Alhaji Chief (Dr) Abdulwahab Iyanda Folawiyo was no doubt, one of the icons of Nigerian industry and Philanthropy; a sports enthusiast and a pillar of Islam with the revered title of the Baba Adinni of Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian to be so honoured.
Born in Lagos on the 16th of June, 1928, to a successful Lagos merchant, Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo had his elementary education at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Lagos [1934-1941] and afterwards proceeded to Ilesha Grammar School, Ilesha. He also attended the North-Western Polytechnic, London where he read Management specializing in Ship Brokerage.
Back home in 1957, Chief Folawiyo founded YINKA FOLAWIYO & SONS, to engage in the import business between Nigeria and Europe. Today, that company is the bedrock of the family’s large business empire with holdings in maritime, banking, construction, large scale agriculture, real estate and energy.
A man of many parts, Chief Folawiyo’s achievements in other spheres were as monumental as his accomplishments in business. A philanthropist extraordinaire, folawiyo consistently offered support to religious advancement, educational development and sports improvement.
He founded and dedicated the Bab-Es-Salam House to the upbringing and education of orphans. Apart from endowing a Professorial Chair in Physics at the University of Lagos, the first Baba Adinni of Nigeria contributed to the endowment funds of many Nigerian Universities and vigorously supported research into various fields of Knowledge among which was Virus Research, Department of Virology, University of Ibadan.
In June, 1998, Chief Folawiyo became the first private individual to erect a physical structure in the University of Lagos, when he upgraded the University’s Health Centre to a full fledged Hospital with an X-Ray Unit.
In appreciation of his immense contributions, Alhaji Folawiyo received several honours and awards including Doctor of Law from the University of Cross-River, State, Uyo, 1991; Doctor of Letters from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1992; Doctor of Science from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, 1998 and another Doctor of Science from Usman Dan Fodiyo , University, Sokoto, 2001. He has a Secondary School, Wahab Folawiyo High School, in the highbrow area of Ikoyi, Lagos State, named after him.
Chief Folawiyo, who was the only African Principal Member of the Baltic Exchange in the city of London, was honoured with the Key to Dade County, Florida, in the United States of America.
The proud recipient of the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON, conferred on him in the year 2002, which in itself was a well-deserved upgrade of the 1982 award of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR); Folawiyo was the Chancellor, Lagos State University for close to a decade. The University of Lagos conferred on him, the Millennium Award of Doctor Science. He was a Patron of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce as well as a Fellow of the Commonwealth Journalists Association.
At the advent of Civil rule in 1999, Alhaji Folawiyo instituted the Advisory Forum of Traditional Rulers and Eminent Persons on Peace and Unity in Nigeria and he remained the National Convenor till his demise in June, 2008.