By Samuel Ogundipe
A man who grew from his Lagos roots into one of Nigeria’s wealthiest men died last week. Lagos State University, LASU, where he served as Chancellor until his death, announced on Monday. Nigerian billionaire and philanthropist, Molade Okoya-Thomas, passed away Sunday night after a protracted illness. He was 79 years old. “Okoya-Thomas was a strong stabilising factor in the partly turbulent history of LASU,” a statement from the school’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Obafunwa, said. He was a very patient man. A great listener who was not easily annoyed and slow to react.”
Prince Molade Alexander Okoya-Thomas was born in the City of Lagos on June 8, 1935 to devout Muslim parents but died a Christian. Okoya-Thomas made his fortune through investing and corporate takeovers. His public profile shows that he served as chairman of many organisations including CICA (Nigeria) Ltd., Transcap Nigeria Ltd., Oktom Investment Ltd., Itochu Nigeria Ltd., Chiyoda Nigeria Ltd. and Anchoria Investment & Securities Ltd. He also serves as Director of NFI Insurance Company Plc and Gateway Bank Plc
His philanthropic endeavours spanned across many aspects of human lives including sports and education. A lover of sports, he contributed to development and construction of Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos. He also chaired many sports-focused organisations.
“Chief Okoya-Thomas was an essential of benevolence, notable businessman, sports lover and a philanthropist of great repute,” mourned Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos East.)
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar also mourned his death, describing him as “a pioneer and a visionary” who “belonged to a generation of private sector investors who saw opportunities in making investments in the economy when it was risky to do so.”
Atiku added that Okoya-Thomas’ “legacies will remain indelible in corporate Nigeria and I pray God will grant his family and loved ones the fortitude to bear the loss.”
Okoya-Thomas was educated at Princess School, Lagos, 1946; Balham and Tooting College of Commerce, London, 1956–1959; Columbia University, New York, US, 1981. Until his death, he was acknowledged as the Asoju Oba of Lagos, Babasuwa of Ijebu-Remo and Odofin of Ife. He was also the chairman of the CFAO Nigeria Limited and Chancellor, Lagos State University. He was a tabel tennis lover and regularly organised the Asoju Oba Tennis competition in Lagos through which many talented Nigerian tennis players have been exposed to the world.