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Friday Sermon: Late Alhaji Babatunde Jose: Contentment Personified

By Ibrahim Babatunde Jose ll

Contentment is a sign of a true believer. The virtue of contentment is closely connected with the virtue of putting trust in Allah. With contentment one feels inner peace and spirituality increases. He does not compare himself with those who are in better conditions, but rather he remembers those who are in worse conditions.  For example, if someone is one-handed, he should be content and remember those who do not have hands at all. “Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.”  Contentment and patience earn one Paradise in the Hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “Riches does not mean having a great amount of property; real wealth is self-contentment.” Sahih Bukhari (Book 81, Chapter 15)

The (material) things which ye are given are but the conveniences of this life and the glitter thereof; but that which is with Allah is better and more enduring: Will ye not then be wise? 

 (Quran 28:60)

The greatest cause for the lack of contentment is greed and avariciousness, covetousness and ‘long throat’. These are very objectionable traits in any human being and they are the root cause of corruption.  Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said: “If a son of Adam (as) possessed two vast valleys wherein gold and silver flowed, he would still wish to search for the third one.”

One of the greatest legacy a man could bequeath to his children is a good name. Riches could be spent and wasted on the frivolous things of life and in a jiffy, the children have gone through it and are back to the state of poverty of their great grandfather. Houses are equally squandered through sales and forfeiture, having been used to borrow money. All else must pass away leaving the good name a man has built for himself. The greatest building bloc of a good name is a contented life. A life devoid of greed and avarice and covetousness. These are very apt description of late Alhaji Babatunde Jose.

Under the present clime, people like late Jose, with his first generation advantage would have amassed enough illicit wealth to last the coming generation of his offspring. He never did; yet he had all the opportunities.

He became Managing Director of the Daily Times and probably the highest paid chief executive of a publicly quoted company in Nigeria without moving to an executive official residence until nearly three years after he became Chairman of the company.

During his stay in Cooper Road, Ikoyi, the sprawling official residence, he was very conscious    of the transit nature of the place. It was therefore very easy and painless for him to move back to his old residence in Apapa immediately after his retirement. Unlike the retirees of today who go away with a fleet of cars and SUVs, Alhaji Jose only went away with his old official car, a Mercedes 300S, LAA3.

He built his house in Victoria Island, courtesy of the Federal Government allocation of plots to deserving public figures at the time. Unfortunately, he never had the money to develop the plot. It would be built under contractor finance arrangement by Cappa, which rented out the place for five years in order to realize the N120,000 construction cost. He was only be able to move into the house in December 1980 in which he lived for 28 years till he died, without changing the furniture or the air-conditioning units in the house.

His life is therefore a lesson in contentment and personal satisfaction.

Even when he joined his friends, MKO Abiola, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Musa Bello and Alhaji Koko with the Pakistanis to float Habib Nigeria Bank Limited, he never for once abused the codes of corporate governance.

The Apotheosis

Jose was not only a journalist and newspaper administrator, he was a man who perfected the art of ‘walking a tightrope’ in the high tension ‘corridors of power’. He was usually consulted by heads of government and ministers on many national issues. During the first republic, he was the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on Publicity. This gave him unfettered access to the Prime Minister; a privilege he never abused.

During Nigeria’s change over from left to right-hand drive, General Yakubu Gowon, appointed Alhaji Jose as the Chairman of the Committee. After that, he was appointed Chairman of the Nigeria Building Society which later became Federal Mortgage Bank.

He was also made a member of the Nigerian Pilgrims Board of which he eventually became the chairman. These positions of trust were never abused. Yet in modern parlance, they were ‘juicy’.

Despite the fact that the Daily Times was nationalized by the Murtala-Obasanjo Military Administration, and the eventual retirement of Jose at the young age of 50 in 1976, General Obasanjo changed his mind and asked him to return to the company but Jose politely declined the offer saying ‘where a man has said goodnight, he does not return to say good evening’. Obasanjo therefore appointed him pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Television Authority NTA.

First civilian President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari appointed him Chairman of a commission to advice on Hajj operations. Shagari also sent him to newly Independent Zimbabwe to help advice on financial feasibility of acquiring a privately owned newspaper which the Nigerian government was bankrolling for the government of that country. He did not see it as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement.

The Buhari/Idiagbon government sent him to London on an image laundering mission for the Nigerian government. On his return, he caused a stir when he returned some unspent money out of the fund given to him for the trip. General Idiagbon was flabbergasted and took him to General Buhari to witness what he has seen, as it was unprecedented.

Also, at the request of the same government, he was asked to advise on the reorganization of the Daily Times, which he did and it led to the appointment of his godson and protégée, Olusegun Osoba as Managing Director. He was also appointed a second time as Chairman of NTA.

It was to Alhaji Jose that the Babangida administration turned when it wanted to settle the intractable problem of General Tunde Idiagbon’s continued stay in Saudi Arabia after the coup that ousted his government. Jose travelled to Saudi with General Gado Nasco, Sheikh Gumi and Professor Galadanchi to persuade and bring Idiagbon back to Nigeria. President Babangida also appointed Alhaji Jose as the Chairman of the Nigeria Pilgrims Board.

It is important to note that during the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan, Alhaji Jose was again approached to serve as the Chairman of the Eminent Persons Committee to advice on the June 12 impasse. Fortunately, Alhaji Jose resigned immediately the committee was inaugurated after realizing that it was a charade.

Alhaji Jose would later sit on the boards of many companies, only to find himself being elected President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN. That perhaps marked his apotheosis.

In all these he never lost his head neither did he forget the son of whom he was. He would always remember the home from which came from. He never for once took undue advantage of his closeness to the corridor. That to me is the hallmark of a man of honor and principle. It demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt, contentment per excellence.

As a mark of his unshaken be belief in the certainty of death, he kept his burial things in a bag in his room, to the knowledge of all.

According to Tajudeen Gbadamosi, Emeritus Professor of history and an erudite Islamic scholar, “Alhaji Jose did not claim to be a moral leader. . . But we can certainly identify in him some sterling moral values: dedication sincerity of purpose, honesty, commitment to peace, selflessness and a high sense of responsibility.”

In 1946, Editor of the Daily Times, Mr Lijadu, wrote an awe-inspiring testimonial for Alhaji Jose in which he said “This is to certify that I have known Ishmael Adisa Babatunde Jose for over five years during which period I have always found him a hardworking, obedient and aspiring Youngman. His industry and ambition have been most exemplary and inspiring and have marked him out as a young man who ought to go far in life. . . . . . .” And indeed he went very far! As former President Olusegun Obasanjo described him in Abuja in 2001, as a “national role model and an Icon of Hope”.

Yesterday was a glorious day in his remembrance. The Fidau prayer was a high mass in nature with clerics of Anwar ul Islam, led by the venerable Chief Imam A B Yoosuf and a plethora of beautiful people in attendance. It was a most befitting anniversary. It was crowned with the naming of the school hall of Jubril Martin Memorial Grammar School as ‘Alhaji Isma’il Babatunde Jose Hall: The name of a good man was immortalized.

We pray: “O Allah! Forgive him, have mercy upon him, give him peace and absolve him. Receive him with honor and make his grave spacious; wash him with water, snow and hail. Cleanse him from faults as Thou wouldst cleanse a white garment from impurity. Requite him with an abode, with a family better than his family and with a mate better than his mate. Admit him to the Garden, and protect him from the torment of the grave and the torment of the fire.” Du’a Book by Refaaz Mohamed.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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