In a country where life expectancy is 47 years, the death, Sunday of former Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Lamidi Onaolapo Adesina, at the age of 73, should have been a consolation to his family members, friends and associates that he lived longer and well.
But they are inconsolable. They have lost a gem; a man of an impeccable political pedigree who many would have wished would be around forever, if possible. It was not his death alone that was shocking; but the timing. To say that the former governor died at a time when his services were most needed in the state, especially over the challenges being faced by the party and the administration of the state by the Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, would be stating the obvious.
A product of Loyola College, Ibadan, the late Adesina proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), where he bagged a Bachelor's degree in History. On graduation, he chose teaching as a profession and rose to become a school principal until his foray into full time politics in 1978.
Great Lam, as he was fondly called by his admirers, was not born with a silver spoon and the leadership trait in him did not manifest early in life. An Awoist, he was a member of all the political parties associated with the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo - the defunct Action Group (AG) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) - and with the passage of the sage in 1987, he still continued to identify with the progressives. He was a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and on the return of democracy to the country in 1999, he aligned with other progressive forces to float the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on whose platform he contested and won in the 1999 governorship election.
At a time when the AD faced some leadership crisis, which soon became intractable, he, along with others, floated the then Action Congress (AC) from the rump of the crisis-ridden AD. The AC was to later metamorphose into Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), with him being the state leader until his death.
On the annulment of the 1993 presidential election widely believed to have been won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the deceased joined the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and the Campaign for Democracy (CD) to agitate for the revalidation of the poll results and the inauguration of the late Abiola as president. His pro-June 12 activities brought him to the attention of the junta, headed by the late General Sani Abacha, which deployed state resources to subjugate him. The late Adesina was arrested and Abacha's military protégé in the state, Ahmed Usman, later described the deceased as a Prisoner of War (POW).
On the home front, Adesina was a one-man riot squad as he spiritedly fought the enfant terrible of Ibadan politics, the late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, and subdued him. He had disdain for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his chieftains, such as the late Adedibu, and he never hid it. He called them anti-democratic forces or conservative politicians. When he lost his re-election in 2003, he confessed that he lost to a cabal that was professional in rigging.
The recent media altercations between him and former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his successor in office, Chief Rashid Ladoja, was a testimony to the irredeemable animosity he still nursed against the PDP and its bigwigs for that gubernatorial re-election contest.
In his party, the ACN, he was addressed as the leader of the party and he was not leader without a structure. It is to his credit that he still sustained the political structure that ensured his victory in 1999. A stickler for principle, when Ajimobi was to come into the party from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the late Adesina objected to attempts to give him a preferential treatment. He insisted that he must join the array of gubernatorial aspirants in the party to vie for the ACN ticket. Even when co-chieftains in the party in a reconciliation drive between him and Ajimobi handed the then aspirant to him, he maintained his stand that such action would not translate into automatic ticket for him and he stood his ground until the party primary, which Ajimobi, his former pupil, won.
He moved in to reconcile the aggrieved aspirants by persuading one of them, Olufemi Lanlehin, to go for the Oyo South senatorial contest, which he won. Some of the other aspirants were 'settled' with commissionership post. Though the intra-party ill feelings over the emergence of Ajimobi persisted, it was to his sagacity that he rallied all the forces within the party for the success of the party at the polls, which led to the victory of ACN in the 2011 general election.
His death might have been a blessing in disguise to him as recent developments within the party might have weakened his authority and influence in the party as his structures are gradually been removed from him. He died with his head high and name intact.