By Taye Obateru
JOS – Last Saturday December 19, 2009 marked another milestone in the eventful life of former PDP National Chairman and first civilian governor of Plateau State Chief Solomon Daushep Lar as he was conferred with a honourary doctorate degree â€“ Doctor of Laws (LL.D) by the Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
Although it is the third honourary degree in his kitty, this is significant because it coincided with his 50th anniversary in politics. As expected, the special convocation ceremony where two other Nigerians were also conferred with honorary doctorate degrees was turned into a political event. The list of eminent politicians from across the country who graced the occasion also spoke eloquently of Larâ€™s standing as a political rallying point.
It was a harvest of encomiums as various speakers during and after the ceremony extolled Larâ€™s virtues and for upholding his politics of emancipation principle in the last 50 years. Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Adamu Baiki had in the letter conveying the award to Chief Lar said the council and senate of the university decided to honour him in recognition of his social and political association with Nasarawa State and the role he played in the creation of the state. It noted that his leadership â€œin various fields of endeavour at the national level stands out conspicuously especially the sincerity and forthrightness which underline his actions and pronouncements.â€
Apart from the encomiums poured on Chief Lar on the occasion, the citation read on the occasion also highlighted his journey in politics. As it noted, while there might be no accurate record of the roles played by various Nigerians in nation building, there are those like Lar whose role, if not mentioned, would make the countryâ€™s political history incomplete.
Very significant was the role he played on behalf of the Northern political class in confronting late General Sani Abacha with a letter that he should not succeed himself in office as president of Nigeria. That singular act deflated Abachaâ€™s false claim that his self-succession agenda had backing of Northern politicians.
The G-18 as it was known later transformed into G-34 and Lar in rare display of humility, surrendered the leadership of G34 to Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the second republic Vice president of Nigeria. The G-34 later metamorphosed into Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) with Lar as National Chairman. It is to his credit and others that the transition from military to democratic rule in 1999 was successful.
Ironically, Lar said the citation, did not set out to be a politician. He was a trained teacher with an ambition to become a clergyman. However, his humane and pro-people qualities were apparent to his people early in life which made them to elect him as a councilor to the native community authority, in January, 1959. His excellent performance at that level catapulted him into national politics when he was nominated by his people to represent them at Federal Parliament, as member of the House of Representatives. He contested and won the election on the platform of United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) on December 12, 1959.
Commenting on Larâ€™s political trajectory, Executive Director of The Solomon Lar Centre, Mr. Adeyi Ezekiel Major said: â€œChief Lar is not just a household name in Nigerian politics, he is a distinctly astute and progressive statesman whose contributions to the total liberation of the oppressed have gone a long away in catalyzing political consciousness and national unity and stability.â€ Adeyi who once authored a biography on Lar said the 1959 Federal Election, served as launching pad into what had been a far-reaching, challenging, sometimes exacting, yet very rewarding and fulfilling political career, spanning five decades.
â€œHe was at the Federal Parliament alongside eminent personalities as late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Jaja Wachukwu, Late Dr. Joseph Tarka, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Maitama Sule, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, the present Olubadan of Ibadan Oba Samuel Lana, Alhaji Ribadu, Alhaji Musa Yarâ€™Adua, Chief Richard Akinjide and many other prominent Nigerians.
â€œLar witnessed the lowering of the Union Jack of the Great Britain and the hosting of the Nigerian Flag on October 1, I960. As a young firebrand politician, joined others in transforming the geopolitical vista of Nigeria by advocating the creation of a Middle-belt Region, a pivotal event that calibrated the balance of power in Nigerian Politics.
â€œBetween 1964 and January 15, 1966, Lar served as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa-He was also a Junior Minister in the Federal Ministry of establishments. During his tenure, he demystified employment in the civil service by encouraging those poorly represented in the civil service to take federal appointments. He worked with Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau and Alhaji Koguna to encourage Northerners to take federal appointments. â€œWith the affectionate counsel of his virtuous wife Mary (now Professor) he shunned pride, put on courage and went to Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, where he read Law and graduated with an LLB in 1970 and was called to the
Bar in 1971.
â€œAt ABU he was an active student, fully involved in all the activities of the University.. He was president of international Law Society and Thinking Club. Lar carried the students along and opened their eyes to the functional concept of leadership and Nation Building. After he was called to the Bar, he had several career opportunities with Transnational Corporations and the Civil Service. But he had a dream for a more rewarding service than monetary benefits.
He then opted for private legal practice. In line with his conviction, his chambers was for the less privileged. â€œThis concern for the down trodden led to his role as a co-founder of the Nigerian Legal Aid Association with Mazi Chimezie Ikeazor and late Chief Debo Akande.Â Mr. Lar was the first National Secretary to the Association. The Obasanjo Military Government recognized the importance of Legal Aid Association to society and created The Legal Aid Council.
â€œOne fact about this great politician is that, numerous contributions and accomplishments emblazon the landscape of his career. Neither time nor space is sufficient to mention them all here. Honestly speaking, he also cannot be in the position to recall all his exploits. A few however stand out as boulder-like monuments that simply cannot be missed.
â€œA politician with conscience and highly revered by his people Lar has all through his life been on the side of the down trodden. He was at the forefront of June 12th 1993, struggle. He opposed the annulment of the election of Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola. At the peak of the crisis he was appointed a federal minister in charge of Police Affairs, thus he accepted alongside other progressives not knowing that the then dictator had his own agenda against the Nation. When it was clear that the dictator was out to institutionalize tyranny, Lar mobilized support to stop himâ€, Adeyi said.
He recalled former President President Olusegun Obasanjo capturing Larâ€™s contribution to the birth of the third republic at the National Convention of PDP in November, 1999 thus: â€œI wish to thank Chief Solomon Lar our indefatigable National Chairman whose wisdom, dexterity and political sagacity contributed in no small measure to building the party, holding it together and leading it to victory.â€
The President in appreciation of his sacrificial role conferred on him the Adviser Emeritus at the convention and later named a street after him in Abuja the Nationâ€™s capital, in appreciation of his contribution to Nation building.
The conferment of the doctorate degree by Nasarawa State University exactly a week after Lar clocked 50 years in politics was no doubt a fitting anniversary gift for someone viewed as one of pillars of democracy and who is fondly called The Emancipator by his people.