Celebrating Retired Maj-Gen Tajudeen Olanrewaju at 78

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By BASHIR ADEFAKA

“…it was a country the military just handed over to civilian administration when commonsense was still a thing of high consideration among the peoples and values still mattered.”

Preamble

Nigeria’s civil war veteran and retired high ranking military icon, Major General Tajudeen Adeniyi Olanrewaju, clocks 78 today, Wednesday May 8, 2024.

Retired Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Nigeria’s former Minister of Communications and ex-GOC 3 Armoured Division Nigeria Army.

I always look forward to this date in matter of him because I find it worthy of mention recalling late Chief Gani Fewehinmi, SAM, SAN’s postulation, long before his demise, that blamed Nigeria as a system and as a people for being unappreciative of their heroes until after they had passed away.

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A paradigm shift from that position by Chief Fawehinmi has been understood by me to mean that the best thing any society like ours can do to encourage its heroes is, not only to appreciate them while they are alive but also, that their experiences in life should be tapped into for comprehensive and inclusive developmental project of achieving a New Nigeria.

Reminiscence of this informed my decision to seize the occasion of 78th birthday anniversary of the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Minister of Communications and Member of Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Retired Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, as a case study to appreciate one of Nigeria’s most distinguished professional soldiers that Lagos State has ever produced.

My Tribute

Tell me the Generals, who since active service and after retirement have continued to sustain the love, respect and admiration of people within and around his environment and nation.  Whereas they are not usually many, General Olanrewaju is one of the few, due to countless contributions of greatness and effective opportunities that he has made in the lives of many.

From Left: Former Minister of Communications, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (Rtd), and representatives of Onilado of Ilado, during the burial ceremony of Chairman of Asi-Dosunmu Royal Family at Oke Popo, Lagos Island, Lagos State, on Saturday December 30, 2023.

It is no wonder, no worker, whether official or domestic, who has ever come in contact by way of working relationship with the General wants to be separated from him. This is a man, who loves all children although not only of him biologically and, unprecedentedly, a Yoruba man that trusts people as they present themselves and will never listen to any kind of distractions on the sidelines of such trust to go negative against anyone. I celebrate the People’s General at 78.

I came to know Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju as Acting Military Governor of Ondo State in the late 1980s as JSS 3 student of Anglican Grammar School, Iju-Itaogbolu, Akure, Ondo State. He was the most senior military officer in Old Ondo State at a time Navy Commander Olabode Ibiyinka George was substantive Military Governor with what is today known as Ekiti State still under his supervisory powers. In the absence of the military governor, it became the natural place for the most senior military officer in the state to step into the office. Records in Alagbaka would continue to show the achievement of then Colonel Tajudeen Olanrewaju in the security and safety of that core Yoruba South West state within the short time that he served as Acting Military Govenror and the Nigerian Air Defence he naturally headed from Akure would never forget him for his brilliant performance.

I had then started to love him and made up my mind that I wanted to become a Journalist in my life and that when I did, all persons who had served as governors of my state I must meet to interview, appreciate and promote.

Meeting the then Air Defence Brigade Commander and Acting Military Governor, Col. Tajudeen Olanrewaju as a recently retired Major General in 2002 through a link by my godfather, Alhaji Kola Animasaun, thus became a heart desire made possible by the Almighty Allah.  General Olanrewaju started to love, trust and confide in me from day one without iota of distrust displayed in our relationship.

The DEFENDER had just been established and on that appointed day of interview, he gave a big size of frame with glass face from one of his sitting rooms to be taken to my office in Ikeja for the purpose of picking a scanned photo to illustrate the interview and then return to his Ikoyi residence later. He then gave me a bail of N50 totalling N5,000 which took me one week to finish spending.  In 2002! How much was bag of rice? Far less than N500. My transport from Ikeja to and from Ikoyi, fuel or public transport, for the assignment was not costlier than N40. That was a period in the life of Nigeria and it was a country the military just handed over to civilian administration when commonsense was still a thing of high consideration among the peoples and values still mattered.

Relationship with the General continued when I joined Vanguard Newspaper, still on the mentorship of the same father-figure, Alhaji Kola Animasaun, and I met him again in the same Ikoyi residence and he told me how power play caused his travail under a military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, who held him in high esteem. Then he told me, “Bashir, I have a very good childhood friend who is currently having problem. I want to tell you that come rain, come sun shine, I will never leave him. I want you therefore to do all your possible best to support him.”  That was Chief Bode George. He was also Military Governor of my home state of in the Old Ondo days. Not too long, Chief Bode George came out of the problem and I met him physically. Another heart desire made possible by Almighty Allah because, I had vowed to meet, interview, appreciate and promote all persons who had governed my state, as a Journalist. That was part of how General Olanrewaju, like Alhaji Kola Animashaun, helped me achieve my goals in life.

Many times I have made posts about General Olanrewaju on the Facebook especially during the time of his travail and many people would get in touch with me inbox telling me many beautiful stories about their experiences with him. One particular former soldier from Ilorin, who said he worked with him as one of his soldiers when he was GOC in Jos. Another one from Efon Alaye, Ekiti State is currently in contact and relationship with me, who said “Oga is my father, forget about we being uniform men, but Oga was more than being a military boss which was also a great experience because without Nigerian Army, I don’t think I would ever be able to come in contact with a man who governed my Ekiti State as Acting Military Governor of Old Ondo State.”

He told me, “Oga made many of us to be confident soldiers and I have seen and have heard people across the ethnic, religious and regional boundaries of the country, who said General Olanrewaju was a commander, teacher and mentor that they will never be able to forget in life.”

From these few submissions, it is needless labouring through any investigative process to know that Retired Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju has always been an enigma and a patriotic officer with full compliment of pragmatic person. I love him so much and I have come to seize this day that is of his birthday (May 8, 2024) to join the numerous children (not only biological sons and daughters) that he has earned to himself by his good character in celebrating him as he clocks 78 in life.

About the General

Major General Tajudeen Adeniyi Olanrewaju (RTD) psc (+), ndc, M.Sc, was born on 8th May 1946, a date believed to be the time Harbert Macaulay died. This explains why he was nicknamed ‘Macaulay’ and that used to be Tajudeen Olanrewaju’s nickname for a long time because Lagos was a very small place in terms of population and the families there – in those days – interconnected to one another. He was fortunate to have also been born in a place that was very known, No.3 Koilo Street, Isale Gangan, Lagos, where families lived together as a unit.

In summary, Tajudeen Olanrewaju, going by the four cardinal points of a family set up, can be said to have a very great and glorious family background. From the father’s side he has the Asunmo Animashaun, which arguably is the largest family in Nigeria today and most especially in Lagos. Record shows that, as at September 2011, the Animashaun family of Lagos had about 10,000 members and even up till today they still relate very well together and know one another.

He was born to the family of late Alhaji Abdul Yakeen Olanrewaju Animashaun and late Alhaja Muyinatu Abeni Sunmola Shanu (Baba Alagbede) of Onikate Court, Isale Eko. Alhaja Muyinatu Abeni Sunmola Shanu was an Awori by birth and descendant of Ilu Obe Branch of Kuyasi – Awuse Royal dynasty of Onigbongbo. His late great grandmother, Rabiatu Ibiduni Fashina, was also a direct descendant of Princess Apotun Dosunmu: direct daughter of the late King Dosunmu of Lagos.

His father, late Olanrewaju, came from the prominent Muritala Animashaun’s family of Lagos. His paternal grandmother, late Alhaja Safuratu Animashaun (Mama Saro), hailed from Adeshakin/Olubuse Ruling House of Ile-Ife. From historical perspectives, his parents were descendants of prominent Lagos and Yoruba families.

Tajudeen Olanrewaju started his primary education at Ireti Primary School, and completed it at Saint Savior Primary School, both in Lagos Island, from 1952 to 1959. He got admission into Ahmadiyya College, Agege, which happened to be the first Muslim college in Nigeria. Ahmadiyya was the college choice for most Muslim families in the country. It is one of the reasons Tajudeen Adeniyi Olanrewaju would look back to his background, his growing up during his early education and say, “I am very satisfied and fulfilled.” Tajudeen passed out successfully from Ahmadiyya College, with West African School Certificate and by the end of 1966 he had obtained his ‘A’ Level results.

After leaving Ahmadiyyah College, Olanrewaju got an employment with the ECN (Electricity Corporation of Nigeria), which had gone through different reforms today from NEPA and the current status split into TCN and DisCos. He believes that his concurrent football career playing for the ECN was responsible for why he did not proceed immediately for further studies because he was successful while playing football.

Tajudeen Olanrewaju was a brilliant footballer and played with the Nigerian Academicals that defeated Ghana’s Academicals at home and away matches. He played alongside football legends such as Tunde Disu (former Chief Coach of the Flying Eagles), Ismaila Mabo (former Coach of the Super Falcons), Muyiwa Oshode, Tony Igwe and the late Garba Okoye (Sam Garba) and Olowo Oshodi. While working in the ECN after his secondary education, Tajudeen played with the legends like Omokachie, Broadrick, Rigogo, late Paul Hamilton (former Super Eagles coach) and the late Godwin Achebe, for a while. During this period he featured in newspaper articles.

Although circumstances took Olanrewaju to the Nigerian Army Corps of Artillery as a young officer just coming from the college, the corps ended up being a memorable experience in his life because, when asked, he once said he did not regretted any minute that he spent in the Corps. He possibly had his reason: Tajudeen rose from the beginning as a young officer to the top as Commander of Corps of Artillery.

After the civil war, he left for further professional training at the Royal School of Artillery, Larkhill, in England. He returned later in 1971 and proceeded again to the Field Artillery School at Lawton, Oklahoma, USA. On his return, he held staff appointments of Grade 1 & 2 and was severally Commanding Officer of Artillery Regiments at various times. He further served as a Deputy Defence Adviser in the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow from 1975 to 1977.

Following the Federal Government’s decision to upgrade the professional training establishments and reduce cost of overseas training, General Olanrewaju was among the first set of Officers, who attended Army Command and Staff College from 1977 to 1978. On completion, based on merit as a Major, he was appointed the Acting Commander 3rd Division Artillery, Jos from 1978 to 1980. He left the appointment to work as a Principal Staff Officer at the Headquarters Corps of Artillery in Bonny Camp, Victoria Island Lagos.

For his exemplary performance, as a student at the staff college, he was made a directing staff (teaching) at the senior level from 1983 to 1986 and awarded psc (+).

On completion of his teaching assignment, he was posted to the Nigerian Army School of Artillery, Kachia, Kaduna State, where he became the Commandant of the school. At this time, he was promoted to the rank of a full Colonel. He left Kachia in 1988 and assumed the Command of 35 Air Defence Artillery Brigade in Akure, in the old Ondo State (with present Ekiti State inclusive) during which he also served as Acting Military Governor of the old Ondo State as the most senior military officer in state in the absence of the substantive Military Governor, then Navy Captain Olabode Ibiyinka George (on annual leave). He was in charge of the Air Defence of the entire country. His period here witnessed the ceding of the Epe Military Cantonment (an Artillery unit located there), spearheaded by Governor Sir Michael Otedola for the Lagos State University’s engineering campus.

As a result of his competitive spirit and performance, he was selected in 1990 to attend the National Defence College, New Delhi, India established by Nehru in 1948. Its equivalent institutions are like the Royal College of Defence Studies, United Kingdom, and American Military University, in USA. These are very high professional defence institutions for the top echelon of the military, civil servants and technocrats in their respective countries.

On completion of his studies in National Defence College, he was awarded ndc insigna and M.Sc in Strategic Studies. He returned from India in 1991 and was appointed Commandant of the Corps of Artillery and School, which made him the professional head of the Artillery of the Nigerian Army. He was this time promoted to Brigadier-General. He later became the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3rd Armoured Division and member of the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC). He served as GOC between 1983 and 1985.

Olanrewaju was appointed Minister of Communications and member of the Federal Executive Council from 1995 to 1997. He pioneered the current de-regulation in the telecommunications sector and upgraded the communications system in different parts of the country. This brought in private telecommunication operators (PTOs) such as Multi-links, Starcomms and Intercellular. During his time as Minister, he laid the submarine optic cable from Lagos to Calabar.

While in service, General Olanrewaju served on national and international assignments. He was Chairman, States Assets Sharing Committee and also Chairman of the Review Committee, which prepared the White Paper for the General Abisoye’s Report on the NNPC Reforms. He was up to a time a permanent member of the Nigerian team, led by the late General HB Haladu, on the Co-operating D-8 Islamic Countries based in Turkey. These were considered as Extra-Regiment duties outside the Military Establishment.

His military career was not without its challenges. The greatest one occurred in 1997, when he was arrested over the phantom coup along with other senior military officers and was sentenced to death. But Allah in His infinite mercies caused a change in government in 1999 and used the Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to release him and others after 14 months of incarceration. This granted him a new lease of life which he has dedicated to serving the down-trodden and humanity, in appreciation of God’s goodness to him. President Muhammadu Buhari completed the process of full state pardon, which he did in April 2022.

General Tajudeen Olanrewaju served the Nigerian Army brilliantly and meritoriously for 30 years (1967 to 1997) and is now in private business. He has received numerous awards in the course of his service, which include Merit Award of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), IBILE Forum Golden Award and Security Efforts Award during the 30 years commemoration of Lagos State in 1997.

General Olanrewaju is married to Oluyemisi and is blessed with children and grandchildren. He remains one of the most distinguished professional soldiers that Lagos State has ever produced.

Fondly called “Gasper on the football field and General in the battle field of war”, the fine officer is wished a happy 78th birthday in this birthday goodwill article put together by me to celebrate a General of global standing, who has always loved me not only for my journalism but also for the fact of his for progress and development of humanity.

To me, the permanent member of The DEFENDER Newspaper Advisory Board is a quintessential administrator and essentially appreciable military icon that is unputdownable at all times.

Wishing the father-figure a Happy 78th Birthday with healthier and more prosperous years ahead!


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