By Otunba Wole Okunowo. 

I received the sad news on the transition to Glory of our revered baba, though I was privy of his indisposition when I tried to put a call through on Saturday, which was his 90th birthday to rejoice and felicitate with him. Indeed, losing a loved one irrespective of their age can be traumatic. 

Baba Soleye, a thorough bred academia, religious leader, and elderstateman, will be remembered for who he lived to be. He never pretended to be who he was not.

In the grand tapestry of life, there are some whose paths brightens and illuminate others. Our paths crossed in January 2003 during the 80th Founders Day celebration Dinner of Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta held at the then Ogun State Hotel,  as a young graduate who was still looking for job. He gave us a certain amount of money after our musical performance at the event and an elder old boy told us in his presence that is it money we wanted or job? This made us book an appointment with him and we went to meet him afterwards. We sat together in his modest sitting room and he told us in Yoruba " ko si ise ni Nigeria sugbon awon eeyan si nri ise" (There are no jobs in Nigeria but some people are getting it). This statement still rings in my memory whenever the issue of jobs and unemployment in Nigeria comes to mind.  He later gave us a task that we should look at where we wanted to work, get the name of the CEO and his telephone number(landline), and he will take it up. The mission seemed impossible because as a young and fresh graduates, how do we get the contact or phone number of a CEO of a bank or multi national. After several drifts, we were able to get the Contact of Rev. Tunde Lemo's and he gave one of us a note to him. That was how one of us got a banking job!.

Fast forward to 2019, I was sitting in my office at the National Identity Management Commission in Ogun state when I spotted Baba and Mama Soleye entering to register for their NIN. Sighting them from afar, I left what I was doing, approached and greeted them, whispering our normal school slogan "Nulli Secundus " and he embraced me, telling me how proud he was with BBHS.  The process was completed and I promised to drop their NIN slips for them at home later in the day and we exchanged contacts. To my surprise after an hour, I received an MTN recharge on my phone and a lady called me that it was from Baba Soleye ..and that was how our friendship started. I go to Baba's house at will, we discussed freely, he shared many personal and interesting life experiences with me notably on how Ogun State was created, how Abeokuta became the State Capital. He also told me how some government agencies were created under the Ministry of Finance,  his academic life..and so on. He was a very loving, pleasing and highly spirited personality. His views on issues are always rational and a reflection of his extremely wide experience in the vicissitude of life.

Baba was always willing to assist and also taught me that life and power is transient. He told me a story about how he followed his nephew to SSG's office, and he waited for over 6 hours before he could see the SSG and he(SSG )apologized for keeping him waiting. Baba said he bursted into laughter that while he was in office as a Minister that people had waited for him for 3 days power is transient. 

Baba Soleye will be greatly missed. I called him like 2 weeks ago to check on him as I normally do intermittently, and he picked and said, " Otunba,  bawo ni, awon Abuja nko, he prayed for me as usual not knowing that will be the last time we will talk .

Baba Dr. Onaolapo Soleye,  a true soldier of Christ, a shining path to many,  a mentor to many of us, a Distinguished Old Boy of the Great Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta,  a former Commissioner of Industry in the Old Western Region, a former Commissioner of Finance and Industry in Ogun State and a Former Minister of Finance.

Our consolation is the memory of the great things he did and achieved while on this side of the divide.   

May your beautiful soul rest in peace. 

Otunba Wole Okunowo is the National Secretary of Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta, Old Boys Association, writes from Abuja Nigeria

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