This year seems unfriendly to the nation's financial icons, as yet another of the sector's gurus, Chief Wole Adeosun, has bowed out of life's stage. Adeosun died last Thursday at the age of 74.
His death came three months after the passage of Owaloko of Iloko-Ijesa in Osun State, Oba Oladele Olashore, who died in June in a London hospital at the age of 77, and that of a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Ola Vincent, who died two weeks ago. They were all renowned bankers.
Adeosun's death was announced Sunday by his son, Adewole, who said the late banker died in New Delhi, India, where he had gone for a medical check-up. Until his death, Adeosun was the Chairman of the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
It is a tribute to his professional and personal integrity that long after he retired from active banking service as the Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, his services were still valued by the nation so much so that he held top and sensitive positions in the financial sector until he breathed his last.
It is remarkable that in all his years of service, the late Adeosun's competence, honesty and integrity were never called to question, unlike some of his professional colleagues who ended up in detention and are involved in prolonged legal battles to clear their names from charges of fraud and other malpractices carried out under their watch.
The deceased came into national reckoning during his tenure as First Bank Managing Director from 1987 to 1990 when he grew the bank in profitability and made it the market leader that it is today.
Commenting on his professional acumen last night, Oba Otudeko, a renowned accountant, entrepreneur and one-time chairman of the bank, described his death as a great shock, having not been aware of his ill health. He described the late Adeosun as a complete professional who made a major impact both on the profession and the nation.
According to him, "Adeosun was a very smart man. He was professionally smart, and I can also say he was street wise."
Otudeko recalled that ever since they both met in 1970, at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) where Adeosun was a stockbroker, they had maintained a very close professional relationship.
"Over the years, we continued to maintain the friendship and professional relationship," Otudeko said.
Otudeko added that Adeosun's integrity and competence were what saw him through to the apex of the financial services sector, first by serving as the MD of First Bank and later as the Secretary of Transport, Aviation and Communications in the Interim National Government under Chief Ernest Shonekan in 1993.
"He made his impact so much on the profession and he was extremely brilliant and also a people's man, though he never got into partisan politics; and was always in a hurry to get things done.
"He will be greatly missed by his friends, fellow professionals and indeed the nation, which has lost a consummate professional," he said.
In his reaction, the Director-General of PenCom, Mr. Mohammad Ahmad, said the late Adeosun would be missed by all, noting that he was indeed the chairman every CEO would want to have.
"Perhaps, being a technocrat, thoroughbred banker and a former minister of the Federal Republic, he gave us a purposeful leadership. He was very nice, understanding, supportive, accommodating and above all, a God-fearing person," he said.
According to Ahmad, the commission is making arrangements to bring his body back to Lagos tomorrow, adding that the family would announce the burial arrangements later.
Also, Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ancoria Investment and Securities Limited, Dr. Olusola Dada, described Adeosun's demise as a big blow to the nation.
"As an individual, I have lost a friend and brother. We have been together since 1972 when he returned from abroad after his accountancy qualification. He touched many lives in all the places he worked, especially at the NAL Merchant Bank because he helped so many people raise funds to set up their businesses," Dada recalled.
Former Group Managing Director of United Bank for Africa Plc and Chairman, Transcorp Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu, described the demise of Adeosun as a great loss to the industry. According to him, Adeosun was a great banker, who took delight in mentoring and encouraging younger bankers.
"He surely played his part in the evolution of banking in Nigeria," Elumelu said.
When told about the news of Adeosun's death, President of the Association of Pension Fund Operators (PenOp), Mr. Dave Uduanu, said it was a big shock to him as an individual. He promised that the umbrella body for pension operators in the country would react formally by today after reflecting on the development.
According to him, the deceased was the second chairman of the commission and his death has created a gap that would be difficult to fill.
The Managing Director of Oak Pensions Limited, Mr. Mike Olayinka, also described Adeosun's demise as a big blow to the industry given that Ahmad and the top management of the commission are preparing to retire.
Managing Director of AIICO Pensions Fund Administrators Limited, Mr. Eguarekhide Longe, added: "He would be sorely missed by the commission, operators and all other stakeholders in the pension industry."
The President, Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS), Mr. Ariyo Olushekun, said Adeosun's death was shocking and he would be a big loss to the capital market and financial industry at large.
"He made various contributions to the development of the financial sector, considering the fact he played in every part of the industry. We will miss his advice and guidance. May his soul rest in peace," Olushekun said.
Speaking in the same vein, the President, Association of Capital Market Registrars of Nigeria and Managing Director of First Registrars Limited, Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, said the news was sudden and shocking.
"What a great loss to the banking industry in particular and the nation in general. May the Lord grant his family and the entire nation the fortitude to bear his passage," he said.
Born on November 25, 1938, to Chief and Mrs. Joseph Makinde Adeosun, 'Wole', as he was fondly called by his parents, was a prominent Egba son. He was installed the Osi of Egbaland and the Alagba Ojoo, Gbagura, Abeokuta.
He attended Abeokuta Grammar School, Abeokuta from 1954 to 1958, and worked briefly as an Agricultural Officer with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ibadan, before proceeding to the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics.
In addition to carving out a career in banking, the late Adeosun was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria (FCA); Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (FCIB); Fellow, Chartered Institute of Secretaries (FCIS); and Fellow, Institute of Directors.
He was at various times, the Chairman, Indigenisation Committee of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE); Managing Director of NAL Merchant Bank, 1979 to 1987; Vice-Chairman, National Bank of Nigeria, 1991 to 1992; President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria; and Chairman of First Funds Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of First Bank.
Chief Adeosun also served on the Presidential Monitoring Committee during Nigeria's bid to host the Under-23 World Cup in I985 and was the President of Nigerian-American Chambers of Commerce in 1993.
He is survived by a wife, children and grandchildren.