Kola Daisi: Blossoming in the twilight of life

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Like a good wine, Chief Kola Daisi gets better with age. At a time when his contemporaries are either slowing down or have halted their activities completely, he is on the go, determined to make every passing day better than the previous one for those in his immediate and remote environment. The octogenarian’s energy bursts forth when he comes across an opportunity to improve life and living. He never withdraws when it is time to assist; he never holds back when it is time to lend a hand, and never keeps quiet when there is the need to speak in favour of the masses. For Kola Daisi, life derives meaning from the impact it makes.

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Born on September 14, 1932, in Ibadan, Daisi had his elementary and secondary education in the city. He later studied Economics and Law at the University of London after which he was called to the bar. He had an early rise in life as he became a legal celebrity shortly after he was posted to Ibadan by the law firm of Ayo Rosiji and Company following the victory he had over a legal icon in a celebrated case. So, by the time he was 28 years of age, Daisi already had the world in his pocket, money flowed in ceaselessly and as a young man, he did not deny himself of the juice of lucre. He had his fair share of the trappings of affluence. But that phase did not last; the tide soon changed and he found himself without much of the adornment of wealth. At that point, he made two decisions; relocate out of Ibadan and seek a paid employment. Lagos beckoned and so did the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and he obliged both. He worked with the organization for 11 years during which he became the Chief Executive. He also served as Executive Director of the Nigerian Association of Chambers Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA). He co-founded the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and served as its first Executive Director.

Working with LCCI and by extension NACCIMA was the game changer for Chief Daisi and that experience turned him into a thoroughbred businessman. While with LCCI, he interfaced with many local and foreign businessmen and by the time he left the organization, he had been so thoroughly schooled in the art and science of doing business that he was cocksure he would make his mark in business. However, he still had some doubts about failing in business going by his earlier experience but he encouraged himself with the fact that as a lawyer, he could always go back to law practice if business turned awry.

But as it turned out, business never turned sour for him. He started many business organizations, including Ibadan Civic Centre, all of which have grown by leaps and bounds. He invested in real estate and blue chip companies and has never had any cause to regret such actions.

As a businessman, Chief Daisi has made a tidy sum of money but unlike when he was a youngster, he does not see money as an end, rather he sees it as a means to an end. Therefore, he does not lavish his money on himself or hoard it; neither does he restrict its benefit to just members of his family or friends. Rather, he deploys his resources to the good of the people. He uses his means to help the poor out of their poverty, relieve the sick of their pains and aches and give hope of a better future to the downtrodden.

To ensure proper coordination for his philanthropic activities, Chief Daisi established the Kola Daisi Foundation (KDF), a non-government, non-profit, non-partisan and non-sectarian organization in 1993 to “help Nigerians in the areas of health care, poverty alleviation and children education.”

Since its establishment, the foundation has made serious impact in the three core areas of its intervention.

In the area of healthcare, KDF has as its objective, the provision of healthcare “to everyone particularly at the grassroots level so that all the people wherever they are and whoever they are can have access to total community health.” To achieve this objective, the foundation set up “The Itunu Fund” at the University College Hospital (U.C.H.), Ibadan. The fund is devoted to treating indigent patients irrespective of age, ethnic group or gender. Later, the foundation put up a model primary and community health care services. It has partnered the UCH, Ibadan to provide the required manpower and specialist equipment at the clinic. The clinic was commissioned in 2011 by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former military head of state.

With respect to the poverty alleviation intervention of the foundation, KDF has empowered thousands of traders and artisans to improve their vocation. Many trade associations have benefitted from its interest free loans of up to N20,000 to invest in their businesses with a view to improving productivity and thereby, their income and wellbeing. Some of the associations that have benefitted from this gesture include Association of Hair Dressers and Beauty Therapy Oyo State, Beyerunka Zone, Ibadan; Association of Hair Dressers and Beauty Therapy Oyo State, Ogboriefon, Itabaale Zone, Ibadan; Professional Barbers Union, Alafara Itabaale Zone, Ibadan; Professional Barbers Union, Orogun-Ojoo Zone, Ibadan; Nigerian Society of Professional Tailors, Oranyan Zone, Ibadan; Itesiwaju Omo-Ibadan Traders and Marketers Ayeye Ibadan; Millers and Grinders Association (Ifesowapo, Elero Ata Itabaale, Ibadan); Association of Satellite Sports Viewing Operators of Nigeria (ASSVON) Agodi Zone, Ibadan; Association of Satellite Sports Viewing Operators of Nigeria (ASSVON) Ona Ara Zone, Ibadan; and Nigeria Welfare Association of Engine Oil Dealers Wofun Zone, Ibadan, Oyo State.

In fulfillment of its education mandate, Kola Daisi Foundation, in 1998, donated a two storey Computer Centre to the University of Ibadan. The building consists of a lecture theatre, several tutorial rooms, many offices for lecturers and administrative staff as well as a computer laboratory.

The foundation also donated a three storey block of 15 classrooms, including a fully equipped computer classroom with six new computers and printer to the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) Nursery & Primary School, Itabaale Olugbode, Ibadan, where Chief Daisi started his formal education in 1938. In addition, two blocks, housing male and female toilets were also built, complete with borehole for potable water to which the whole community also has access.

Apart from awarding scholarships to indigent pupils and orphans, KDF has also endowed prizes in three Nigerian universities for Medicine, Law and Humanities.

To help young people who may not have access to formal education, the foundation set up a vocational skills acquisition centre.

In 2016, the Federal Government granted a licence to the Kola Daisi Foundation to operate the Kola Daisi University, Ibadan. The university, which boasts of state of the art facilities, will, according to Chief Daisi, “concentrate more on vocational education and skill acquisition in order to reduce unemployment in the country.” To actualize this, the university has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Highbury College, Portsmouth, on the establishment of a vocational/skill acquisition centre at the university.

Daisi says his interest in establishing a private university stems from his desire to offer the present generation of young people and those coming after the level of quality education he was exposed to as a young person.

He is concerned that the quality of education, especially at the tertiary level has witnessed a decline over the years. So, he intends to replicate in Nigeria the kind of education he received in the University of London, the kind of education that makes the products wealth creators, not those who will be waiting on the government for handouts. Consequently, the university will not shut its gate against indigent students as the fees will be considerate and affordable. “Kola Daisi University is not a business venture, if it were, I would not be doing it at this age. It is an opportunity to inculcate in our young men and women the value and virtues that will enable them to birth the Nigeria of our dreams. It is people that build great nations but only built people can build great nations. So, our vision at Kola Daisi University is to build the people that will build Nigeria into a great nation,” the 85-year old father, grandfather and great grandfather said.

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