Mukaila Lamidi Auxiliary: Life & Career is a biographical account of a rascally boy, who wobbled through the undulating paths and snaky roads of existence to assuming the height of a folk hero.
Written by Biola Layonu and Freeman Okosun, this book is very unique as it is captivating a read. It treats issues of political history, socio-political struggles, childhood pranks, street life, friendships and traditional polygamous setting where rivalry, pettiness and jealousy often rear their heads, the very hearth from where Auxillary, the renowned strongman of the National Road Transport Workers Union (NURTW) in Ibadan, Oyo State capital sprung from.
The authors take the reader from one stream of exciting story to another – all flowing into a sea of pleasurable reading tale about Mukaila Lamidi, whose father, a civil servant, had wished went to school and end up in public service like him. But the father’s idea of travel by air was far apart from the son’s – to travel by road!
Indeed, Lamidi, alias Auxiliary, is a rugged and dogged man whose.persona and activities are both subjects of fascination and controversy. Layonu and Okosun tried to unravel this mystique for the public to understand his true personality from the perspective of his background and other impinging factors that forged and led to his rise Mukaila Lamidi and his rise to the Leadership of the Road Transport Workers. From being a nobody, he bulldozed his way to winning and dining with the high and mighty even in the political circle.
Chapter One of the book introduces us to Pa Lamidi’s polygamous home into which Mukaila was born. The old man had enrolled the young Mukaila at the N5 Elementary School in hope he would grow up brave and bold enough to confront life’s challenges properly educated.
Chapter Two captures how the boy began school and, along with some other lucky pupils, had a handshake with Nigeria’s former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon during a visit to Ibadan, but later developed hatred for school due to habitual flogging by a teacher, one Mr. Ajala!
The incidents in Chapter Three are quite attention-grabbing. Against the father’s wish and in spite of having a goo First School Leaving Examination result he declined an offer of admission into Fatimah College, Ikire in present Osun State and instead, at the age of 12, took to living on the street ostensibly to exercise his own sense of freedom. Wrote the authors on page 60: “He didn’t want the clean, coordinated, almost sweat-less way of life that civil service produced. It looked too dull and uninteresting for the kind of blood that boiled through his veins.” Thus, Mukaila disappeared from home and took to car-washing at Mokola motor park in Ibadan where Gbadegesin, a notorious and dreaded motor park tout held sway. Mukaila rose to reckoning when he humiliated and demystified the feared tout when he dared and fought him after the latter bullied and tried to molest him for not being quick enough to pay the daily ‘toll he normally extorted from boys in the car-washing business. Nobody had ever dared the Mokola Park lord and the small boy’s gut in challenging him bruised his ego and threatened his authority at the park. Out of fear that Mukaila might one day overthrow him, Gbadegesin with his loyalists reportedly plotted his expulsion by portraying him as a villain and making walking on the streets unbearable for Mukaila.
For what seemed like dark moments, Mukaila left Ibadan for Lagos, where he worked as a bus conductor, saved money with which he learnt to drive. News of his father’s death so devastated him that he wept bitterly betraying emotions that was rarely to be seen in a man raised with a heart of steel and who knew only the hard way of the streets. This was dealt with in Chapter Four.
In Chapter Five, the authors described Mukaila’s return to Ibadan, and how he joined the NURTW and became an active unionist, rising to the position of Vice-Chairman in Oyo State.
In Chapter Six we read of how Auxiliary was implicated in a sensational murder case in which he was implicated and for which he was detained, tried and eventually discharged and acquitted. His ordeal was said to have been political persecution by the erstwhile powers-that-be in the state.
However, Governor Seyi Makinde, on assuming power, elevated and assigned Auxiliary to take charge of management of motor parks in the state.
Chapter Seven eulogized Mukaila as a devout Muslim who built a mosque in memory of his father, and a church in honour of his Christian -mother, while Chapter Eight, and Nine described his life as a socialite and hotelier.
The authors devote Chapter Ten to comments and perspectives on the NURTW’s boss by his relatives, friends and associates. While he is described as stubborn, his hardworking nature resilience and steadfastness were acknowledged as qualities which facilitated his phenomenal rise in his career.
The biography is a laudable feat of creative versatility and distinction. It is a bold literary piece and window through which readers can clearly perceive and dissect the real image of Mukaila Lamidi, a man, some argue, is misunderstood and who has refused to be drowned by storms and waves of opposition because his waist is far above water level!
This book is also a revelation into the world of motor park life and politics, a world of lavish privileges commanded by brute force, of victimisation, and winners-takes-all power game, where the leader enjoys robust financial benefits, and huge respect from his followers, but must watch his back and keep on his toes to forestall being toppled by ambitious and envious opponents.
Layonu and Okosun’s prose and collective voice is bold, and their narrative pattern highly commendable.
But they are advised to take care of some typographical errors in the revised edition of the book.
Ebika Anthony is a poet, puppeteer, performer and publisher based in Ibadan.