Rasheed Abiodun Oladosu Gbadamosi was born on December 7, 1943 to the family of Ajenise Gbadamosi Odesanya, alias Adaramodoti of Ikorodu, Lagos. Rasheed’s father, Sule Oyesola adopted his father’s middle name Gbadamosi, and became known to history as Sule Oyesola Gbadamosi. The Odesanya/Gbadamosi family of Ikorodu, no doubt, occupies a pre-eminent position among the elite families in Ikorodu such as the Willoughby’s, Ogunsanya’s, Benson’s, Shobowale’s, Ogbara’s, Odulate’s, Alogba’s, Alison’s, Alokolaro’s, Egbewumi’s, Onafowokan’s, among others. Indeed, Rasheed’s father was one of the founding fathers of the Action Group, its first National Treasurer and a very close associate and friend of the sage, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was one of Nigeria’s early industrialists and entrepreneurs.
On the maternal side, Sule Gbadamosi hailed from the Raliat Morounkunbi family of Ode-Remo. However, while Rasheed’s father was of Ikorodu’s ancestry, his mother hailed from Isale Eko, Lagos, where he subsequently grew up. His maternal grandmother named him Oladosu in the expectation that he was going to be a man of substance who would break the ceiling in any chosen profession.
Rasheed Gbadamosi had a good head-start and thorough bred education courtesy of his father, Alhaji Sule Oyesola Gbadamosi (SOG) a prominent Nigerian muslim and one of the richest Nigerians of his generation. In spite of his commitment to muslim faith, SOG took his son, Rasheed, to the Methodist Boys High School, Lagos and pleaded with the Principal, Very Reverend Ade Osinulu to allow his son live with the Osinulu`s family as an unofficial boarder. Through this approach, Rasheed had access to the best education and sound moral instructions which the principal inculcated. At MBHS, he belonged to the Didsbury House, one of the four houses established to encourage sport development among the boys. At MBHS too, he after took to heart the motto of the school: Non Sibi Sed Aliis, meaning “Not not us but for others”. Rasheed Gbadamosi’s later accomplishments in life truly exemplified this motto and spirit.
At MBHS Rasheed distinguished himself as a member of the Dramatic Society. He cut his teeth under the tutelage of Mr. M.J. Etuk (later a renowned diplomat). In his student days he featured in such Shakespearean plays as As you like it and Macbeth. He and the late Ola Rotimi (Professor Ola Rotimi) later in public Life became the cultural ambassadors of MBHS and Nigeria. He was a member of the 1956/1960 set popularly known as Liberation Set. In public life, the Liberation Set has carved a niche for itself as great achievers and icons; Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Chief Adaboyole Agbebiyi, Dr. Ore Falomo, Chief Akinbayo Adenubi, David A. Akinla, Prof. Layi Mojola, Alhaji Muniru Muse, Dr. S. Adefolarin Olufunwa, Apinni Gbolahan Odeinde, Engr. S.O. Odumosu, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, Aremo Adeniyi Ogunsanya and Tunde King, among others.
If MBHS training prepared the solid foundation, most certainly his university education provided the building blocks and pillars for his future constructions and achievements. Rasheed graduated with BA in Economics from University of Manchester, England in 1966. He obtained an advance Diploma in Economic Development from the same university in 1967 and thereafter proceeded to the University of New Hampshire, USA where he obtained his M.Sc Degree in Economics in 1969. Rasheed’s journey into art collection blossomed in 1963 as a student at the University of Manchester. At the time, he became a member of several societies in the arts —music, drama, arts, literature and was a regular figure in the Department of Drama and several art galleries to appreciate arts.
Though trained as an economist, Rasheed Gbadamosi distinguished himself in the art world and other professions to the effect that people refer to him as “jack of all trades, masters of all”. For a layman coming in contact with Rasheed Abiodun Gbadamosi through the vistas of the art, he can be no other than a very gifted playwright and dramatist. Rasheed indeed wrote such topical plays like Trees Grow In The Desert, Children of Two Wars, Echoes From The Lagoon (Oxford, 1970), and Behold My Redeemer (1968), perhaps, his most popular and most performed play. So successful and accessible an artist he was that the artists’ community sees him first as an artist turned economist, yet so successful he was as an economist that the economists see him first as an economist turned artist. He was a man who traversed many worlds.
Rasheed was also a great lover of classical music, the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. His wife, Tinuade and ten children are also music connoisseurs with expertise in classical piano, guitar, violin while the eldest daughter, Kunbi, is a music teacher and owner of a musical company in the UK. Rasheed’s other favourite European composers are Chopin, Brahms and Handel. Indeed, his family can be referred to as the Nigerian Von Trapp family in the movie “Sound of Music”. It was therefore not an happenstance that Rasheed eventually partnered with some eminent classical music lovers and practitioners to establish the Musical Society of Nigeria: Ayo Rosiji, Akintola Williams, Louis Nnamdi Mbanefo, Oga Moller, Oto Lijadu, Walter Hagg, Helen Travers, Oye Williams, Christopher Oyesiku, Christopher Bowman and Franscesca Emmanuel. The musical society of Nigeria formally constituted its founding Board of Trustees with Ayo Rosiji as the Chairman, Akintola Willians, Vice-Chairman, Rasheed Gbadamosi, general secretary and Louis Mbanefo, Chairman of the Artiste Committee. At the time of his death, he was one of the trustees of MUSON.
Indeed, the artist in him lived throughout his life time. This is evident when he became the Chairman, Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON). As the Chairman of the MUSON Centre, he introduced Life Theatre Performance into the MUSON festival, a tradition that has continued after him. He was also Chairman/Grand Patron, Center Stage Productions, a Theatre and Movie Production Company founded by the Artist-Scholar, Sola Fosudo. Fellow Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists. Rasheed Gbadamosi authored over six plays and numerous papers and essays on political, economic and management issues.
Rasheed Gbadamosi was also a founding member and later Vice-Chairman of the Visual Art Society of Nigeria (VASON). This was in recognition of the pervasive influence which the master- artist, Yusuf Grillo, had on him on his return to Nigeria in 1966. He was particularly thrilled and found of Grillo`s art titled Awopa procession, a depiction of Lagos traditional ritual setting. In the art world, he interacted very closely with the late Sammy Olagbaju, Chairman of the Virtual Art Society of Nigeria, Engineer Yemisi Shyllon of the Omoba Yemisi Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF), Captain (Chief) John Edokpolo (Rtd) and Omoba Oladele Odimayo of the Odimayo Art Foundation (TOOAF). One major legacy which Gbadamosi left for the art world was the Grillo Pavillion situated on an expensive lawn of three-acre land in Ikorodu and with an Annex in South West Ikoyi, Lagos.
One other invaluable work of art in possession of Gbadamosi is the piece on the palace of Oba of Ikorodu painted by the artist, Kehinde Sanwo. The works becomes more relevant today, in the words of Gbadamosi, because “within two years of my acquiring that work, the Oba’s palace was demolished to pave way for a more befitting structure to be built by Lagos State Government”. Another art work owned by Gbadamosi was the house of the popularly acclaimed multi-millionaire of old, Da Rocha. “Whenever I see Pa Da Rocha’s building depicted on canvas by Sanwo, it reminds me of the man I used to see being driven in cart, just like Queen of England on a cart-ride. But this building and others are no more because we are use to ruins in this country. Thank God, I have the paintings to remind us of that period.” One unique feature of Gbadamosi’s art collections, according to informed sources, is the unassailable fact that, “he was perhaps the only collector that boasts of about 100 or more different artists spread across paintings, sculptures, mixed media and prints”. Visitors to Rasheed Gbadamosi`s Ikoyi and Ikorodu residence will also attest to the fact that walls in his living room are lined with various art paintings of such artists as Kehinde Sanwo, Davis Dale, Krdyz Ekwuemesi, Olaku A. O and Uche Okeke, Dotun Alabi, Olojo K.K, Oshin M. A and Ohrer Enwonwu. He also had special collections of paintings of such grandmasters as Bruce Onobrakpaya, Yusuf Grillo and Ben Enwonwu.
His career as an administrator and economic guru began when he became the Manager, Ayinla and Oyesola Limited (NTC Distributors) (1969-1971) and Ikorodu Trading Company (1971-1973). The companies grew under his midas touch. He later moved into the public sector when he was appointed the Commissioner for Economic Development and Establishments, Lagos State, 1973-75, member Board of Directors, National Electric Power Authority, 1976-77, member, Constitution Drafting Committee, 1976-77, member, Study Group on Industrial Policies, 1984, member, Committee of Investigation into Counter-Trade, 1985, Chairman, Rabaka Grosbo Works Ltd, chairman, Ragolis Waters Ltd, 1981, Member, Nigeria’s External Debt Rescheduling Team, 1986, Chairman, Nigerian Industrial Development Bank Ltd, 1986-89, Chairman, Commercial and Scientific Computing Nig. Ltd and Director, Ivory Products Limited among others. He was also the MD of Flour Mills.
Rasheed A. Gbadamosi also served as Chairman at AIICO Pension Managers Ltd., Chairman at BHN Plc, Chairman at Lucky Fibres (Nigeria), Chairman at Secure Electronic Technology Plc, Chairman at Sparnoon Nigeria Ltd., Chairman at Syndicated Metal Industries Ltd. and a Managing Director at R.A.G & Co. Ltd. He was on the Board of Directors at Cappa & D’Alberto Plc, Premium Health Ltd. and The Musical Society of Nigeria. Gbadamosi also previously served as the Chairman of Bank of Industry and Chairman Vono Products Plc. It is on record that Rasheed Gbadamosi also served as Director, Farawa Limited, Managing Director, RAG and Company Limited, Minister, and Member, Advisory Board, Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre, 1995, among others.
It is on record that Rasheed Gbadamosi first came to national limelight in 1973 when he was appointed by the then Military Governor of Lagos State, Brigadier Michael Olufunso Mobolaji Johnson, as the Commissioner for Economic Development and Establishments. At the tender age of 29, three factors weighed in his favour. First, Johnson wanted a cabinet in which he “would tap from the experience of the elders and the knowledge, vivacity of the youngmen”.
Second, he was seen as a good complement to Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, also of Ikorodu extraction, who had served as the first Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and had been redeployed to the Ministry of Education. Thirdly, his solid family pedigree and expertise in economics and management further recommended him as a highly competent successor to Alhaji Ishawu Sanni Adewale (The Boy is Good), the erstwhile Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development. As the Commissioner for Economic Planning, Rasheed Gbadamosi and his team put Lagos State on strong economic pedestal which the state enjoys today. He was quite selfless and highly transparent in the discharge of his assignments while his Governor, Mobolaji Johnson, was full of appreciation to him. He served between 1973 and 1975.
In the service of nation, Rasheed Gbadamosi, was the Honourable Minister for National Planning between 1967 and 1969. He was also appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as Chairman, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency. Gbadamosi was conferred with the National Merit Award of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 2001.
Rasheed last major public assignment was this appointment as Co-Chairman of the Lagos @ 50 Planning Committee, alongside the Nobel Laureaute, Wole Soyinka. As far Gbadamosi was concerned, Soyinka’s appointment was “thoroughly deserving”. He contended
“It does not matter what state in Nigeria that you would attach him to. In terms of performance and excellence, the fact that the Governor of Lagos State felt he merited being made the Chairman of Lagos @ 50 Committee is a testimony to the great and the good of the Nigerian society.”
He also provided sound rational justification for hosting the Lagos @ 50 in an elaborate manner.
“Lagos State, in its 50 years of existence has tried to be at the forefront of several events and there are several activities lined up to have a fantastic celebration. There is hardly anybody whether in the arts or music and so on that would have taken off without passing through the waters of Lagos. So playing host, irrespective of whether you originated from Lagos capital and entertainment city or not or you lived all your life or not in Lagos, we have this hope of welcoming the exposure you have enjoyed by making sure that Lagos particularly has been a jumping up board for those who have excelled not only in our country, but in our continent. We are quite pleased that Governor Ambode has seized the fantastic opportunity for us to highlight what Lagos has been about and what it is going to be about in terms of potentials.”
Our tribute will not be complete if it is not added that this great man was a devout Muslim, a loving husband to Chief (Mrs) Tinuade Gbadamosi (Nee Adedoyin) and a dotting father of ten children and eight grand children.
Sharif Gbadamosi, his first son, also an accomplished economist and development expert attests to the fact that Rasheed Gbadamosi was a strict disciplinarian who did not spare the rod when occasions demanded them. One great influence which Rasheed had on his children was that he gave them excellent upbringing, solid education, good family values and also ensured that they are all involved in the stock market. He taught them the value of hard work and integrity.
He was also a very humorous man. Though a cosmopolitan man of the world, Rasheed was also a man with deep attachment to culture, history and particularly his Ikorodu roots. It was the family tradition to spend the festive periods-Christmas, Sallah- with all his family members, children, grand-children, friends and Ikorodu indigenes. When at base in Ikorodu, he spoke in Ijebu dialect to his friends and associates. In his life time, he held three traditional titles. He was the Aro of Lagos, a worthy title conferred on him by HRM Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II. He was also the Otun of Ikorodu and Otun of Ode-Remo.
In his last days, Gbadamosi became a vocal critic of the Buhari`s Administration, particularly its economic policies and public office holders. His candid view was that, in an age of recession, public office holders should set good example by taking cuts in their salaries and allowances. He also posited that for Nigeria to attain growth and development in the mould of Singapore and Malaysia, Nigeria must tackle the problem of corruption wholeheartedly, address the problem of poverty and hunger and embark on aggressive job creation for the teeming youth population.
While on his earthly sojourn Rasheed Gbadamosi belonged to various social clubs; Metropolitan Club, Lagos-Island Club, Ikoyi Club, Lagos, Oriwu Club, Lagos Tennis Club, , among others. He was also Patron, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Foundation and Chairman Yoruba Indigenes Foundation.
During his life, Gbadamosi maintained a very busy schedule. When he was asked the rational for his hectic schedule, Gbadamosi quipped: “Fright that my life is so short so the impulse is to say: ‘what is the next thing to accomplish?’ What can I be fixated on that will give me pleasure? I had the fear of getting old and also the eternal fear of everyone that someday you will shut your eyes and you won’t see all these things again. As long as I have the energy in me I can create positive aesthetics for my environment. Reading has helped a lot too but maybe I am losing the energy and concentration.” Gbadamosi breathed his last on Wednesday, 15th November 2016 while his remains were interred in line with Islamic tradition on Thursday 16th, November at his 72 Sule Oyesola Gbadamosi Crescent, Oke-Ota Ona, Ikorodu.
On a final note, Rasheed Gbadamosi’s had great love for my former university, the Lagos State University since its inception in 1984. On 14th November, 1984, when the Foundation Governing Council chaired by the late Justice W. Akibo- Savage was inaugurated, he made the list. He served between 1984 and 1987. During the early years of LASU, he was also one of the major donors to the University Library. He also sponsored the maiden edition of the LASU Journal of Humanities and a number plays produced by the Department of Theatre Arts & Music particularly in the Akesode years, 1997-2001. In recognition of his services to Rasheed Gbadamosi was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the authorities of the Lagos State University in 2005.
A befitting tribute to Rasheed Gbadamosi has been given by our own WS:
In the [email protected] monthly series in which we celebrate the five Lagos divisions known as I-B-I-L-E, this December was to have been the turn of Ikorodu, third in line, and Rasheed’s early play, Echoes From The Lagoon, was already scheduled. In the process of re-acquainting myself with his works, I was reminded of Gbadamosi’s early creative promise. I wrote him, lamenting that the Artistic world had lost him to business. It is impossible to quantify the personal consolation I derive from having sent him that note just a fortnight or so before he took his leave of us. In strict terms of course, the artistic world never lost Rasheed. That was where his soul was, and he manifested it in the commitment that made him turn his estate into a vast exhibition gallery of Nigerian painters, to which many flock till today. Rasheed – let this be stressed as a public challenge – Rasheed put his money where his heart beat! Both young and old generation artists will testify to this in abundance.May his great soul rest in perfect peace.
• Prof Siyan Oyeweso (Fhsn), writes from Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria.