Sir Olusola Hassan Odukale, a knight of John Wesley (KJW) and fondly called Baba Odukale within the Nigeria insurance industry, community and Methodist family passed on 17 years ago, but at 90 years (posthumous birthday), after his birth, his legacy and vision lives on. Baba Odukale, a native of Ilisan Remo, Ogun State and the founder of Leadway Assurance Company Limited was born in March 1926. He was a Christian entrepreneur and philanthropist to the core, whose businesses expand globally and become household name. Baba Odukale revolutionized the insurance industry and set the standard for modern philanthropy, especially in Northern Nigeria. It is important to note that the birth of modern insurance in Nigeria is closely linked with the arrival of British Trading Companies. The need for the foreign companies inter-regional trade in Nigeria changed the shape of the insurance sector in Nigeria. The first insurance company in the history of insurance in Nigeria was the inauguration of the Royal Exchange Assurance Agency in 1918. The Second World War affected the growth of Nigerian insurance companies until early 1950s after the War when the insurance industry picked up. This led to the establishment of the African Insurance Company Limited in 1958 as the first insurance company indigenous to Nigeria.

Baba Odukale started his business life as the general goods store owner of Hassan Stores in Kaduna. His legacy is more than passing on the family business. Baba trained his personal assistance Rasheed Oyesola in the art of trading in textile materials, and today the legacy of Hassan Stores is alive and growing. Baba Odukale finally established Leadway Assurance Company Limited, Kaduna in 1970 to fill the gap of an indigenous insurance company that would compete favourably with the foreign companies at the time and was its founding Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer. He built Leadway on a solid reputation of integrity and excellence. By 1976 when an Insurance Decree was released in Nigeria, the number of indigenous companies including the Leadway Assurance Company Limited had outnumbered the foreign insurance companies. Presently, Leadway is one of Nigeria’s foremost insurance service companies, with a reputation for service efficiency and customer reliability.

Baba Odukale fulfilled the biblical legacy, as a good caring father and loving husband, he left inheritance for his children’s children and family in general (Prov 13:22). His life was a fountain that yielded life, peace, prosperity, and happiness to many people. Baba, a strict and disciplinarian father trained and groomed his two sons Oye and Tunde Hassan Odukale for the future of the Leadway ventures when he retires. It is said that, Baba ‘didn’t hide his wish, as he told Oye point blank to prepare to take over … as CEO of Leadway Assurance.’ Among the services that Leadway provides are ‘efficient financial solutions leveraging on its management tool to our clients … Group Insurance, Leadway Capital & Trusts Limited, Leadway Properties & Investments Limited, Leadway Pensure PFA, Leadway Hotels Limited.’

Baba Odukale’s vision for Leadway is symbolised with the powerful Camel Logo. Camel, as the largest animal in Israel is ‘a BURDEN CARRIER’ hence, ‘insurers are expected to have the required strength and tenacity to survive, even during difficult times, if indeed they are to protect the interests that have been transferred to them.’ The application envisioned ‘come what may – rain or shine, dull or bright – the Company must always meet its financial obligation to all its customers by ensuring that claims are paid when due, without any delay by reason of insufficient funds.’  Unlike the parable of a rich man, Baba Odukale did not built Hassan Stores and Leadway to store his bumper gains and only go to bed happy in his wealth. The rich man in this parable personifies an attitude of hoarding,“ greed, and corruption (Luke 16). Baba Odukale was rich toward God, people, and Christian mission especially in Northern Nigeria. He used his money to serve God and humanity till his death. Wealth was not an obstacle to his Christian devotion and commitment, but a means of evangelism and help to the needy. Today, Sir Olusola Hassan Odukale Methodist Theological Institute, Zonkwa in Kaduna State is named after him by the Methodist Church Nigeria. For Baba, the chief end of man along the lines of the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is ‘a grateful response to unmerited gifts from God.’ Baba gave and spent from his ‘immersion in God’s overflowing generative love’ and riches. For Baba, it is the grace of God that transforms wealth and ‘no longer an obstacle to following Jesus, it becomes a means of service to God.’

Baba Odukale’s ‘Order of Charity’ points to a wide range of philanthropic activity and legacy shaped by ‘a theological and philosophical framework for discerning.’ Baba was quoted as saying, ‘I had promised God that I will use all he has blessed me with to put a smile on people’s face.’ Baba really put smile on people’s face. To him, having money is a way of loving, praising, serving, desiring, and reflecting God. Calvin rightly wrote, ‘the endowments which God has bestowed upon us are not our own, but His free gifts, and . . . those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude.’ Baba was a devout Christian and a detribalised Nigerian who supported many church-based and community projects throughout his life time in every region in Nigeria.  Baba followed John Wesley’s principle of “gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” Baba was committed to bringing out the best in people and was known for his fair treatment of clergy, workers and very particular about  personal good dressing outfit. Together with his wife, he personally pays the school fees for many both in colleges, universities and seminaries.

Remembering Odukale at 90 calls us to revisit his ‘Order of Charity,’in such a time when many people are dying of hunger and jobless. Baba Odukale’s ‘Order of Charity’ is a legacy that challenges hoarding, greed, poverty, unemployment, and corruption in Nigeria. This legacy could be promoted through annual lecture and seminar in memory of Baba Sir Olusola Hassan Odukale who was the Leadway Assurance Company chairman from 1993 till 1999 when he passed away. Baba was blessed with children and died May 3, 1999.

 Deji Okegbile