By Dele Sobowale
“I hate ingratitude more in a man than lying, vainness, babbling drunkenness or any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.” William Shakespeare, 1564-1616.
(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS P 103).
Next Saturday is presidential election day, and, this being the last Sunday before that “make-or-break” election, readers would have expected today’s column to be about the election. But, once in a life time, a person faces a personal dilemma; he has to choose between two vital duties. Such was my problem when Chief Olufemi Daramola, KJW, Alage II of Omuo-Ekiti called me to announce he would be 80 today. I had choice to make and this is it. Let me quickly explain.
You are reading this column today, and you have been reading them since 1997, thanks to two people. The first is Uncle Sam, the Publisher of VANGUARD who invited me to this page in 1994; the second is Chief (Sir) Olufemi Daramola who in 1997 saved my life without knowing he was risking his own as well. Chief, almost a total stranger to me at the time, was practicing law at Simpson Street, Lagos Island. We had collaborated to publish the first Lawyers’ Directory when I was in charge of the VANGUARD YELLOW PAGES. That was the extent of our relationship – until I placed myself at death’s door in 1997.
It was during Abacha’s murderous rule and those old enough to remember would recall a series of explosions in Lagos. The first occurred as Military Governor Marwa was passing behind Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja; the second near his office and the third at the Ojuelegba flyover as a Navy Bus was climbing the flyover. Soon, the newspapers were screaming “WHO WANTS MARWA DEAD?”. Abacha’s government did everything to pin the explosions on the government’s opponents – especially NADECO. I was not convinced. So, I went to investigate. And, I discovered it was a BIG LIE. All the bombs exploded after the targets have safely left the scene.
Then, I took a near-fatal step. I went to the Editor and requested to write a News Analysis to be published on Monday, based on my findings which put the blame on Abacha’s security forces. It never occurred to me that I had hit the bull’s eye with that News Analysis by revealing a top security secret. (Incidentally, the Oputa Panel was later told that the security people were indeed the people detonating the bombs – just as my Analysis concluded). The paper was on the stands by 7.00 am, I was arrested, right in VANGUARD Office, at 11.40 am. That was my fourth arrest under Abacha and it was supposed to be my last – as I found out at the interrogation Centre.
They wanted to know who revealed that information to me and they could not believe that mere investigation led to the truth. It was quickly decided that I was too dangerous to be allowed to live. I was also told that a list of columnists, writing for VANGUARD had been drawn up for elimination at the right time. Included on the list were Alhaji Kola Animasaun, late Pini Jason, Obi Nwakamma, Nnana Ochereome and Tony Okenedo. But, mine was to occur soon. And the first step they took was to deny that I was still in their custody when VANGUARD mounted efforts to secure my release. They actually lied that I was interrogated and released the same day – when they were still waiting for the word to get rid of me.
Self-preservation being the first law of nature, I was making my own plans too – to frustrate their intentions. Key to that plan was getting message out through a reliable person to the American Embassy, where I had a friend. Without going into details, I can now disclose that I smuggled a note to Chief Daramola, who was not expecting it, but who acted on it.
Again, permit me not to disclose too much. Within twelve hours the international wire services were broadcasting that Dele Sobowale was being held at a specific place by the Abacha government which had denied holding me. Next day, a very worried official came into my solitary confinement unit with my clothes asking me to “dress up and get out, you have finished our career. How did you get information out of this place?”
Later, my helper among the staff told me that I was actually slated for elimination forty-eight hours after. Chief Daramola, by taking that risk on my behalf saved my life. Today, on the rare occasions when we meet, all I see is not a lawyer, or a traditional ruler – but my own “Saviour”.
Please join me in wishing Chief Olufemi Daramola many happy returns. Thank you.
EX-GOV VS CME: “CON-SOLUDO-TION VS OKONJO-WAHALA”.
“For the sins ye do two by two, ye must pay for one by one.” Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, P 228).
This is a battle of Heavyweights among economists. You certainly can’t get bigger than a former Chief Economic Adviser, ex-Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and a former Managing Director of the World Bank and two-time Federal Minister of Finance. Everybody in the world listens each time those titans speak. So, when on Monday, January 26, 2015, the “Ex-this, ex-that” released a bomb calling the Jonathan administration a failure on economic management, I knew a fight was on. On your behalf, I have taken a ring side seat and you will receive the blow-by blow report on this slugfest. Area Boys love a fight and this one is already a “roforofo” dule. I dey laugh o!
To be continued…..