JOHNSON IBIKUNLE ASAOLU (WELFAST PHARMACY): HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A TERRIFIC INDIVIDUAL.
Life can be interesting and puzzling at times. Sincerely, man lacks the ability, or pretends not, to know that we have some in-built traits we cannot change. Also, what we are meant to be cannot be altered (though this might sound controversial but I know what I am saying). Some happenstances leave us confounded, perplexed and even make us utter, unconsciously, 'God you are in charge.' Definitely, He is. I am sure many will be asking, what is he going to write about this famous man that we do not know already? Give me a brake and hear me out. After going through this, you will get to know him much better. This writeup will reveal some occurrences, which are facts that he himself will have to verify from his own parents. Thank God, both are still alive.
Many are bound to think his brainchild, Welfast Pharmacy is responsible for his fame. Noo, not at all. To some extent, it has distinguished him. Those of us who know him are aware that he has always been a very popular figure amongst his family members, friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues as well as strangers. As a 5 year-old kid, an event caused an elderly man to foretell what the future had in stock for him. He had been raised in the Police barracks in Lagos, being a Policeman's child. As a good mixer, he had learned how to speak English as a result of his relationship with other kids from other parts of the country. In those days, speaking English was rare even among adults. The kid visited Akure and was speaking English with some people. A man, having witnessed the scenario, said, "awon Obi omode gbudo to ni ile iwe, o ni opolo. O maa sorire." (The parents of this kid must give him education; he is brilliant, he is bound to succeed). Omo to maa je asamu, kekere lo tin nsenu samu samu.
His parents saw him through primary and Secondary schools in Lagos. Shortly, in 1976, after completing his secondary school education, his father retired from the Police Force, prompting the entire family including him to return home to Akure. Ile labour simi oko. His journey to manhood started early as he joined the High Court on arrival as Clerical Officer. He was there for about four years. Thereafter, he sat for JAMB and passed in flying colours, thereby gaining admission to UNIBEN, to read Pharmacy. Things were so rosy for him such that he never bought an exercise book to take lecture notes. He used his friendly disposition to get close to all the typists and Secretaries. His friendship with them ensured he did not lack typing sheets to jot down lecture notes.
Welfast is naturally irrepressible, energetic and peripatetic. Since 1976, when he along with his parents came back to Akure, to 1980, he did not spend a day in that house again. He was travelling, doing one thing or another.
After his university education in 1984 and internship the following year, he headed for Imo State for his mandatory Youth Service. Welfast still speaks lbo language till today. Some people, who have heard him communicating in Ibo even claim he is from the Eastern part of Nigeria. That is how strong his retentive memory is. He also brought home the idea of running a beer parlour selling the brand of beer made in Owerri. This business was later handed over to his brother.
If you are looking for a man, in whom there is no guile, Welfast fits the bill, perfectly. When he makes a promise, be rest assured of him fulfilling it. His fervent, spirited, friendly and openness, make him attract friends as honey attract bees. There is hardly any of his contemporaries, whom his path had crossed, who is not his friend. His way of thinking tallies with his nature. Nothing bothers him. I doubt if he begrudges anyone. If you refresh his memory about the misdeeds of somebody against him, he will retort, "fi sile, oti koja." (Let him be. It is past). That blip will not debar him from keeping their close relationship going.
Brother Kunle is a lover of progress and lifter of all. I am sure he too cannot recollect the number of people he has helped through financial and moral support or giving of free drugs.
In those heady days, of life deep in the valley, when I looked around and found no one who bothered, I found solace in his warm embrace. And what a damn good umbrella he offered me! With the cash I had at hand, he was taking me to Onitsha Market to buy clothes while he would buy drugs and a few clothes for personal use. The number of years I spent in his pharmacy and the things we did together are much more than this article. I owe my being a journalist today to God and him. If there is someone, who has been there for me all the time; supporting and encouraging me for over the years, Welfast is the one. I do not know a day Welfast uttered a word of discouragement to me. That is not his nature.
Among others, who have benefitted from his kindness are his brothers-Ade and Kayode, his nephew, Gbenga. I can also recollect Femi, whom he did not know, but got to meet by accident. He got him trained as tailor and purchased equipments for him. What about Azeez? The ruddy youth, who came to Akure from Kogi with virtually nothing. But thank God for Welfast, he is a graduate today; married with children and gainfully employed. There are many more.
I remember the day my brother, Lalabaro's commercial vehicle was stolen in1990. Welfast left his family and shop and took us to Owode Egba in Ogun State. He was insulted upon this selfless sacrifice. It did not shock. If it did, he did not wear it as cloth for us to see. His being at the top there has not affected his relationship with his old friends, who are not as privileged. He is at home with all and sundry, educated and illiterates, the rich and the poor, friends, family and acquaintances. Be rest assured that meeting him is going to kickstart a relationship.
By all standards, he is a big man, in the Nigerian context. He is adequately educated with masters degree. Professionally, he has seen it all. He served as a two-term President of Pharmacist Society of Nigeria, Ondo State Branch in the 90s. He, together with his executive members, bought the land and started the building of 'Pharmacy House' in Alagbaka. He has been a Commissioner in the state. Yet, these and other accomplishments do not make him feel a cut above anyone. Yes, he does not. Even, if a contemporary of his son, calls him by first name, he responds without taking offence. Sometime in 1990, as his carefree nature, he left fifteen thousand naira in a bag; which he placed on a seat at the back of his unlocked utility Panel Van car. A young man took it and too to his heels. Brother Kunle had to outrun him to recover the bag and its contents. He prevented people from beating the thief. That day I told him: bros, you are now a big man; stop living like a nobody. Ordinary people do not have what thieves are after."
Brother Kunle is a man of many parts. He is a member of Lions Club, where he rose to be President, a few year ago, Elan Club and many others. He is former politician. I will label his foray into politics as an unneeded distraction, a misadventure. Joining politics was in line with his adventurous nature. Whatever he did as a Commissioner was not in tandem with the Kunle Asaolu I had known for over 50 years. The position caged him. The people in charge, his fair-weather aides and political advisers tuned and turned him to someone else. Ultimately, he lost more than he might have gained. Worst hit was his Welfast Pharmacy shop. On leaving office, which was in a tumultuous manner, the pharmaceutical shop had became a shadow of it's old self with debt to the tune of over N15million naira hanging over it.
One of the things he said to me during one of our numerous conversations is that a young man must move ahead of himself financially. "A young man who is employed but unmarried will live a relatively good life. As soon as he gets a wife, he must add another source of income. As children are born, he ought to add other ways to generate money. If he fails to do this, as he becomes a family man, his responsibilities are increasing. This will affect the money available for him to spend on himself. And his well-being will be affected."
His peregrination through life has been well-arranged in such a way to suit his style. He has been blessed with a better-half in the person of Mrs. Ronke Asaolu nee Kolade. Brother Kunle's sanguine nature is fully complimented by Ronke's phlegmatics. She is an organised, quiet, ambitious and calculating woman. Due to her reserved nature, you might find her somehow distant. Many do not dig her for that. But her profound understanding of life and its vicissitudes bring stability and organisation to her husbands restless lifestyle. Her industrious nature is second to none. The D4 satchet water is her baby. She sells clothes and soft drinks. Mrs Asaolu is also into other means of making money. Some of the lessons serving as her creed were imbibed from her mother.
"My mummy told all her children that we must work hard. Any of my daughters that rely on her husband for daily bread is a bastard and not my child and ditto you men."
I am not surprised that good things are happening to the duo. They deserve them. Within the last seven days, Mr and Mrs Kunle Asaolu have had two of their children got married. All the friends, family members and acquaintances, who thronged the two events were reciprocating their gesture one way or the other.
For Brother Kunle Johnson Asaolu, you are a blessing. If you had5 been born with silver spoon, your success would have been understandable. However, the things you have suffered have made you to realise that life is better enjoyed when you live for others.
Today Mark's his birthday, his 34th wedding anniversary and 33rd anniversary of Welfast Pharmacy.
Happy birthday to the intensely loving and intensively divine-loved one. Aseyi samodun loruko Jesu