THE crowds mobilised by the pro-democracy movement were so large that despite the enlistment of armed policemen, soldiers and thugs on the side of the Abacha-Arisekola-Adedibu rally, we easily put them to flight.
The enraged army arrested some of our comrades, including Lam Adesina, and branded them “Prisoners-Of-War”, POWs, who had no right to bail or their day in court.
I did not meet Adesina again until four years later when he was Oyo State Governor, and I was part of a Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, delegation meeting the state government over a strike on minimum wage.
After shaking hands with then NLC president, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, the governor enveloped me in his strong powerful arms as he would a long lost brother. He told the NLC delegation that I was his “commander” in the pro-democracy struggle against military rule. He recalled the counter rally that led to his being taken a POW.
We laughed and the subsequent negotiations on the labour crisis were successful. That was also the last time we met.
In 2003, Lamidi Adedibu as the ‘garrison commander’ of the thuggish forces of Oyo State, and President Olusegun Obasanjo as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, conspired to deny Adesina a second term as governor, and subsequently, plunged the state into anarchy and bloodshed which did not end until 2011 when pro-Adesina politicians returned to power.
The politics of Alhaji Olusola Saraki, the strong man of Kwara State politics, was a cross between that of Adelabu and Adedibu; like the later, he regularly fed the poor masses and engaged in philanthropic actions to advance his political interests, and like Adelabu he engaged in populism and sophistry with a strong streak of nationalism.
In the Second Republic, most of us student leaders hated the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, with a passion; it ran the country like a conquered territory and we could see it running the country aground. NPN over reached itself with its so-called moonslide electoral victory in 1983 when in cases like Anambra, Oyo and Ondo states governorship and legislative seats were allocated to party loyalists. Saraki was in the conservative NPN leadership, so he was not in our good books
You can imagine my shock in 1990 when at a meeting of radicals chaired by Alao Aka-Bashorun, he suggested we approach Saraki for urgently needed funds to carry out an anti-military regime project. Aka-Bashorun was the well known leader of the Nigerian left.
I asked him: “Which Saraki?” He said the same Olusola Saraki. He explained, to my astonishment, that Saraki was part of the radical Pan-Africanist Movement that sought the liberation of the Nigerian people. Aka-Bashorun said since Saraki was busy making money, the least he owed us who were still in the struggle was to provide us some funds.
He picked up the phone, asked the respondent whether he was in Lagos, and told him we needed some funds and that he was on his way to collect the money. Aka-Bashorun actually brought Saraki’s donation!
To me, this was a major lesson in political engineering.
Saraki installed Governors: Adamu Attah, Cornelius Adebayo, Shabba Lafiagi, and Mohammed Alabi Lawal in Kwara State, before fixing his son, Bukola as governor for two terms. But when he decided to install his daughter, Gbemisola as successor to her brother, he failed as counter forces led by Bukola swept into power and the old man was demystified. He was forced into political retirement. It was like the proverbial fish being cooked in the same waters it considered its natural habitat.
So elders like General Mohammed Shuwa, Bode Alalade, Olusola Saraki, Kayode Esho and Lam Adesina have recently left us in droves; whatever their contributions are to the country is left for history to judge.
But I have no doubt that the country they left behind did not meet their expectations. It is left for the rest of us to decide what contributions we want to make; for me, my choice is clear. History shall convict or absolve each of us.
*Mr. OWEI LAKEMFA, wrote from Abuja.