Nigeria: What If a Senator Earns a Teacher's Pay?

Photo: Daily News
(file photo)
1 November 2018

One passion that is difficult to explain is patriotism. However some have described it to mean the love of country.

So what is the love of your neighbour as the Lord Jesus Christ has impressed on us? May be that is love.

Love makes the world go round. But then the love of country beckons to us.

Patriotism is defined by the career of Horatius, the captain of the Gate made famous by the poet, Thomas Babington Macaulay.

When Horatius and his men were confronted by the invading hordes bent on the destruction of the ancient city, the warrior and his soldiers stood firm at the city gate, ready to pay the supreme price.

Horatius harangued his troops thus: "To everyman upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods?"

Yes, many men and women have died for the love of country and fatherland. However things get complicated when it is the state that is after you.

We have seen the lot of Jamal Khashoggi, the influential Saudi exile and Washington Post columnist, who was assassinated by his own country and his own government.

We may never know how many millions of dollars was expended on the Khashoggi project by those in charge of brutal power in Saudi Arabia, who believed because of that, they have the power of life and death over their fellow citizens?

We have passed through that phase before when the ruler of Nigeria had an official Assassination Squad.

Kabiyesi, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, the Alaafin of Oyo, must have been a project to some officials of the General Sani Abacha regime in 1998. Unlike Khashoggi, Kabiyesi survived to tell part of the story.

He had travelled to London via Yaunde, on a private visit. As was his wont, he travelled with a small entourage and when the plane landed at the London airport, His Majesty was asked to step aside. Some incriminating substance were said to have been found in his luggage.

But then the British officials were curious why was this not found in Lagos or Yaunde? They reached the conclusion that the substance must have been planted by Lagos to implicate the monarch.

More so, it was Lagos that alerted London that Kabiyesi's luggage be searched.

I had accompanied Chief Bola Ige on a visit to Kabiyesi to commiserate with him on this embarrassment.

Kabiyesi was in a morose mood, talking softly about the Abacha regime that was after silencing every voice of the opposition.

At that time, the regime was working to corral all leading traditional ruler to the self-perpetuation project of the regime.

The Alaafin was one of the few traditional rulers bold enough to publicly oppose the open agenda of General Abacha.

It was a dangerous position and Abacha was ready to extract his pound of flesh. Chief Ige had a lot of respect for Baba Alaafin and he believed he needed our solidarity.

Abacha did a lot to embarrass traditional rulers who would not dance to his music. In that mission, there were no sacred cows. He ensured that Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, the Sultan of Sokoto was deposed.

In the aftermath of the so-called coup of 1977 after General Oladipo Diya, the Chief of General Staff and many top military officers were arrested; Abacha summoned leading traditional rulers to the Aso Rock villa.

At the end of the briefing, His Majesty, Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland and paramount ruler of Diya's home base, was handed over a written statement. Kabiyesi was asked to read it to the waiting press corps.

The Awujale, one of the longest reigning traditional rulers in Nigeria, a man noted for his perspicacity and courage, perused the statement and declined.

"I am not here with my reading glasses," he told Abacha, his face expressionless. He survived the encounter. Adeyemi also survived the Abacha era, but with a little scar.

Since he ascended the throne in 1971, the Alaafin had experience fair and foul weathers. He has met both with courage and dignity.

The Alaafin's throne has consequences beyond Oyo for his ancestors built the largest empire in Yoruba history.

Though now the empire is gone, Kabiyesi Adeyemi has maintained the halo of ancient majesty and the dignity and reverence expected of his job.

On the pan-Yoruba stage, he has projected the importance of his office and its relevance to Nigeria.

However, it is the citizen of Oyo town that can fully evaluate the impact of Kabiyesi's long and eventful reign in the new city that became the capital of Oyo in the aftermath of the Yoruba Civil War of the 19th Century.

It is remarkable however that his subjects and other well-wishers rolled out the drums to mark Baba's 80th birthday last week. Adeyemi's reign has been signposted by significant developments.

Today, Oyo is home to two private universities, though public supply of electricity seems to have fled the town.

While Baba Alaafin was a sitting target for the Abacha regime, that was not my lot during the same Abacha era.

I and my colleagues in TELL, especially the top editors; Nosa Igiebor, Dele Omotunde, Onome Osifo-Whiskey and Kola Ilori, were moving targets.

We did not fully grasp the danger we were in until one Sunday morning. Osifo-Whiskey was living with his family in the Opebi area of Ikeja.

One Sunday morning, he was driving to church with his family when a vehicle crossed his way.

The waylaying team seized him and while his wife and children were still screaming, fled with their victim. Osifo-Whiskey had been kidnapped by agents of the Abacha dictatorship.

With that development, we all fled own homes. I sought refuge in the home of my cousin, Mrs Aduke Tinuade Agbelusi (nee Adedun), who was then living on Oduduwa Street, Ikeja.

We knew now we needed to stay fully underground and ensure that our magazine, TELL, continue to hit the newsstand everywhere whether the junta likes it or not.

One day, one of our friends in the security establishment brought news that agents of the State Security Service, SSS, now have details of my three cars and that it would not be safe to ride in any of them.

It was as if Chief Yemi Agbelusi, husband of my cousin, had been looking for an opportunity to do more for me. He gave me one of his cars, a Toyota Camry, which was better than any of my cars.

Today that looked almost simple, but at that time, it could lead to imprisonment or death. I and my colleagues were wanted men and only those who were ready to take risks would like to associate with us.

Some people were afraid to even associate with our wives! I have never asked Chief Agbelusi why he exposed his family to the ire of the Abacha junta.

Love for his wife? Patriotism? Love of danger? He has never been the kind of person you will accuse of undue radicalism.

Chief Agbelusi, a deacon of the Baptist church, is a phenomenal person. He started life as a teacher before going to the University of Lagos where he bagged a degree in accountancy in 1969 and later joined the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

He rose to become an assistant director of the CBN and was seconded to become the pioneer Chief Executive of the Financial Institutions Training Centre.

It was from the FITC that he was lured to become the Commissioner for Finance by Governor Bamidele Olumilua of old Ondo State. For Agbelusi, his foray into politics has been a bitter experience.

Last week on October 19, Chief Agbelusi marked his 80th birthday anniversary. Looking at him prim and in buoyant health, you could easily mistake him for a 60 year old on the threshold of retirement.

If Agbelusi had bored the brunt of my journalism escapades, the person to blame is actually Prince Israel Adenrele Ibuoye who would be 90 on Sunday October 28.

Prince Ibuoye was the principal of Ife Anglican Grammar School, Ile-Ife, from 1963 to 1972. Ifegrams, as we call it, is one of the oldest schools in Nigeria.

It was in Ifegrams that I got infested with the bug of journalism. Thanks to Baba Ibuoye, we had the best library any secondary school can boast of.

We had access, on a daily basis, to almost all the newspapers in Nigeria: Daily Times, Sketch, Tribune, Observer, Herald, Chronicle, New Nigerian and others.

The library stock magazines like Time, Newsweek, Drum, Trust, Times International and African Films. Today many secondary school students have never seen a newspaper.

There is no one who would be exposed at such a tender age to the magic of books and enthralling captivation of the written media that would not be affected.

Ibuoye and his team made us into what we are today. He and men and women like him who labour tireless to change their own corners of Nigeria are the unsung heroes of the republic.

He is lucky to have lived to 90 and to receive part of his reward on this side of the Great Divide. We are luckier to have come under his tutelage.

So people like the Alaafin, Agbelusi and Ibuoye who are doing their job and taking risk for the republic, are they patriots or just nice people who are determined to leave an impact? I believe that love of one's neighbour is akin to the kind of patriotism we need in this country.

We have seen by the exceptional performance of Ibuoye that dedication to duty, devotion to set goals and capacity for empathy are not what you give because you are well-paid.

Great teachers have shown that a lot can be achieved even when the wage is not the best.

I would suggest that to change the national landscape for the better let us put the politicians on the teacher's wage for I am not persuaded that any lawmaker is more consequential for the future of the republic than the dedicated school principal. This is not as novel as it seems today.

During the First Republic, the only public officer who earns more money than the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan was the Chief Justice of the Federation.

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