Legal luminary and Afenifere chieftain, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, has passed on at the age of 91. Ajayi, who was the oldest surviving member of the pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, died in the early hours of yesterday at an undisclosed hospital in Lagos.
Saturday Telegraph gathered that he had on Thursday afternoon complained of pain at his Isara-Remo residence in Ogun State, after which his eldest son, Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi, took him to the Lagos hospital, where he eventually died hours after.
At the deceased’s residence located on No. 2, Odemo Street, Isara-Remo, yesterday, scores of sympathisers stormed the place to pay their respect even as a condolence register was opened by the Ajayi family. Reacting, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State expressed mixed feelings over the demise of Sir Olaniwun Ajayi.
Amosun said the fact that the late elder statesman lived a long, fulfilled life in good health and made it to the gracious old age of 91, is something to be grateful to God for. The governor, in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Adejuwon Soyinka, said:
“Although he will be sorely missed, we cannot but thank the Almighty for the eventful and highly impactful life that the late Ajayi lived.” President Muhammadu Buhari last night paid tribute to Pa Ajayi’s inspirational and dedicated work to entrench and strengthen democracy in Nigeria through his passionate engagements in Afenifere, the National Democratic Coalition and the Patriots.
Guided by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s principle, the President believes that the late revered Yoruba leader effectively combined his sharp commentary on the state of affairs in Nigeria with uncommon patriotism, while working tenaciously to further unity, development and prosperity in the nation.
President Buhari urged all who mourn Pa Ajayi to emulate his lifelong commitment to dialogue, democracy and development, which are key ingredients for national growth. He prayed that God would comfort Pa Ajayi’s family and grant the soul of the departed eternal rest.
Former Vice President and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar, described the late leader of the pan-Yoruba group, as a patriot whose exit will create a void that will be difficult to fill. Abubakar, in a press statement by his media office on Friday, said he was shocked at the announcement of the demise of the Yoruba leader, noting that Ajayi’s convincing advocacy of a restructured Nigeria was the noble signature he left behind.
According to the Turakin Adamawa: “Pa Olanihun Ajayi was a patriot you could rely upon. His advocacy for true federalism and for respect for human dignity will be a signature he left behind.” The former Vice President prayed for the repose of the soul of the elder statesman and condoled with the Ajayi family and the government and people of Ogun State on the loss of an illustrious leader.
The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, also expressed sadness over the passage of Pa Ajayi.
The Governor in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna, said the late Ajayi was a frontline politician who was passionate about the progress of the Yoruba nation and Nigeria at large. “Papa was one of the few surviving close associates of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
After Chief Awolowo’s death, he was a consistent advocate for the struggle to see Nigeria achieve the dreams of her founding fathers. “He was very passionate about the progress of Nigeria, he was an intellectual genius who had an enthusiasm for the development of his immediate community and the country at large.
“I recall my last meeting with him just about three months ago at the residence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was like a premonition.
He had admonished all of us to give him a long lasting legacy and ensure that the Yoruba hegemony is not trampled upon and tarnished. “This wish of his, as a great Nigerian statesman, and true son of Yoruba land, we are committed to uphold and to cherish.”
Ambode recalled that Pa Ajayi’s law firm, which was established in 1962, grew from being a sole practitionership to one of the largest and open partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa and in its five decades of existence, held briefs for various corporate organisations and the government at both the federal and state levels.
“There was virtually no sector in Nigeria that Pa Ajayi’s law firm was not prominent. His law firm in no time became one of the most sought after fullservice legal practices in Africa,” the governor said. He also prayed that Almighty God would grant the soul of the departed peaceful repose and for the family, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
“I wish to convey my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, on behalf of the people of Lagos State. Pa Ajayi will be sorely missed,” Ambode said. On his part, a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Kalu, sympathised with the Yoruba race over the demise of Ajayi.
He said Ajayi was a patriotic Nigerian, who believed in a fair and just society and as such, his counsel on national issues would be greatly missed. In a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Kunle Oyewumi, Kalu said: “The demise of Chief Ajayi is not only a huge loss to the Yoruba clan but the nation at large.
“He was a philanthropist, a statesman and a democrat who championed the cause of national well-being in different capacities. “His contribution to the social and political development of Nigeria was remarkable. Ajayi was a rallying and reference point to many in the society including the younger generation. Above all, he lived a purposeful life.”
Also, the immediate past governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, described the late Ajayi as a democrat of repute and elder statesman who dedicated his life to the service of his people and country. In a condolence message yesterday, Daniel said:
“Late Sir Ajayi was a very strong force in Nigerian polity and well respected in the political landscape over the years as he improved on the democratic ideals of the founding fathers and played his roles in the service to the nation in various capacities.”
Similarly, the Ooni of lfe, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (11), also described the death of Ajayi as a great loss to the nation.The monarch in a statement made available to journalists in Osogbo by his Director of Media and Public Affairs, Moses Olafare, said: “Apart from being a dependable leader of Remo people of Ogun State, Sir olanihun Ajayi, had spent great part of his life as a pillar behind the throne of Oduduwa in Ile – Ife and a committed Yoruba patriot whose ideology of progressivism remained incorruptible till his glorious passage.”
Commenting also, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, described Ajayi as a true Awoist who taught many of the younger generations of politicians, including himself the doctrines of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In a statement yesterday by Media Office, the former Lagos governor said the late legal luminary left behind his enduring legacies.
The statement noted: “The news of the passage of one of our foremost leaders in Yorubaland and a national icon, Ajayi, left me distraught. He was one of the very few we had left to guide our path with wisdom. “He was a highly referred leader, a democrat irrevocably committed to constitutional democracy and who worked tirelessly for what he believed in.”
Reacting, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said Ajayi was a forthright leader with a very rare generous spirit. He said the death of Ajayi came to him as a surprise, because the late Afenifere leader was full of life during their recent meeting, in spite of his old age.
A former member of the National Assembly, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, described Ajayi as “a consummate Awoist, political mentor to uncountable, legal icon, epitome of good morals, neatness personified, educationist and a communicator par excellence.”
The Secretary of Afenifere, Bashorun Seinde Arogbofa, said the pan-Yoruba socio-political group had lost one of the pillars of the organisation. Also, Afenifere in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, noted that it received Ajayi’s passage with mixed feelings.
The statement reads: “We are joyful that in a country with life expectancy of 53,Papa made it to 91 aging graciously and in good health till the last 24 hours of life when he had to be hospitalised for some health complication. “We are, however, sad that his exit has robbed the group of the wealth of experience of a philosopher, prolific writer and memory bag that is irreplaceable.
“One remarkable trait of his life was his consistency in the Awolowo political family where he put almost 70 years of dedicated service as a lieutenant of the sage and one of his worthy successors after his transition. “He had a sense of history and lived his life delibrately to make impact on his environment.
Either in Afenifere, the National Democratic Coalition, The Patriots and the Methodist Church where he was a Knight, he left his indelible footprints on the sand of time. “The last days of his life were spent in worries over the state of affairs in Yorubaland in particular and in Nigeria at large. He was not just lamenting but he was taking practical steps to find verb for our noun in the syntax of human experience.”