By Bisi Lawrence
It is a common belief that each year rolls on, albeit gently or turbulently, towards its end and then, in the “ember” months, suddenly bears many of “its children” away.
It is indeed curiously noticeable that the pace of mortality seems to quicken during the “ember” months, though it is understandable in traffic accidents due to the increase in the volume of travelling all over the country.
But away from accidents on the road and elsewhere, the icy hands of death still reach out, it would appear, more frequently to rob the populace of dear ones, especially among public figures. So it has happened this year with the demise of two notable politicians and one eminent jurist, among others.
Death came to all of them in comparatively old age. Justice Kayode Eso, of the Supreme Court fame, died at 87, nine days ago on the 16th. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, a great legislator, passed away at 79, on the 14th, and Lam Adesina, a former Governor of Oyo State, was 73 when he gave it all up on the 11th, all within one week of one another. They were not only associated in death, but also by a trait of courage in public life.
Lam Adesina was already identified with the title of a governor before he attained the position in Oyo State. He was what you might describe as a “cool customer”, straight forward and self-assured.
Always an activist, he had paid his dues before he went into real politics. He had by then outgrown the blessing or curse of a godfather. He occupied his office as the Oyo State Governor so well that he himself might be said to have become a godfather, so highly had his stature grown.
His aides still recount with admiration the way in which he faced down a former Head of State, noted for his hectoring style. Lam afforded him all the courtesy of his station, and then politely, but firmly, put him in his position.
It was accounted an occasion of sound education for the former military leader who had arrived at the governor’s office with the evident intention of intimidating a “bloody civilian” governor.
In stead, he himself was reduced to an ordinary civilian who could do with better manners. That was a demonstration of sheer guts.
No less was it courageous of Justice Kayode Esho to deliver that minority judgment in the Awolowo versus Tafawa Balewa presidential wrangle. That the erudite jurist was above all forms of corruption in the discharge of his professional duties was very well documented in so many lawsuits.
But one of the defining cases—in fact, the defining case to some people—had to be that particular case. It was suffused with several significant features. Apart from the momentous character of its purpose which was to decide the person qualified for the foremost political position of the nation, it was the one in which the acceptability of fractionalized humanity would be canvassed, and which would also carry a ban on being cited as a precedent in the arbitration of a lawsuit in our history. Justice Eso sat tight, immovable; he stood upright, unshakable.
It was indeed a defining moment, a glorious moment, for integrity. Whatever one would like to say here has been recorded, and more, by the erudite first female SAN, who is an icon of the legal profession in her own right, Mrs Fola Sholanke, in this tribute which she gave in an interview, describing the late justice as “one of the best of the best on the bench: “He lived his life as a God-fearing man.
As a justice of the Supreme Court, he represented the golden age. His legal knowledge was awesome. He was always ready to help. The thought that he is no longer here is too painful to bear … He was very cerebral. “
Erudition, yes; integrity, yes; but monumental courage too back it all up ..
Senator Olusola Saraki, the late Waziri of Ilorin, was a Lagos boy as many who knew him in his early days would testify. His manifest concern for the underdog, and his “vibrancy and flamboyance” are typical Lagos traits.
His hectic political career, especially as a ranking member of the Senate, depicted the stature of a man of muscular courage and consistency of purpose. He did not invite conflict, but never avoided confrontation being always confident in the power of the good volition. That was the source of his strength—and he was very strong.
As Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State Governor, eulogized: “The consistency of his political views, which he always expressed very eloquently, was perhaps responsible for the leadership positions which he held in both the Senate, into which he was elected in 1979 under the banner of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, as well as the All-Peoples Party, of which he was the National Leader in 1998, and the Peoples Democratic Party where his influence saw the election of his son, Bukola, as the Governor of Kwarra State in 2003.
Indeed, Nigeria has lost a political giant whose’ counsel is most certainly needed, particularly at this time when our budding democracy is cutting its teeth and taking its challenging steps towards consolidation”.
Nigeria will always need people like these, men of integrity and courage. They are role models at which we are seldom directed to look until they are gone and can be seen no more. A monument should be erected in marble to remind future generations of the valour of each of them