Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Spring of Hope

Meant to do this 2 weeks ago but better late than never! In an attempt to learn more about our Nigerian heroes, we promised sometime last year to profile a local hero as often as we could. Another one of THOSE resolutions, but we shan't go there...

For as long as I can remember, Abraham Adesanya has always been one of those names uttered with the deepest respect and admiration among many Nigerians. From my early days at family gatherings, whenever Nigerian politics (and inevitably, NADECO - for my grandfather was a close friend of Awolowo's) came up, Adesanya's tiredless work in the pro-democracy struggle would surface somewhere in the discussion. I never knew much about the man to be honest, who he was and what his personal accomplishments were (besides being a major force of NADECO (national democratic coalition)).

This article tries to summarize Adesanya's life in a page, but i can only imagine the hundreds of pages his biography could fill. With the likes of Pa Onasanya, Pa Rewane, Pa Dawodu (Nigerians and their "Pa's"), Chief Ige having crossed over to the other side, it feels like the end of an era, one that i was never really a part of but one I grew up in - an era of frustration yet immense hope for this so-called DEMOCRACY that everyone went on about.
["Nigeria will never be at peace without democracy", i used to hear.]

"It was the It was a time when we had principles... there was a "Nigerian Dream" - to live FREELY under a civilian government elected BY the people, FOR the people; to live to see your children have access to better opportunities than you; to pass on a good name to your children, that they could be PROUD of. I remember things were hard then, not just from an economic stance(Remember good old SAP days?), but also from a human rights point of view. But yet, there is still a sense of nostalgia when i think back to those days. May Nigerians once more (one day) feel that hunger/thirst for something more than the individual good.

As Children's Day approaches next week, think of something you can do for a child in your community. Volunteer to read at a children's hospital (Even though most countries, might not celebrate it (e.g. the US!), make a note to mark it for at least ONE child.


Pa Abraham Adesanya (1922-2008) -

Senator Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya who died the other day at the age of 85 years was truly remarkable. As an ethnic leader, he vigorously pursued, promoted and, to a recognizable degree, represented the collective yearnings and idiosyncrasies of his people - the Yoruba.

And as a nationalist, he was at the forefront of his country's quest for democracy. The latter meant, to a large extent, direct confrontation with the military which had become Nigeria's major impediment to representative governance.

For Senator Adesanya, commitment to democratic practice, justice and fairness was non-negotiable. He chose the platform upon which to nurture and watch those principles grow when he studied law at the Holborn College of Law in London and graduated in 1960. And when he returned to the country soon afterwards, in addition to legal practice, he joined the progressive brand of politics, symbolised at the time by the likes of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. During the Second Republic, he was elected into the Senate on the ticket of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and, until that dispensation was sacked in December 1983, served as the Senate Minority Leader.

In striking ways, the period that followed brought out the best in Pa Adesanya. The General Ibrahim Babangida era ended hurriedly and ushered the country into one of its most traumatic periods. The agitation for the actualisation of the presidential mandate given to the late Chief Moshood Abiola via the June 12, 1993 election but which was annulled led to the realignment of forces, largely under the umbrella of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Up to the point that democracy was restored in May 1999, the organisation was vehement and combative in the condemnation of the existing political leadership.

As, first the deputy chairman of NADECO under late Chief Adekunle Ajasin and, at Ajasin's demise, its chairman, Adesanya was in the middle of the struggle with all its precariousness. In January 1997 during the government of the late General Sani Abacha, a killer squad sprayed his car with bullets. But the brave man from Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State was unstoppable. Instead of fear, that incident further instilled in him fresh courage and a renewed resolve to fight against the forces of repression and evil.

In 1998, Adesanya was made the leader of Afenifere and, by implication, the Yoruba - in the footsteps of Awolowo and Ajasin. From that point to 2004 when he was struck with the ailment that stayed on till his death, he remained the rallying point of the socio-cultural and political life of the Yoruba. But he was more than an ethnic champion. He used his position to demand and promote the virtues of minority rights, equality, federalism and nationalism. It was his conviction about the supremacy of democratic doctrines that partly led to the formation of The Patriots - a group which seeks to defend the Fourth Republic - in conjunction with other patriotic, respected Nigerians.

So, the death of Pa Adesanya is not only a loss to the South-West but also the entire country. His tenacity and sense of purpose will surely be missed by a nation still in dire need of focused leadership.

The greatest tribute the Yoruba can pay to one of its illustrous leaders, therefore, is to mend the fences that had started cracking, notably at Adesanya's incapacitation four years ago. The various factions that now contest for the soul of the Yoruba should come together, iron out their differences and work for the unity of the region and the nation as a whole.

No doubt, Pa Adesanya also deserves the respect of the rest of the country. His attributes of humility, modesty and forthrightness should be emulated by today's leaders, for the nation to gravitate more towards national cohesion and prosperity.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. "

- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.



Well, I will admit that I was unfamiliar with Pa Adesanya, but I just want to pray that his soul rests in perfect peace and that God give strength to those who miss him.

Thanks for the heads up on this.

guerreiranigeriana said...

thank you for the post!!!...never heard of him...a new person to research and learn more about...

...and love the idea about children's day!!!....

Standtall said...

May his soul rest in peace. He was an Icon.

You are right about doing something for a child as children's day approaches