Molade Okoya-Thomas (1935-2015)


FOREMOST industrialist and philanthropist, Molade Alexandria Okoya-Thomas,  whose remains are being interred today passed on at the age of 79 but the palpable sense of bereavement nation-wide has been such as would attend the death of a young man in his prime. In truth, Okoya-Thomas was so young at heart, graceful in conduct and so active a personality that, at 79, he was as bubbly as any young man could be. His unexpected passage, therefore, could not but be a rude shock to many, especially, sports lovers, industrialists, entrepreneurs and all his Nigerian compatriots to whom he had seemed an eternally young soul. He was a brilliant man endowed with a deep sense of patriotism. He was a materially endowed man blessed with a large heart. He had and he gave. He was indeed, one of a kind.

   The tributes that have been pouring in following the death of this great man from President Goodluck Jonathan and many other Nigerians are a testimony to his contributions to the Nigerian society and to humanity. When former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, described the deceased as a pioneer and a visionary who belonged to a generation of private sector investors, who saw opportunities in making investments in the economy when it was risky to do so, he spoke the mind of many who appreciate Okoya-Thomas trail-blazing exploits.

   The Lagos State Government described him as a model for the present generation. “He left a virtue for the present generation. In spite of his status, for instance, he never arrived late to any event. This is one quality this generation needs to emulate from him. He loved youths and until his death, he demonstrated his love for the youths through organising and sponsoring the Asoju Oba Cup”, according to the Lagos State Government.

   Born on June 8, 1935 to the family of the late Hussam Okoya-Thomas (the first Baba Adini of Furabay Mosque, Olowogbowo, Lagos, and the late Alhaja Suwebat Okoya-Thomas (nee Gbajabiamila, the Otun Iya Adini of Idita Mosque), his father was the first local employee of CFAO, who served the company for 52 years.

   Young Molade had his primary education at St. Princess School, Lagos, between 1942 and 1946. Thereafter, he proceeded to Baptist Academy for his high school education and left in 1956 as the best graduating student.  After his education at Baptist Academy, he went to England where he studied Accountancy at Balham and Tooting College of Commerce between 1956 and 1959 and received further training in Accountancy at Columbia University, New York, in 1981.

   On his return to Nigeria, he was immediately employed as an accountant by CFAO, the French trading and manufacturing conglomerate.  That marked the beginning of a meritorious career at the company. Molade Alexandria Okoya-Thomas served in many capacities in various sectors of the economy. He was appointed director, Transcap Nigeria Limited; director, Niger Motors Industries Limited; chairman, Studio Press Nigeria Limited; and chairman CFAO Nigeria Limited in 1987.

   He served as chairman of several business concerns including CICA (Nigeria) Limited; Oktom Investment Limited; Itochu Nigeria Limited; Chiyoda Nigeria Limited and Anchoria Investment and Securities Limited. He was also a director of NFI Insurance Company Plc and Gateway Bank Plc. He was indeed a boardroom guru who contributed in no small measure to the economic development of Nigeria.

   Molade Okoya-Thomas loved and contributed immensely to the development of Lagos State. He served in numerous committees including Lagos City Council, Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, chairman, Board of Trustees Glover Memorial Hall and Tom Jones Hall. He was a recipient of Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, the highest national honour given by the French to a foreigner.

   Okoya-Thomas was an active sportsman, a supporter of sports and an ardent investor in the young.  He was a Joint All Nigeria Record Holder of 4×220 yards relay race while at the Baptist Academy. His most remarkable achievement was in table tennis. For over four decades, he single-handedly and consistently sponsored the annual Asoju Oba Table Tennis Championships. 

    As a philanthropist, he served as vice-chairman of the Lagos State Sports Council; President Lawn Tennis Club; chairman, 3rd All-Africa Games Appeal Fund Committee; chairman, National Appeal Fund for Sports Development and chairman, Sports Trust Fund. He built and donated a Modern Sports Hall for students and staff of the Lagos State University (LASU) in 2009. He was a prominent member of the Teslim Balogun fund-raising committee.

   In recognition of his immense contributions to sports development, the Lagos State Government named the Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium after him on June 8, 2010, on the occasion of his 75th birthday.  

   Molade Okoya-Thomas received the National Honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) and Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR). He also held the titles of Asoju Oba of Lagos, Babasuwa of Ijebu Remo and Odofin of Ife.

  With his death, the rank of the nation’s business icons has been depleted. Lagosians and indeed Nigeria will miss his remarkable support for sports, entrepreneurship, education and the youths. 

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