The great leveller

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By Denrele Animashaun

Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius

The last couple of weeks has been a roll call of  the who is who of the great and notable of  Nigeria’s  glorious past. These luminaries have contributed to the landscape of Nigeria’s political, judicial and   sociological history.

I have read the tributes left by people at the passing of Justice Kayode Eso, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the former Governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lamidi Adesina and Mrs. Sheila Solarin(the  widow of renowned educationist and social reformer, Tai Solarin).

It seems that they have one way or another blazed the trail in the fashioning of Nigeria.

It has been a seismic shift in the reception of the loss, and it is the fact that we too,will go at some time or another. What would be our legacy?  And what will be  our  contribution to Nigeria and who amongst the present Nigerians will be talked about with such pride or missed for that matter?

I am sure, none of the departed,  went out of their way to pave their  way in the nation’s memory but what they all had in common was that they made an indelible footprint in our history and that is more than the present crop of Nigerians who are hell bent on corruption and pillaging the nation for their own selfish interests are keen on doing.

I must profess, I was not too enamoured of some of these people until their deaths were announced. The more  I  read, the more I  became  impressed by these group of Nigerians and their contributions to nationhood. I am sure and I hope that if our country produced these crop of people, we will once again have such calibre of people sometime in the future.

Justice Eso…The indefatigable legal icon

On the condolences  at  the death of  the eminent Justice Eso,  there have  been an unequivocal feeling  of  monumental loss to the country and the judicial profession.

Many of  the  accolades attributed to Justice  Eso, was that he  was an outstanding jurist, that he  was  a  man of principle and  a  consummate patriot.

Amosun recalled that Justice Eso belonged to that golden era of the Nigerian Supreme Court, “which turned out landmark judgments that have remained reference points till date”.

There   were   personaltributes one from Wole   Soyinka, who described him as ”a man of stellar integrity who probably changed the course of his existence”

Another notable  loss was the political don and former Senate Leader, Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki. Dr   Saraki  (79) was a visible  presence in  Kwara  State politics for over  four decades.

For close to five decades, he   fine tuned his political craft from the grassroots to national level. He  was  the political  kingpin  and  was  instrumental   in  making the   successive  governors  in  Kwara   State; Adamu Attah (1979-1983); Cornelius Adebayo (1983); Shaaba Lafiagi (1992); Mohammed Lawal (1999-2003) and his own son, Bukola  Saraki (2003-2011).

Olusola Saraki held the outstanding record as the only political godfather who placed a serving governor (namely Adamu Attah) on a monthly allowance of N50,000  so that he (Attah) would not, in his (Saraki’s) own words, “touch government money at all but work, construct roads, provide water, electricity, health and so on.’’ Now, that is laudable no matter what angle  it  is  perceived.

He  was a  big  hearted  philanthropist  who  built a  bakery, that distributed bread free of charge to the  people. He even gave out land to misplaced market women days before he met his maker!

Former Oyo State Governor, Lam Adeshina, was described as “one of the most courageous leaders Nigeria has ever produced. At his recent passing, Chief Olusegun Osoba, spoke glowingly about the deceased:”What you cannot take away from him is his forthrightness and outspokenness, he tells it as it is even in the face of intimidation and threat to his personal safety”.

Governor Ajimobi described Alhaji Adesina as “a dedicated patriot, foremost defender of democracy and human rights, and political war-horse who had always stood on the side of truth”.

Mrs. Sheila Solarin, widow of renowned educationist and social crusader, Dr. Tai Solarin was a big loss to the nation. Fondly known as “Mama”, she  arrived in  Nigeria  60  years  ago with  her  husband, Tai Solarin, a teacher. They both  worked at Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo, prior to setting up the  nationally renowned Mayflower school in Ikenne in  1956.

It was a mission and a passion. Ask any Mayflowerhites, they remember the Solarins so fondly and like family. She   recalled  years  later  that  they  made   blocks  from  clay  and constructed two  classrooms and accommodated 36  pupils  and   went  on to  construct  more  and  educated  a lot  more.

She recalled: “They had their bunks at the back of the class, and the desks at the front,” and “we didn’t ask anybody what their ethnic background or religion was, we simply wanted to provide education for all the children in the area.”

Mrs Sheila, British born, was honoured with Member of British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II on October 17, 2007 for her contribution  to educational services in Nigeria.

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