“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls whom neither knows victory nor defeat” Theodore Roosevelt.
One day in 1955, a quiet woman walked into a bus and took her seat. In minutes that followed, that single act would set a nation on fire and change the course of an entire history. Rosa Parks was an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Outside look-in, she was the sort of woman who could easily be pushed aside on the street, but on the inside, she’s the type of woman you will never want to confront in an ideological fisticuff.
But she didn’t earn a name by playing to the ostrich. She leveraged her inner power to tweak with discrimination and segregation that was rife in America.
Her heroic exploits would lead to one of the most powerful demonstrations in America: the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted 13 months until the US Supreme Court ruled that segregated buses were unconstitutional. Where others played to the gallery of racism and racial superiority, Parks dared greatly in the face of intimidation and harassment. Where others assumed the end had come, she fixed her gaze on the new beginning.
Her acts were unthinkable and unbelievably so. Before Rosa Parks’s 1955 deviant act, no black was allowed to sit on the same seat reserved for the whites on the bus – check Rich Wright’s Native Son and Siswe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard. That systemic racism was akin to the South African Apartheid regime and Israeli in-your-face discrimination against the Palestinians. But all the roots and fruits of discrimination and segregation started to creek on the 5th of December, 1955 when Rosa Parks pushed back on the system that had treated her so unfairly, and unjustly. Resistance is not for the faint-hearted.
In an electrifying speech that continued to echo through the ages, Martin Luther King Jr. claimed he had a dream. That speech was delivered on 28th August, 1963. By 2008, ‘I Have a Dream’ had materialized and metastasized into the subconscious of Americans: they elected their first black President after more than 200 years of existence. For once, it takes courage to have a dream. But to have that dream in reality takes more than courage: you will need faith, conviction, and obsession. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement that shattered the ceilings of racial discrimination and social segregation in America. While Parks was a quiet, easy-going, and level-headed fighter, King was an outspoken and fiery speaker who leveraged his oratory prowess to set blacks free from the yoke of oppression and victimization.
Here in Africa, the likes of Nelson Mandela belong to the league of change-makers and pacesetters. In Nigeria, we’ve always gravitated towards leaders who can break barriers and raise the bar of leadership to a new height. I mean leaders who will build bridges of brotherhood and break barriers of jingoism and ethno-religious identity that have kept our country from progressing. Here comes Barrister Abdulwaheed Olowonjaye, the newly elected National President of the Political Awareness Group, an association of Muslim Professionals and technocrats in politics. Before he emerged as the National President, he was at the helm of the group in Oyo state for three solid years. On the day he was sworn into office, 9th August 2020, he knew the group should have its tentacles spread across the country. It was his vision. He saw it and would not stop until he achieved it.
As the state chairman, he blazed the trails by advocating for good governance while advancing the collective interests of Muslims. Like the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his cassocks, Olowonjaye’s stewardship stood him out of the pack. He called government attention to pressing issues and never shied from handling flowers to those in power. He had a sense of what needed to be done and the courage to do it. As the chairman, he brought PAG, once an organization in obscurity to the public limelight. Apart from his maiden media conference held at the Premier Hotel, he also organized Conferences across the political zones in the state sensitizing Muslims to their rights with massive, impressive, and overwhelming turnouts.
But he didn’t personalize the organization. He knew the organization must be able to function without him. But somehow, like every human creation, little disagreement brewed and he was elbowed by those who feel his time has come. Instead of fighting fire for fire, he reached out. He held strategic meetings with people who should know. He told them he was done with the state. They elbowed him and still wanted to keep him. He was a priceless jewel of inestimable value.
Like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he proclaimed: Abuja Ya (time to go federal). They knew he had the plan. The only grouse was just that he should not go ahead with it. Then the war broke out. First, they claimed he was an impostor. They claimed the PAG he represented was not his brainchild. That he wanted to reap where he didn’t sow. They attempted to rewrite history and control the narrative. It was a tough battle. They wanted to soil his name so that the integrity and reputation he claimed to have would be tainted and painted black. They messaged people directly on Whatsapp to shun the Abuja show. They didn’t know Abuja was far, only the fits will make it. He was manically focused. They wanted to derail him but he rallied around people from the East, West North, and South. The stones they threw at him became his stepping stone. The National Conference they wanted to fail, succeeded. Board of Trustees members were picked from the six geo-political zones. Think of having Nigeria under one roof. Delegates came from the nooks and crannies of the country. I have never been to such a gathering where Nigeria’s diversity bubbled with excitement. But he was smart and strategic. His tactics were also superior. The seed of his dream has been planted. They knew the fruits. And because they are not going to be the gatekeepers, they are hell-bent on destroying the man and his vision. Amusingly, his doors are always open. They needed him for his boldness and bravery. They needed him for daring greatly in the face of personal attacks and propaganda. Olive branch is again extended to them.
OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about issues affecting Oyo state and is published every Saturday. He can be reached via @muftaugbade on X, firstname.lastname@example.org and 09065176850.