By RAUF AREGBESOLA, Governort, Osun State
IN the same manner in which world’s greatest writers had shaped the world into what it is today, Nigeria must look at Alhaji Kola Animasaun as one great chronicler of the Nigerian polity whose thoughts had helped shaped Nigeria and at least, held it together.
The world, they say, is divided into people; those who do things and those people who get the credit. What men of honour do to remain immortal is to try to belong to the first class. Indeed, those who know him and follow his steady career-rise will surely agree that Animasaun certainly belongs to the class of those who not only do things but also make things happen.
Before he decided to take a deserved rest, Animasaun had risen to the pinnacle of his journalistic career, bowing out as the Editorial Board Chairman of the Vanguard Newspapers. Even in retirement, no one has been in doubt that the ink of his energetic pen has not dried up. So, writing, one can possibly infer, is Animasaun’s life; a compelling fact that makes him produce his weekly column with such religious fervour. At 73, we join all people of good conscience to celebrate an achiever, a role model, a journalist par excellence and a top-on-the-shelve columnist.
Those who have observed him have no problems concluding that here is a fine writer, urbane thinker and a philosopher in his own class.
The clear testimony to the above assumption could be gleaned from his regular Sunday column which he appropriately styled Voice of Reason. The column which has spanned almost three decades is a sophisticated thought process from an informed mind.
Documentation of history
Those who know Animasaun and his trademark Voice of Reason will attest to the fact that here is a teacher of men. He could write on any subject be it politics, economy, religion, culture, international politics and what have you, with the precision of an authority in that profession.
His Voice of Reason is a kernel of numerous purposes. It is a documentation of history of past and present events not only in Nigeria but of events around the world. He possesses a unique style of writing. Voice of Reason is written in simple, straightforward language devoid of undue grandiloquence.
Yet, like the wordsmith the he is, he has a way of weaving his sentences in intricate webs which yield their meaning at first contact as readers read on.
All these attributes make him a respected columnist among his peers and his column a must read every Sunday. Olusegun Obasanjo had fortuitously become President out of the ashes of June 12 and sadly over MKO Abiola’s death while fighting to reclaim his popular mandate. Yet, Obasanjo found it extremely difficult to honour and immortalise Abiola, his fellow Egba man.
Absurdly it seems. Even when the National Assembly at that time resolved that a national monument be named after Abiola, Obasanjo remained adamant, exhibiting an in-your-face posturing to the popular call for Abiola’s immortalisation.
This legendary rivalry of never wanting to be surpassed by anyone nourished by Obasanjo became a subject-matter of Animasaun’s column, which the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka later referred to in his massive volume autobiographical work, You Must Set Forth at Dawn. Soyinka wrote, “A veteran journalist, Kola Animasaun, writing in The Vanguard, summed up the General, who came back from the dead, in a unique expression: ‘… his ego is bigger than his head.’”
Even when his fellow columnists disagree with him, as they sometimes do, on a particular issue, they do so in their rejoinder with utmost deference to this man of erudition. Interestingly, he has a‘cantankerous brother’, who shares a page with him in the same newspaper. There you will see vintage Animasaun and Shobowale – the former an Egba and the latter an Ijebu.
Shobowale also has a popular column called Frankly Speaking. Having followed the duo for a long time, both of them make interesting readings on any solemn Sunday they disagree on an issue. In disagreement, you will see a display of in-depth logic, rationale and coherent analysis, meticulous and methodical approach to issues at stake without essentially or needlessly attacking personality in the process. Their columns were and still are treasures of knowledge on every Sunday.
Another critic of the ace columnist is one time Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos, Mr. Dele Alake. Interestingly, Animasaun could be said to be an ardent supporter of former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. All the same, whenever he felt strongly about his admirer’s policy, he would speak out rather than elect to maintain criminal silence. One of such circumstances played up during the controversy of creation of local governments in Lagos State and eventual illegal seizure of the state’s local governments fund by President Obasanjo.
Animasaun, in his usual objective style, wrote a column on August 14, 2005, entitled ‘Bola Tinubu in the Bag’ over an alleged agreement by Tinubu to a compromise for release of the seized fund without violating the verdict of the Supreme Court and the tenet of federalism. Arguably, Animasaun insinuated that Tinubu, by that supposed compromise, ‘has thrown in the towel and that there is no more fight in him.’
In his response to Animasaun’s write up that week, the former Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake, subtly disagreed. His argumentative language and rejoinder was elderly, elevated and reverential. The opening paragraph of Alake’s rejoinder he entitled ‘Bola Tinubu in which Bag? goes like this: “I really do not understand what my distinguished professional senior and respected elder brother, Alhaji Kola Animasaun, meant in his column …”
These carefully chosen words undoubtedly demonstrate the respect his colleagues in the pen profession and outside of it have for the man being celebrated in this piece. Without being immodest, Animasaun has weaned hundreds of journalists, some he trained on the job and some who admired and followed in his footstep. He is indeed a man to emulate in all ramifications. It will be a costly oversight if one focuses on this man’s journalistic life alone.
Animasaun is also a politician, at least of moderate school. Like in the field of journalism, Animasaun also distinguished himself as a politician when he was given a role to serve his people as the Chairman of Abeokuta North Local Government during Aremo Olusegun Osoba’s administration. The record he left at the council was one of optimum performance.
He left the fray without soiling his hand or tarnishing his image and the name he had built for almost half a century. In the pantheon of men of letters and columnist of no mean achievements, Alhaji Kola Animasaun has occupied a prestigious position to be forever referenced and remembered. As he clocks 73, we pray that Allah continues to enrich him in knowledge for humanity to drink continuously from his fountain.