The cooperative movement in Nigeria has indeed lost one of its active members and pillars with the passage of Sir Clement Adeola Ayoola. It is a celebration of life of an achiever and man of the people, who cared for the downtrodden and less privileged to ensure that they live quality and purposeful life. Sir Ayoola passed on recently at the age of 83 years. As a devout Catholic, requiem masses were held for him in his parishes at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, Ayede Ekiti and St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Efon Alaaye, Ekiti state, respectively that were celebrated by over 20 priests from Ekiti Diocese and beyond the Bishop Emeritus of Ekiti Diocese, Most Rev. Michael Fagun and the incumbent Bishop, Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye.
Ekiti Diocesan priests, Rev. Fr. Raphael Osegboun, who gave the homily at Ayede Ekiti, Rev. Msgr. Tunji Ogidan and Bishop Ajakaye, who delivered the homily at Efon Alaaye, extolled the virtues of Sir Ayoola for his generosity, active participation in church affairs, immense contributions to the upliftment of the people, and his strive for societal development in general. The Parish Priest of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Alao stated that Sir Ayoola gave much to humanity and devoted his energies, resources, time and talents even till his last moment. Another priest from the diocese, Rev. Fr. Lawrence Jegede described him as a “Marvelous adviser, a worthy mentor, a father and indeed a gallant warrior”.
For the President-General, Efon Alaaye Development League, Bode Fagbemiro, Sir Ayoola’s “Honesty and dedication marked him out and took him out of dispensary business to the cooperative college, and to later become the cornerstone of the cooperative movement in Nigeria, Africa, and the world”. On his part, the Ekiti Diocesan Laity President, Prof. Emmanuel Onijigin, said the late icon was “Very bold and would offer clear explanation on the issues he is convinced (about), correct, and when necessary, suggest ways out of difficult situations”. The Association of Papal Knights and Medalists, Ekiti State Diocese informed that “His achievements as Nigerian cooperative leader was unparalleled in the history of the movement”.
However, despite the litany of accolades poured on him, Sir Ayoola’s journey in life cannot be said to have been a smooth one. For instance, the Secretary-General, Efon Alaaye Development League (EDL), Afolabi Ige attested to the fact that Ayoola passed through life travails, starting from being the sixth child of her mother that survived infancy, despite being tagged as ‘a frightening tiny baby, who did not only survived infant mortality, but has survived every stumbling blocks to success and greatness in life and like a mustard seed, has grown to a colossus in size and every of his endeavours in his early challenge in life’. For Bishop Fagun, his challenges include the unpleasant experience in the hands of his employer earlier in life that almost left him jobless.
He has served the cooperative society in various capacities before eventually becoming the President of Ayede Ekiti CICU Ltd in 1976; President of Ondo State Cooperative Federation in 1980; Chairman, and Adhoc Committee for the establishment of World-Wide Insurance Company Ltd, Ibadan in 1981. Sir Ayoola bagged several awards in the course of serving in key positions such as Golden Jubilee Award of Cooperative in Nigeria from the Ondo State Cooperative Federation Ltd in 1986. Sir Ayoola became board member of the defunct Cooperative Bank Ltd and in 1998, was appointed Chairman, Board of Directors till 2005. The bank later merged to form Skye Bank Plc and is now known as Polaris Bank Ltd; a successful tenure that the Secretary-General of Efon Alaaye Development League referred to as “The most critical stage of banking evolution in Nigeria”.
Sir Ayoola’s contributions to the development of the Catholic Church are immense. In 1987, he became the President of the Efon Alaye Catholic Association of Nigeria; Chairman, Pastoral Council, St. Benedict’s Church, Ayede Ekiti; and between 1977 and 2008, he was member of the Pastoral Council, Diocese of Ekiti, the highest decision-making body for the church in Ekiti. His numerous church activities culminated in him receiving the highly-respected and prestigious award of Papal Knight of St. Gregory the Great (KSG) from His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. It is instructive to note also that Sir Ayoola became the Ekiti Diocesan President, Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, 2000 to 2006; Vice President, National Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria (CLCN); and President of CLCN, 2007 to 2008.
No doubt, we can go on and on, but the passage of the octogenarian would remain historic, not only for the cooperative movement, but for so many people; known and unknown that he has impacted positively. This ray of hope that he lived a fruitful life resonated in his words of wisdom that filled the hearts of his children, who also bared the minds of the grandchildren and family members. No doubt, Sir Clement Adeola Ayoola’s life is truly a worthy celebration of excellence for his rare and outstanding show of love, kindness, generosity, and unblemished service to humanity.