To Chief Charles Adebiyi @70

Today, October 12, Chief Charles Olumide Adebiyi, B.Sc. (Hons), FRICS, FNIVS, PPNIVS, MNIM, CRA, God willing, would be ushered into the distinguished club of septuagenarians, as he marks his 70th birthday. A highly talented, multi-skilled, detribalised, humane and humble personality, I met Chief Adebiyi, as he is fondly called, sometime in 1996, when I joined the law firm of Sam Azuara and Company. Chief Adebiyi, the founder and Chief Executive of Charles Adebiyi and Company (1978), Chartered Estate Surveyors and Real Estate Consultants, was the life-wire of my late colleague, Sam Azuara’s chambers. But he was more than a very important client; he was our mentor-in-chief.

Chief Adebiyi, who trained as an Economist at the University of Lagos, rose to become one of the most revered Estate Surveyor in the country. From my vintage position as one of his external Solicitors, I was privileged to learn that nearly all the big names in the Real Estate business in Nigeria, trained directly under him. And what a teacher Chief Adebiyi is! I remember vividly many of them that passed through his mill, since I met him. For any of them to be summoned to present an account of an assignment to the chief, was like being summoned to the shrine (Marian shrine, I know chief will prefer). Many of them who were my friends will rehearse their presentations several times; for chief was too deep to be easily satisfied. Indeed there are few compatriots in the profession that can match the professional and intellectual fecundity of Chief Adebiyi.

Chief is multi-talented. In the public sector, he was elected President, Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (2004-2006); Governor, Rotary International District 9110, Nigeria, (2001-2002). Appointed, Member Land Use and Allocation Committee, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (2000-2004); Member Court of Governors, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, (2008 – to date). Within the private sector, Chief Adebiyi, apart from excelling in his profession, was the chief promoter and Vice Chairman of Midas Merchant Bank, and its affiliates. He is presently a Director, Alarab Properties Limited; Director, Medilag Ventures Limited; and Executive Chairman NIGCHIN Global Trading Company Limited. Chief Adebiyi’s firm was among the pioneer in Securitization of Properties and also Geographic Information Services (GIS). A workaholic, Chief was a marvel at any Board meeting, or any in any fora, where a sagacious application of the intellect was in contention.

A humanist; the chief regales in service to mankind, whether in the church or in Rotary. As a devout Roman Catholic, he is a member of the Catholic Church of Presentation, G.R.A Ikeja, Lagos; and is the Vice Chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council. He also serves his faith as a member, Archdiocesan Land and Building Commission. In Rotary, a faithless but humane group of professional persons, Chief Adebiyi has served meritoriously in various capacities, culminating in his being elected the Governor, District 9110, Nigeria in 2001. In that position, he exercised the onerous responsibility of supervising all the Rotary clubs and fostering the work of Rotary in Lagos and Ogun states. Chief is inherently kind, and would not hesitate to share his time, talent and treasure, even when the resource available is scarce.

During his tenure as District Governor, perhaps part of the golden era of District 9110, the international theme for that year was ‘Mankind is Our Business’. And that fitted into the essential Chief Adebiyi. As a non-rotarian in 2001 (I joined Rotary in 2002), I was amazed at the level of sacrifice, that Chief Adebiyi made for Rotary as Governor, a not-for-interest and a non-paying vocation, that nearly consumed his professional practice. Because our office was in the same building as his, and were virtually in-charge of his lawyers work, I was usually astounded as day-in-day-out, Chief Adebiyi kept away from burning office matters, to serve the District. To further astound, each time I went to see chief at home to deal with issues begging for attention, he was charmingly happy at his vocation, which for me was completely destabilising several expansion programs that chief was undertaking with us in tow. I have since found out, that chief was making the best investment – service to humanity.

Chief Adebiyi also has the exciting trait of being detribalized. Of course I am not talking about the empty gabble of politicians seeking votes, across tribes. But I refer to a man who will not discriminate against another because of the circumstances of birth. In his office back in the days, you had persons of all tribes and religions, learning and having equal opportunity to the bargain under his tutelage. At the time I met him in 2006, Sam Azuara, an Igbo, was perhaps his closest solicitor, and the relationship which subsequently extended to me, was more of mentoring. Since I knew Chief, I have never caught him, whether privately or officially disparaging another person based on tribe, religion or such other fixations that most times have no relationship with capacity and competence.

Chief also has a fascinating intellect, and is an incomparable original thinker and pioneer. Even when the matter is one of a different professional matter than his area of core competence, he will critically offer suggestions and insights. At several Board meetings that I was privileged to attend with him, his usual performance can be likened to that of a field marshal, with uncanny perception of problems and prospects, often proffering the winning ideas and solutions, at such a speed that beguiles any observer. Yet even with such capacity, he remains charmingly humble, and ever ready to sacrifice his personal interests and positional advantage for a less qualified colleague. Of course chief has paid huge prices for that trait.

As his hoary years draw near, chief can conveniently look back with contentment, in appreciation of the grace of God, and for a wonderful wife, Chief (Mrs) Funlola Angela Adebiyi, and their lovely children. Not to talk of his numerous friends, both in high and low places. Also for his service to God and humanity, and the several pet projects that he had expended his classical intellect to accomplish. Chief has deservedly been severally honoured, with many chieftaincy titles. He is the Otun Baale of Wasimi, Ikeja; Gbobaro of Orile Agege, Lagos State; Bobaseye of Oke-Ona Egba, Ogun State and the Borokin of Ikeja land, among other deserving honours. Chief Adebiyi deserves all the honour. So here is toasting 70 hearty cheers to Chief Charles Olumide Adebiyi. May I also wish him many happy returns of his birthday, longer life, more prosperity and unqualified good health.

• Barrister Amalu is columnist and visiting member of The Nation Editorial Board.

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