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News and Society Expression Unfold

EXIT OF A MATRIARCH BY KEEM ABDUL

Read Time:7 Minute, 18 Second

 

Churchill Oladunni Mourns Grandmother’s Passing                                                                                                        

 

He calls her his ‘first wife’. And for good reason. 

Behind every successful man, it is often said, is a woman. More often than not, that ‘woman’ refers to a spouse. For some men, however, it may well refer to a sister, friend or female mentor. 

 Or, more likely than not, a Matriarch.                 

In the case of the Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Churchill Olakunle Oladunni, it is his grandmother, the late Reverend Dr. Wuraola. Her recent passing, which he shared on a number of Instagram postings via text, videos and emojis, truly marks the end of an era, as she was instrumental to much of his growth and evolution, both as a man and as the phenomenon he has eventually become – a business tycoon, a philanthropist and a role model for the coming generations. These videos, which depicted the late matriarch and her famous grandson in various situations and locations around the world, speak of a relationship between the two that went beyond mere parental care, to a deep and profound bond of affection. Hence his use of the words ‘first wife’ to describe the late matriarch. By his account, and doubtless all those who were privileged to know her, Grandma was a devoted Christian, a disciplinarian and a cheerful giver.  

And if his personal and business trajectory – and his outstanding strings of successes today – are any indication of his grandmother’s impact on his life, then it can be said that the late Reverend Wuraola did a fantastic job indeed. 

The businessman’s announcement of his grandmother’s passing has elicited an outpouring of sympathy and messages of condolence from his admirers, fans and even some of Nigeria’s A-list celebrities – an indication of the impact and influence he exerts in his world, and the reservoir of goodwill he has garnered in the course of an eventful life-journey. 

Known nationally and beyond as the founder of Churchill Group and Churchill Foundation, Oladunni (simply known as Churchill by his teeming admirers) was born and raised in Ondo, Ondo State. He began his education at the Canon Adeyemi Nursery and Primary School in Ondo State before moving to Lagos to attend the Apata Memorial High School in Isolo, for his junior secondary education. Afterwards, he proceeded to the Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta for his senior secondary education.

As he came of age Churchill had the option of enrolling in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Zaria, Kaduna State with a view to becoming a military officer, but fate intervened; he changed his mind and decided to study Information & Communications Technology (in which discipline he  gained remarkable proficiency and eventually became a Computer Engineer). 

Beginning his working career in Ghana in the real estate and ICT sectors, the young Churchill eventually founded an ICT company, The Big Churchill, which by 2010 had metamorphosed into the Churchill Group, with interests in areas beyond ICT, such as agriculture, mining, engineering, real estate and entertainment. 

The Churchill Foundation, the charity organization he established in response to his philanthropic impulses and his desire to give back to society, has donated substantial amounts to individual and corporate entities catering to the vulnerable in our society, and given scholarships to numerous students. In 2017, the Foundation provided funds and relief materials to the victims of the Kada River Massacre in Kagoro, Kaduna State. A film, Kada River, which was produced by the Foundation and based on the story of the massacre, premiered in September 2017 at the Nollywood Travel Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. The Foundation donated an ambulance, 1,000 fire extinguishers and 1,000 fire blankets to the Nigeria Federal Fire Service.  It also gave three plots of land in Abuja, Nigeria to the three finalists from the Big Brother Naija Season 2. In March 2019, the Foundation started a “Say No To Poverty” project aimed at empowering over 1000 youths from each of the  36 states of Nigeria. 

It’s certainly not hard to see where Churchill got his philanthropic instincts came from – for which, unsurprisingly, he has received numerous recognitions locally and internationally, such as the Nigeria Goodwill Award he received in 2015, or the honorary doctorate degree in Social Communication he received from ISCG University in Cotonou, Benin Republic. He has also appeared on the cover for the 11th edition of La Mode Magazine in recognition of what the magazine described as “his significant humanitarian contribution to humanity”. Other notable awards include the African Youth and Governance Champion Award for contributions to entrepreneurship, agriculture and ICT; a Humanitarian Award at the AfroGlobal Television Excellence Awards; a Special Recognition Award at the 2017 City People Movie Awards; and Man of the Year at the 2017 Scream Awards. 

The traditional institution is not left out of the plethora of awards and accolades. In 2017, Churchill received a chieftaincy title from the Kagoro Community in Kaduna State, as well as from the Council of Chiefs of Kamara community in faraway Liberia. He also holds the title of Ezinwa Chukwu Mere Eze by Nike Community in Enugu State. 

‘Ezinwa’ means ‘good child’ in Igbo. This quality of innate goodness is perhaps why the former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly adopted him as a son. 

Thanks to his celebrity status, Churchill’s private life has been the subject of much media attention. His high-profile marriage to (and eventual split from) the Nollywood actress, Tonto Dikeh, and indeed his other relationships, have been fodder for the gossip tabloids – but the negative attention and controversies these relationships have generated have not detracted in the least from the core essence of his personality, which is that of an astute businessman, a conscientious go-getter and a large-hearted philanthropist with a passion for the transformation of society. 

“Almost a decade ago,” he said recently, “I embarked on a path fueled by a commitment to goodness, education, and positive change … I invested in the education of so many and engaged in humanitarian works. I have attended the best schools and strived relentlessly to become a better person.”  

That quest – to be a better person, to achieve more and to GIVE more, has been Churchill’s driving force over the years. The attributes that have stood him out among his contemporaries were, for the most part,  ingrained by his early-life experiences with his grandmother who, by Churchill’s account, was a disciplinarian to the core. A  Principal of many schools in a career spanning about three decades, the late Reverend Wuraola was also a Pastor and a hard working woman, who spent her final years in London, UK before passing on. 

Now that she has departed from this mortal plane, those early years with his grandmother are memories Churchill will cherish for the rest of his life.  “In my early days … Whenever I was out of school on vacation I spent much time with my grandmother wherever she may be. It could either be in Lagos or elsewhere.” 

Of his late grandmother’s philanthropy and it’s impact on him, Churchill said before her demise: “She adopts people from the church, the streets, and various places. She formerly owned an orphanage home called Wuraola Orphanage. You know charity is a thing of the mind. That largely informed my passion for giving.  This is one value my grandmother built me up with.” Indeed, like grandmother, like grandson. 

Apart from the spirit of giving and empathy with the less-fortunate,  other values the late Reverend Wuraola imparted in Churchill’s life include the value of time, and a wholistic appreciation of what true success means; not just as the acquisition of money and material goods – as desirable as these may be – but also about touching lives positively. Also importantly, Churchill says, his grandmother taught him that you don’t always have to have money to perform an act of charity. Forgiveness is also important, as is volunteering to lend a helping hand when it is needed.

“For instance,” she told him, “sweeping and cleaning the chairs in the church in preparation for Sunday service is charity. Doing something positive that can impact peoples’ life is charity … When you change the mood of people that are down emotionally, you are doing charity.”

From the foregoing, then, it is not hard to relate to Churchill Olakunle Oladunni’s deep sense of loss at the departure of this rare gem whose impact on his life and in the lives of others was as far-reaching as it is irreplaceable. 

But suffice it to say that the late matriarch left behind a beautiful legacy indeed, not just in the lives of the people whom she had touched during her lifetime, but in the life of a grandson who continues to do WELL – and continues to do GOOD. 

 

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