Last week, I started by giving you a peep into the very successful life of Mrs. Francesca Emanuel, CON, HLR one of the three great Nigerians who were the focus of Hallmarks of Labour Book 6. The others are: Brig. General Mobolaji Johnson (rtd), HLR and Alhaji (Dr.) Babatunde Jose, OFR, HLR. They have succeeded in their various fields through discipline, hardwork and a clear understanding of the rules of success. I also stressed that the rules of success properly applied will lead to success in any endeavour including financial. Today, we shall delve into the life of Brig. General Mobolaji Johnson,(rtd) the second subject in the book with the hope that you will be inspired to succeed by emulating him.
It is not a frequent occurrence that a past ruler in Nigeria should come out with clean hands if subjected to a probe on corruption and self-enrichment. One man who stands out boldly among the extremely few who have passed this litmus test of selflessness and transparency in leadership is the first Military Governor of Lagos, Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson (rtd).
Thus when General Murtala Mohammed took over power in 1975, and all Military Governors under the ousted regime of General Yakubu Gowon were relieved of their duties and their activities probed by the new regime, Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson came out completely clean and cleared of any malpractice. This was highly significant because it underscores Brigadier-Generaln Johnson’s personal beliefs and guiding principles the truth.
A foreword by Alhaji Shehu Shagari, former President of Nigeria in Brig. General Mobolaji Johnson’s section of Hallmarks of Labour Book 6 captures the story vividly and I quote, “Numerous panels of inquiry were set up to probe many public institutions and individuals at State and Federal levels. These led to the discovery of past governmental blunders and stupendous corruption, followed by disciplinary measures and forfeiture of ill-gotten assets by many individuals inside and outside the state system. Of the 12 of Gowon’s initially retired State Governors, only Brigadiers Mobolaji Johnson and Oluwole Rotimi of Lagos and Western States respectively were later absolved from any blemish by the Federal Assets Investigation Panel. The rest not only forfeited various assets but were, in Murtala’s words, “dismissed with ignominy.” Similarly, of all Gowon’s Federal Civilian Commissioners that were probed by the Investigation Panel, only Alhaji Monguno (Petroluem) and I (Finance) emerged unspotted and were not therefore required to surrender any assets”. Alhaji Shehu Shagari concluded.
Generally referred to as the architect of modern Lagos, Brigadier-General Johnson administered and governed Lagos from 1967 to 1975, a period of nine years in which he gave the city of Lagos and the state in general, a new look through the construction of highways, bridges and other modern structures. For example, in order to facilitate easy movement from one part of Lagos to another, Brigadier-General Johnson built and commissioned the Itoikin Bridge to link Epe with Ikorodu in 1968. In 1969 he commissioned the Lagos-Badagry highway, the first ever dual carriageway in Nigeria.
Brigadier-General Johnson executed many other projects, including the reclamation of the Bar Beach shoreline and the allocation of plots to the various states of the federation for the construction of their liaison offices.
He was born on the 9th of February, 1936 in Lagos, where his father who was from Abeokuta had settled since the age of eleven. He attended Baptist School, Yaba and Methodist School, before gaining admission into Hussey College, Warri in 1952. In 1954 he came back to Lagos to continue his education in Methodist Boys’ High School, where he finished in 1957.
Brigadier-General Johnson’s military career began in 1959, when he entered the officer cadet Training School, Ghana, from where he later proceeded to Sandhurst in the United Kingdom. After his military training he served with the United Nations peace keeping troops in the Congo before returning to Lagos. In 1967 he became the first Military Governor of Lagos State.
I will sum up his story by quoting Major General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi, first Nigerian Military Head of State who described Brig. Gen. Mobolaji Johnson thus, “a well-informed young officer with a high sense of duty and responsibility. Very hard and willing worker who always believes in personal examples. He is always very smart and well turned out. He gets his troops to do his wish without undue efforts. A keen international sportsman”.

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