By Festus Adedayo
I never had the pleasure of meeting Olatunde Aiyedun Agbato, the Veterinary Doctor and giant farmer whose renown in the Nigerian agricultural sector is said to be a stuff of legends. Agbato died early this month at the age of 71 and was buried last Friday. Aside his wife expanse of agricultural site located in his hometown of Ogere in Ogun State which no passerby on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway can fail to notice, I picked legends about Agbato’s colossus status from two of his mentees, Olumide Origunloye and Adetona Obidele. Both passed through Agbato’s mentorship and regaled anyone who cared to listen with how the University of Ibadan 1975 Veterinary Medicine graduate’s humanity and mentoring have moulded hundreds of leading lights in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
From a brief stint as an academic in his Ibadan varsity alma mater, Agbato moved into the private sector, establishing the O.A. & O.A. Associates which later transmuted into the Animal Care Services. That agricultural company, with special bias for poultry farming, later grew to become a pantheon and legendary colossus in the livestock products sector in Nigeria as a multi-billion Naira concern. It is impossible to mention three of such legends in Nigeria and skip Agbato’s which is reputed to be one of the hugest private sector employers of veterinarians and allied professionals in Nigeria. His giving back to his Ibadan varsity roots made the university award him the 2017 Alumnus of the Year.
Rather than the business empire he built from the scratch or the wealth he made therefrom, what I found most ennobling about Agbato are the various men and women he moulded, the eulogies of whom caused a huge traffic in the trove of elegies at his departure. It behoves all of us to constantly ruminate on the likely content of the world’s summation of our existence at our departure. Before the ailment which eventually took him away struck, Agbato must have projected a far longer life for himself. This speaks to the brevity of life and the uncertainty of the date and time of its strike.
His investment in humanity was his hugest trophy on earth. His mantra was “the candle doesn’t lose anything by lighting other candles.” He was said to have scant relationship with governments but the private sector. This manifested at his burial on Friday and while alive. Though a numero uno poultry farmer in Nigeria and his huge contributions to agriculture, he was never given any national award in recognition of his contributions. Government also carried this disdain to his burial. The highest government official present at this solemn occasion was the Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture and Senator Adegboyega Kaka, the latter, Agbato’s colleague.
To uplift the status of his sleepy town of Ogere, he moved his Animal Care company there some years ago. Banks and other commercial ventures, ipso facto, moved to Ogere because of him and his people benefitted immensely from this gesture. It was said that there is no home in Ogere that didn’t have a representative among his staff. Agbato was a shrewd businessman with a can-do spirit of moving the biblical mountains and who didn’t believe anything on earth was impossible. His company was the first to begin producing vaccines for Nigerian poultry and in 1986, when investors were eloping from Nigeria on account of the constricting economy, Agbato stepped in to fill the vacuum by unilaterally producing poultry feeds for Nigerian agricultural sector. He was ahead of his peers by more than one million miles.
Yes, the world has become more plastic and cosmetic than ever before, breeding a hostile world where no one bothers nor is eager to sow into the life of the other person. It is a life reminiscent of habitation in the jungle where survival of the fittest is the rule and eliminating the weakest at random is the unwritten code. Here, the lions, tigers, hyenas and other wilds feast upon the feeble and miserable lots like the impala, antelopes and the likes while the crocodiles of this world even feast on the young crocs of their own species. Let’s learn from Agbato and make our lives to nevertheless be devoted to doing good and nothing more. Since no one who dies has ever returned here to give account of the modus operandi in the hereafter, we should all decorate our existence with bouquets of conscious daily living for humanity. How sure are we that the higher the tone of positive eulogies and garlands at our departure, the more certain we will achieve immortality? If the evocative elegies of his good works on earth are the qualification for a greater higher life, then Sir Agbato is right now in heaven.
Festus Adedayo is a Public Affairs Analyst.