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The story of Rasheed Gbadamosi, the brain behind Ragolis water

The kind of enviable life Rasheed Gbadamosi (R.A.G) led is not the one that can be easily wiped off from the sand of time. The great industrialist, administrator, writer, dramatist, universalist, humanist and former minister was part of those who left an indelible imprints which the coming generation ought to emulate and imbibe in the country. According to the saying, "if you want to know the future, you must accurately learn from the past", people like Gbadamosi left a fabulous past through which a better future can be predicted.

He was the chairman, Ragolis Water Ltd, AIICO Pension Managers, Lucky Fibres Nig. Plc and several other companies. Apparently, the brain behind the existence of Ragolis bottle water.

Gbadamosi had traversed the world since he was a teenager. It is not overstepping to dub him a global citizen due to his high level of experience and expertise. His great grandfather was Ajenise from the Agemo lineage and his grandfather, Gbadamosi Odesanya, alias Adaramadoti, traded in hand-woven clothes and was a tailor. His grandmother, Raliat Morounkubi was from Ode Remo. They had ten children but only three survived. His father, Sule Oyesola, adopted the father's first name, Gbadamosi, he became known as Sule Oyesola Gbadamosi (SOG) while his uncle, who was to be later known as Justice Micheal Adeyinka Odesanya, retained their father's name, Odesanya.

His mother, Alhaja Rafatu Asabi Gbadamosi was from the royal family Lagos. The greatest influences in young Gbadamosi's life were his father who also mentored him in his business and his mother with whom he had a sort of telepathic relationship.

Rasheed Gbadamosi was born at the Mercy Hospital, Mercy Street, Lagos. He started his education at the Patience Kindergarten Modern School as a four-year old boy. He was admitted to the prestigious Methodist Boy's High School (MBHS) Lagos in 1956. 

Although his father was one of the leading Muslims in the country, he not only sent his son to a Christian mission school, but also took him to live with the then principal of the school, Reverend Samuel Adeoye Osinlulu.

Years later, Reverend Samuel Adeoye Osinlulu revealed to Owei Lafemfa that, "apart from being a good student, Gbadamosi was a good member of the family. His father gave him a good Muslim training at home and when he came to live with us, he also imbibed Christian values... He absorbed the best of the two religions and that can be seen reflected in his character." 

Gbadamosi was seventeen when he left secondary school in 1960 the year Nigeria gain independence. His graduating set in MBHS became known as the Liberation set. The following year, the young Gbadamosi was off to England for further studies.

His father had seen off Gbadamosi and his elder brother at the old Ikeja Airport, Lagos. The Italian flight, a propeller plane was scheduled to make the journey in twelve hours with stops in Kano, Tripoli and Barcelona. It was Gbadamosi's first travel outside the country and his first experience in air travel.

Forty five minutes into the Barcelona-London flight, the Gbadamosi brothers and other passengers were moved from the economy class to the rear of the aircraft. They were given pillows to rest their heads. He held on to his elder brother who was sleeping. Then he saw the air hostess wincing and acting nervous.

What young Gbadamosi did not realize was that the movement of the passengers and their pillows to lay their heads was to prepare them for a possible crash-land. One of the aircraft tyres had stuck and would not release, but as it made to crash-land, the tyre released and the plane taxied to a stop. Gbadamosi did not realize that he and other passengers had cheated death by the whiskers until after the airport formality, he got a congratulatory telegram from his father- his father had heard from the British Broadcasting Corporation that a Lagos-London Italian flight had some problems and wasn't able to land initially but it eventually landed safely.

From the jaws of death, Gbadamosi and his brother stepped into British soil in pursuit knowledge. He spent six years in Britain attending the City of Westminster College and University of Manchester where he majored in Economics and a Masters in the University of New Hampshire, United States.

The fall of Umuahia to Federal Troops in 1969 during the civil war, was to him, a signal that he had to return to the country. Here he was with a degree and advanced diploma from Britain and a Masters in Economics from American. He had a good pedigree; his father was a big industrialist and one of the country's best known political figures.

He declined an appointment in the Cabinet Office, to work in his father's company. Life's canvass stretched invitingly before him. Then suddenly he had to make a run for it. The military authorities were hot on his tail hunting him for charges of subversion of treasonable felony. For Gbadamosi's supposed actions, the Federal Military Government of General Yakubu Gowon had put the First Division of the Army on alert to match on Lagos.

His accomplices had been rounded up and we're already in prison. These included Christopher Kolade, the then Director General of the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, Edward Fiberesima, a star and a producer of the NBC, Francesca Emmanuel who was to retire as a Federal Permanent Secretary and Kofo Bucknor-Akerele who later became Deputy Governor of Lagos State.

After some time in hiding, Gbadamosi emerged hoping that the heat was off. He was promptly arrested and thrown into the high security KiriKiri prison.

The cause of the whole problem was a play titled "TREES GROW IN THE DESERT". It was Gbadamosi's first play which he had written three years before the civil war. The play had been staged successfully and there had been glowing tributes about it. Then Edward Fiberesima thought it should be adopted to a radio play.

There as a scene in the play about an army mutiny in which the Head of the Armed Forces and the Chief of Staff were kidnapped on stage, it was an innocuous scene. But that hot afternoon in Lagos when the play was on the NBC, it sounded real; that a coup was on. The authorities did not wait to hear the rest of the production which would have made them realize that it was just a play

When the military authorities were informed it was just a play even if badly timed and badly edited, it didn't matter to them. The sulking authorities rounded up all those connected with the play, but the playwright, Gbadamosi was at large hence the hunt for him. After two weeks in prison, the anger of the authorities was assuaged and he was set free.

The authorities reaction and the arrest made the headlines and Gbadamosi was thrust into prominence; his literary image soared and he was propelled into more literary activity.

In 1971, he reached out to Offa, Kwara State, to marry his heart-throb, the then Miss Tinu Adedoyin. At 29, he was appointed the Lagos state commissioner for Economic Planning by the then Military Governor, Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson. However, the government of General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown on July 29, 1975 and all state governors and their political appointees, sacked.

The new government at the federal government went to see a friend in the Surulere area of Lagos. There he met a man who was introduced to him as Lt. Colonel Ibrahim Babangida a member of the newly constituted Supreme Military Council. The Colonel promised Gbadamosi an appointment and he left.

The next day, Gbadamosi was named as one of the  "fifty wise-men" to draft the country's new constitution preparatory to the handover of power to the civilians. Here was somebody who was rejected and vilified being appointed by the same military government.

The government went on in addition to appoint him into the Board of Directors of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) the then sole electricity company in the country. With that, his rehabilitation and the redemption of his name was complete. He was at this time, a 32-year old youth.

Gbadamosi left this sinful world on Wednesday November 16, 2016, twenty one days short of his 73rd birthday. However during his lifetime, he was truly a tree that grew in the desert- the hurdles and obscurity of life.

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R.A.G Ragolis Rasheed Gbadamosi

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