Memories of June 12, 1993 Is Rekindled As Prof. Gbadegesin Celebrates 70th Birthday

…Tinubu, Akinrinade, others extol Gbadegesin’s virtues at 70

Memories of the landmark June 12, 1993 election filled the air yesterday in Lagos.

Many politicians and activists who fought for the restoration of democracy, following the annulment of the election —Nigeria’s freest and fairest ever—gathered to celebrate the 70th birthday of one of those at the vanguard of the struggle, Prof. Segun Gbadegesin, who marked the occasion with the presentation of his book “All The Way: Serving With Conscience”.

Gbadegesin, a professor of Philosophy and Head of Department of Philosophy and Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Howard University, Washington DC, United States, worked as an undercover operative in the dark days of the Abacha dictatorship as one of the main anchors of Radio Kudirat, the propaganda organ of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).

Speaker after speaker poured encomiums on Gbadegesin, a columnist of The Nation, at the event, which turned out to be a roll call of political activists, politicians, his associates, traditional rulers and notable youths.

Former Governor of Lagos State and All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu praised Gbadegesin’s efforts in writing the book, describing it as an insightful contribution that has placed on the front burner some of the issues staring the nation in the face.

The APC chieftain said he was not surprised that Gbadegesin was marking his 70th birthday with a memoir of his childhood days, adding that he celebrated his 60th anniversary with two books. Recalling the role Gbadegesin played during the seizure of Lagos State local government funds and during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s failed third term bid, Tinubu said the professor continued to contribute to the advancement of democracy even after the return to civil rule in 1999.

Tinubu, one of the leading lights of NADECO, assured the audience that progressive politics is the answer to Nigeria’s problems and that the hope Nigerians had in voting the APC into power would not be dashed.

He said leaders of the parties that formed the APC had to suppress their personal ambitions to chase away the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government led by former President Goodluck Jonathan because in the past those who floated political parties ended up as chairmen and presidential candidates.

During a panel of discussion moderated by Mr. Adebola Williams, who led the rebranding campaign that changed the perception of young Nigerians about candidate Muhammadu Buhari, Tinubu said the youth had not realised the power they held with their understanding of the internet revolution and their inquisitive nature.

In response to a question on why the elders were reluctant to let go of power, the APC chieftain admonished young Nigerians intent on taking part in politics to demonstrate commitment and a willingness to take responsibility, adding that nobody gets political power on a platter of gold.

He added: “I’m not quarrelling with you being in a hurry, but you must recognise that it is not going to be easy. You see opportunities quicker and you utilise it faster. Without what you did, we will not be able to send Jonathan out of office. But, you can’t ask us to move over.”

Gen. Alani Akinrinade, one of those who supported Gbadegesin in his NADECO campaign from the United States, said he was meeting the professor of philosophy for the first time when he called on him in Washington, “but he justified the confidence reposed in him by Tinubu and others”.

Gen. Akinrinade, like many speakers at the event, recalled the support provided by Gbadegesin’s wife, Mrs. Adetoun Gbadegesin, who provided Nigerian food, particularly amala and gbegiri for the visiting activists.

Former Ogun State Governor Chief Segun Osoba praised the contribution of Gbadegesin to the pro-democracy struggle, with the programmes he anchored in Yoruba on the defunct “Radio Kudirat”.

Osoba recalled with nostalgia that the late NADECO leader, Chief Abraham Adesanya, used to threaten during Afenifere meetings that anybody who could not speak in Yoruba would be sent to America to learn the language from Gbadegesin.

He said: “Today, not only is Gbadegesin versed in Yoruba, he is also interested in the survival of the Yoruba Nation. He visited me the other day to plead that I should re-unite politically with my estranged APC family.”

Another comrade in the NADECO struggle, Dr. Olu Otubusin, said though Gbadegesin, who hails from Okeho in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State, “was not the financier of the struggle, the way Tinubu and Akinrinade were, but his salary was always made available to us”.

Otubusin added that the professor was always ready to sacrifice for the interest of the generality. He noted that Gbadegesin was loyal and committed to the struggle and does not understand conspiracy.

Executive Editor/Director, TheNEWS and PM News, Mr. Kunle Ajibade, who reviewed the book, said: “All the Way: Serving with Conscience is essentially an inspiring stocktaking of Gbadegesin’s sense of duty not only to his family members —- both nuclear and extended—- but also to the public at home and abroad.”

In the review tittled: “Of Gbadegesin’s sense of duty”, Ajibade, who was also an activist during the Abacha military junta, said: “Very early in his life he learnt from his father to be focused on any duty at hand. He often wanted to make his father happy by making excellent grades, which he did in all the schools he attended. He was mercilessly beaten and tongue-lashed by his father only two times as a boy.

“The first time was when he skipped church to follow a popular masquerade called Ogbogbon. The second time was when he left his father’s retail shop to go on an errand for a family relation. He never saw adherents of Islam, Christianity and traditional religion clash.”

The crème de la crème of the society, particularly from the Southwest, graced the occasion. The dignitaries include Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who came with a retinue of chiefs; the Onjo of Okeho, Oba Rafiu Osuolale-Mustapha, also with a retinue of chiefs; and the traditional ruler of Ota, Oba Alani Oyede, who also came with a retinue of chiefs.

Other dignitaries are: Chief Bisi Akande, Sen. Olurunimbe Mamora, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Prof. Ropo Sekoni, Mr. Festus Ajekigbe and Hon. Wale Oshun.

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