The life of the protagonist in all the stories related above mirrors Nigeria’s evolutionary story as a nascent nation – principled, ethical, brilliant, selfless and industrious – but only up to a point. A point now admittedly in the distant past as a collective loss of morality has since bred incipient corruption and a hollowing of the national intellect.
In a nation where money has now firmly and totally replaced value, where the young struggle to find role models and mentors, one bereft of imitable leadership, it has become critically important that the stories be told of the few men and women that remained standing whilst all fell around them, succumbing to the cancerous national malaise of greed and materiality.
The stories of our best!
It is equally important that the message be delivered in a format that espouses the essence of their values and attributes while minimising narrative distractions, one that is engaging and connecting, requiring minimal translation and encouraging immediate consumption and inculcation by the target audience, which of course, and of necessity, must be our youths, our tomorrow.
The subject of this collection of story-portraits is Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, born on May 22, 1933. A brilliant student, he attended Government College, Ughelli from 1947 to
1952 before proceeding to the University College, Ibadan where he earned a B.A. degree in Classics in 1957, his one and only formal tertiary educational qualification. This is worth highlighting in a society where titles have become more important than substance, and bogus certifications are literally purchased by modern day leaders to burnish their images. In a society where many a leader parades himself about as “Dr.” on account of honorary awards, Gamaliel Onosode, with an impressive haul of nine honorary doctoral degrees and counting, remains simply a “Mr.”
He was once “ambushed” by his hometown king who suddenly bestowed a chieftaincy title on him while on a visit home. The very next day he paid a visit to the palace to return the beaded necklace that symbolised his new but shortlived title, successfully it must be added.
Gamaliel Onosode has given his best and made invaluable contributions in three key areas of national and societal development: investment and finance, education and the Christian faith.
A lesser publicised aspect of his contribution has been in the area of university education where he has brought his immense experience, deep financial acumen, managerial skills, vast network of contacts and pro-active approach to the benefits of many of the country’s universities. He has variously served as the pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing councils of some of the country’s leading universities including Lagos and Ibadan. His contributions in the area of professional development in key aspects of the financial markets from stock broking to pension management must also be mentioned here.
An ardent Christian and an ordained Baptist pastor, this son of a preacherman has been consistently guided by his faith in his life journey. He was married to Susan.
In the year 2000, a few well-minded but increasingly embarrassed young Nigerians successfully put forward his name for national honours as it was becoming apparent that the succession of self-perpetuating, self-congratulating, navel-gazing leaderships presiding over our continuing societal and economic decay hardly had any gongs left over for non-insiders.
True value is insuppressibly enduring, as is its true recognition.
As part of his legacy, and for the continuous transmission of true values and principles to the younger generation, he founded the Gamaliel and Susan Onosode Foundation when he clocked 80, five years ago.