By Frank Odinukaeze
“As the waves make towards the pebbled shore,so do our minutes hasten to their end”- William Shakespeare.
A dark cloud has hovered the maritime domain, adorning the landscape with petals of indigo. And everywhere you turned,you hear silent loud voice, deep in pain, in wonder and in shock of the sudden demise of a maritime colossus,Otunba Olakunle Folarin.
Indeed,the death of this great maritime icon and repository of ideas and ideals in the industry has left a huge and yearning gap that would be hard to fill.
Otunba Folarin, during his life time contributed immensely to the growth of the maritime industry.
His 50 years surgeon in the maritime domain has been a very fruitful and rewarding one ,as he has through his repository of knowledge and ideas shaped the industry to a progressive height. This could be seen in the huge progress recorded by the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC), where he was the Chairman.
The Council under his watch has through advocacy, consultation and sensitization, ensured industrial harmony,conflict resolution and proffering knowledge- based quality advise to both government agencies in the industry and stakeholders. NPCC has remained the apex advocacy body in the maritime industry with all associations and agencies duly represented in the council.
The late Managing Director, CEO of Kenprima Technology and Kenprima Limited, Folarin, saw it all, as far as the maritime industry is concerned.
A very resourceful and meticulous technocrat, his rich knowledge of the industry had made him a noticeable presence in most, if not all maritime events.
Little wonder his sudden exit,has elicited reactions and mourning from the nation’s maritime industry, the African continent and the world at large.
The Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, joined the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council and all maritime stakeholders in mourning of Kunle Folarin, who passed on few days ago after a brief illness at the age of 85 years said, “The nation has lost a maritime repository of knowledge, an experienced maritime practitioner, a voice of the ideal, a highly cerebral gentleman and most importantly, a friend”
Sambo noted that the late Folarin,through his ingenuity and wealth of experience would have been of immense benefit towards the achievements of developmental measures that would drive the industry to greater heights.
However the Minister assured,through a statement released by Dr. Sam Idiagbonya, Special Assistant to the Transport Minister on Media and Publicity, that “In honour of his memory he will ensure they are brought to fruition. Every moment of his life was dedicated to improving the maritime sector, either in passing down knowledge or being a constructive critic to ensure the ideals are upheld in the sector. He served well and lived well.”
“May the Almighty Allah repose his soul and grant the family he left behind the fortitude to bear the loss” the Minister said.
In a statement released by the Nigerian Ports Authority( NPA), it described the death of Otunba as a”Painful Loss of a Colossus and Treasure Trove of Ideas”
The statement further added that” The Authority with a heavy heart joins the maritime community both local and international in mourning the demise of Folarin who until his death was a treasure trove of ideas and solutions for the maritime industry.
“The Port Consultative Council (PCC) which he chaired has over the years, grown to become an invaluable partner to the NPA in the determination of the Federal Government to position Nigerian ports as the hub in the sub-region.
“With his brainchild, the PCC being as old as the oldest port in Nigeria, the Nigerian Ports Authority regards his death as a personal loss which we intend to mitigate by ensuring his values and virtues shape organizational policy. May his soul find eternal rest,” It stated.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency( NIMASA),Dr.Bashir Jamoh ,has described as” shocking” the demise of Otunba Kunle Folarin.
In a post on social media, Dr. Bashir Jamoh said that Otunba Kunle Folarins’ demise is a serious blow to the Nigerian maritime industry.
According to the NIMASA DG, “I received with shock the sad news of the death of our icon, Otunba Kunle Folarins’, who was the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, earlier today.
“His passing is a serious blow to the maritime industry. May his gentle soul rest in peace, Amen.”
Since the news of the death of the NPCC chairman broke out last Thursday, maritime stakeholders have been reacting to the sad event.
Barely one month of the death of Ngozi Obikili,Assistant General Manager Statistics, Nigerian Ports Authority NPA,and with the maritime stakeholders yet to come to terms with that incident ,the industry is once again thrown into mourning, following the death of Otunba Kunle Folarin.
Reacting to the painful event ,the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup expressed sadness while commiserating with the family of late Folarin.
In a statement released by the association on Thursday, the STOAN Chairman described the late Otunba Folarin as a “Maritime colossus” who made “significant impact” across various sections of the maritime industry.
“I am truly saddened by the death of this great man. Otunba Kunle Folarin’s exit at this time will create a great vacuum in the maritime community.
“He was an accomplished maritime expert and administrator, and a repository of maritime knowledge. His death will be felt far beyond the maritime industry,” Haastrup said.
The STOAN Chairman urged the family to take solace in the understanding that their late patriarch lived a fulfilled life and contributed enormously to the development of the maritime industry and the country.
“Otunba Folarin was steadfast in his service to the maritime industry having served in one of the most senior management positions in Alraine Shipping. He later devoted his life to the wellbeing of seafarers through his selfless and unparalleled service as Chairman of the National Seafarers Welfare Board (NSWB) and also as Chairman of NPCC. The role he played in the maritime industry will remain indelible for many generations to come,” she said.She prayed God for the repose of the soul of the departed.
A long time ally of Otunba Folarin and former Managing Director of NPA and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) at separate times, Chief Adebayo Sarumi said he was particularly devastated on learning about the death of Folarin whom he described as a “mentor and lifelong coach.”
“Iam devastated and yet to find my voice. I have lost a personal mentor and lifelong coach,Nigeria’s maritime industry industry has lost a selfless indefatigable quintessential beacon, indeed, a compass. How do we all find direction?
To Barr. Hassan Bello, the immediate past Executive Secretary of NSC,Folarin assisted the Council in its regulatory role especially on tariff setting, intra and inter-port competition as well as stakeholders’ engagement.
“He was lively in his discussions, vast and analytical and incisive. Sadly, he lacked the financial independence to make PCC very impactful”, Bello said.
Also mourning the patriarch, the Publisher of MMS Plus Newspaper, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke described the death of Otunba as a “Great loss to him personally and to the organization”
He recalled how caring he was.”When I lost my wife, Otunba Folarin left his hospital bed with permission from his Doctor and wife and paid me condolence visit. He arrived looking not too strong with heavy drip band on his arms and said he was sick and had been indoors, but on hearing about the demise of my wife he felt he must come personally to commiserate with me. But I said a phone call would have been enough given his condition, he said,”No Kingsley, I will not be comfortable recovering at home when you are bereaved, I had to convince my wife to let me come. You know God is the owner of life, what if I die afterwards? There are things we must not delay, he retorted.
According to him, Otunba was like a Father figure to me. He has done a lot for this organization. His death is a personal loss to me,” he lamented. He however prayed that God Almighty grants him a a peaceful rest.
There is no doubt that Chief Otunba Kunle Folarin, lived a fulfilled life. He came, he saw and he conquered almost on all fronts. He would be remembered as one who dominated his world and environment, leaving a gaping hole that would be difficult to fill.
The Secretary of PCC,Mr.Patric Ezedimbu, told MMS Plus that he is still in shock as both of them had meeting together the previous day.
A brilliant scholar,an economist of repute and a great leader, Folarin had his training at the College of Petroleum and Energy, Oxford, UK, Templeton College Oxford UK, Harvard University, MASS US
He studied Economics and Industrial Administration with specialisation in International and Coastal Shipping,Maritime Consulting,Development Economics,Corporate Planning,Maritime Law,Maritime Labour & Seafaring Regulation,Ports and Terminals Management,Maritime Training,Industrial Administration,Work Study,Ship Brokering and Ship Agency.
He worked with SDV Group, Alraine Nigeria Limited from May 1972 – Nov. 1996, before leaving to start his own companies.
Untill his death, he was the Managing Director Chief Executive Officer CEO, of Kenprima Technology Limited, and Kenprima Nigeria Limited.