By Sikiru Akinola
Preparations would have reached top gear for the celebration of the 79th birthday celebration of the late former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lamidi Onaolapo Adesina if he were still alive. He was born January 20th, 1939. Baba Lam was somebody who was very dear to my heart because I got interested in politics through the motivation I received from him. When I left College, the desire to be like him made me seek admission to study at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and to the glory of Allah, I graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
I was in my early years at Holy Trinity Grammar School, Old-Ife road, Ibadan, when Baba came to power in 1999. Though I followed keenly the political campaign which saw him triumph against Alhaji Yekinni Adeojo, I was always in an enthusiastic mood, seeing Baba Lam ride in his official car through Oje market, waving his hands. I can remember some of his numerous campaign posters in which the acronym- L.A.M.I.D.I was translated as Light Appears Mightier In the Dark of Ignorance which indeed was true.
When news filtered in that Baba’s health was deteriorating, I made it a point of duty to include it my prayer whenever I was in the mosque. Why? This was a man who gave me hope when I least expected.
Great Lam died on November 11th, 2012, a day after he had assured his former colleague, Aremo Olusegun Osoba that he was okay and would soon be home. Osoba, who recalled how they played, laughed and watched football together on a television channel, said: “He said that he would soon be at home. He was okay. I felt nothing should be keeping him in the hospital. Honestly, I was really expecting him back home until this morning when I was called and told that he had passed on. I cannot believe it.”
The day started like a normal day. Many of his associates were expecting him home, thinking he had recovered from his sickness. He did not survive it. In September 2012, he had become sick and was rushed to the University College Hospital, UCH, where he was recovering until he conceded to family’s decision to move him to St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos Island. This was after he had rejected plans to fly him abroad, for further medical attention.
Dr. Tobi Bamgboye of the St. Nicholas, who confirmed his death that Sunday morning, sent shock waves around political circles, most especially Oyo State, where he held sway as governor between 1999 and 2003.
That day, November 11th, 2012, I had just finished doing my weekly laundry in Obafemi Awolowo Hall of the OAU when a senior colleague shouted my name and said: “Have you heard about Baba’s death? Confused, I steered at him and asked:”Which Baba?” Before I could complete my statement, he said that “Baba Lam reportedly died at the popular St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos”. I was shocked, sat down and retired to my bed, pondering on what has befallen those of us who are Lam’s mentees. The party, ACN (now APC) which he left behind in the State is divided against itself. Internal bickering among members is consuming the party as they no longer listen to each other.
As a secondary student, the payment of our WAEC fee by his administration contributed in no small way to the continuation of my educational attainment. My grandma, Mama Awawu Abebi (also of blessed memory}, was very happy when I got home and told her the good news. At least if he did nothing as his detractors tried tirelessly to make people believe, the teachers would not forget in a hurry how their lives were transformed. The popular maxim, teachers’ reward is in heaven changed to teachers’ reward is on earth; many of them built houses while many bought cars. We even thought that the ‘L’ on their cars, which is usually used by amateur drivers, meant LAM.
Great Lam left indelible marks as his legacy which are still visible for succeding generations to admire. His magic hands touched virtually all the sectors of the economy when he was governor that he became the toast of some of us who were in our teen years. The satellite campuses of The Polytechnic, Ibadan at Saki and Eruwa were established while the then Saint Andrews College of Education (SACOED) later OYSCOED and now EACOED was moved from its temporary site at Oke-Ebo where the Ajayi Crowther University currently sits to the new site at Erelu.
Lam’s ambition to encourage farmers and make food abundant to the people of the State made him come up with the Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme (OYSADEP) which instantly became an instant success as it won many laurels within and outside Nigeria.
Our first physical contact endeared him to my heart. He had come to Oje in Ibadan North East Local Government to present the flag of the then Action Congress to my brother, Adebayo Mojeed Delesolu as house of assembly aspirant. I was cleaning the chair for him when he held my hand and started talking to me. Thanking me, he told me how he started politics at a very youthful age; his sojourn at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and his days at the National Assembly etc. I was very proud that a former governor was talking to me but it pained me that no photographer was around to take us. I have, since then, developed love for Baba. He told me what loyalty means; to stand with those I believe will effect the needed change even if they are not on the winning side.
Though Baba was assisted to the event by his aides, I didn’t have any premonition that his death would be soon. I could remember, despite old age and ill-health, how he led the gubernatorial aspirant of the defunct ACN, now Governor Abiola Ajimobi and others to all the nooks and crannies of the State, soliciting support. And to the glory of God, he won.
The attempt by those who saw his firmness and immovable principles as rigidity to eclipse his political career by smearing his image failed as people voted overwhelmingly for the then Sen. Abiola Ajimobi as Governor. He’s the first former governor to produce a governor in Oyo State after eight years out of office.
Since he died, people have continued to pour tributes on the late former teacher but i couldnt because i didnt know what to write.
Weeks after his death, when Egbon Dapo Lam-Adesina (DLA), now a member of the House of Representatives, invited me to his office at the Ministry of Industry, Applied Science and Technology, Secretariat, Ibadan, I was moved by the tone by which he spoke that day as it was nearly exactly the way Baba Lam spoke to me when we first met.
Five years after his death, Great Lam is being remembered within and outside the state. The legacies of Lam, whom my Egbon Kazeem Adedeji described as a “man with a LAM-inated virtues,” still linger. Happy 79th post-humous birthday to the late political bulldozer.
Sikiru Akinola can be reached via email@example.com.