Friday, February 28, 2020, was the 36th remembrance anniversary of the Founding Chairman of Punch Newspapers and Asipa Parakoyi of Ibadanland, Chief Olu Aboderin, the debonair and multi-gifted chartered accountant. He died on February 28, 1984, aged 50 years. May his noble soul continue to rest in peace. Amen.
Thirty five years ago, exactly on Sunday, March 17,1985, the Board of Directors of the Punch (Nigeria) Limited hosted the “OLU ABODERIN MEMORIAL VARIETY SHOW” at the National Arts Theatre Conference Hall, Iganmu, Lagos.
The Special Guest of the show was the late Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola,GCFR, popularly known as MKO, the undeclared winner of Nigeria’s June 12, 1993 Presidential Election.
Bashorun Abiola had kindly invited my family and I to accompany him to the show. A pleasant duty which I gladly accepted. The article below originally titled “The Olu Aboderin Memorial Variety Show”, published in the Saturday Punch issue of March 23rd, 1985 was my summary of the variety show to mark the first remembrance anniversary of the passage of Chief Olu Aboderin, a motivator.
Please enjoy it…
“The variety show staged at the National Theatre, Lagos on Sunday, March 17 this year (1985) in honour and memory of the late Chief Olu Aboderin, founding Chairman of the PUNCH Group of newspapers, to all intents and purposes, was a show of gratitude to a man of varied callings who supported and loved music, dance, sports, painting, among others.
But,the show has finally provided a personal opportunity for me to write for the PUNCH. Long before the death of Chief Aboderin, who for convenience sake, I will respectfully refer to as Olu in this piece, I had nursed the ambition of joining the ‘nation’s 2nd best-selling daily’ at least to taste private ownership from the ‘government owned’ Sketch Group where my journalism career took off in 1973, before the crossover to another government- Owned media, the NTV, Ibadan in 1978.
My PUNCH dream has not materialized, but the group has given good mention in the past to me in my personal capacity, besides the mandatory credit one now gets for Issuing press releases. Be that as it may, the variety show must have made Olu smile in his grave for the main fact that some talented Nigerian artistes were given the opportunity of displaying their talents that evening.
To talk of standard would amount to an understatement for the fact that the show was directed by our own great motivator and gem in the entertainment business –Mr. Steve Rhodes- of the gold-winning Estedd-Flodd fame in 1975, and director of the first PUNCH Rock Festival in Lagos in 1978.
First on last Sunday show was the University of Ife Karate Group in marital arts display. Comprising of many black-belt holders, the group had finesse and made those heel-kicking and arm-throwing scenes in oriented films look crude by their sleek display. Songs in Jazz idiom by Portia Ogbu was fantastic and the audience appreciated his mastery of stage and voice control especially when she rendered Tina Turner’s Grammy Award Song–‘Who needs a heart’.
The Bata dance group from Olu’s alma mater-Government College, Ibadan, disproved the rumour that our so-called model schools are grooming minds alien to our culture and tradition. By their outstanding dance steps and coordinated body swerves, the boys registered a point of several practice sessions before the Sunday date.
Even when the group’s master swerved and his flowing gown brought the microphone stand crashing, the audience continued to clap for a great performance! It was after the brilliant performance of the duet of Folake Munis and Michael Adesanya from the University of Ife in ‘Tonight I celebrate my love’ that the special guest of honour for the evening, Chief M.K.O Abiola, delivered a short but incisive speech about his late friend.
Recalling how he had to force himself out of bed where he had been at least 24 hours before the show, Chief Abiola, another accountant cum newspaper baron, described Olu a s a benevolent person who gave others (including artistes) the chance to live and be known.
In announcing his donation to the Olu Aboderin Foundation for the Arts, Chief Abiola told the audience that since he had not made his calculations, he was making a donation of N20,000.00 as first instalment. Thus opening a floodgate of donations and pledges. First from the late Olu’s elder brother, Olola Moyo Aboderin -N10,000.00, Chief Bayo Akande-N10,000.00, Dr. Lekan Are, Mr. Lolu Foresythe, Mr. Ajibola Ogunsola and the eldest son, Mr. Wale Aboderin- N1,000.00 each.
Others were the PUNCH MD, Mr. Labanji Bolaji (N555), Mr. Ade Aboderin, Mr. Sunday Dankaro, Mr. Edwin Igbokwe and Chief R.Ogunbajo-N500.00 each.
After the speech and donations,the variety show continued with Modern Dance sequence by the Beat-It organization from Unife; ‘Easy Moving’ composed and sung by newly-discovered Alex Okorogiwe; a comedy sketch written by the famous TV actor, Jab Adu, and performed by long-timer Femi Jarret and Ihria Enakimio who kept on answering anyone who cared to ask that“ Oga did not wake up”, in the play titled ‘Na who dem catch’.
Songs for lovers by Gloria Rhodes delivered at the tail-end of the show were romantic especially the Igbo number popularised by the late Tunde Nightingale, the bird that sang at night. As a parting gift, three daughters of the late Olu –Angela, Omowunmi and Omoshalewa rendered their late dad’s favourite song.
And when it was time to go, Ms Lola (Ibi) Aboderin thanked Olu’s friends and admirers for coming. The evening was beautiful and I believe all the guests must have gone home satisfied that they have fulfilled another dream of Olu. Mention must be made of the band which I think I heard Mr. Rhodes call ‘October’ for an excellent performance. As I headed for Ibadan, our hometown (pardon me), I kept trying singing ‘thank you’’ to my family in the car just like Portia Ogbu cued herself out in the finale. Olu must have said “thank you”, too.