To have chalked up over eight decades on earth before returning to one’s maker is no mean feat, especially when such existence was repleted with tremendous exploits and immeasurable achievements that transcended virtually every facet of life and human endeavour. Such is the life and times of chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo. A man whose successes during his glorious stint as an athlete on the international stage left even the colonial master nodding in awe.
Pa Oluwole’s illustrious sports career was replicated in other endeavours in ventured into later on his life, recording massive successes in business and as a public officer during which he was saddled with the responsibility of spearheading the team that handled the organisation of Africa biggest cultural festival, FESTAC Chief Victor Oluwole, the patriarch of Odofin-Belo family passed on at home peacefully unto Eternal Glory on Friday afternoon, July 17th, 2020. Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo was born in Ifon, Ondo State, Nigeria on July 25th, 1933 into the honourable and well known Odofin Family of Idoani, a progressive town located in Ondo State, Nigeria.
His father was Late Chief Jeremiah Agunbiade Odofin-Belo, a great Christian gentleman who meritoriously served as the Commissioner of Police for the Western Region of Nigeria back in the 1960s and in the midst of murky politics which he detested but could not escape from. Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo’s mother was Late Mrs. Clara Odofin-Belo, a well respected, affable housewife with genealogical ties to the Olugura Opelima Family of Ikaro, near Ifon in Ondo State, Nigeria.
Being the First Born of his father, Chief Victor Oluwole took on the hyphenated surname of “Odofin-Belo”, famously used by his father as well, upon the latter’s wish. His younger siblings simply used the ancestral chieftaincy surname “Odofin”. One such sibling was the popular Lagos lawyer and dedicated Eyo Masquerades culturist, Late Chief Aderemi Odofin, the former Odofin of Lagos of blessed memory.
Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo completed his Primary School education at St. John’s Anglican Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos Island, Nigeria. He gained admission into the prestigious Secondary School, Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria in 1949 and graduated from there in 1953. Whilst there, he excelled both academically and outside of the classroom in sporting activities. He made a name for himself and for his Alma Mater, as a very great Athlete, right from Form III, having won Victor’s Ludorum consecutively for three years, for outstanding sporting performance.
Pa Odofin-Belo and his late younger Brother Lawyer Chief Remi Odofin (former Odofin of Lagos) Young Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo became a National Hero as a Schoolboy with his spectacular performance at the 1953 Edition of the defunct Grier Cup Athletic Competition, which pivoted Igbobi College into the Third position from amongst the thirty competing Secondary Schools located all over the former Western Region of Nigeria. Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo was offered employment by UAC Nigeria Limited in 1954. Whilst there, he entered international competitions for Nigeria and brought much fame and recognition to himself, the company, and his country.
He was an Olympian in 1956 for his sterling performance at the World Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. He also distinguished himself at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom by winning 2 Silver medals in track and field events for Nigeria. As if those were not enough, young Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo was drafted into the national football squad called the “Nigerian Red Devils”, today known as the “Super Eagles”. He left UAC for Esso Nigeria Limited at the end of 1958. His long term career in the oil and gas industry took off then as he excelled in Salesmanship and was sent to England by 1959 where he attended the London School of Economics and obtained a Diploma in Salesmanship.
Later in 1960, Chief Victor Oluwole was singled out for further training at the Esso Petroleum Training Institute in London to equip him for his new assignment in petrol station development. Upon returning to Nigeria, he worked in various sales areas throughout the Federation, acquiring and developing petrol station sites for Esso Nigeria Limited. He also completed managerial and other training in the oil and gas business in England, Scotland and the USA. For the 28 years that he was employed and amongst other earlier positions held, he served as the Sales Supervisor (Western Region), Retail Sales Manager, Divisional Manager (Lagos), Public Relations Manager and finally, Staff Administration Manager (Board position third in the hierarchy to the M/Director position) until his retirement in 1986.
Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo became the quintessential Dealer for the big Unipetrol (former Esso) Service Station on Marina, Lagos Island for several years and later moved to the Service Station located on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, from where he eventually retired in his 70s, as he enjoyed his business so much. Aside from his meritorious career, Chief Victor Oluwole was a Lagos socialite. He was an active member of the prestigious Yoruba Tennis Club, Island Club, Center Club, Ikoyi Club, and Waka Club, among others. He also held various executive positions in some of these clubs, notably past Chairman of Center Club and past Social Secretary of Island Club. He was also very active in Igbobi College Old Boys Association (ICOBA) too and served in the past as their Social Secretary. ICOBA recognized his excellent service to their Alma Mater Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, and gave him a Merit award many years ago.
He was also the toast of musicians who eulogized his forthrightness and dedication. immortalized in the famous highlife/juju music “Mo so fun e oo, Ota mi dehin leyin mi…”, recorded by Chief Ebenezer Obey, amongst those good songs also recorded by King Sunny Ade (“Epo Moto mi ti tan, Odofin-Belo…”) and other popular musicians of the past. He was well regarded in the Federal and Lagos State Sports Commissions circles, having previously held Chairmanship and Vice-Chairmanship positions in Lagos State Athletics Association and Lagos State Football Association.
He was an executive member of the national officiating team for FESTAC 1977 Sports Jamboree, held at the National Sports Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria, which attracted great sportsmen and sportswomen delegations from many African countries to participate in the international sporting event. He was also a member of the national sports talent-scouting team and often traveled overseas and within Africa to look for and sign contracts with talented Nigerian sportsmen and sportswomen living in those countries, so they could come and represent their motherland Nigeria in various international sporting competitions.
In 1982, Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo was honourably recognized and given a National Sports Award by the Federal Government under ex-President Alhaji Shehu Shagari, for his tremendous contributions especially in the area of athletics in Nigeria. Chief Victor Oluwole was a dedicated Christian who served both God and humanity with humility, cheerfulness, and generosity. He was a lifetime member of St. Peter’s Church (Faji), an Anglican Church on Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria. He proudly belonged to both YMCA and Christian Companions societies and was a good Patron to some other societies there.
He maintained great friendships within the upper echelon of the Nigerian society and nurtured lasting relationships as well within the lower echelon of the society. His accommodating, honest, and cheerful nature attracted many good foreigners to him both within and outside the country, who remained his close friends till his passing. As a family man, Chief Victor Oluwole Odofin-Belo was a devoted husband to the wives he married. He was a good father and an adorable role model for his children.
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