By Bola Ahmed Tinubu
My nephew, Ayodeji Tinubu, died while playing a sport he so loved from childhood. He had a zest for the game just as he also had a special zest for the game of life itself. He was a passionate player and teammate because he was a passionate and compassionate person. When he played football, he gave it his all. More importantly, what he did on the field was surpassed by how he carried himself away from it. He gave his all to his family, friends and his work. Everything he did was a labor of love and devotion to him. As such, he was a rare and special person. I cannot even begin to describe how deeply I shall miss him.
Deji so very close to me. I knew him and the type of person he was. He was considerate and kind, outgoing but thoughtful and humble. He loved people and thought more of others than he did himself. Kind. Thus, I could not help but love him as if he was my son. He made me proud that he carried the name Tinubu with respect.
I well knew his passion for football. In my first term as governor from 1999 to 2003, I appointed him Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission. I knew he would translate his personal affinity for the game into something beneficial for the state.
As Chairman Sports Commission, he did not let me down. As chairman, he performed with the same dedication, energy and winning attitude as he did on the field of play. Deji did his best and his best was to do well indeed. He recorded giant strides. No wonder my successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, appointed him to the same position in later years.
When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode recently made him Special Adviser on Commerce and Industry, it opened another vista for him in recognition of the excellent job he did for Lagos in sports development.
He was an accomplished sports entrepreneur with passion and bias for sports-related youth development, youth management, administration and marketing. As a seasoned sports journalist, he had established his own company, along with his long time school friend, Deji Omotoyinbo. In the field of sports, the two friends were to become household names. They were role models for youths in Lagos and beyond. Through sports, they taught many youths valuable and important lessons of life, and for this fine contribution Deji shall always be remembered by the many people whose lives he touched. This stands as a living testament to the innate goodness and humanity of Deji. He was a rarity among us.
For me, Deji has left us much too soon. In this day and time, we need people of such passion and principle and goodness to help the next generation. Yet, I cannot question God at all. Perhaps, he wanted Deji to come home to be a bit closer to Him. All I can say is I thank God for allowing someone like Deji to have been my nephew, my son, and to have enriched my life as he did the lives of all who knew him.
Ayodeji lived well. There was no doubt that he was an achiever. He was just 54 but he had accomplished a lot and his legacies will carry on, from what he accomplished in Lagos to how he distinguished himself as an Executive Committee member of the Nigeria Football Federation.
I am proud of Ayodeji’s achievements. Yet, I am even prouder of him as a person. As scion of our patriarch, Kafaru Tinubu’s family, Deji embodied all that his father stood for. He was humble, humane, selfless, hard-working, intelligent and principled.
Lagos has lost a good son. I shall mourn enough for us all. My tears have shed. I mourn with Governor Ambode and those in the cabinet and government who were Deji’s colleagues.
As good as Deji was in his chosen vocation and as a fan of the game, I was most proud of him for he excelled at being a husband and father and just an exceptional human being in every way.
To his beloved and dear Yemisi as well as his children, Oluwatamilore and Moyosoreoluwa, I say please always remember how this special and good man loved you and gave unto you his very best. Remember how he cared for you, laughed with you and made you happy. May God place his loving hand upon you and console you at this moment when no earthly or human consolation can ever be sufficient.
To Alhaja Bintu Tinubu, the matriarch of the family, may Almighty Allah comfort you. Your son lived an excellent life and though we cry now, we must reach the place where we comfort ourselves by remembering all the fine things that Deji was.
Let us dedicate ourselves anew to the excellent traits that Deji personified. Let us live as the helpful and compassionate teammates and family Deji would want us to be. Let us pray to God and pray for ourselves during this moment of loss that there is a heavenly recompense unto all of us who now feel the pain of Deji’s passing.
May God be with all of you and comfort you.
So long Deji, we shall always love and miss you.
•Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Former Lagos Governor, is National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).