Monday, 19 November 2012
THE transition to eternity of a former Oyo State governor, Alhaji Lamidi Onaolapo Adesina, on Sunday, November 11, at the St Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, was received with palpable shock across the country. The former governor, who had been battling with complications arising from diabetes, had, only a day before his demise, spent quality time with some of his former colleague governors in the Alliance for Democracy (AD), throwing banters and radiating the unceasing warmth which uniquely defined his 73 years on the terrestrial plane. But he eventually departed this plane on Sunday morning, sending shock waves across the length and breadth of the nation. While the high and mighty as well as the lowly, in the cause of whose advancement he dedicated the greater part of his existence, continue to mourn his passage, his exemplary lifestyle has deservedly spurred accolades, even sober reflections, across the political divide, for he truly left indelible imprints on the sands of time through his unapologetic stance for democracy and good governance.
DIFFERENT aspects of Lam’s persona, detailing the nation’s debt to his political ingenuity, were appropriately captured in tributes by many. In a particularly touching statement, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) said: “For the avoidance of doubt, it will be impossible for us as a nation to forget the historic role played by late Lam, as he was popularly called, towards the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. Lam will always be remembered for his role during the military era in Nigeria, which led to his arrest and imprisonment on several occasions.”
No doubt, Lam was a man of many parts: a consummate politician, brutally frank social crusader, refined newspaper columnist and a dedicated family man. He was also, as many came to learn in the few days since he passed on, a unique philanthropist, who sponsored the education of many indigent but brilliant students, some of whom have earned respectable positions within Nigeria’s social hierarchy. However, the deceased made no noise of it. From his humble beginnings as a school teacher, principal and columnist in the Nigerian Tribune, Lam left a legacy of excellent commitment to the democratic advancement of the Nigerian nation. He was simply a first class patriot.
WITHIN the trajectory of Nigeria’s nascent but perhaps resilient democracy, Lam’s transition, just 13 years into the Fourth Republic, is indeed sad and sobering, considering the invaluable roles he played as a tested democrat, human rights activist and social crusader, in ushering democratic governance into the country after 20 years (1979-1999) of military repression and erosion of the democratic space. In the aftermath of the criminal annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election by the General Ibrahim Babangida military administration, Lam teamed up with his colleagues of many decades in the progressive moment, to form the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), and gave a decidedly hard time to the military authorities, openly canvassing the de-annulment of the the election without the slightest consideration for his personal safety. Thus, by the time the General Sani Abacha regime came on board in 1994, Lam was already a marked man.
WORSE still for the military, Lam refused to join some of his other equally loyal colleagues who found solace outside the shores of the country, insisting that he would not leave his fatherland on account of anybody’s venom, and remaining an unceasing nightmare for the military authorities. One brutal consequence of this resolve was that he was, along with 31 other colleagues, rounded up and dumped in jail by the then military administrator of Oyo State, Colonel Ahmed Usman, acting on instructions from the Federal Military Government, in very brutal conditions, for publicly denouncing injustice and demanding the sanctity of human life, human rights, dignity, and sovereignty of the citizenry. In a sheer case of plain brutality, Lam and his colleagues were specially tagged “Prisoners of War” rather than “Prisoners of Conscience,” and only divine providence saved them from possible elimination.
AGAINST this backdrop, then, it was natural that, when the efforts by Lam and his colleagues forced the military to bow out of power through one of the shortest transition programmes that the country has ever witnessed, he was amply rewarded by an appreciative electorate and rode into the Agodi Government House literally in a blaze of glory, having won an emphatic and decisive victory over his co-contestants in the 1999 governorship election. As governor, Lam brought his rich credentials as a social crusader, public thinker and ideologue to bear on government policy and programmes, recording significant milestones. He was however caught in the whirlwind of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tsunami that saw the AD governors being booted out of office in the aftermath of the deal to give Obasanjo home base support, as the 2003 elections approached, While Lam and his colleagues were not faultless as administrators, the fact that they collectively placed their political future at risk because of what they perceived was in the best interest of the South-West zones cast them in the mould of worthy patriots who gave their level best to the advancement of the Yoruba nation.
ALHAJI Lamidi Onolapo Adesina lives on in the minds of all lovers of democracy and good governance in the country. It is our fervent hope that the nation’s current leadership will take a cue from his exemplary life of service and pursue the work of national development with greater zeal. We commiserate with the people and government of Oyo State, his immediate family and the nation at large. May his ideals never die.