The Odu’a conglomerate is one of the legacies bequeathed to Yoruba by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Premier of Western Region (1954 – 1959).
Odu’a Investment Company Limited, was à fusion of several businesses established in the fifties under the Premiership of Awolowo that were later aggregated into a conglomerate to be managed by the Odu’a Group.
The name Odu’a is an acronym of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba people, and it is symbolic because it collectively refers to the conglomerate as the patrimony of the Yoruba people, notwithstanding the essence of state creation.
In the fifties, the Western Region government established several businesses and investments that spanned virtually all sectors of the West and Nigerian economies.
The government was proactive and foresighted to realize the indisputable employment needs of the products of the free education that it began in 1955 on graduation.
As Premier of the West, Awo was an exemplar and he demonstrated his stellar nature in the field of education which he championed as the pivot and focus of his administration. For example, the Western Nigeria Cocoa Board which later formed part of the subsidiaries of Odu’a, was responsible for financing the various scholarships which the region awarded its youths to study both at home and overseas in the fifties.
Right from the onset, late Chief Awolowo was inbued with three fundamental life principles, and which he believed are non-negotiable, namely: Good education, good governance and economic prosperity.
Thus the success story of Awo as the foremost Premier of the Western region was therefore partly due to the regions financial buoyancy and which were borne out largely as products of prudent management, and an unalloyed loyalty to the economic principles that guided the administration and management of these extant businesses and investments.
The west of the fifties, under the indomitable leadership of Awo, was so financially rich that it was able to borrow the then Federal Government led by Balewa some money to cushion hard times.
In the 70s, and precisely with the creation of states, the idea was mooted to encapsulate the several extant businesses and investments under a single corporate name of Odu’a Group.
With the balkanization of the western region into states, the idea of Odu’a as a corporate name became a desideratum.
Being the patrimony of all the Yoruba people, the name Odu’a became apposite as a reminder of our collective role and responsibility for its well-being.
The Governors as heads of state government and trustees of the people, now hold Odu’a in trust for the citizens of each state of the South West.
The idea of appointing a board of directors comprising notable indigenes of states of the south-west geo political zone, with a rotational chairmanship amongst the states, is to keep alive the vision of the founding fathers of Odu’a, which is prudent management, proper utilization of human and material resources, as well as optimal profitability.
However, some decades had passed since the demise of the founding fathers who conceptualized this rather unprecedented and novel idea that is now the Odu’a Group.
Any average Yoruba man or woman, given our culture and outlook to life, would salute the foresight, hardwork and astuteness of these erstwhile leaders, especially given the appropriateness of their mind and resolve to leave a legacy for generations coming after them.
Sadly, however, the sorry state of affairs in the Odu’a conglomerate within the past six years will undoubtedly made these erstwhile honourable men of timbre and calibre shuddered in their graves. Many of these do-gooders of yesteryears would probably have wept or groan in the pain of utter disbelief at the decay and rot that now characterized their once flourishing institutions.
The Odu’a conglomerate is shrinking daily and it’s once relevance as a socio-economic fulcrum of the people of the south west is fast becoming a ruse, a forlorn hope and a cul-de-sac.