ForeverMissed
His Life

A BIOGRAPHY OF THOMAS ADEOYE OLUGBEMIGA FAWOLE

The first seed into the young loving family of Justice Jones Oyesomi Fawole and Mrs. Gladys Monisola Olapade Fawole, both of blessed memory, Thomas Adeoye Olugbemiga Fawole was born in Ibadan on Sunday, October 16, 1955.

Shortly after his birth, his father, then an itinerant Nigerian Railway Corporation worker, was transferred to Minna in the present day Niger State and the family relocated to Northern Nigeria where he (his father) experienced more transfers before resigning his job in 1960 and travelling to the United Kingdom to pursue studies in law. The first effect of the foreign trip on the family was that his young mother, along with her three children, had to relocate to Ode-Omu in the present day Aiyedaade Local Government Area of Osun State to live with her mother-in-law, the legendary Chief (Mrs) Lalabi Fawole - a successful trader, community leader and unifying factor – while teaching at St. David’s Primary School in the town. A year later, his mother travelled out to the UK to join her husband in pursuing further studies but died two years later – on September 29, 1963 – at 26.

This was an event that had profound effect on the young Gbenga, as he was fondly called in the family. To cushion the effect on the lad, his uncle, the late Pa Omokanye Fawole, a successful cocoa farmer and trader, picked him up as a favourite child and held him so close both to his heart and his person, never allowing him to stray out of his sight or lack anything.

Gbenga started his early education in 1962 at St. David’s Primary School, Ode Omu, but moved to St. John’s Primary School, Ogudu, near Ile Ife, the following year. In in 1964, he transferred to Egbedore District Council (EDC) Primary School, Ode Omu, where he completed the first phase of his primary education in 1966. As the practice was at that time, he enrolled at Baptist Modern School, Ode Omu, in 1967 but later that year when his father returned home after being called to the English Bar, he recalled Gbenga to join him in Lagos while he was at the Nigerian Law School. He promptly enrolled the young lad at the Holy Cross Preparatory School on Lagos Island early in 1968.

From here, he gained admission to Igbobi College, Yaba. He enrolled at Igbobi College in January 1969 and maintained brilliant academic records throughout, passing the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) in 1973 with topnotch performance. He promptly enrolled for the two-year Higher School Certificate (HSC) programme in the same school and passed all his four papers in 1975. That same year, he gained admission to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), toeing the path of his father by studying law. He graduated with the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Honours in 1978 and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School immediately.

After being called to the Nigerian Bar in 1979, he participated in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme during the 1979/80 service year in Cross River State and did his primary assignment with Legal Aid Council in Calabar. The young attorney started legal practice with a stint at the law firm of Fawole, Babalakin and Company and enjoyed the mentorship of his father and learned friend before returning to the University of Ife in the last quarter of 1980 for a one-year Master of Laws (LL.M) programme, specializing in constitutional law.

On the completion of his postgraduate studies, he joined the Federal Ministry of Justice, with the headquarters then at Marina, as a State Counsel in January 1982 and was deployed to the Civil Litigation Department. As a litigation lawyer, he simply stood out of the crowd as he traversed the courts nationwide representing the Federal Government, such that some judges commended him, noting that he did not have the usual civil service nonchalance which was the trademark of some State Counsel.

He worked with the Federal Ministry of Justice for slightly over two years and transferred his services to the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos, as a Lecturer in 1984, teaching Constitutional Law. At a point, after lecturing at the Nigerian Law School, for about nine years, he said he could beat his chest that about 50 per cent of Nigerian lawyers had passed through him. A researcher at heart, he later transferred his services to Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), working very briefly here before crossing over to the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 1994.

However, the pull of the academia made him to emigrate to the United States in 1995 to pursue more academic fulfillment. Between 1995 and the year 2000, he was with the University of Georgia School of Law, picking another Master of Laws degree in the process. At the University of Georgia, he was a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Delta Society and the Speakers’ Bureau.

Two things that had tremendous influence on him were his NYSC work with the Legal Aid Council in Calabar and his experience as a Litigation Counsel with the Federal Ministry of Justice. These exposed him to the extent to which people suffer as a result of inability to hire legal services. He observed that even in the US, the story was no less different, which made him to join the New York State Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals where he functioned for six years from 2003 as a Volunteer Advocate, assisting needy members of the community in obtaining free legal services.

A legal practitioner to the bone marrow, it is on record that he worked as Compliance Officer with the Marcus Garvey Nursing Home in the Greater New York City Area, where he established and managed the implementation of the facility’s Compliance Programme, with special emphasis on medicare/Medicaid compliance, operational issues involving compliance with state and federal regulatory and accreditation standards, and non-profit healthcare laws and regulations. In 2005, he also joined the Volunteers of America in the Greater New York City Area as Associate Programme Director.

The Volunteers of America, where he served for 10 years till December 2015, is a faith-based human services organization dedicated to helping needy individuals and families create positive and lasting change through social service programmes that support and empower them to live safe, healthy and productive lives. Then in 2014, Thomas Adeoye Olugbemiga Fawole, popularly known as Emperor (Empee) by his schoolmates and friends right from Igbobi College, founded and incorporated the Empire Housing Solutions, LLC, a real estate investment organization providing innovative win-win solutions to various real estate issues. Until he took his last breath, he was the Managing Partner of Empire Solutions.

He was known as a compassionate real estate investor and wholesaler, legal and healthcare compliance professional. Clients described him as a very intelligent and affable Client and Social Service Professional with passion to assist people in need. All through this, as he flew the flag of the family, he held his head high and the family was ever so proud of him.

Even after emigrating to the United States, he remained ever so allergic to bad manners. He was incurably humble, unassuming and would never hurt a fly. It is often said that if a man does not drink or smoke, he must womanise but he never did any of these, remaining ever sober without any record of rascality.

Thomas Adeoye Olugbenga Fawole was transparently honest, blunt, fair but firm. To many, he was a mentor and inspiration and would be missed by all. He is survived by his wife, Olufunke, and three children: Funlola, Detola and Seun, who are all doing well, to the glory of God. He also left behind a son-in-law and two grandchildren.