I have just got back from the Onosodes, to actually confirm the reports making the rounds that the old man has passed away.
Well, what can I say? He's transited to a higher realm is how best to describe a man many were pouring forth great thoughts about on my wall this morning. Adelabu Street, Surulere, is shut down!!!
I woke up this morning with fond memories of some accomplished great men I have had the privilege of interacting with and names like Christopher Kolade, Gamaliel Onosode and Akintola Williams came easily to me. I elected to pick on Kolade may be because we were together most recently, last week. My brief tribute to him attracted huge commentary and not surprisingly names of other good men like Mr. Onosode were copiously mentioned. Along the line of many kind comments on Onosode, I was compelled to reveal that he would be next in the planned trilogy of tributes, and I was gathering materials when the news came that he passed on this morning. As a matter of fact, considering the time his kids told me he took his last breath, I was probably finishing Kolade's tribute by then.
Mr, simply Mister, Gamaliel Onosode has passed on like every mortal will. But as the saying goes, they are not dead those who continue to live in our hearts. Besides, Onosode was a man of impeccable character, impeccable English and impeccable sartorial taste. At his age, he still dressed so well. His trademark dimpled tie in a perfect knot and centre hair parting were perhaps the only vain attributes he manifested. He left a legacy that will be impossible to replicate, duplicate or deprecate.
I didn't meet meet him at Cadbury, but he was my Chairman at Celtel Nigeria. My status as an alumnus of Cadbury, among other things, drew me close to him. Breakfast with him was always a delight. He insisted on serving me himself. He was a human encyclopedia. He knew everything, in addition to the WORD OF GOD. The man can gist! Chai! Just don't let him like you, and then you'll become a wiseman overnight with his numerous stories of great human conduct, excellent performance and the abundant grace of God from every part of the globe. Vastly versed.
I recall taking his flight ticket to Abuja to him once, when he was Chairman at Celtel. He took a look at it and glowed.
And I'm like "why are you smiling sir?" He began in very measured Queen's English to thank me for buying him a Business Class ticket.
According to him, he never flew Business since he stopped working and that was over 40 years by then. When I asked why, he told me he decided against it as soon as he retired because he couldn't afford the very exorbitant price of such tickets for a mere 45 mins to One hour flight. So, he saved his money for long haul flights. Simplicity!
Then, I once checked him into a suite at the Hilton and the poor man screamed! "What am I supposed to be doing here, Emeka? This is too big and rather wasteful. You should have told me so at least I bring my wife along to enjoy this place with me." I was amazed at his "innocence". Of course, I will never forget 2006 when I had to reprint an entire edition of our company magazine (72 pages and 50,000 copies) because I decorated him in "borrowed robes" by ascribing to him the National Honour of CFR rather than his OFR! It taught me never to take any detail for granted.
Testimonials about Onosode are all over the place; so I won't even attempt to write one here except to say that such people don't ever die. His legacy, aside from his well-groomed and understated children, will include high integrity, great leadership, life of service to God and humanity and a simple hassle-free life of contentment. He lived in his house on Adelabu Street for over 50 years. He will NEVER go late for any meeting or event. Never. He'd rather abstain and apologize than come in late.
Cancer!!! Wicked but very stupid. It chose to afflict such a man at 80. Imagine that! And he battled the ailment gallantly, but totally unrelenting in his wish that death should never meet him dead. He's been very sick in the past two weeks, and just when it got very serious, he elected to move on lest his life becomes burdensome to his poor dotting wife and loving children.
Nigeria will miss Mr. Gamaliel Onosode. The Baptist Church, where he was a Deacon and built several churches, will surely miss him. His family and friends will miss him. And some of us who drew generously from his fountain of knowledge, experience, kindness, leadership and incontrovertible sagacity will definitely miss him.
We have lost one of the last of the Mohicans from that rare but regrettably vanishing genteel generation. Farewell, Mr.