I didn’t die! It was a pleasant week started with Iku Baba Yeye, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. His palace is always an exciting place to be anyday, because of the richness of Yoruba culture that is always on display.
As I arrived at the gate on Monday afternoon, the palace intelligence service (talking drummers) sighted me and I knew what the sound that followed meant. Kabiyesi was being told about the person at the gate to see him. When I sauntered into the waiting room, a visitor waiting [to see kabiyesi] asked me to go and fill the visitor’s form. I told him it was not necessary. He was looking at me until a servant came and said Baba asked me to come.
Every encounter with men like him is a nugget-loading session. I was still chewing the one I picked two days earlier from former President Olusegun Obasanjo as we met with Gan Allah Fulani Development Association in Abeokuta. In a didactic moment, Chief Obasanjo told the meeting the importance of leaders speaking the truth and making the right call no matter who is at the receiving end. He recalled how he detained OPC leaders during the Yoruba/Hausa clash in Lagos during his Presidency and the unhappiness of his biological son when he asked his media office to disown him after he granted an interview critical of his Vice.”I told the young man I didn’t need him to deal with my VP and that he would definitely acquire his own enemies if he became a successful man, as such he needed not to inherit mine.”
Back to Iku. I beheld his royal presence awed by his presence of mind at his age. His intellectual awareness remains fresh. The voracious reader was speaking to my column a day earlier, confirming his open assertion at the launch of the Yoruba translation of Awo’s autobiography in Ibadan weeks earlier that he reads me always.
We had deep discussions and I was reassured of Iku’s abiding commitment and loyalty to the Yoruba nation. I could connect every sentence in his recent letter on insecurity to the words of his mouth and the expression on his face. Every minute with him was a morale booster and encouragement tonic.
The happiness flowing from the meeting of minds with Iku was followed the next day when I encountered the new revelation in Yorubaland: Governor Seyi Makinde (GSM) of Oyo State, the youngest governor in the region today, who packs the values of old and holds the promise of the future.
The first impression he made on me was that he was ready at the very time we agreed to meet. He was not the type to play power by keeping visitors waiting without being busy. He greeted warmly with his affectionate smile.
We met at his personal residence which is now the “Government House” in the order of Obafemi Awolowo who carried out the wonders in Western Region from his Ibadan personal residence and Alhaji Lateef Jakande whose legacies still speak in Lagos today, but governed from his personal home at Ilupeju.
It occurred to me what the value of various obscene structures called Government Houses in our states would have done for our people if we had public spirited leaders out to serve the people and not the other way round. Between 1999 and now, I know many who served as governors and had as their best achievements construction of new Government Lodges. A lot of them never built anything serious in their personal lives and could only use public resources to live in their dream homes. GSM told me he would only be in Government House for state functions!
It was hardly surprising that he remains the only Governor in the country who has declared his assets openly. It takes a man who is not out to feather his nest in office to have that boldness. He has taught a vital lesson on how to fight corruption, in action and not in words.
Politicians are loquacious people who cover the ground with empty words, but GSM is not known to talk frivolously. Our meeting revealed to me that it is not that there are no words in his belly but he said to me, “I am careful with what I say because it would hurt me to be in a position where I cannot act what I said.”
And from the above flows his sense of history and realisation that you don’t have to misbehave because you hold tenured office: “I am conscious that I am coming back (has he really left?) to town after this office. You must act in a way to relate with people you meet during your tenure as friends when you are out of power. You don’t act as if your life ends with your tenure.”
As we discussed the problem of shameless people serving in government and stealing government vehicles while leaving, GSM showed a digital and problem solving mind in him. “Every government vehicle bought under me would be tracked. “That settles it.
I did not have to ask him where his steely mien comes from as he told me “Look at this spot on me, it was a mark of stubbornness. My brother was given money to go and watch football one day, but I was not given because I was too young. I got up and trekked to the Liberty Stadium [now Obafemi Awolowo Stadium] to watch the match. Unfortunately, I fell from the bus on my way back.”
That stubbornness propels his rugged determination to come to the top. As I parted his company, a prayer was going on in my inner mind: may GSM tribe increase in our land.