High Chief Ebun Olawoye was born in Ondo on January 6 1930 to the illustrious family of Pa Abraham Olawoye. His father was the son of Logbosere Fagbohunlu and grandson of High Chief Sasere Fasida, (popularly known as Sasere Otokola, meaning he made his wealth from farming). His mother, Madam Bernice Olawoye, was the granddaughter of High Chief Odunwo Fambegbe Aikasekun. He received his early education at St Stephen Primary School Ondo, from where he proceeded to Ondo Boys High School in January 1942. In 1947 he got a Grade 1 with exemption from London Matriculation in the Cambridge Overseas School Leaving Certificate examination. This marked the beginning of many firsts in his life.
Indeed the record set by his 1947 class of Ondo Boys High School (which included his lifelong friend Chief Olaseinde Akinsete the Sama of Ondo, High Chief B.O Akingbule the Odunwo of Ondo, Dr. Bayo Ayodeji, Late Professor Jibayo Akinkugbe, Late Messrs Akinlolu Joaqaim, Desola Ayodeji, Abiodun (Abis) Akerele, Folajimi Fasida, Frank Akinrele (SAN) and other distinguished classmates remained unbroken for several years in the school. For more than 2 decades, Ondo boys high school played host (1930s to 1950s) to boys all over Nigeria. A strong contingent of students came from present-day Edo, Delta, and Ekiti state.
High Chief Ebun Olawoye was admitted to Trinity College, the University of Dublin to study Civil Engineering in 1951. He graduated with First Class Honours in Civil Engineering (BSc Civil Engineering) and was awarded several prizes. This was a remarkable achievement and no mean feat at the time, even as it is today. His exceptional academic achievements continued with his obtaining a Master’s degree in Engineering from the same university in 1957.
He started his Engineering career as a graduate engineer with Messrs Randall, Palmer, and Trinton Consulting Engineers in London in 1955 and remained there till 1958 when he joined Preload Great Britain Limited a pre-stressed concrete Firm. He lost his father in 1954, whilst still a student abroad. His father’s first cousin, Pa Jacob Akinduro Akinnawo took up the role of father to the Olawoye family. The Akinnawo and Olawoye children related as siblings from that time and this have continued till the present day.
On his return to Nigeria in 1958, he started work at the Western Nigerian Housing Corporation and was the first Nigerian to be appointed to the position he held at that time. He designed the layout of all the roads in Bodija Estate, Ibadan. The area was at this time a bush within a hamlet. The excellent professional that he was, he did all manner of work including design and supervision of the housing project as the Corporation did not employ its first Architect until 1961. Bodija Estate remains a prime and preferred residential estate in Ibadan until this day.
In 1962 he was transferred to Ikeja Industrial Estate to supervise the construction of Nigeria’s first Industrial sewage disposal plant. He eventually resigned from the housing corporation in June 1963 and took up employment with British Petroleum (BP) Nigeria in July 1963. There he held the positions of Service Engineer, Manager Midwestern Division, Manager Lagos Division, Manager Southwest Division, Supply and Distribution Manager, and finally Operations Manager. The position of Operations Manager was a key post in the Oil Industry at the time and he was the first Nigerian to hold such an appointment in any of the multinational oil companies. As a manager of repute, he was seconded to BP Headquarters in London for training in refinery programming in 1966. He was also engaged in study tours of BP installations at different times in the UK, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland.
High Chief Olawoye had always wanted to establish his own business and eventually took early retirement from BP Nigeria Limited in November 1976 at the age of 46. Early in 1977, he started an Engineering Consulting practice in association with H.L Waterman & Partners in London. He was the Managing Director of Olawoye Waterman and Associates. He also engaged in joint venture projects with a number of foreign firms, mostly British & German. A Chartered Engineer, he became a full member of the Institute of Civil Engineers of Great Britain in 1960 and was also a foundation member and fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. His business interests extended beyond engineering to manufacturing, finance, and marketing.
On the creation of Ondo state in 1976, he was appointed a Director of Ondo State Investment Corporation. The Federal Government also appointed him a Director of West African Distillers in 1975. High Chief Ebun Olawoye was very proud of his Ondo Heritage and was totally committed to the development of the community.
He was a founding member of the Ondo Club 75, which is dedicated to the advancement of the interest of Ondo. He later became its President, a position he held for six years. The Club inaugurated the meeting of Presidents and Secretaries of Ondo clubs in Lagos. The first of such meetings was held at his Palmgrove residence and the group blossomed into a well-structured association of Ondo clubs in Lagos comprising about 40 clubs.
Baba Odofin was a much loved and respected member of the Club 75 and never missed meetings unless he was out of the country. He remained committed to the Club until the restrictions on movement were placed on everyone with the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. His invaluable contributions to the club are no doubt a part of its enduring success.
In recognition of all his efforts to ensure the development of the community and as a worthy son of Ondo, he was honoured with the chieftaincy title of Odofin of Ondo in February 1984. The Odofin is one of the six high chiefs of the Ondo Kingdom, who together with the Osemawe constitute the “Osemawe in Council” which governs Ondo. He discharged his responsibility as Odofin with honour and added great lustre to the title without compromising his Christian faith. The “Odun Oba” festivities amongst all other traditional obligations were fully discharged by him from the time he took the title until the last few years when travel and such strenuous activities became difficult.
Over 450 years ago, Odofin was involved in a revolt against the Osemawe. When peace was restored the Odofin (which was a very senior chieftaincy title) was downgraded in a cabinet reshuffle. In 1996, Oba Festus Adesanoye restored the Odofin title to its former position with all its trappings and privileges of office (and the Odofin was once again allowed to use the Ugbaji drums). This reversed a 450-year order and the decision was no doubt influenced by the character, pedigree, and invaluable contributions of High Chief Ebun Olawoye to the community.
Baba Odofin Olawoye conceived the idea of an organisation that would react rapidly to the challenges of the community and at the same time formulate long term strategies to sustain the development of Ondo. It was agreed that this organization would have a full-time secretariat in Ondo and be able to attract the bright and best minds willing to be in Ondo for monthly meetings and other emergencies. It would also have direct access to the Osemawe in Council. This concept was developed with other individuals of like minds and the Ondo Development Committee (ODC) was born.
The inaugural meeting of this committee which held on October 25, 1986, was presided over by the then Osemawe of Ondo, His Majesty Oba Robert Adekolurejo Jisimosun III. Baba Odofin Olawoye was appointed as the first Chairman, a position he held for 10 years. This was an indication of the confidence all members had in him as a result of his leadership style. It was under his chairmanship that the Civic Centre (a grand multipurpose hall suitable for events in the community) was built. It has turned out to be one of the most beautiful landmarks in the city of Ondo and a legacy to the vision of the ODC. It was also in the course of his tenure as Chairman, of the ODC, that the Ekimogun Day celebration was conceived.
This was a cultural festival to mobilize thousands of Ondo sons and daughters to celebrate their culture and community. It also served as an occasion to raise funds for the development of Ondo. The first celebration was held in 1988 and High Chief Odofin Olawoye in his capacity as Chairman ODC was the chief host. High Chief Olawoye sacrificed his time and resources to ensure the success of the committee. In 1996 he was awarded the Ekimogun Ondo Merit Award. This remains the highest mark of distinction that can be given to an Ondo son or daughter by the community. Today ODC’s membership comprises top professionals and successful entrepreneurs, all leaders in their own right. The ODC continues to play a very important role in the development of the community.
High Chief Ebun Olawoye was happily married to his wife, partner, and soul mate, Chief Mrs Kofoworola Olawoye (nee Adewole) for over 62 years. He met her in 1956 when she was studying at the London School of Economics and he was working as a professional engineer in London. They got married on December 28, 1957. He loved his wife dearly and always spoke of her in glowing terms. He described her as a wonderful woman who was always loving and accommodating to every member of his family. In his own words at an interview, he granted to mark his 70th birthday “Quite frankly we have had a blissful life. Ours is a very happy family”. Indeed this remained his testimony until his very last day on earth. Their marriage is blessed with three daughters Sinmidele, Olutoyin and Mojisola, sons-in-law, Bambo Adesanya and Bowofade Olateru-Olagbegi, grandchildren Tejumade & Fola Albert, Toluwalope & Owolabi Akanimodo, Ogechi Ajuka, Adeniran & Wemimo Ogunsanya, Oladejo Olateru-Olagbegi, Adesinmisola & Akinyoye Aduwo, Anjolaoluwa Adesanya, Bosoye Olateru-Olagbegi, Korede Olateru-Olagbegi, Ranti Akanni, Temidayo Olawoye, Bolurin Olawoye, and 10 great-grandchildren.
High Chief Ebun Olawoye was a most sociable and amiable gentleman. He was a member of the Metropolitan Club (Table 2), and enjoyed the Tuesday afternoon lunch meetings, which he attended religiously and enjoyed thoroughly until the restriction of COVID19 made all such social activities impossible. He was also a member of the Lagos Doyen Lions Club and the Second Sunday Lunch group.
High Chief Ebun Olawoye was the true epitome of the word Patriarch and took his role and responsibility as the Head of the illustrious Olawoye family with utmost seriousness. He was the much loved and appreciated brother of his 19 siblings. The unity and love they all have for one another to this day was inspired by the example that he showed them all. He sacrificed for each and every one of them in many different ways. For example, he had the opportunity to pursue a PhD at the University of Dublin, but he gave this up to enable him to put one of his sisters through her tertiary education in the United Kingdom. He was extremely dependable and was there for everyone in the good times and the difficult times. The strong sense of family felt by all his siblings, nephews and nieces is no doubt as a result of his strong leadership.
The Olawoye family became members of All Saints Church Yaba in 1971 when Reverend Akinbola was Vicar. He was a committed member of YMCA, a one-time President, and now a patron of the Association. He was a founding member of the Benevolent Service Association of the Church and served as its President from its inception in 1992 till 2017 when he voluntarily gave up the position due to old age. In addition to this, he was also a Patron of the Fountain of Faith Society and a Grand Patron of the Boys Brigade of the church. In his home church St Stephen Cathedral Oke Aluko, Ondo he was a member of the Brotherly society and Grand Patron of the Messiah African Church Ondo Archdeaconry.
He was well known by all for his unfailing punctuality at all events be they professional, social, or religious. He had a fundamental respect for all human beings regardless of their social status. He gave himself to his God, his family, his community, and his country. He was a prayerful and contented man who always thanked God for His many blessings. He once said in an interview “ I would like to be remembered as a God fearing man. A decent man, who does not go out of his way to hurt anybody. A man who is respectful. A modest man.” Indeed, he was all this and more. It can be said of High Chief Ebun Olawoye that ‘He came, he saw and he conquered !”
Like Abraham in (Genesis 25 v 8) “Then Baba Odofin breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years and he was gathered to his people”. Rest in peace dearly beloved husband, father, brother, uncle grandfather, great grandfather, and friend. We are eternally grateful to God for your beautiful life. Sun re Logun , Baba Odofin, Baba rere.
(Source By: The Guardian, Editor of Saturday Magazine, 12 September 2020 – In memory of High Chief Ebun Olawoye,1930-2020)