My wife and I commiserate with “Mama” Mrs. Olabisi Akindele; with “Mama Iyabo”, Mrs. Atema Akindele; the children of the illustrious departed Sir (Chief) Olabode “Bode” Akindele, Parakoyi Ibadan; and all the members of the larger Akindele family, on this unhappy occasion of his transition.
Others have written and more will write about his philanthropy and his contributions as a major pillar and column of the Methodist Church. I am here to say a thing or two on what I saw of the more colourful aspects of his life and living.
When “Mama” phoned to inform me of the sad event, and after fully absorbing its impact, I recalled an evening conversation with the Chief in the closing days of 2017.
“How many children have you?”, I asked casually as we sat together in the magnum banquet hall at his Ibadan residence during that year’s annual dinner which he hosted after the Christmas Carol service held in his estate. I must have attended not less than three such dinners in the past.
Unsurprised that he was unsurprised at my question, I listened attentively as he answered my question in more detail than I had expected, and also identified those of his children that were in the hall at the time. Not that all he said was entirely new to me, having known him and some of his family for more than 25 years.
We spoke in the English language, as we almost invariably did; in my early years of knowing him, I always opened my conversations with him in Yoruba in order to show respect to my senior by 11 years, as it enabled me to address him in the traditional second person plural, “ęyin” used for seniors, whereas “you” in the English language makes no such fine distinction, but as I found that he always responded in English, I later changed.
Chief was a contemporary of my late maternal brother, Chief Olubunmi Aboderin, the founding chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited who died in 1984 at the age of 49, and it was only after his death that I found out that both of them had had a business relationship at some point but that relationship did not survive him.
Not long thereafter, some circumstances brought us into contact and he related with me as an Ibadan “egbon” and I with him as an “aburo”.
In terms of business success, however measured, Chief Bode was, unarguably, a colossus, one of the national titans.
Anyone who knew him well would have known that he enjoyed his money. He ate full meals and, whenever you visited him, you both ate like kings. His knowledge of European wines, which he drank at practically every meal, except perhaps at breakfast, was exceptional.
And, I always came away with four bottles of vintage red wine, drawn from the famous vintage cellar at his residence, his palace.
Yet, he was fortunate to be blessed with good health and stamina.
When he attended my wife’s 70th birthday party in August 2017, he informed me that he had then just recovered from an illness and that it was the first time in his life that he spent a night in hospital.
His consummate Yoruba dressing complemented his fine bodily features: it was as if he had in his employment a sartorial consultant.
By the time I knew him, he no longer wore Western dress in Nigeria; in any case, l never saw him wear one.
After our daughter’s death in June last year, both “Mama” and “Mama Iyabo” first came to condole with us and some days later, he himself came, accompanied by both of them. They spent over 90 minutes.
The three of them were also at the traditional wedding introduction ceremony of Foluke Aboderin and Dr Ade Alakija on February 22, this year, at the Civic Centre on Victoria Island and we all sat on the same table during the reception. They were at the events for about four hours and Chief looked quite fit and strong.
As they moved to depart, my wife and I together with the married couple saw them to the lift and waved them goodbye.
We were not to see him again.
On June 2, his 87th birthday, I phoned to congratulate and wish him many more years.
I was among Chief Akindele’s invitees to the ceremony for the conferment of an honorary degree on him by the University of Ibadan in 2018.
He was the first candidate to be called for the day’s honorary ennoblement and after his citation was read, as the principal officers of the university stood up and unfurled the colourful ceremonial gown and commenced his enrobement, the university orchestra burst into a rousing rendition of the Christian hymn, “To God be the glory Great things he hath done…”
I will continue to remember him through the sheer splendour of those unforgettable moments; by the pure grandeur of that his finest hour.