of humor can be summarized with one word: subversive.
When I turned 40 in 2013, he attended a reception hosted in my honour by my big brother, Benny Obaze (owner of Bevista, Ikoyi). As usual, he was so generous with his time to sit through the event as the Chairman from evening till late in the night. He was flanked on the high table by the durable Aremo Segun Osoba (former Ogun Governor) and Right Honorable Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Lagos State Speaker. Immortal Kongi (Professor Wole Soyinka) sent a goodwill message read by Sam Omatseye that day.
But it took our next meeting at his Ikeja office several days later for Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi to tell me his impression by way of a postmortem of the event.
“I heard everyone hailing you as ‘Mr Capacity! Mr Capacity!!” at the party. I almost didn’t suspect anything until I started noticing one slim lady running all over the place. Now, as the ‘Daddy’ you call me, tell me who is that fine lady?”
“Oh,” I replied casually. “You must be referring the the event planner of the ceremony.”
“Just an event planner?,” he probed further, his face contorted into a playful frown, adding sarcastically ”And she was always smiling coyly and all over you as you sat close to me on the high table?”
“Ah, Daddy…,” I burst into laughter.
“Just one more word from you and I will…” he interjected in a raised his voice, twirling a finger in mock threat. Of course, the unspoken message was to squeal on the findings of his discreet investigation.
We both reeled in a prolonged hearty laughter.
On regaining his breath, he fired more shots with suddenly contrived sobriety: “I know that very soon, you’ll start saying you inherited your handsomeness from me. But if I may ask you, is that ‘Capacity’ part of the genes you took from me?”
The laughter only grew more delirious.
Ever since, the invocation of, “One more word!” has become the trigger for laughter in our conversations or interactions. Once, he tried to reach Azu in Abuja on phone from Lagos without success. It took the latter several hours to return the missed call.
After Azu tried to apologize for the delay, Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi replied with feigned severity: “You’re supposed to be a bachelor in Abuja, Azu. Last night, I called you to discuss a matter of urgent national importance, but you deliberately refused to pick your call. Now, just one more word from you and I will tell Madam to ask you to explain yourself!”
Both parties burst into laughter.
Indeed, with Pa Adelusi-Adeluyi, laughter never ends.
Happy birthday, sir!
*Mr. Louis Odion is the Senior Technical Assistant on Media to the President.