TRIBUTE TO THE OHE OF BENIN KINGDOM: CHIEF OSAYUKIDOLASON JACKSON-OBASEKI
Updated: Aug 24, 2019
Uncle Oyuki was born on the seventh day in the seventh month into the Obaseki (seven letters) family. He came as a luminous Star and radiated far and wide, in an illustrious, accomplished and impactful life. His retreat was slow; the eventual exit, thunderous in a painful confirmation of the end of a great man, a good man, the moving train. Chief had a rare attribute: highly sociable and able to win very deep trust and confidence of those he came across; he cared intensely and often got it reciprocated by those he touched.
This attribute made him a perfect mediator on many matters and disputes, within and outside the family. He had ample time, unimaginable, for other people. Chief was a committed, passionate and genuine relationship builder; an embodiment of humanism. He had friends who were as close as family: Jolly Aiyudubie and Barrister Oboh; in the list are also his departed bosom friends George Edobor Akpata and Frank Alkali. His houses and residences were exquisitely designed with his direct input, including the interior finishing and details; he liked warmth in the home, with many people in convivial, continued celebrations. He dressed creatively, always resplendent with all the trappings of innate nobility. His voice was full of prayers, for each call or visit he received…..koyo egbe mhen….tughato…Ukhianagbe…..
He had his list of diverse interests: soccer, show promotion, tradition, politics and business, and his core love for everything in the family. Chief was welcoming, accessible, relatable with a common-touch and strong community linkages; his interests in life reflected love for people, their welfare and happiness.
On soccer, as far back as 1971, he was already a registered member of Arsenal FC fans club and visited London frequently purely to watch his club. He referenced many Benin youths to Europe on grounds of sports. He was passionate about Bendel Insurance, a leading fan and became a key motivator to many of the players in that generation. He moved up in sports from the local, state and national levels, capping it all as the President of the Nigerian Football League. His passion and determination to develop soccer in Nigeria, earned him the title of the “Moving Train”, breaking down barriers. Football, was his central constituency.
He loved music and at a stage worked along with Sir Victor Efosa Uwaifo as ‘show promoter”; I am sure that the evergreen music maestro will have some nostalgic memories to share. Chief, especially loved Benin music, laced with the richness of the language, proverbs and wise cracks. His love for music extended to his devout religion within the Benin Baptist Church where he was a regular feature. He was a supporter of younger musicians, especially Bayo Ade, who unfairlingly announced the arrival of Chief in any party with his guitar…OYUKI JA! OYUKI JACKSON……; Chief was in the high octane of Benin social circle and carried the Benin Social Circuit in Lagos along.
His father was Chief Jackson Aiyemenkhue Obaseki, CBE, Esama of Benin; the Emperor of Ossiomo and major benefactor to the Abudu Community and one of the pace-setting sons of Chief Agho Obaseki, Iyase of Benin. Chief Agho himself was the iconic son of Chief Ogbeide-Oyo, the Inneh of Benin. Uncle Oyuki’s late eldest brother was Chief Alfred Enina Obaseki. It can therefore be said that he was born into a long line of established Benin tradition. He continued with the established tradition and our Royal Father, Oba Erediauwa, graciously conferred on him the chieftancy title of The Edamaza of Benin; as a progression in the Palace he was again conferred with The chietancy title of The OHE (Ohenokobosare) of Benin. Both titles mirrored his style and he lived them up. Chief Professor Osato Giwa-Osagie and Chief Oyuki had traditional thanksgiving processions around the same time (IkponmhenEdohia) to round up the ceremonies of his OHE title. This procession was made more colourful by the large team of young boys in football jerseys who joined their mentor. As we all returned home after the long walk round Benin City, Chief kept asking the caterers “ensure that these young footballers eat; give them plenty food and drinks”.
Chief was connected always to community and felt the pulse accurately. He could read the winning team based on what the people want. His politics was about the welfare of people, the interest of Benin and his personal conviction and relationships. Chief was in politics mainly to support Dr Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, he was a key tactician within Ogbemudia’s inner team at Iheya in Benin; their struggle paid off with the election of Ogbemudia as Civilian Governor of Bendel State. This was short-lived but chief made a lot of personal sacrificies, especially after the military take-over in 1983. Chief’s next involvement with real active politics was as a supporter for His Excellency Lucky Igbinedion. Chief was virtually a member of the Igbinedion Family at a point in time. As the son of a former Esama, he had common grounds with the current Esama, Chief G O Igbinedion. In the household of Chief Igbinedion, Uncle Oyuki was fondly called “Uncle U”. His next foray in politics was during the campaign for the election of His Excellency Godwin Obaseki, Chief was in his finest elements, working this time for the family brand and for a candidate he personally knew and trusted to deliver; he went very far in canvassing support from his deep networks and his father’s far flung contacts , especially in Edo South hinterlands. The emergence of Professor Osayuki Oshodin, as the vice chancellor of University of Benin, was one good example of the meaning of politics to Chief: merit and commitment to community.
Chief’s business vehicle was Jackson Technical (West Africa) Ltd; he applied his social skills to win contracts across the country for his company. He also leveraged his relationships and social skills. He was at a point a director in Okada Air. He was also a director in Pedrocci Ltd, an Italian company. He was always self employed and had discretion over his time. Long ago, I advised Chief to buy shares in publicly quoted companies. He remarked that he will rather put his money into his business than put it out to companies controlled by other people. He said shares may be good for employees!
Love for family: this was Chief’s core. He told me that he built his house at a very early age to ensure that his mother, then a widow, was comfortable. His mother stayed with him till her death. He carried his mother everywhere, frequently to his residence in Lagos. On one such occasion they both came to my house, then in the outskirt of Lagos for my child’s naming ceremony which he coordinated. Chief can go anywhere for family. His mother’s death was the first real crack in his robust support structures. At her funeral mass he wept deeply, but later at the same church for thanksgiving, he told the Benin Baptist congregation that he will like to elevate his wife to the status of “mother” in appreciation for all she has done to stand by him through life’s vissisitudes. Chief was handsome, rich, generous, jovial , very caring and with discretion over his time or movements; this was the perfect setting for women who liked him. It led to mild tensions. Chief will jokingly say that he had many children to offset the very few that his mother had. He described his mother as a lover of children. On his stabilizing side were his close relatives: Chief JB Obaseki (Obaruyiedo), late Chief Evans Igho-Osagie and late Oyo Omo-Osagie.
Chief loved his children and wanted the best education for all of them to the best of his ability. He was a busy man, frequently on the move, but he put in his cash for education. At a point when four of his daughters graduated, he gave a reception party to mark it. Two of his younger sons, then, were in Corona Primary School in Lagos. I have never seen Chief as happy as the day his son, Osayuki (II) was appointed as the Senior Prefect of Saint Gregory College in Lagos. Chief saw this as a mark of good conduct and discipline. He was so happy and kept on saying “this is happening in Lagos, in Gregory’s, I am proud of my son “. Chief had no privacy with family; he taught me that the best place to receive family members is the bed room, not the general lounge. Once he is at home, people will throng in, especially women and children in the family. He will attend to all of them in cash, in kind, with counsels, and by reaching out to his network of influential contacts, putting people in jobs or removing people from tight corners. What he receives as gifts, he quickly distributes out. I personally testify to his goodness to me. He sponsored my wedding as a formal role but also supported the ceremony materially; while in Lagos, I was a part of his house and when eventually he moved to the North, I felt a real vacuum.
My friend, Engineer Edobor Irabor sent me a condolence note….”Peter …sorry….I knew your uncle very well and how he stood by you in Lagos”. I was happy to represent him directly in a few family and social events in Lagos when he became willing but unable to attend from his base in Benin.
The death of his “new mother”, his dear wife, was one blow too many. Chief rose up to it gallantly and was directly involved in all aspects of the funeral, in defiance of the convention: wake-keeping, funeral service and at the burial. One of his daughters, broke down by the graveside and family members wanted to take her inside the house, Chief sprang up and coddled her but insisted that she should summon up the courage. This was good preparation as her house in Ibadan became Chief’s base while undertaking treatments until the painful eclipse. At a stage he had health scare with his sights, we all prayed and he weathered it, recovered, after treatments. His response was to set up a foundation for eye care, inaugurated with a board and a lecture, delivered by Prof (Mrs) Ukpomwan at Uniben. This now forms a part of his legacies.
I offer my profuse condolences to all his children and especially to my brother, Osayuki (II); to his younger brother, Ogie; to Ebo his long time nephew and assistant, to the Jackson Obaseki lineage, to the Obaseki family, and to Ogbeide-Oyo dynasty. Chief was larger than life in popularity, a pride to us as a Family and to Benin as a People. May God remember his benevolences and receive his noble soul into eternal rest. Adieu OHE of the Kingdom