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Opinion: An Open Letter To Laolu Akande- Dele Momodu

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By Dele Momodu

My dear Pastor Laolu, let me start by saying I wonder what people eat or drink inside the Aso Rock Villa that makes some of those of your ilk, who we once admired, misbehave the way you did last night. I’ve known you for over two decades as a young, brilliant, respectful and likeable character and a dutiful, urbane journalist. And my affection for you and your good friends, including Adeolu Akande, Wale Adebanwi, Bode Opeseitan, and others, has never waned. When you travelled to America, your spirited journalistic work continued as you churned out good reports, especially in The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria. Anytime I was in the New York area or, indeed, any part of the United States, I kept in touch with you and your dear wife, as regularly as possible. We became a family.

About nine years ago, I called you from Maryland, USA, and told you I was attending the Nigerian Reunion Meet, an annual and biggest gathering of Nigerian youths in the US at any single event, at that time. You said you would like to meet me, and I was quite elated, as I have always been. When you came, we sat down over breakfast and you expressed the difficulties and vagaries of life you faced in America, and I said I understood perfectly well. I had faced similar experience in the United Kingdom during my exile years. So, we were partners-in-suffering. I told you that was why Ovation International was for me a matter of life and death.

On that visit, you expressed interest in becoming the North American Bureau Chief for Ovation International and I was glad to accept your proposal. I told our Editor to liaise with you and I moved on to deal with other issues. You got some events for coverage which we published in the magazine. At some point the Editor complained about the way you handled transactions and so on, but you and I never saw each other again after the day we met, till you got your appointment and returned to Nigeria as the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman. You never handed over to us at Ovation till this day. You simply abandoned a company that provided some modest income for you in America. But we never complained and made excuses for you that this was probably occasioned by the exigencies and circumstances of your appointment. On your return home, there was never the courtesy of “E ku ile…” I’m back home to any of us. Nevertheless, we were happy when your good news reached us.

We met for the first time, after your appointment, at the funeral service for Mama, Chief Mrs Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, and I told you how unfortunate it was for you to be greeting me for the first time since your return to Nigeria. How would you have felt if someone treated you the way you treated us? No worries, I forgave your shortcomings, since none of us is perfect in life.

I have a policy of maintaining some distance from friends in power and accept whatever God has for me in other areas. I had volunteered and supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, without being a member of APC. I campaigned to the best of my abilities without expecting anything in return but good governance. I am bemused whenever it is suggested that I have any ulterior motives in this regard. Let me tell you that if I set my heart on it, I would be offered government position of choice, but I prefer my independence and the opportunity to speak with candour even if what I say may be unpleasant to those I am addressing, at that moment.

Very early in the life of the government, I noticed and noted that many things were  going wrong and that we were working against the promises we made prior to the elections. I promptly wrote a memo to the President and was pleasantly surprised when I got an invitation to meet President Muhammadu Buhari. It remains a singular honour and privilege for me as I have a high personal regard and esteem for the President, even if I no longer agree with some of his politics and policies. I was alone with the President for enough time and the camaraderie between us was palpable. Many people, including Ministers, still wonder and ask how I got the President to relax and smile so much. I didn’t go to him for personal reasons but simply took the opportunity to tell him what the people of Nigeria expected of his government, the mistakes the Jonathan government made, and the need to learn from lessons of the past. The President seemed happy that someone was saying it as it should be. I never made any personal request since that was not my mission.

However, things went from bad to worse. Many started lamenting and complaining, including the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari. What made matters worse was the ill-health of the President, but the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo worked assiduously, smartly and loyally, to ensure the government began to give prominence to those matters which had won victory for APC and the Presidential team, for which the Vice President was commended by so many people, including me.

Thereafter, when the President returned and things appeared to slide back to the inglorious state that they were before he left, I wrote several letters to the President offering my 10 kobo advice and still continued to report his activities “formally.” Even long after I gave up on his government ever changing its fumbling and wobbly style, I continued to fulfil all righteousness. I must note that my criticism of the Buhari administration never elicited insults directly from Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, both of who are highly respected and admired professionals, except that some overzealous people who felt the job of journalists is to praise leaders and governments, endlessly did so on their behalf, but without their knowledge at times.

On February 3, 2019, I had sent you a message of congratulations on the miracle of the Vice President and his entire team surviving the helicopter crash and suggested all of you should please see Doctors and you thanked me. “May God continue to protect you and Oga and all as you travel around. That was really shocking…” I prayed. Nothing else was expected of reasonable human beings particularly as I consider the Vice President a dear brother that I will continue to respect.

I have gone through this long preamble to prepare the ground for the shock and shocker I got from you last night. The next time I heard from you was on March 13, 2019, when you said you needed a “right of reply” to the Pendulum column I wrote last week, which was an open letter to your boss, the Vice President, a gentleman that I will continue to hold in high esteem and admiration, no matter the provocation from people like you. I instantly agreed to release that page, as is not only my personal approach, but also the Thisday tradition. I even messaged you, “Pls let me know if you need the entire space…” and you responded “Bob Dee Baba, I told them you will never block a right of reply…even if you give out the whole page. Will revert.” I immediately alerted the Editor, Yemi Adebowale, that Laolu Akande has requested for my page this week, and we both agreed that it should be given to you to respond as you wished. It was obvious from your message that there were some hawks and hounds baying for my blood, but such is life.

Pastor Laolu, as a journalist, I knew you should know about deadlines and respect it. I told you to, please, let us have your rejoinder on Thursday, March 14, 2019, and you said yes, in writing, but you never did. So, I went ahead to write a tribute to our departed colleague, Professor Pius Adesanmi. But, suddenly, you resurfaced at 15:47pm on Friday, March 15, 2019, in one word, “sent,” no apologies, just like that. Still, I immediately checked my mail but did not find your rejoinder. I called and you then sent a WhatsApp version, which I read. I always send virtually everything I write and any rejoinders to my good friend and Lawyer, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and the only sentence we both singled out, separately, and without any consultation, was where you said “For good measure, Bob Dee, maybe we should just remind our readers that not only are you an active member of opposition, you also retain with top notchers of the PDP significant business relationships.” For us, you were entitled to your opinion and views on all other matters, just as I had expressed my views in my column, but this allegation was patently false.

I couldn’t believe those words emanated from a man who knew me well and knows my disdain for money politics. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a member of the PDP whether card-carrying or otherwise. I have never attended any of its meetings or those of its members, and I have never been paid by the Party for any kind of work. If, by opposition you mean generally, then of course, I will admit to being a member of the National Conscience Party (NCP). As much as anyone who is my friend, you should understand how opposition politics, including supporting APC, has robbed me of the fabulous “free monies” that often litter the landscape of Nigerian politics. If, that was attractive to me, there was no way I would have ignored PDP to support APC in 2015, and there is no way I would not have continued to support APC, now. I called you and explained to you that your accusation was false and that this sentence should be expunged, and you said yes, you will do so immediately and resend. Just to delete one sentence, Pastor Laolu, I waited from around 17:01 pm till about 20:18, nothing came from you. At 20:21, you fired a message and said “No, I want to make substantial additions sir…that is why it is taking time. Wanted to proof (sic) every claim I make.” And I told you to feel free.

I sent messages to you till 21:28 but got no response, whatsoever, to say whether you still wanted the space or not. The Editor gave me a 10:00 pm deadline and I quickly got the Pius Adesanmi tribute ready for its original space. Unknown to me, you and whoever was misleading you, and goading you on, were very busy cooking more vituperative and irresponsible attacks on my person. You eventually sauntered back at 23:18 pm, for God’s sake, and you expected everyone to wait for you. The Editor had taken the decision to run Adesanmi’s tribute and run your rejoinder fully next week. But you insisted yours would be late by then and you returned my call at 00:02 am and informed me that you had been in touch with the Editor who said it was up to me.

Thereafter, you told me, verbally, that whether we use your rejoinder today or not, you will release it to other media houses and platforms. I then pointed out to you, that your new rejoinder was even far worse than the one I had complained about earlier. Obviously, your fake adviser or informant had convinced you that I was Saraki’s agent and that was eating and heating you up. You screamed Saraki’s name so much that I wondered what had suddenly possessed you. You were dripping with venom and so convinced Saraki was my Lord and saviour. Your previous reasonable and personable mien and disposition had vanished like a mirage. It was like you were pliantly succumbing to some sort of exorcism conducted by a manipulative demon. I promised to respond to this new Rejoinder, and you raised your voice against me that you will continue to respond to me. You asked if I was threatening you and I responded that it was not a threat, but my right to tell you, unequivocally, that I supported Atiku, voluntarily, the same way I supported Buhari without ever being a member of APC. Your voice was so harsh and vociferous that I was alarmed and worried about your personal health and safety, all because of power. You were rude to your older Brother and former boss.

The saddest part of your uniformed, ill-thought and ill-judged piece was when you wrote, in your opening paragraph, that I had dumped Saraki for Atiku. I would have thought you were taught logic in school. If Saraki lost the primaries and I supported Atiku, how did I dump Saraki? If Saraki that you said I dumped was the Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign, how can you claim I dumped Saraki for Atiku. So that your paymaster knows, I have never worked in Saraki’s office or been mandated to act for him as a spokesperson or mouthpiece. I simply loved the passion he put into the Buhari campaign in 2015 and the way he prevented Nigeria from becoming a one-party state. My admiration for him has not diminished with time or circumstances since then. That is my view, to which I am entitled. I was the first to salute Saraki’s courage after he conceded defeat, like all democrats do. My advice to Atiku urging him to congratulate President Buhari, notwithstanding his perceived displeasure and disappointment about the conduct and outcome of the elections, was an act of statesmanship. How can you translate my innocent, peaceful advice to mean I dumped Atiku? After I said so, many eminent Nigerians have echoed my sentiments and advised Atiku in exactly the same way and words.

The truth, which you acknowledged in your rejoinder, is that I still complained about the conduct of the elections. It is up to you to support your treatise with any manner of facts and views. The public and I know the truth which may not be palatable for you to hear. My aim is not to demean the victory of APC, but to ensure that lessons are indeed learnt. The same lessons that should have been learnt from 1983!

I pray you get your mind back, like many before you, whenever you return from the gilded cage. By God’s grace, I will be here waiting to receive you with open arms.

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Pendulum: And My Idol Died (By Popular Demand)

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By Dele Momodu

(I wrote this article the very night MICHAEL JACKSON died and wept throughout the typing… My wife looked on in wonderment… I rate it as one of my top three articles in 40 years… Now that Michael Jackson is back in the news, more for bad reasons than good, many people have requested me to intervene on behalf  of one of my known heroes of all time. I have nothing more to add or subtract from
what I scripted on Thursday, June 25, 2009, which was published on this very page on June 27, 2009… Please, enjoy, or just read, and form your opinion…)

God, please forgive me, for claiming publicly that I worshipped an idol. Truth is I did. I worshipped Michael Jackson. I hated anyone who ever passed snide remarks about this greatest showman on earth. Strangely, I never met my idol. He was a god I accepted in good faith. A god I would have loved to meet. But I kept faith with his music, and was privileged to have met some of his siblings. There was nothing I did not try to meet him. I always knew it was only a matter of time before the relentless vicissitudes of life would take its final toll on this extremely frail but prodigiously talented artiste.
Michael was supposed to be the peak of success but he was the limit of sadness. His fame eclipsed that of all his siblings combined. He was the very epitome of achievement. No artiste in history had generated as much controversy in one lifetime. Like the quintessential dancer that he was, Michael waltzed from one crisis to the other. He was the true example that the world may pretend to love success, but the world actually hates success. Every imaginary story was conjured, or concocted, around this stupendously famous man.
He packed more than the activities of a thousand years into the 50 years he lived on earth. The world is allowed a glimpse of such demigods once in a blue moon. Michael was a deviant in all ways. He defied the laws of gravity and motion. He was a spirit child, and he acted the part perfectly. He was bound to go the way he came, with a bang. It was impossible for him to go with a mere whimper.
In his time, most things he touched turned into gold. He became as popular as the Coca-Cola bottle. He was known everywhere and was more popular than most world presidents. In our school, every music group mimicked Michael Jackson. At the then University of Ife, one young man became famous on campus for his dexterous performance of Michael Jackson in “Beat it”. He is the same Femi Elufowoju who’s currently doing Nigeria proud as an actor in the elite theater of London’s West End. Michael was every child’s ultimate idol. Even for those of us who grew up in rural settings, and had no television sets at home, we knew this boy who danced better than James Brown. His name resonated like Iraqi bombs, exploding beyond boundaries.

This was the main cause of his problems. Success breeds more sorrow than joy. There is the intrusion of privacy. The financial demands of trying to put up an appearance. The envy of peers, and the subject of sibling rivalries. It was impossible to ignore Michael, whether you hated or loved him. To describe him as an icon was an understatement. Everything around him was big news. He was never going to live a normal life, like you and I. He was sentenced to his own prison, and would never be able to break free.

Michael lived in a society where the policy was everyone for himself and God for us all. He was a lonely child. He started life too early. And fame and fortune beyond imagination chased him. He was haunted by both. They became his albatross. He had to wear a mask to go out. He was said to have experimented with all manner of weird disguises. He earned the acronym, Wacko Jacko. He was easy prey for both genuine and counterfeit extortionists. They found all manner of excuses to take his money, and practically took him to the cleaners.

Michael lived and was sustained on maximum hype. He regularly reinvented both his person and his career. From being an innocent Black kid, he transfigured into a white ghost, who became whiter than snow. It was speculated that the record labels that made incredible fortunes off him had encouraged him to engage in bleaching away his blackness, a terrible habit that would later become an incurable obsession. It probably worked initially. But it soon became a tragic flaw in his persona.

Those who wanted any reason to detest him found perfect grounds for merciless assaults. He was insulted and abused. His unusual love for children was another sore point. He was called a child molester. Who knows? Neither you nor I were eye-witnesses. Such stories abound about newsmakers everywhere. As a devotee, we accepted him warts and all. He was human after-all. I learnt a lot from his life. That success would never guarantee happiness. That money would never buy peace. That your friends would rather watch you die when you get into trouble than offer a helping hand.

All those shedding crocodile tears now obviously saw Michael in his various stages of dilapidation – that those who can never match your talents would always attack your efforts. That at the end of it all, all is vanity indeed. Human beings are always quick to judge others. They leave the log in their eyes and chase the speck in that of others. Michael this, Michael that, was all we heard. Now that he’s dead, may be they’ll leave him alone, and allow the dead to bury their dead.

The problems were just too many for Michael. And the burden must have been too heavy to bear. It is difficult to imagine how he even lived for this long. He had marital problems. He had acute financial problems. From being one of the richest men in showbiz history, he became a pauper, as poor as a church rat. His grace to grass story was one of the most frightening examples of the fall of man. It could not have been easy. It was as if he had no family, and no friend.

The man had helped to raise money for the world, but the world failed to raise money for him, in his time of dire need. They watched his life collapse while everyone minded his own business. This is usually the tragedy of great people. They are often seen as the supermen who can solve all problems alone. But my illiterate mum knew better, and used to warn that there is a thin chord holding the heart to the human body. It is just too fragile.
Die-hard fans like me were hoping for a miracle that would teleport Michael back to his original state, when he was that adorable kid, and everyone thought he was older than Michael. Michael had that childlike innocence that made him vulnerable. But he was awesome. The world was not big enough for his stage. Music was his life and we had all foolishly believed that he could live, sing and dance forever. We followed his every move, shared in his triumphs, and suffered in his pains. He was human, very human. He had his foibles, like all mortals do. He tried to keep to himself a lot, and came out of his shrine only when necessary. He was called the weird one. He had to be. His life was too extraordinary and too sensational.

I was always hoping to meet him, one on one. And even dreamt of bringing him to Nigeria to live under our protection, when his troubles became too suffocating to watch. We toyed with asking the Ooni of Ife or the Alaafin of Oyo to make him an African Chief and get our government to turn him into our national treasure. That would have been feasible in a land that understood the power of entertainment and tourism. But one Arab tycoon stole him to Bahrain, where I believe life must have been very miserable for him. He was just too broke, and was facing certain humiliation of unimaginable proportions.
The bailiffs were after him like bullets. Before his very eyes, his prized possessions were auctioned. His Neverland Ranch, which was his recreation of paradise on earth, became a dead place and he had to give up the ownership of this private sanctuary. By the time the relationship between him and his Arab friend broke down, and he had to return Los Angeles, the damage had been done. He was forced to move into a rented apartment. Just imagine, from living in paradise to living in the pit of hell. It is better imagined than experienced.

What I admired most about him was how he kept readjusting to his excruciating conditions. He accepted his fate with uncommon equanimity. He was determined to prove that he wasn’t finished. He travelled to London recently to promote his forthcoming world tour. He needed to disappoint the cynics who thought he was down and flat-out. His plans were going fine. He had sold a record 750,000 tickets for his concerts. For him, the shows were meant to be the grand finale to an incredible career, the sort we are not likely to see again in our generation.

Also, he was working hard to leave a worthy legacy, and a formidable empire for his family, especially his children. He was said to have written hundreds of songs which he never performed, but were meant to be released only after his death. He was a workaholic. He probably died working. He didn’t want his fans to be disappointed in him. They were the reason for his existence. We meant everything to him, just as he meant everything to us.
You don’t have to be a doctor to know he must have died of exhaustion. The London concert was meant to be his final farewell to the world. He had gone as far as getting a personal trainer to beef him up for the tour. His existence depended on proving this ultimate point. It was a dangerous fixation that would prove fatal. He had been off-stage for too long. Unknown to him, age was no longer on his side. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. He did not accept the verdict of God. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh. It was time to go and the time to be set free.

The elephant collapsed two nights ago. I cried like a baby. My wife had always found my love for Michael Jackson very strange. If she did not know me well, she may have suspected me of unprintable inclinations. I had wished Fela truly kept death in his pouch. We would have begged him to keep Michael for us forever. But Fela himself was killed by death. It is one debt we all owe. Sooner or later, the king of all bailiffs must come, and take possession of all. This is the reason we must do our best and leave the world better than we met it.

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COLUMNISTS

Spectrum: The Giant of Poverty

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By Anikulapo Macmillan

Is it this period when political parties are jostling on whom will become the president of the ninth assembly— that I am talking about poverty? Or maybe they are not bothering about the citizenry that lives below two dollar a day. That means how government has not understood its importance. Shame!

Let me be a little sarcasm here: what is poverty in a nation when senator is buying a Roll Royce, and the populace, are barely hungry? Maybe those exotic cars are for the serfs to understand that Nigeria is a poor country?

Oh! This is somehow a fable that Nigeria is extremely poor. That is why the EFCC has recorded billions from our rotund politicians in the last four years. Still, this is shameful to our system.

Is famished a kind of household name; or an inheritance curse for the poor Nigerians? Or is it deliberates from God that they should be poor? Please, who knows God should tell him that poverty in Nigeria is outrageous. Our hospitals can’t survive anymore because there is no money to buy equipment. Even schools are deteriorating. Thus, it is simply, a kind of system, Fela called ‘’ Roforofo’’

Last week, I encountered the speech of Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the Gala Night of First Bank’s 125 years anniversary. I listened to his insightful speech because I admired his intelligence since he was the governor of our apex bank.

The monarch addressed in a kind of modicum that was relevant to what etch us in Nigeria. However, what he said was nothing but the truth. That poverty has beleaguered the citizens.

We have failed to know that it is the responsibility of the government to adequately restructure the society— this, is like, what a novelist, Harper Lee, wrote in her famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.  And this particular novel described rape as an instrument of hunger and racial inequality.

These two things are relevant in our beloved country. It is apparent to what the Monarch said. When I listened to him intensely; I began to feel a cataclysm.

We don’t know what we want than to follow those who don’t have our time. Whose children are not facing kind of conundrum the poor people are facing. Like the Success Adegor’s story whose educational love went viral because her parent could not pay for her school fee.

Meanwhile, what happened to her showed that poverty in Nigeria is not about race. It is about the government failing to do what is right. Oftentimes, I do feel dissipated of our democracy.

Is it not Democracy they are practicing in the US? It is painstaking that at this level, our government can’t provide basic school for our children. It is pathetic. Even majority of those public schools are dilapidated. It is unfortunate that by now we still live in abject poverty.

I have considered the Emir’s speech as part of what is germane in this country at a time when our politicians have failed to know that the priority of the government is to provide wealth across the citizens.

And the nation’s economy is not determined by the economy index alone. Either is it by the out flowing of resources. But, it is in Nigeria that our politicians use millions of dollars for tour.

Please hear the monarch: ‘’ I listened to all elections debate and nobody talked about child’s education and malnutrition. They are being marginalized because those millions are not important. The poor should be the major shareholder and not the multibillion shareholders

And at 2017, 58 percent of children under the age of 5 in the Kano have chronic malnutrition and 48 percent of all women of reproductive age are suffering from Iron deficiency and the high mortality rate and we treat that as a medical problem not as a nutrition problem’’

This scourge of poverty in our society has made us to go into dismay. It has let us to believe that poverty is part of us. We die like prey in what a poet describes to human condition in his poem: ‘’ to sea is fish/to live is human/and to die is the hunger that kills human’’ stoically, this is the narration of poverty in this country when an average Nigerian doesn’t have expectations. No jobs. No facilities in the hospitals and schools anymore. People are now dying because the government is not showing concern to the level of poor Nigerians.

We are now acting like we are all puerile to ourselves. We then begin to act like interlopers to ourselves rather to know how to fight for our system. Subtle, is it that people in the US are better than us in Nigeria? Where we die and we still bereaved with hunger while our elite die with smiles of billions in their account. This is obviously kind of argument Karl Marx talked about when he wrote his book: Communist Manifesto.

To live as a citizen means we need to know our right. We need to benefit in the government policies. And to be citizen that has the equal right and not citizen that suffers from inequality.

Unfortunately this is not the society that we find ourselves. A society that is squirmed with temerity and it is fickle with our societal impetus. However, what the Emir said at the First bank anniversary was remarkably an act for President Buhari because if he fails to eradicate poverty to a limit that means his administration has failed woefully.

So, our expectation in this country is nothing good than an economy where every Nigeria can have access to good health care and good education. Thus, Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.

Also, this is peculiar to us in Nigeria that poverty has become callous to us since the government has failed to realize that even the rich also cry. Therefore, we don’t need to undermine ourselves if truly we want to live out of this parvenu.

And lest I forget, permit me to digress a little bit, to what happened during the 2019 election both in Kano and Rivers State. These events showed that our people are hungry as a result of the political imbroglio in our system.

Having said this, those who perpetrated electoral evil that later led to some politicians’ hoopla from those people who were suffering from the menace of poverty scourge. So, poverty has caused drug addiction, kidnapping, armed robbery and other kind of atrocities that have made us to despise our humble beginning as a nation whose wealth is bigger the England. Enough! To become a giant of poverty.

@Babatunde_Mac

+2348076926109

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COLUMNISTS

Abiola and the Parable of a Poor Man in the Kitchen

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www.securenigeria365.com

Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure you are probably familiar with the stories of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Yes, stories, for he was a man of many parts. MKO, as he was fondly called, had three initials that were synonymous with money (Money, Kudi, Owo). Each of the stories around him was the stuff of fiction, fact or “faction.” MKO was a man of sharp intellect, rare sagacity, and uncommon wit. He was a great storyteller, possibly in the mould of the ancient griots of Mali. His knowledge and repository of oral tradition and fables was legendary. He had remarkable tales for every occasion, and the way he stammered made his delivery unique and unforgettable. I was fortunate to have met and known this sensational prodigy who taught me so much, as an adopted son, and my great mentor.

As I prepared to put this column together, my mind flashed back to MKO, as it often does. This epistle is actually not about MKO. No. But there is no better way to illustrate the message than to borrow one of those evergreen witticisms of MKO, a man of superlative memory. My essay today is about the just concluded elections in our dear beloved country Nigeria, which was a complete mess to say the least. I will explain the various reasons and dimensions for my submission and conviction in a jiffy. Please, exercise some patience.

Despite earlier signals, and premonition, that the Buhari government was not likely to play by the books, I, like many others, suffered from unreasonable optimism that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would give us a pleasant surprise, against all odds. I had misplaced, and invested, my hopes and faith in the Chairman and leadership of INEC, a man called Professor Mahmood Yakubu, for crying out loud. I thought he would give us free, fair and credible elections just like Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega – a fellow academic whose tenure was well applauded for consolidating our democratic ideals – had done before him in 2015. How did I allow myself to be fooled by the charms, charisma and carriage of this man, who exuded grace, intelligence and confidence? My soft spot for academia and intellectualism could have been responsible. Most people I know would always, naturally, expect university egg heads to handle assignments with total dedication, commitment and integrity, even at the point of death. A man with a degree of Doctor of Philosophy, cut to be a philosopher in words and in deed, a king and champion of worthy causes and believer in eternal accomplishments and legacy. He should be above many temporal cravings, the reason it is often said that “the teacher’s reward is in heaven.”

In the recent past, I had come to regard the employment of Professors as returning officers for INEC a masterstroke that was bound to reduce the cases of electoral malfeasance and corrupt temptations. Professors are known to live humbly and simply within their modest means. In our days, they were happy in the company of their colleagues, after work, in the confines of the staff club, where they washed down some affordable grilled fish and pepper-soup with criminally cold beer. I had been mesmerised and hypnotised by their admirable performance in the 2015 elections, under the headship of a man of honour, Professor Attahiru Jega. It is unthinkable, and unimaginable, what could have gone wrong so soon, four years down the line. Perhaps, we can find explanation in one of the favourite wise-cracks of MKO, “if you want to know if a fish is bad, smell the head, once the head is rotten the whole body is gone.” Can anyone challenge that brilliant theory?

I did not know much about Mahmood Yakubu, but I took more than a cursory interest in him nearer to the elections when I started reading all sorts about him. There was a particular story that struck me, written by Professor Farooq Kperogi, whose essays I read religiously, almost like Biblical verses, just like I gulped everything written by Sonala Olumhense (right from my university days), and Abimbola Adelakun. Kperogi had stated, matter-of-factly, that Mahmood Yakubu hated Atiku Abubakar with a passionate venom. While it may have sounded like beer parlour gossip, the writer went ahead to regale his readers with copious information at his disposal. As much as I tried to dismiss them as tales by moonlight, I still couldn’t obliterate them from my gumption. It was difficult for me to fathom why a cerebral man would despise a fellow human being for whatever reason. Despite this, I was still willing to give Yakubu the benefit of doubts.

I decided to watch Yakubu very keenly and read every bit of information I could find on him. I was fascinated by the fact and realisation that I was about two years older than him. For me, he seemed to be a pride of my generation and I expected him to push the frontiers of human endeavours to sustain the confidence that many Nigerians had reposed in him.  Any normal human would be inspired to raise the bar beyond where Jega had placed it. Never did I envisage the nightmare that the 2019 election turned out to be. It was as if Yakubu could not be bothered at all. In all honesty, I won’t put all the blame on him. I believe the terrain was deliberately made difficult by our politicians. The desperation in certain quarters was hopelessly difficult. The involvement of the military was horribly depressing. I have never seen our respected and respectable soldiers misused and misdirected since the end of military rule. Those who were already over-stretched by the wars against terrorists and terrorism suddenly found ample time, men and resources for intimidating voters and rigging elections. As I write this, no one knows what to make of the Rivers State debacle. It is as if our country is under an evil spell.

I expected Yakubu to address the electorate, reassure them tangibly, conduct elections sensibly and professionally, have a balanced sense of judgment, and so on. I never expected the conundrum that ensued. To whom much was given, much was expected. Why did Nigeria have to waste millions of dollars on a sham called elections? Why did innocent Nigerians die because of the incompetence of some people? Why did Yakubu behave incoherently with no uniformity in the operations and execution of the elections? Why did he allow some politicians get away with murder? Why did he not resign if some leaders were hell bent on rubbishing his achievements in life? There were too many unanswered questions and riddles? Did Yakubu think this election was a joke? Will he in good conscience say this was the election he planned to conduct, and this was his best performance? Is he a happier and more fulfilled man today than he was before this unfortunate charade? When tomorrow comes, how would he look at Nigerians and explain how he spent the humongous cash and resources allocated to him? I can’t stop asking, what manner of man would watch his reputation go up in smoke in order to please mere mortals like himself?

I’m sure the APC operatives would have done a better job of conducting these amazing elections. Yes. Those guys, led by my dear Brother, Uncle Adams Oshiomhole would have replicated the same with, if not a higher, expertise we saw during their primaries when they recorded millions of votes for President Muhammadu Buhari nationwide and completed the exercise within a twinkle of an eye. The same geniuses conducted primaries in Lagos, and before you could say Jack Robinson, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had emerged victorious with a landslide, almost 2 million votes. So, how could APC perform better than INEC? Is that not a big shame to imagine?

I watched incredulously as Professors of several decades standing struggled to add up figures that were obviously concocted inside the forest of a thousand daemons. The numbers were terribly harder than Additional Mathematics. What could be responsible for this type of monumental disgrace at a time technology has reduced the stress of over-using human brains? Then I remembered the words of Chief Moshood Abiola again, and the wisdom in his parable of the hungry man in the kitchen. The professors are not Masquerades from heaven. They are human beings on planet earth. They have suffered under various governments and leaders who don’t see education as anything of value, or priority. Chief Abiola was to write: “you can’t put a hungry man in the kitchen and ask him not to taste or touch.” Food is very essential to the human body. With all due respect, it is thus tempting to conclude that the some of the Professors who failed us were those that suddenly found themselves in the kitchen with plenty of food to taste and touch.

We must salute all the wonderful people who made the difference, from the great INEC leader in Akwa Ibom, the incorruptible Commissioner of Police in Kano, the INEC official in Rivers who cried out for help while under danger, the one who was nearly killed at gun point in Imo State, because some people must win elections fair or unfair. They stood firm despite their lives being in danger. They did not try to eat what they lacked in arears and in advance. No man is perfect, but elections are too important to be toyed with. I must state, however, that the resoluteness of INEC in Imo State, and the unwavering decision not to give a politician employing duress any joy, is to be commended, but in the scheme of things, it is too little, too late! I will always give praise where praise is due.

If I were Yakubu, I will tender my unreserved apologies to the good people of Nigeria and without any hesitation, throw in the towel. He would forever thereafter be regarded as a man of courage and conviction, a hero and legend. Kings have been known to drink poison in the past as atonement for lack of peace and progress in their community. A sacrifice that they know is not too great to make so that their society may thrive.

It is not too late for Yakubu to fall on his sword and follow in the hallowed footsteps of those kind of great kings.

Philip Iyiola Abiola – A Legend Ahead of His Time

Yesterday, in London, I attended, with Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, the funeral of my great friend and St. John’s Grammar School, Ile-Ife school mate – the physician, General Practitioner (GP), Pastor, Mentor, humanist and philanthropist – Dr Philip Iyiola Abiola who died in his prime at the age of 58 years. PI as he was fondly called by all those who knew him, succumbed to the deadly, dreaded curse of cancer, but it was as if God wanted to elevate a passion that he had, and bring it to the consciousness of not just his family and friends, but also the general public. The creation of awareness of the fact that cancer and diabetes were beatable was what he lived for in his final few years. He was particular about the fact that there was a need to reconceptualise the treatment of these ailments in black people and ensure that treatment was tailored to their different physiognomy. I and Prince Aderemi had been by his hospital bed barely one week before he passed on.

I have not seen such a huge gathering of distinguished professional people from all over the world at such a gathering in a long time. Some came merely for the day to pay their last respects to these Icon and giant. The tributes and eulogies that poured forth from family and friends, at the unusually lengthy service of songs and the funeral reception, attest to the fact that this highly acclaimed man was of a special, rare and different breed, whose life and virtues should be emulated. This royal scion of Ile-Ife, cousin to the present Ooni of Ile- Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, urged that his funeral not be one of dirges and mourning, but full of songs of praise and celebration. And that is what he got from the outpouring of love shown to him, as encomium after encomium was heaped upon him.

Amongst the guests were, the Ogunwusi’s – Sooko Adegboyega, Adetunji, Tolu, Mrs Ogunwusi; the Aderemi’s – Adedamola and wife, Kemi, Adeyemi, Adelekan, Dr Deinde Orafidiya, Senator Jide Omoworare and wife, Bisi; HRH Segun Layade, his medical colleagues – Dr Kunle Oladinni, Dr Odejinmi, Dr Salawu, Dr Dapo Alalade, Dr Ayo Adebanjo, Dr Ropo Adeojo, Dr Oladipo Oguntola, ; Akodi Ife – Dapo Eluyemi, Niyi Murele, Sikiru Aiyedun, Gbenga Owolabi, Kola Famakin, Seyi Awofisan, Wale Odutoye, Lawal-King; His Ilara Mokin in-laws including Larry and Ronke Bakare; Mr Raphael Lewu and wife, Bimbade, From America came Pemi Adereti-Folarin, Adewale Adeyemo, Leke Ijiyode, Dr. Akin Awofolaju, Mr & Mrs Adebowale, Mr and Mrs Madamidola, Dr Dapo William, Former Lagos State Speaker, Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Hon. Odulana, Chief Bola Oba, the Adereti family from Canada, Mrs Biodun Olufisan-Magnus and daughters, Bolu and Kitan; the Adesiyans, Bose Agbesanwa, Deola Adesanmi, Jade Onigbode, Pastor and Minister Yemi Onigbode, Pastor and Mrs Omotayo, Mr and Mrs Akinyemi, Mr and Mrs Oladipo, Dr and Mrs Lawal, Mr and Mrs Elegbenla and Dr and Mrs bayo Ola amongst many others. The officiating ministers for all the events came from Christ Apostolic Church worldwide. Bidemi Alaran compered at the fantastic reception where Jazz and saxophone music soothed the guests.

Dr PI Abiola is survived by his beautiful wife, Eunice Taiwo, his phenomenal children who made him proud on the day – Dr Bolade, Lawyer Okiki, Toyin and Seyi; and his siblings, – Moses and Michael.

At the graveside, five white doves were released in his honour. We at Ovation Magazine also honoured him by ensuring that ace photographer, Dragan Miki, was there to cover the events.

To say that he will be sorely missed is just simply an understatement. I believe my friend and brother Damola  Aderemi, put it aptly when he said, “Without PI we are lost o!”.

Sun re o, Olokiki, Philip Iyiola, omo Abiola!!!

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