Lam Onaolapo Adesina
By Kehinde Olaosebikan
Alhaji Lam Onaolapo Adesina, Oyo State Governor from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2003, passed onto glory peacefully on Sunday, 11th of November after over 73 years of a very successful sojourn on earth. Adesina rose to the pinnacle of all his callings in life. He got to the zenith of his career as a teacher; as a social crusader he got state recognition and was tagged “prisoner of war”; and politically he did not only realise his ambition of becoming the governor of his state, he achieved the extra-ordinary by installing a governor, not while in power but eight years after he had left office.
Since Sunday, torrents of tributes have been pouring in from various quarters, all extolling the virtues of Adesina. He has been described in many superlative words, establishing the fact that he was a great man. But how great really was the husband of the benign Alhaja Sarat Adeola Adesina? As his Chief Press Secretary while he served as the governor of Oyo State, I will transmit a story of how the former governor tamed a former military Head of State and prevented what could have led to the Nigerian second civil war.
It was on October 13, 2000, when words went round that General Muhammadu Buhari was leading the Arewa team to the governor’s office to confront the state over alleged killings of Fulani cattle rearers in Saki, Oke Ogun area of the state. Buhari did actually telephone the governor that he was leading a team to his office.
In less than 30 minutes after the General informed the governor of his visit, we noticed that the entire secretariat was already filled with lorry loads of our brothers from the North. This created some tension but we kept our calm. About 2pm, Buhari arrived in a long convoy at the governor’s office in company with the former governor of Lagos State, General Buba Marwa, Alhaji Aliko Muhammed, Alhaji Abdulrazak, Alhaji Hassan and some others. They all wore long faces. In fact, the anger and venom in them was very palpable as all pleasantries extended to them were largely shunned.
“This is trouble” was the expression on the faces of all of us in the governor’s office.
Shortly afterwards, the Director of State Security Service and Commissioner of Police arrived. But their presence did not change anything in particular on the fears that had already gripped majority of us. The two security chiefs did not come with any troops, they came almost alone.
The meeting was called to order after Adesina serenely walked into the Executive Chambers in his well embroidered multi colour lace. Introductions over, Buhari spoke about his mission to the governor’s office. Emitting fire, the General accused the governor and the government of Oyo State of complicity in the killings of over 68 Fulani people in Oke Ogun area and perversion of justice.
His words: “Your Excellency, our arrival here is to discuss with you and your government our displeasure about the incident of clashes between two peoples…The Fulani cattle rearers and merchants are today being harassed, attacked and killed in Saki like in any war. In the month of May 2000, 68 bodies of Fulani cattle rearers were recovered and buried under the supervision and protection from a team of Mobile Police from Oyo State Command. As weighty and indicting as the General’s allegations were against the governor, Adesina remained unperturbed. He only fired back with his own well coordinated arsenals in form of robust explanations and engagements.
Adesina identified all the points raised by the General and simply asked the heads of the organisations directly involved to respond to the allegations made by the General.
First to speak was the Commissioner of Police who debunked all the claims made by the General. Instead of the claims by General that the natives were killing the Fulanis, police commissioner said pointedly that the opposite was the case.“The killings of the natives by the Fulanis were duly reported to the police and, of course, we can’t make arrest because as soon as they kill they migrate to other areas. Who are you going to arrest? So that is the problem.”
On the contrary, on the killings of the Fulani, which he said was as result of “piled up anger”, the commissioner disclosed that arrests had been made and the suspects were still in police custody.
Next was the Director of Security Service, who equally tore all the claims of Buhari to shreds. They stated the true positions of things in the area, corroborating the submissions of the security chiefs. At this point, all the tensions and apprehensions evaporated.
Buhari and his team did not wait for any refreshments. They came in with anger and left with misery. ADIEU! GREAT LAM!
Trust Adesina any day! He must rub it in. He spoke for about 20 minutes and the Generals were at the edges of their seats for the entire period. They were like chickens that have just been thoroughly beaten by the rain.
Adesina began, “Before I thank you for this visit, you have come to tell me something, I also want to tell you something and that something is to make an appeal. General Buhari has been a former Head of State, Brigadier Marwa has governed Lagos for some time and with credibility… so you are national leaders of this country. Even though, by accident of birth, you are from the North, so you can be born anywhere, may be next time when I am coming to the world I will be born in the North or the South-south.
“My appeal will be that effort must be made to unite this country and that will be to the best interest of all Nigerians. I am appealing to the Arewa Consultative Forum under which auspices our distinguished Nigerians are here, in recent times, they have been sending wrong signals to a number of us who believe in the unity and peace of Nigeria. You have been too critical of the efforts of the federal government. I am saying this because Nigeria at this point cannot afford to break and words you northern leaders utter are very weighty, at the South here, we normally analyse them critically.”
On the allegations, Adesina said: “From what they have written in the petition, this government is completely blameless because we don’t interfere either with the judiciary or with the police functions. I always canvass peaceful coexistence (among those) living in Oyo State and Nigeria as a whole. We are all Nigerians and that is what we have been preaching all along and we shall continue to be Nigerians, no matter the present or immediate problems which will be solved by the grace of Allah.
“I want to say also that we really have to appeal to our people, the itinerant Bororo people, that they should observe less aggression. It is not good, it is not right just coming from somewhere then you just pass through farmlands cultivated, may be with the person’s life savings and then over night everything is gone. That is not right, even Allah does not approve of that. We even wonder when they talk about this people carrying dangerous weapons, I say do they really believe in Allah? When you just take life like that and go away! Are we not forbidden to take human life? So I think General Buhari, General Marwa, you have to be educating them… It is my pleasure to inform you that at the Presidential Lodge, we have made some arrangements for refreshments so that before you go we can refresh together.”
• Olaosebikan was Chief Press Secretary to Adesina from 1999 to 2003.