Honourable Sir Anthony Bolaji Oni By Kanmi Ademiluyi

baba-jigiBorn in the then elite Brazilian quarters on Lagos Island, Anthony Bolaji Oni later on in life became an embodiment of the spirit of Surulere. His well known house on Adeniran Ogunsanya was always bustling with activities, doubling as it were, as both residence as well as business premise.
He was a pivotal figure on Adeniran Ogunsanya where he was a pioneer resident. His commitment to the Adeniran Ogunsanya Community Development Association was total. He was a hands-on Chairman who as the association pointed out in its tribute on him: “Contributed a minimum of five times the prescribed monthly due per member and assisted needy members. Our Chairman was concerned about the welfare of all members and the security of the community, partaking in home visitations to the elderly and or the ill on a routine basis.”

 

This is a demonstration of a sense of noblese oblige and commitment to the concept of solidarity which led to his incursion into politics in the 1980’s. It still looks odd even today, the urbane, religiously committed gentleman on the campaign trail. Fortunately, he was propelled into electoral victory by a fount of the goodwill built up over the decades. He had a memorable tenure as Chairman of Lagos Mainland local government. As Chairman against the norm he ran a squeaky clean and effective administration which actually delivered the goods.

 

Baptised as a Roman Catholic, he was educated at Christian schools such as the CMS and Eko Boys’ High School where he excelled academically and in sports as a good athlete and boxer. He was a devotee of Napoleon Peregrino’s pioneering Paramount Boxing Club. Later on in life the man who once Boxed under the norm de guerre “Terrible Antonio”, was elected as the first Secretary General of the then newly constituted Lagos Boxing of Control a position he held for eight years with Colonel Austin Peters as Chairman.

 

Bolaji Oni also became a Wrestling Promoter and great wrestlers such as Power Mike, Johnny Kwango and Mike Bamidele passed through his hands.

 

He joined CFAO Nigeria Ltd Marina – a prominent pre-independence French conglomerate after school initially as a sales clerk in June 1950. The company spotted him as a high flyer and in 1959 sent him on different courses to Liverpool and Paris. He left the company in 1974 after twenty-four years of meritorious service.

 

It wasn’t “retirement” as such. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Lagos Brazilian quarters propelled him to establish a pioneering business venture – Rotimi Rental Services and Merchandising company. The enterprise captured a gap in the market for entertainment related services nurtured by the advent of the 1970’s “Oil Boom”. The increase in disposable income led to a boom in entertainment and the need for logistics and supply services. The “events centres” of today represent the natural progression of the genre he initiated. He actually induced a new business model and deserves to be giving recognition for this.

 

Although baptised as a Catholic, he later on became a stalwart of the Methodist Church.

A Bon Vivant he led a full social life and was highly regarded as a member of prominent clubs such as The Island Club, Yoruba Tennis Club and the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club. As the leading paediatrician and Trustee of Yoruba Tennis Club, Dr Bolaji Ajenifuja observed in all of the club’s  ” he was always held in high esteem, they will surely miss his entertaining personality and wise counsel”.

 

Bolaji Oni personified the spirit of a more edifying era. Surulere and society in general are certainly not as vibrant with the passage of people like him. He was happily married and blessed with six children – three males, three females and many Grand Children and Great Grandchildren.

 

The writer is a prominent commentator on political affairs. He holds a Masters from York University in the UK.

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