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Segun Olusola (1935-2012)

Published by Guardian on Fri, 13 Jul 2012

THE country lost a true patriot and a role model in the person of Chief Segun Olusola, a foremost arts and culture ambassador, quintessential diplomat and humanist. His immediate constituency - art and culture, his fans, the family and the country at large can only take consolation in the iconic figure's sterling qualities; and the fact that he lived a most fulfilled life, in both the public and private circles. Ambassador Segun Olusola, as he was fondly called, was a father figure to his numerous fans, and would be missed. He died on June 21, 2012 aged 77.Chief Olusola's professional and personal commitment to the arts is not in doubt. Hanging loosely on his wrists bedecked with traditional beads, his trademark flywhisk always stood him out in any gathering. An unrepentant culture promoter and art connoisseur whose contributions to the growth and development of arts remain indelible, he lived life to the fullest, his philosophy built on people's social-political lives being guided by cultural ethos.Before his ambassadorial posting in 1987 to Ethiopia where he distinguished himself till his duty tour ended in 1993, his imprints on public service including contributions to the staging of the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC '77) and the evolution of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture (CBAAC) were distinct. His diplomatic assignment in Ethiopia where he witnessed the plight of victims of war in the Horn of Africa inspired him to seek the welfare of refugees as he created AREF ' African Refugees Foundation ' a platform to promote peace and culture. It is also dedicated to the welfare of displaced persons in the continent. The organisation works to create awareness on the plight of the unfortunate ones. AREF, a Non-Governmental Organisation, assisted government to address the resettlement of Liberia war victims at Oru in Ogun State a few years ago.A consummate professional, his life of service dedicated to humanity took roots in his pioneering role in education and entertainment on television. He started as a broadcast officer at the Nigeria Broadcasting Service (NBS) in Ibadan before he moved to be part of history in realizing the dreams of the first television station in Africa, the WNTV (in 1959) where he served as executive producer till 1964. From there, tour of duty took him back to NBC-TV in Lagos as Controller, TV Programmes until 1975; General Manager of the Nigeria Television Authority between 1976 and 1978. He capped his working life as director of the national station for almost a decade till 1987, by which time his qualification for an ambassadorial position was no longer a secret.Olusola had a distinguished media career, no doubt. His ingenious creation in 1968 of Village Headmaster, a drama series reputed as the longest running television soap in Nigeria truly defined his creativity. The now-rested weekly TV series appealed to all and sundry across socio-economic, ethnic and religious divides as a must-watch. The sitcom also produced star casts, including Chief Olusola's late wife Elsie ' the adored 'Sisi Clara.' There was also the village's cocky 'Chief Eleyinmi' (Chief Funso Adeolu) who later became Oba Adeolu, Alaye of Ode Remo in Ogun State; and the cantankerous 'Councilor Balogun' (Mr. Wole Amele), later the Alara of Aramoko Ekiti in Ekiti State.Before the Village Headmaster, Olusola had displayed his love for the arts as a founding member of Players of Dawn (1953) an amateur theatre group ('Theatre Express' a decade later) believed to have made waves in that era before Professor Wole Soyinka's theatre group '1960 Masks' appeared on the scene to revolutionise the industry.The mentoring role of Chief Olusola in budding artists almost made him a cult figure in the arts community. His presence and contributions at every occasion were appreciated. His fans respect him for holding nobody as too insignificant to recognize or create rapport with. He was accommodating to both young and old, and naturally formed the cynosure of all eyes at cultural events.His Ajibulu-Moniya Gallery at his Surulere, Lagos home where he lived till death after a brief illness was a testimony to his love for the promotion of arts and culture. The gallery ought to be preserved as national heritage.Despite his openness, Olusola maintained a high standard of discipline arising from the values he attached to life. The arts community and the country owe him a duty to preserve his worthy legacies and expand the frontier of his humanitarian activities.
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