Since the news of his graduation at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia hit the airwaves, Senator Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro’s political opponents have reactivated their diatribe against him, writes Olawale Olaleye
“I’m glad we made it”, said Shirley Ahissa Lopez-Branson while congratulating her colleague, Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro, in a cozy embrace, depicting a tedious journey which had culminated in their graduation on Saturday, May 14, 2016 – a product of months of hard work, resilience and determination to confront and change some of life’s emerging challenges, she seemed to suggest.
“It’s a good thing we made it and finally, this is over and behind us,” a smiling Obanikoro was overheard to have responded, with the duo hugging again and perhaps, for the last time. The moment was emotional, somewhat as the mother of two palpably blushed – nearly all the rainbow colours – yet, basking in the euphoria of the moment – their graduation.
Mrs. Lopez-Branson, herself a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies (History), had spoken earlier on behalf of the non-traditional undergraduate seniors, where she challenged her colleagues to go and chase bigger dreams in whatever societies, communities or governments they may find themselves and stamp the name of the university in gold as did her many alumni, some of whom were present at the commencement and honoured accordingly. About two hundred (200) students were graduated on this day, the traditional and non-traditional inclusive.
She was certain that with the quality of education, discipline and standards that Oglethorpe is reputed to have, no student of the university would be a “nobody” wherever life throws them, ultimately. She would later leave the podium with near endless applause, not for the flow of her speech but the substance therein.
After the photo session at the university’s premises, Obanikoro with family and friends left for a reception hosted by his childhood friend, Mr. Kayode Bawa-Allah at his residence, where people bantered till late last Saturday. That also came with its own side attractions like another round of photo session and cake-cutting, amongst others.
But as he regaled on his seat 92 at the open-field graduation ground, where he had just bagged a third degree in History, the first and second in Public Affairs and Public Administration respectively, both at Texas Southern University (TSU), the United States, Obanikoro’s infectious smile could be interpreted to mean many things, but not exclusive of his concern for the situation back home, where change with its varied meanings is gliding across the turf. Not wanting to contaminate his mood, his brief chat with this writer said as much.
“Nigeria is not likely to record the much sought after change because the present structure of the country is anti-development. The problem is first of structure and then, leadership. For the country to make any meaningful development, it must start with restructuring. That is the way forward.
“Perhaps, a return to the regional structure is the way to go, where each region develops at its own pace and with the resources available to it. It is there and then, we can begin to savour development with keen competition amongst the regions to trump one another in terms of development and capacity building. And that is where the place of leadership comes in.
“In any case, if we are copying anything from any part of the world, it does not have to be wholesale. It behooves wisdom when you copy but domesticate what you are copying to suit your own situation, because those whose idea you borrowed came up with it to suit their situation, factoring in their many tendencies. But where you copy without modulation, then you would have invariably compounded the original situation you were trying to address since the situations could not have been the same,” he said.
Using the US case as an example, Obanikoro said, “For example, the South of America is always slow to change unlike the North which is constantly on the fast lane. But neither the South nor the North is compelled to develop at a dictated pace but theirs. That’s why you find the North heavily developed and the South following gradually behind. But when you see the pace at which the South is also coming, you are certain that they might be slow really, they are certainly coming on steady and sure.
“But the structure back home is badly skewed and does not encourage development. We were able to develop in the early fifties because the regional system was effective and encouraged the kind of development that suits each region, depending largely on the ability of the leaders to make good use of their resources. But what kind of structure allows for a region that provides about the 90 per cent of the resources a nation generates to be so backward? That can’t be development. Call it whatever, it is sure not development,” he said assuredly.
According to him, Nigeria has no business being where it is today but a victim of many years of structural and leadership ineptitude, a majority of whom he said had lived and studied abroad but have refused to transfer their experience to the governance of the country and states, adding that aside the need to change the present structure, which he claims is not effective, the country’s investment in two other things – education and infrastructure – is what will change the plight of the Nigerian people and put them on the path of prosperity.
“You don’t know how sad and unfortunate it is to live with the mentality by the Whites that the average African cannot govern or do anything well? Yet, we keep providing them with the excuses to think so. Let’s concede to Nigeria the fact that we chased the colonialists out of our land early and started our developments ourselves, what would you say of those African countries that were almost fully developed by the Whites and handed over to the blacks?
“Without mentioning names, go to such countries and see the mess the blacks have made of their countries and you’d cry for the black man. What is wrong with the black man? Is there more to being black than the colour? Nigerians, honestly, have no business living anywhere in the world outside their homes except for choice with the combination of resources we have. In fact, the Whites should be angling to come and see the wonders back home in Nigeria. I pray the tide changes with focus and determination, away from the prevailing pettiness and misplaced priorities,” he said.
However, whilst Obanikoro, family and friends wined and dined in faraway Atlanta Georgia, the United States, his traducers resorted to the social media, where his media trial resumed hearing at the court of Sahara Reporters, which had picked some of his graduation pictures from the Facebook and demonised them with reckless assumptions, which sparked immediate reactions from a majority of people. Many positive stories by other online publishers and bloggers alike had also followed up as a result, moderating the temperature.
Particularly consoling for Obanikoro and family was the fact that a majority of those, who reacted to the “Photo News” as Sahara Reporters had called it were not only positive, they could see through the very report and others before it that the online news media, perhaps, has some scores to settle with the former minister if not being sponsored outright to demean the politician.
Not only did Sahara Reporters insinuate that Obanikoro was a fugitive studying abroad, it said expressly that it was wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), when indeed, the commission had not declared or said anywhere in its official capacity that it wanted Obanikoro for anything.
Whilst, therefore, many of the commentators dismissed the report as overtly reckless, insensate and crass unprofessionalism, there were those, who believed strongly it was either being sponsored by Obanikoro’s opponents or stoked by the EFCC through its media wing to set an agenda? Of course, many others joined the bandwagon and called Obanikoro names, asking him to come and answer to Sahara Reporters’ allegations.
Bu if anyone had thought Obanikoro was rattled or that the story messed up his day, they probably need to learn of him again. Obanikoro does not brood over whatever does not add value to his life. Immediately he is able to analyse a particular situation and recognises it does not have the capacity to improve his lot, he moves on without hesitation because life, for him, would not record that as a plus and he would be unable to defend why he had allowed an obviously orchestrated situation to undo him.
With a third degree now in the kitty, Obanikoro is fantastically his opponents’ nightmare, evidently. He remains the one politician from Lagos with the highest political credentials and experience. From being Lagos Island Local Government Chairman, he grew to becoming a Commissioner for Home Affairs in Lagos, Senator for Lagos Central, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Chairman of Industrial Training Funds and Minister of State for Defence, amongst many other capacities he had served his state and country.
There is no doubting the fact that Obanikoro has always been a menace to the political comfort of ‘the owners of Lagos’. Although he graduated from their university of politics in Lagos a long time ago, he had since moved on to being an imposing political stature in the artery of the state’s body polity, the reason they are believed to have continued to accuse him of allegations they also cannot pass as a simple test, either in integrity, capacity or genuine human relations.
But whilst they brood and yell at a man, who’s chosen to turn a deaf ear to their destructive political ranting and what some would describe as sheer envy, he is counting his goodness in God’s faithfulness. His resolve to take up a post-graduate course after his political engagements for many years has been described as a commendable feat worthy of emulation.
Indeed, he is a lesson in leadership as against those, who waste away in pursuit of ambitions they clearly lack the capacity to drive. And guess what? Obanikoro, family sources say, might be planning to undertake yet another professional course in a challenging field. That is coming soon. Keep a tab on this space.