His reputation had preceded him for many decades before I got to meet Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi one-to-one, sometime in 2008.
He had been many outstanding things, recorded many firsts, and established a reputation as man for all seasons. Founder of the first company (Juli Pharmacy) promoted by a Nigerian to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. First Governor of Rotary Club covering the entire country.
When he decided to add a law degree to his original calling as a pharmacist, he came first in law school, despite not being exactly a young man then. First pharmacist to be named Minister of Health in the country. And for me, who lived in Usi-Ekiti when my father was principal at Notre Dame College in the early 1970s, the first Ekiti man who wouldn’t eat pounded yam three times a day. In fact, he does not like pounded yam at all.
That day we first met at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, where we had both been invited to the front table during a book launch, I branded the renowned pharmacist in my mind as an Afenifere, though I don’t know if he’s actually a member, or active in the Yoruba socio-cultural and political group, which goes by that name.
Who can you really call an Afenifere? Anybody that looks out for your good, and wants to promote it, not necessarily a politician.
As we sat together, Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi extracted my life history from me within minutes. When I told him I was Executive Director in charge of Publications at The Sun Newspapers, he was astounded.
“Executive Director? But you are too young to be one,” he exclaimed. I laughed, and told him many senior positions I’d held before then. Editor of National Concord. Visiting member of the editorial board at Nigerian Tribune. Editor of Daily Sun for five years.
Prince wondered how it all happened, with what he called my “boyish looks.” I told him it was photo trick, and that many decades were already tucked in my belt.
That was how a father-son relationship started, which has seen me visiting his home many times, and meeting his dear wife, Julia, who never ceases to “load me with benefits” each time I’m leaving. Incidentally, both don’t look their ages, and carry on like boyfriend and girlfriend.
When Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi turned 70, I wrote a piece celebrating him in Daily Sun. All too soon, it’s 10 years after, and he turns 80 on August 2, 2020. Hearty congratulations to this caring soul, who is always asking after your family, your welfare, and the next steps, when you finish what you are currently involved in. An Afenifere, if ever there was one.
On that very first meeting, as we departed the NIIA after the book launch, he pulled me aside, and in a conspiratorial tone, asked: “And how are the girls,” with a wink. I got the hint, and responded: “No away games sir.” We both laughed.
Anytime we meet today, whether in Abuja, or at his Lagos home, he never forgets that question, and the wink. And I try to assure him that I try to be just like him. We laugh.
In his early life, the Ado-Ekiti Prince had been a broadcaster at WNBS/WNTV. If you hear him speak today, you will know that what is bred in the bones cannot go out through the flesh. Urbane in all ways.
I’m glad President Muhammadu Buhari has celebrated “the accomplished pharmacist, lawyer and boardroom player” with a personal letter, as he turns 80. May we have more men in this mould. But sadly, they don’t seem to make them like this anymore.
Congratulations, Prince. In okun o, as the Ekitis would say.
. Adesina is the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.