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.
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.