L-R, Formar Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Balarabe Musa with Governor Aregbesola
From Yinka Kolawole Osogbo
Great in life, greater even in death. These phrase aptly defined the late firebrand socialist, Comrade Ola Oni. Though it seemed a long time that he departed this world, yet it looked like yesterday. Recently at the Centre for Black Culture, Osogbo, the capital of the State of Osun, notable Nigerians and activists gathered to celebrate the memory of a die-in-the-wool believer, fighter and revolutionary extraordinaire Comrade Oni, who breathed his last in 1999.
The venue of the event was full to the brim with people of varying shades of opinions and political leanings coming together to honour a man, who stood tall among men of his nation both in words and indeed while alive. Irrespective of background, the audience in the hall that day was united into one fold celebrating a man, who actually belonged to no particular ethnic group or religion.
The roll call of those who attended the celebration also speaks volumes about the man being honoured that day. The Governor of the State of Osun, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola; former Governor of Old Kaduna State, Mallam Balarabe Musa; representative of the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; the wife of the late Oni, Mrs. Kehinde Oni, senators and House of Representatives members; the renowned poet, Professor Niyi Osundare among others.
Then from the immediate socialist family of the late activist were comrades such as Segun Aborishade, Dr. Sylvester Akhane-Odion, Abiodun Aremu, Baba Oluwide Omojola, Moshood Erubami, Amitolu Shittu and a host of others.
Aregbesola set the tone and theme of the day’s occasion when he styled the late Comrade Oni a ‘universalist.’ He said that nothing could be too much in honour of Ola Oni for what he did for his fatherland and humanity in general. He said the little tribute he and the people of Osun State could do was the naming of a centre after him.
Comrade Ola Oni Centre was so named in memory of this all-time achiever and fighter for the emancipation of the masses of his country, a crusade he spread his last dates on earth for. Not only that, there was also an inaugural lecture, first of its kind to Oni’s remembrance.
Aregbesola, painted an intimate relation and experience he had with the late Oni both on the field of struggle and at the homestead of the revolutionary man.
With the benefit of hindsight, the governor said he remembered vividly that all Oni was concerned was matters as they affect his people, saying he lived and died fighting for the emancipation of the people. He added that the activist also had as one of his priorities how to organise the society and correct the inherent political anomalies prevalent during his time. This path, according to the governor, Ola Oni towed religiously without differentiating any part of the country or localising the emancipation struggles.
“The person we are celebrating today has gone, but he lives in his works and his students, who are also making waves today. Everywhere was his home. He was at home with everybody. That explained why he never mentioned which part of the country he hailed from. The nation should study critically with a view to practicing Ola Oni’s ideals because he gave everything to the cause of humanity, the masses of the people of this country, which he regarded has his primary constituency.
“He lived his life totally to serve the people to the extent that we could hardly find fault in him or his existence. In fact, we will do him a great disservice to ascribe him to a particular place or locality in Nigeria. He was an internationalist. That is why we here in Osun State decided to immortalise this man of immense repute with a little tribute by naming a centre after him today hence to be called Comrade Ola Oni Centre for Social Research. I have no doubt that the centre accustoms itself to the vision and ideals of Ola Oni if it is tailored towards virile and productive activities that the man we are celebrating today lived and died for,” the governor said.
Former Governor Musa described Oni as a selfless person, who was committed to the well-being of the downtrodden. Despite having come from a rich background, he was interested in the people and dedicated his life to fight for the liberation of the common man.
He was miffed for this man’s chosen path and wondered why a rich man like Ola Oni should descend to the extent of getting himself involved in the struggle.
Musa continued: “Why should a rich and privileged person like Oni descend to the extent of involving himself in what he was doing? Very few Nigerians can make such sacrifice. I can say it authoritatively that we don’t have more than three people who are committed to socialism as Oni was. We are not talking about mere sloganeering but intense commitment.”
Paying his own tribute, the poet, Professor Niyi Osundare described Oni as a humanist par excellence. Osundare disclosed that many knew Oni and associated with him on the field of the struggle, but few knew Oni the family man. “He never called his wife by her name. He would call her ‘my dear.’ Whenever you visited their house, irrespective of the time of the day, they are always ready to accommodate you,” he said.