By Wole Arisekola
Until his death, he sponsored the aspirations of politicians of different and indeed rival political parties. He financed all parties in all elections. You only know his preference by identifying who received the highest financial support from him. In one instance, Arisekola, in support of a gubernatorial candidate, set up his own campaign team and handed over to them N30million each day of the 40 days preceding the election.(Isiaka Ajimonbi’s gubernatorial election in 2011) In another election, he procured 25 new vehicles for the campaign train of a gubernatorial candidate even when his associates claimed that he was the biggest financier of the rival candidate.
Arisekola’s uncommon generosity did not miss the attention of the Islamic world. He was one of the very few personalities from across the world granted the privilege of partaking in the washing of the Kabbah by the King of Saudi Arabia and custodian of Islam’s holiest mosque. It couldn’t have been different for a man who in one of his last years reportedly took about 500 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, paying for their transportation, accommodation and providing them other sundry allowances.
But there is no arguing the fact that his greatest ally in politics and in the affairs of Ibadan was the strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu. Between the two men are stories that will easily stroll into the pages of World’s Hilarious Stories. One of the most celebrated is Arisekola’s visit to the Molete residence of Adedibu. Adedibu was in the middle of his Sallah prayer when Arisekola walked in. He promptly suspended his Sallah to attend to his visitor. When he was asked why he did so, he responded that his prayer point was for God to give him money. Arisekola’s coming was the evidence that the prayer had been answered because Arisekola never walks alone; he was always heavily laden with money. “If Arisekola should leave, God will punish me that he had answered my prayer but I refused to accept it!”
There is a more hilarious story of Adedibu and Arisekola’s Zoo. Arisekola had decided to set up a zoo in his new palatial residence at OluwaNla. Adedibu volunteered to get the lions from Senegal. When after a long wait and several entreaties it appeared no lion was going to be delivered, Arisekola became agitated. Informed of Arisekola’s worries, Adedibu walked into Arisekola’s residence and volunteered; “Aare, atinaowoawonkiniun re o, bobajuawanasinu zoo k’awonara Ibadan o ma wawowambe”(Aare, we have spent the money you gave us to buy lions from Senegal. You may wish to throw us into the cage so that the people of Ibadan can come to watch us as they would have come to watch the lions). Both old men had a very hearty laughter. Their friendship continued.
Arisekola’s greatest passion was for Islam and Ibadan. I have not met any Ibadan man who has as much pride in his Ibadan ancestry as Arisekola. His world revolved around Ibadan and everything that symbolised the great city.