“We encourage you to fast-forward to the end of your life and ask this question: What will family, friends, and colleagues say when I am dead?” It might sound morbid, but it’s extremely useful.” Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy – Living Forward
Until his death, Otunba Kunle Folarin was the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) and Chairman of the National Seafarers Welfare Board (NSWB). Otunba was knowledgeable, humble and always created ample time to make quality summissions at events.
Taking a cue from Michael and Daniel’s apt saying in the book “Living Forward”, one week after the demise of Otunba Kunle Folarin, we can collate what friends and colleagues have said following his death.
He was a journalist’s delight as he would politely pick calls for on-the-spot interviews and reschedule a more convenient time when busy. He wouldn’t just stop with closed-ended responses to any question, rather he provided detailed answers, giving sufficient background on issues as well as expert analysis and forecasts. Having served for several decades in the maritime domain, he always availed a fine blend of Nigerian maritime history vis-a-vis the experiences in other maritime nations and consequently, the modern trends.
Kunle Folarin prided himself as an industry operator, but he equally loved and valued the academics, stating on numerous occasions that the nation’s shipping industry needed a balanced collaboration between town and gown to effectively deliver the lofty potentials of the sector.
In October last year, during a courtesy visit to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Otunba Folarin asserted that the economic potential of Nigeria’s maritime transport exceeds N77 trillion as opportunities abound in ferry services, cargo services, barge operations, freight forwarding, and much more.
“We need studies and research to create knowledge for people. Why should people spend 6 hours for a journey on road that can take 30 minutes on the waterways? There must be a correlation between town and gown. Lack of opportunities for seatime is making our seafarers incompetent,” he said.
Despite his fondness for picking out lapses of government regulatory agencies, it was always done in utmost patriotism and with a genuine penchant to see the industry fare better. This disposition was what ensured his 50 years surgeon in maritime were fruitful and rewarding, as he deployed his knowledge and ideas towards shaping the industry for progress and huge success was recorded by the PCC.
Under his watch, the Council through advocacy, consultation and sensitization, ensured industrial harmony, conflict resolution and proffering knowledge- based quality advice to both government agencies and private organizations; attained apex status as an advocacy body in the maritime industry with all associations and agencies duly represented in the Council.
One of Kunle Folarin’s biggest worry in the nation’s maritime sector was the country’s inability to provide seatime experience for its seafarers despite having an average of over 5,000 ships calling at the nation’s seaports annually for the over a decade. As Chairman of NSWB, he described this as a major industry challenge that would have to be solved without his veteran position.
Barely a week since his demise, a plethora of maritime industry stakeholders have eulogized the former PCC boss with astounding words of appreciation, while others have preferred quiet visits to his family house in Lagos.
In a statement released by Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) on Thursday, Princess Vicky Haastrup described the late Otunba Folarin as a maritime colossus ho made “significant impact” across various sections of the maritime industry.
Her words: “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.”
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.
Reacting to the news of Otunba Folarin’s death, the Minister 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”
According to the Minister, there is a lot in the pipeline through the ingenuity of this intellectual doyen that will further enhance the dynamics of operation in the country’s maritime sector, and “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.
Also speaking, a former President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu commiserated with the family of late Otunba Kunle Folarin, stating that words alone cannot describe the indelible contributions and impact that Otunba Folarin made in the nation’s maritime sector.
“I lack words to describe the shock I felt on hearing about the demise of my Egbon, Otunba Kunle Folarin who fondly calls me Aburo. He was an enigmatic maritime guru, versatile and knowledgeable in all aspects of marine operations. Give him a microphone and he will martial out the essentials of the discussions.”
“Many of us had been tutored by his cerebral impact on the up and coming practitioners. He doesn’t shy away from any arguments in other to advance the course of knowledge. He shall be missed sorely and I pray for the good Lord to grant him eternal peace and his family and colleagues the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”
The Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, OFR described Otunba Folarin as a Doyen of Nigeria’s maritime industry.
Jamoh’s words: “I received with shock the sad news of the death of our icon, Otunba Kunle Folarin, who was the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council. His passing is a serious blow to the maritime industry. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Amin. May God grant his family the fortitude to bear the painful loss. Otunba will surely be missed. He was a Doyen of Nigeria’s maritime industry.
In a condolence message, the Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi described Folarin, as a “maritime encyclopedia” due to his wealth of experience and expertise about the sector, even as he commended his willingness to share his intellectual resources with others.
Afolabi recalled Otunba’s outstanding performance when he graciously served as the Keynote Speaker at the 3rd edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) Conference where he spoke passionately about the place of port costs and charges in the overall port reform regime in Nigeria.
“It was indeed an enlightening session where he brought to bear his depth of knowledge and experience to proffer workable solutions to this recurring problem. Even at a short notice for the conference’s 4th edition, Otunba Kunle Folarin’s insights as a panelist became a key highlight of the occasion.”
Afolabi further noted that the demise of Folarin has left a huge gap in the country’s maritime watchdog space, adding that the sector will greatly miss his bold personality and intellectual approach to industry discourse.
“His death has depleted the tribe of knowledgeable maritime professionals in Nigeria with a razor-sharp intellectual bent who are never afraid to speak truth to power in a bid to reposition and maximise opportunities in the country’s maritime industry for the overall good of the nation’s economy.”
The SIFAX Group boss also appealed to NPCC and all Folarin’s allies to sustain the advocacy for a better maritime industry in Nigeria for which the deceased was noted for.
In a condolence message to the family, the President of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LOMEP), Chief Timothy Okorocha described late Otunba as an industry icon who will remain fresh in the memory of maritime stakeholders for his wealth of experience on highly technical maritime issues.
The statement signed by the group’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Francis Ugwoke further quoted Chief Okorocha as describing Otunba Folarin as a maritime industry lover who offered his wealth of knowledge to all, particularly to the maritime media as he opened his door to all.
He recalled that the late Otunba had attended the League’s recent Annual General Meeting where he spoke on increasing indigenous shipping development as necessary for the national economy.
Sharing his work experience with Otunba Folarin, the Secretary to the Ports Consultative Council, Mr. Patrick Ezedimbu said working with Folarin was always a tough but rewarding learning experience as he demanded perfection and excellence.
“The demise of Otunba Kunle Folarin, our amiable Chairman of PCC is a massive loss to the Council. Over the years, we have enjoyed first-hand Otunba’s love, penchant for excellence, patriotism and diligence.”
“We join all maritime stakeholders in mourning of Kunle Folarin, who was a repository of knowledge in maritime and ports affairs. He was our mentor, teacher and friend! At PCC, we can never forget Otunba Folarin,” Ezedimbu said.
In what was Otunba Kunle Folarin’s last industry outing last month, he graced the 2022 National Conference/ Annual General Meeting of the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics (CILT) Nigeria, and condemned the little time given for intellectual discourse while ample time was allowed for monotonous goodwills that added little value to the summit.
An attempt to aptly capture the contributions of Otunba Kunle Folarin to the nation’s maritime and economic space would fail for want of time and platform to capture every significant benefaction.
Sadly, it’s true that the amiable Otunba Kunle Folarin is dead; but as Thomas Campbell says, “to live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Indeed, Otunba lives in many hearts. He is alive in several books and papers, numerous publications and recommendations, and more.
Oh, Otunba Kunle Folarin has successfully left behind lots beautiful memories in many hearts!