He had looked forward to joining the Octogenarian club. Often when he met an older colleague of his in the media, Hadj Alade Odunewu, his usual banter was “Alhaji, seeing people like you ageing so gracefully, I am hopeful that the Lord will permit us to join your league”.
He loved life and he lived it to the fullest, doing things that gave him fulfilment in the arts, broadcasting and the media world in general. When I often teased him if he was not busier in retirement than when he was in paid employment, he would always plead God’s abiding grace.
The Lord was truly gracious to Segun Olusola, one of Nigeria’s earliest television producers, former ambassador to Ethiopia and the Organisation of African Unity; founder, Africa Refugees Foundation, promoter of the Ajibulu Moniya Gallery, culture and arts patron and trustee of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence.
He packed a lot into his 77 years on earth. In the area of broadcasting, he created a well regarded programme, The Village Headmaster, which was adjudged the longest running television drama serial until it was rested. In the deliberate effort to promote an industry reward system, he was one of the earliest trustees of D.A.M.E. He also endowed a prize for Television Drama in memory of his first wife, Elsie Olusola, an acclaimed actor and broadcaster in her own right, who predeceased him 21 years ago. His AREF foundation ranks as one of the earliest and respected efforts in the area of addressing refugee problems in our land. And his face was a welcome fixture at many respected outings in the culture sector. As Olatunji Dare has posited, in him the word “icon” had a natural habitat.
I first made his acquaintance on television in the mid 60s when he was with the then Nigerian Television Service. I recall seeing him and Dr. Christopher Kolade act in the celebrated film, Taiwo Sango, that was serialised for two or three weeks. My image of him in that film has subsisted to date. Olusola, clad in traditional attire, was the custodian of tradition, who stayed back on the farm whilst Kolade was the urbane one who had travelled abroad and needed to be reconciled to the realities in the land. In real life, I do not recall ever seeing Olusola in Western dress, not in Enugu when I met him at the NTA office in 1985, and not since I became his colleague on the D.A.M.E. Board in 1993.
The story of his association with D.A.M.E. is worth telling as it widens our understanding of the man and his eagerness to support worthy ventures. He had just returned to Lagos after a successful tenure as ambassador. On the advice of Mr. Taiwo Allimi, I had approached him alongside Taiwo Obe to support our efforts at D.A.M.E. Not only did he accept the invitation, he needed little persuading before endowing the Television Drama prize. Throughout the period he served on the Board, he was a mentor in words and deeds. His was the experienced voice that was generous with advice; his was a constant presence at our public outings. In the 19 years that he served on the Board he missed only one outing of the annual D.A.M.E. presentation, which will host its 21st edition this year. He did not foist his ideas on others; he was content to be part of an ennobling scheme. Often, he recommended regular reviews of our preparation to ensure necessary grounds were covered.
His words at the 2nd D.A.M.E. in December 1993 where he was the Guest Speaker speak of his abiding faith in media professionalism: “Those who are privileged to be professionals in the media must regard their calling as caretakers of a publicly owned resource. It is a sacred trust, for which dedication, sustained training and public accountability are indispensable”.
For his contributions to the development of the media, he was honoured alongside Christopher Kolade and Ted Mukoro with the D.A.M.E. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. They were the second set of Nigerians after Dr. Babatunde Jose, Chief Alade Odunewu and Mr. Sam Amuka to be so decorated. Seated next to me at the awards night, he wondered if our decision was valid since he was not invited to the meeting of the Board where it was taken. I told him he was invited but regretted the letter only reached him after the decision had been taken. He knew he had been shielded from a matter that concerned him, so he greeted my response with a knowing nod and hearty laughter!
Last July 19 at the celebration of 20 years of Diamond Publications, Chief Olusola at Uncle Sam Amuka’s prompting supervised the cutting of the anniversary cake, imbuing the act with humour and panache. In my view Chief Olusola’s eagerness to help or serve overexposed him and took a huge toll on him. It was always a marvel watching him juggle the contending commitments he faced daily.
As his remains are interred on July 20, I pray that the torch of excellence which he joined others to light in the media and other fields will continue to glow. May the heavens accept his soul!
•Idowu is the CEO, Diamond Publications Ltd