Billionaire businessman and a topmost national Muslim leader, Alh. Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao, died yesterday in a London hospital after a long battle with postate cancer.
He was aged 69. His death, which came as a shock most sympathizers, immediately threw Ibadan, the Oyo State capital Into mourning. A reliable source disclosed that Arisekola, who was also philanthropist and a strong factor in Oyo State politics, died of postate cancer after an intermittent long period of battle with the ailment.
Arisekola-Alao was born on February 14, 1945 to the families of Alh. Abdur Raheem Olatunbosun Olaniyan Alao and Alh. Rabiatu Olatutu Abegbe Alao. The parents were peasant farmers who hailed from Ajia in Ona – Ara Local government of Oyo State. He attended St. Lukes School, Adigun, Ibadan and later ICC Primary School, Igosun, Ibadan, due to the persistent persuasion of one school teacher, Mr. J. O. Oladejo.
This was because he never wanted to go to a secular school. The reason for this was because of his love for Islamic education, which he had been attending with absolute dedication since he was three years old.
He completed his primary school education in 1960 and applied to further his education in the secondary school. He applied to Christ School, Ado – Ekiti and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan. He defeated all-comers at Christ School and emerged third best candidate for Lagelu Grammar School. Unfortunately the economic impoverishment of the parents created an impediment for his pursuit of an academic career.
However, whatever Arisekola lacks in formal education, he had abundantly in business: intelligence, shrewdness and aggressiveness, through honest pursuit of economic goals.
Arisekola’s love for education led to the establishment of “Pa Raheem Alao scholarship foundation for indigent students of tertiary institutions.”
The beneficiaries of this scholarship are paid either monthly, per semester or annually.
He is a co-founder and highest donor of Barakat International School situated at Bodija, Ibadan.
He also has endowments in most Nigerian Universities and has donated substantially in millions of naira to many of the private tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Since Alh Arisekola could not further his academic career due to the poverty of his parents he went straight into the business world.
In 1961, he started the sale of Gammalin 20 by establishing Azeez Arisekola Trading Company. He became interested in the sale of vehicles and established Lister Motor in 1972.
It was the establishment of Lister Motors that actually catapulted him to the zenith of public acclamation as a business guru when the economy of Nigeria was booming. Lister Motors added a charitable face to the business by donating buses to homes for disabled persons, hospitals, schools, sport clubs and notable religious organisations.
He also had in interests in other firms including Lister Oil Nigeria Limited, Lister Flour Mills, Nigeria Ltd, Lister Property and Estate Company, Lister Printing Press andLister Farms and Fishery (at Abegede covering 200 hectares).
Others include Lister Insurance Company, Barakat Investment Nigeria Limited, Jubab International, Monitor Group of Newspapers and Aris Corporation (based in London).
Arisekola became the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland in 1980 and has been contributing tremendously to religious (Islamic) activities in Nigeria.
The Abdul Azeez Arisekola Central Mosque, which he named after himself, was built along Iwo Road, Ibadan. The mosque has three well-paid Imams and dozens of staff for its maintenance.
He was instrumental to the establishment of the Grand Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria (1996) and the Alasalatu Ibadu Rahaman which was set up for the spiritual advancement of Muslim Women.
Arisekola was the greatest financier of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and National Council of Muslim as well as the Youth Organisations (NACOMYO) sponsoring their seminars and Islamic vacation courses annually. He bank rolled the annual seminar of the organization.
He was patron of more than 100 Islamic organisations within and outside Nigeria.
Ariaekola sponsored hundreds of people throughout the country to Mecca for pilgrimage yearly.
He was the only Nigerian honoured with selecting delegates by the Chief Imam of Mecca for the annual ceremonial washing of the Ka’aba and annual international convention of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Egypt.
He is survived by many children and grandchildren.