Friday 23 December 2022

My own All Saints' Day

The saints in my canon

It would appear strange that quite deep into the Advent season so close to Christmas, I am celebrating my own version of All Saint’s Day which in the traditional Christian Church calendar starts at the end of October with All Hallows’ Eve, then All Saints’ Day and ends on the 2nd of November with All Souls’ Day.

As it has come up in conversations that I have had recently, I find that there are men interesting and significant who are no more with us, such who have become canonised in my own life story, and this is not a list to supplant that of the church. In these men, usually not deliberate, but significant, I have found direction, insight, and light, even if for a transient and sometimes for longer, they are lauded.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it is probably the beginning of recognising the influence, impact, and mentoring of people that have mattered in my life.


Unculu, he was my uncle, my father’s younger brother, and as a child, he was a deflection from the personality that my dad exuded as a high-achieving and successful man with a home life that strict, stern, and terrifying in the way he disciplined his youngest sibling, my aunt, along with how he commanded an entire of relations that genuflected and regarded him with fear and adulation.

In Unculu, I found that adults can be approachable, you can engage in conversation with them and there were no limits to the expression of ideas or viewpoints that it was of him that I asked if he could wait at his own age for me to catch up. He smiled, as he explained how that age-gap is constant. It was also in him that I observed that being respectful of everyone does not in any way diminish your standing.

Tajudeen Oladipo Akintayo, became Unculu to me, and it was out of respect for him that the Ola part of my name Akinola was not used when I was addressed and I believe when his son who met an untimely death was addressed the Akin part of his name Akinyemi was not used, in consideration of me. Much as there could have been ways Unculu could have influenced me beyond my childhood, I became more of an observer than a follower when he left our household. He passed on in June 2019.

Blog - Thought Picnic: In the husbandry of futility

Uncle Jimoh

Uncle Jimoh, at first, was the son of a patriarch in the north, his father, Baba Bukuru ran a bicycle shop in Bukuru, a suburb of Jos. However, I began to notice that Uncle Jimoh was quite academically brilliant, the kind of person who would go places given the opportunity and whose potential was unlimited in terms of what he could achieve.

I could see the mutual respect that grew between my parents and their younger distant cousin, if there was a beacon of excellence, they desired any of us their children to aspire to, Uncle Jimoh would be a clear example. His success was shared with such unflinching generosity as I experienced in gifts and conversations, especially when he was completing his Quantity Surveying studies in the UK as I was leaving secondary school.

How he influenced me was at the time subtle because I was quite persuaded to consider the same career and it was through certain exchanges with him that I focused more on attending a polytechnic rather than a university. Eventually, I did start with Chemical Engineering but veered towards Electrical & Electronic Engineering which formed the foundations of my career.

For advice, he was present, sometimes commanding, other times adjuring, but mostly advising. He remained through his life someone to look up to and was a significant contributor at the point when I was ready to depart for the UK. Jimoh Ogunnaike, he left indelible footsteps in the sands of time. He passed on in November 2013.

Blog - A great man, we've lost

Uncle Cash

Our initial encounters were relayed to me for I do not have any recollection of an older man observing a precocious child of 5 that arrested the attention of everyone with his speech and his actions, I got told many times of that, it was impossible not to have it encoded in memory.

Around that same time, my father had promised him £10 if he passed the school examinations he had until then failed, a debt still left unpaid, a family canard or more besides, I was not a witness of that shaking of hands.

We had more engaging encounters after he returned from his studies in the UK and through his wife, my aunt, as my first job was also at the same place of work. Many family backstories followed.

He became my guardian in January 1986 by invitation of my aunt and it was from then that he became a purposeful and consequential influence on my life. Much of what I have become is a result of the example he was.

More significantly, he built up my confidence to be assertive, to think with clarity and work at being less encumbered by the emotional or the irrational, it is difficult to quantify or qualify how impactful that was in character building whilst allowing me the courage of my convictions and beliefs.

That relationship-building and cultivating work never stopped and this piece would never capture the essence of who he was to me. Christopher Ademola Soyinka, CASH! To all who knew him passed on in June 2022.

Blog - Uncle Cash!


When I walked into the calico white building at 203 Ikorodu Road, I was in my best shoes knocking on Information Technology company doors looking for work, I had finished my trek of Ikeja and was on my way to Lagos Island and Ikoyi when I caught a glimpse of IT Systems Ltd literally opposite the famous Baptist Academy. Even with that school, I have some old history.

I walked into IT Systems and asked for work, after a few questions and answers, I was offered a job to start the following Monday. Little did I know of what was happening upstairs apart from whispers about an unassuming larger-than-life lawyer with his team of researchers working on the Nigerian Supreme Court Cases and about to beat the renowned Gani Fawehinmi at the game of annotating, cataloguing, and expositing the cases of the supreme court from 1963.

My first encounter with Deji, D-Shash to everyone was when they asked for some help with their computers, I went upstairs, fixed the issue in minutes and for that, Deji dipped his hand in his pocket and offered me NGN 50; that was a quarter of my monthly salary, but I politely declined it, what I did to resolve the problem was just too trivial to charge for, I had sown a seed of some recognition in his mind.

Meanwhile, a classmate who was staying with me out of the generosity of my Uncle Cash because he had another job with an IT firm in Lagos shared some discs with me containing the desktop publishing application, Xerox Ventura Desktop Publisher which in my spare time, I learnt to use quite proficiently and that opened many doors. Another long story.

I fixed a number of problems happily for Deji upstairs and still refused any payment or gifts until I left IT Systems to go contracting. A month into my stint, word got to me that Deji wanted a meeting with me. He had a sporadic business relationship with an African American desktop publishing consultant1 where he needed additional commitments, and so he wanted me not as an employee, but as a consultant to support their desktop publishing projects and also train the staff on the basics. (1I have since learnt Rhonda Dabiri, passed on in April 2020)

The deal he offered was borne of a level of respectful courtesy rare in people of means and power, before I had thought of it, he said, whenever you are ready to leave for England, your ticket is paid for, apart from that, I will give you a monthly stipend, and you can come and go as you wish because I know you have many engagements. How that boosted my professional confidence was beyond belief, I was in a high-profile role with considerable visibility to clients seeking desktop publishing expertise.

It opened many doors including my first return to the UK as a business representative and technical directory of a fledgling desktop publishing company veering away from traditional printing methods. Deji Sasegbon SAN, was a towering influence that helped set the course of majorly contracting career with the seed of negotiating terms that best suited my kind of personality. He passed on in December 2016.

Blog - Adieu D-Shash! (Deji Sasegbon)


He had placed a job advertisement in the Pink Paper that I had no qualifications for, but I was seeking to break out of the public sector into the private sector without much success.

I sent my CV to John without expecting a response, but I did get a call, and the first thing he said was he liked my CV, but it was not saying enough about my knowledge and experience. He then offered to spend time with me on my CV to fix it and make it more marketable.

I visited his office and the next 4 hours that evening were spent shaping up my CV, the result of which was a job in the private sector in less than 2 months.

For an older man in the technology field, John had constantly reinvented himself, and engaged lots of young talent, giving them not just opportunities but opening them up to challenges that stood in good stead for the development of their careers. He even offered an engaging internship to one of my friends who need essential tutelage to prepare him for the UK IT market.

Then John was more than an encouraging voice of support, where I had doubts about my abilities or capabilities, John would say, “Akin, I know you can do it.” That was the impetus to believe in me.

Beyond that, John was generous with his time, a mentor with great insight, a supporter with a stern teacher’s background, yet empathetic to the core. His work on my CV is foundational to the way my CV looks today, and that skill has been transferred to me to help others realise value and recognition out of their CVs.

John Alexander Coll passed on 9 years ago today in December 2013.

Blog - John Coll: Friend, Mentor, Gentleman

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