Man shares his life experiences at 90 in new autobiography

April 23, 2020

A review of Chief Daniel Olakanmi Fadele’s book, Only By Grace (An Autobiography), by Akin Bello.

AN autobiography is by nature a testimony to the faithfulness and blessings of God. It is more often than not a celebration of the author’s life and a record/memoir passed down to posterity with the aim of illuminating one’s family background, formative years, life’s challenges and triumphs, and even one’s worldview.

Papa Daniel Olakanmi Fadele’s autobiography, Only By Grace, is no exception.

Written in a lucid, easy-to-follow narrative divided into 14 chapters, the book is a glowing tribute to the commitment of teachers and a shining exposition of the depth of knowledge imparted at primary and secondary levels of education in the days of yore.

It is also a faithful account of Papa’s exploits in life as circumstances and grace of personal abilities carried him.

First, it traces the roots of the Fadele family from the famous Balogun Oderinlo through Olugbode Ajagba, younger brother of the Balogun and founder of the Ajagba Compound, Oke-Offa Babasale, Ibadan, who was also the father of Ogunjide, the author’s paternal grandfather.

The author’s father, Pa Joseph AjagbeFadele, we are informed, was a tailor and businessman who became a successful farmer on settling at Ayede Model Village. His success could be seen not only in his ability to pay for his children’s education, even place a bet on their performance, but also in being able to afford a bicycle for young Kanmi when the need arose.

Then, we are taken on an excursion into Papa’s educational career from primary school, beginning at age 10, through a memorable period at Ibadan Grammar School, and an eventful training period at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, where he started a lifelong romance with his second wife, the architecture profession, in which he has left indelible marks in the sands of time, culminating in his qualification as a chartered architect in London in 1965.

Several incidents narrated in the book clearly illustrate the aptness of the title chosen for this book. First, there was a fateful meeting with his wife, late Marian Aduke, who he decided was to be his “future partner and life-long friend” on first sighting her. He was in his early 20s at the time and she was just a primary school leaver. This incredible presence of mind must have been achieved only by grace. Yet they built a relationship as a happily married couple that lasted for 60 years.

Perhaps the single most important cathartic incident in Papa’s long life was his miraculous survival in the now historic Lalupon train disaster of 1957 that claimed the lives of almost 60 of his mates at the Zaria College.

No doubt, there was divine intervention in his favour in that accident. He narrowly escaped death by the sheer presence of the right persons, first, his elder brother, then Mr George Ayo Fadele, who promptly identified him and took some necessary action; and equally important, his primary school teacher and cousin, then Miss Moji Adeoye, who performed the vital mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

It was a classic case of right persons in the right place at the right time.

Another interesting incident was his invitation to a partnership in private practice by Chief Layi Ojo that was simply proposed and just as simply accepted.

It was by all standards a momentous occasion for both of them, yet it was initiated and positively received in a phone call.

Also, the motif of the building ‘Rotunda House’ that has become his signature design, a masterpiece that remains unequalled on Oshuntokun Avenue, Bodija, Ibadan, till date and perhaps the personal highpoint of a fulfilling career, is explained in some detail.

In all, the book, Only By Grace, is a treasure trove complete with explicit recall of principles and ethos that guided the author through life, perhaps in the hope that readers would learn a thing or two from his ways.

It is a very interesting read, well packaged and adorned with colorful photographs, despite its need for a more detailed editorial attention.

I, therefore, commend the author heartily for giving the world this unique window into his private space, for he comes across in the book as a really private person.

I earnestly recommend the book not only to family, relatives, friends and colleagues but also to the general public as I wish Papa D.O. Fadele more years in good health.

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