Nothing can however diminish the greatness of Alhaji Lamidi Adesina or erode his achievements.
Incidentally, I was making my way from Kwara to Lagos through Oyo state when I received the news of the passing away of Alhaji Lamidi Onaolapo Adesina, fourth governor of Oyo State after Chief Bola Ige, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo and late Kolapo Ishola and succeeded by Sen. Rashid Ladoja, Otunba Alao Akala and Sen. Abiola Ajimobi in turn.
Since his death yesterday morning, every political figure interested in making political capital from the South-West has rushed to pay homage to the departed leader led by the President of the nation and the other two Northern suitors of the South-West – former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the Speaker of the House of Reps. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal. In the latter’s case, I’m not sure if he’s courting the Yorubas or if he is been courted by their present leaders.
Mindful as I am of the famous Latin aphorism, “De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est” (of the dead, let nothing but good be said), I will not speak much of the Great Lam but rather of his politics which while it cannot be described as enigmatic as that of Bola Ige or as flamboyant as Alao Akala’s, was nevertheless as forthright, consistent and as dogged as any in this part of the country.
Born in Ibadan in 1939 and as a Muslim partly educated in Christian schools, Lam (as he was fondly called) was very close to the late Ijaw leader Isaac Adaka Boro whose death affected him to a large extent as he admitted in an interview with the Daily Sun a few years ago. Lam was a part of the Awolowo school of politics which instilled in him the ideology of social welfarism or democratic socialism, now wrongly called ‘progressive politics’. That modern day term is really an obfuscation as the progressive ideology is not clearly embodied in any political party in Nigeria today neither does it make the conservative ideology wrong by any standard.
Lam’s political career flourished in 1979 when he was elected to the Federal House of Representatives under the banner of the UPN. His finest political moment was during the anti-Abacha protests led by Chief Bola Ige in response to Alhaji Arisekola Alao and Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu‘s pro-Abacha rallies. The the military administrator of Oyo state, Col. Ahmed Usman clamped Lam, Ige and Com. Ola Oni in prison and dubbed them ‘prisoners of war’.
Lam was subsequently elected as governor under the banner of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999 and that opened a new vista in his political career. Though a strict disciplinarian, Lam was however surrounded by some who saw his election as a vindication of his political values and a reward for the years of suffering he had received in the past. His wife Alhaja Sarat Adesina got herself enmeshed in a land tussle with a former commissioner in Oyo, Alhaji Jibola Lanipekun (SAN) whose land Lam as governor had reissued a certificate of occupancy to his own wife. Alhaji Lanipekun was brutally murdered and Alhaja Adesina spent three days in police custody not as a prisoner of war like her husband but for a corruption related case. The land was eventually awarded to the slain lawyer’s family.
It was Alhaja Sarat Adesina who defended her sons’ actions when Lam was governor by claiming that no one complained when they all suffered with the man so nobody should complain now that they’re enjoying the fruits of his labour. She may also have cost him reelection with a rumoured statement to her fellow traders at the popular Gbagi market where she’d allegedly told them that Lam’s votes from other areas would sufficiently give him a second term even if they choose not to vote. I won’t bother repeating the point about one’s wife and political capital that I made about Obama’s reelection.
When Lam’s son Dapo contested elections on the platform of ACN in the 2011 elections, he was soundly defeated despite his enviable political pedigree because the people of Ibadan recalled the extravagant life that he and his brother Tunji enjoyed when their father was in power.
Apart from the challenges of those who surrounded him, Lam was unable to fully grasp the Awo political ideology as separate from an ethnic agenda. Indeed, many Awolowo followers and associates equated the political ideology as being a part of the ethnic ideology except few men such as Chief Bola Ige, Ebenezer Babatope and perhaps Senator Bola Tinubu. When Lam was governor and Fulani herdsmen were killed in Oyo state, Gen. Mohammed Buhari and Brigadier-Gen. Buba Marwa led a delegation from the Arewa Consultative Forum to meet with him and he told them in no unclear terms that their criticisms of then President Obasanjo was not acceptable to the South-West.
When the late former Senate President Chuba Okadigbo and former House of Reps speaker Ghali Na’abba made moves to impeach President Obasanjo, it was the AD/Yoruba legislators who first stood against it, to the extent of calling a press conference to denounce such moves thereby sacrificing party politics and ideology on the altar of ethnic affiliation.
Lam was one of those swept aside in the gale of PDP in 2003 and that election was a reflection of the angst the people of the southwest felt against a party and its leader who had used the name of Awolowo to gain political relevance but had failed to live up to the ideals of the late sage.
Lam succumbed to the leadership of Bola Tinubu by choosing to align with the Akande faction of AD which later became ACN. The only governor who remained with AD was the late former governor of Ondo state Chief Adebayo Adefarati and the people of Ondo’s political independence today is a vindication of his principled stand.
Lam indeed gained political relevance again in 2011 with the victory of Sen. Abiola Ajimobi over Otunba Alao Akala at the polls and this overshadowed the political blow dealt his son in the same electoral period. That his son contested the election for House of Rep as former Governor Olusegun Osoba‘s son did in Ogun and many Tinubu family members did in Lagos state shows how far the present Yoruba leadership has come in the promotion of self-centredness.
But Lam never claimed to be an angel. His death is surely a huge loss to Oyo State and to the ACN. At 73, his was a voice to be respected as he was courageous in speaking the truth. His death also alters political permutation within ACN Oyo state where he was the leader. He it was who brokered peace betweeen Sen. Abiola Ajimobi and former gubernatorial aspirant Dr. Olufemi Lanlehin who is now a senator while Ajimobi is of course the governor.
Nothing can however diminish the greatness of Alhaji Lamidi Adesina or erode his achievements. The crowd at his burial in Felele yesterday, the gathering of political leaders, the flags in Oyo state flying at half mast for the next seven days and the political messages of condolence are the testimony to the greatness of this man of truth and courage. May he rest forever in peace.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.