Like a cat with many lives, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, a veteran Journalist and politician who survived at least five assassination attempts in his strides for national development would fully become an Octogenarian on planet earth. This feat apart from bringing out the drums in the activities lined up for the celebration had also triggered national discourse writes GEORGE OKOJIE.
It is customary in this part of the world to treat politicians as rock stars when they achieve milestones. But the fawning reception given to headliner, media and political legend, Chief Olusegun Osoba on July 8, at an event held in Lagos to celebrate him was extraordinary.
As fate would have it, the timing of Osoba’s 80th birthday celebration this time around is fortuitous, given the fact that his party the All Progressives Congress (APC) against all political principalities and powers had triumphed in all fronts thereby compelling his close associates and aides to take advantage of the auspicious occasion for national benefit.
Thus, amidst the pomp and pageantry at the launch of a Memoir written by former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos that had array of dignitaries that converged on Lagos to celebrate a visionary and energetic statesman discussions were dominated by questions about Nigeria’s management of its diversity, security challenges and its slowing economic growth.
Setting the ball rolling at the book launch, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the subject of the book was the tragedy of ethnic jingoism and tribal issue being played by politicians to divide the nation along ethnic lines, lamenting that ethic and religious prejudice had been a problem, which led to the civil war of 1967.
He said the story of Osoba tacitly elicits how political elites played the ethnic card to steal the mandate of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1992 Presidential election of late Moshood Abiola.
Osinbajo stated that the then National Republican Convention, NRC, played the ethnic card in ensuring that Abiola did not get his mandate after the annulment by making it look like the struggle was for the Southwest zone alone, which gave the military the thick skin to stand by the annulment, adding that ethnic card had been the problem of the nation.
He added that politicians played the ethnic cards during the build up to the 2015 presidential election by branding President Muhammadu Buhari as the sponsor of Boko Haram in a bid to Islamise Nigeria, adding that as the threat of Boko Haram was being curtailed, people came to realise that they were being deceived by politicians.
The Vice President described terrorism as an evil that must be seen as the common enemy of all religion, saying that Boko Haram, BH, ISIS and the rest fed on hate, poverty to exploit the people, hiding under the tenet of Islam to perpetrate atrocities, as “they are satanic.”
“The challenge is for us to recognize these problems and destroy this evil, every evil can be defeated by the power of unity. The book speaks on power of building bridges, especially in a nation like Nigeria where ethnic card holds sway. We must never underestimate the power of interaction,” he said.
Also speaking, APC National leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu described former Head of State, Abubakar Abdulsalami, who was the chairman of the occasion as one of the few trusted soldiers, recalling that he could remember a night spent with him when Abiola wanted him to intervene in the annulment.
“He told Abiola that he won’t be able to intervene because he was not a politician. He was sincere,” he said.
According to Tinubu, “Osoba is very honest and open, the story you don’t want other people to know, don’t tell him. Even when he was sick, his main concern was the struggle for Nigeria and the APC.”
The former Lagos State governor stressed the importance of unity, lamenting that instead of using “our diversity for prosperity, we use it for division.”
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan on his part congratulated Osoba for the memoir, saying that the book was full of lessons for Nigerians as the country is rich in diversity.
“This diversity is meant to be our strength, Nigerians need unity and faith in our country, we at the National Assembly have shown what we can achieve with unity which we displayed in our election recently. Senators across ethnic divides voted for us, Nigeria must unite.
“We must reduce the suspicions and mistrust, no country develops with disunity, we can be different. As leaders we must demonstrate quality of good leadership for trust to occur. We are in one country and are meant to be one, we cannot continue to think as if we are in different nations, we must stand in brotherhood.” Lawan admonished.
The former Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, PDP, Babagana Kingibe also said that all what Osoba said in the book about him were correct.
He described Nigeria as a huge elephant with several parts and component, saying that all component parts of Nigeria must unite in diversity for the progress of the nation.
For General Abdulsalami Abubakar Nigerians must unite to fight rampaging insecurity in the country, saying that all hands must be on deck to ensure peace and security in the country.
“I have read the book, the book is rich, informative, entertaining and educative. We should put our hands on deck to ensure peace and security in Nigeria,” he said.
The former head of state stated that he had known Osoba since the 60s when he was still a young officer and that they were good friends despite having several things in common.
He said despite he being a Muslim and Osoba a Christian, they enjoyed good relationship from the onset, but added that they had several things in common, one of which was having the interest of the nation at heart.
Abdulsalami said he and Osoba possessed deep interest in the affairs of the nation and that they both wanted the best for the country.
“We want Nigeria to remain a blessing for Africa, we want Nigeria to move higher worldwide, we want Nigerians to believe in their nation. With self-belief and trust in each other these are achievable. Many Nigerians should cultivate mutual relationship,” he said.
As Osoba, the forerunner who dignified journalism and stood shoulder to shoulder with the movers and shakers of high society when he was a younger man celebrates Former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (rtd) has extolled the virtues of a former governor of Ogun state, Chief Olusegun Osoba, describing him as detribalized and a patriotic Nigerian who speaks truth to power.
Babangida said Osoba, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress was one of “civilian generals” whom the military rulers cultivated when they needed to feel the pulse of the nation.
IBB as he is fondly called by admirers in a letter personally signed by him and addressed to the former governor to celebrate his 80th birthday, titled, “Tribute to a great mind and uncommon Nigerian,” said Osoba was good at dissecting situations to make a meaning out of them.
According to him, the courage and ability to speak truth to power is an eloquent distinction of the persona of the octogenarian.
The former military president, who recalled that Osoba practised journalism when technology was still a huge challenge, said he had the cutting edge.
“Chief Segun Osoba remains one of Nigeria’s detribalized and essentially cosmopolitan octogenarians; suave, urbane, cerebral, seasoned and profound accomplished journalist who cut his professional teeth at a time when technology was still a huge challenge.
“In those yesteryears, a journalist would have to go extra-mile to carry out on-the-spot investigation in order to uncover the news behind the news. The credibility of the news was as important as the credibility of the reporter. This was where Chief Olusegun Osoba had the cutting edge.
“As young minds in those days, we socialized maximally without thinking about tribe or religion. We made good use of our prime and ensured that we left no stone unturned. Even as military officers, we had good company in our ‘bloody’ civilians who complimented our networks.
“Chief Osoba was one of such ‘Civilian Generals’ who knew so well how to cultivate friendships and derive happiness from a seemingly gloomy situation. He has a knack for unraveling the unknown. He was good at dissecting situations to make a meaning out of them. When we needed to feel the pulse of the nation, Chief Osoba became handy. He was more like a bridge between us and the people.
“And to the young Osoba at 80, your sun has just begun to shine. You remain to me, one of the most patriotic Nigerians I have come across in my sojourn in life. You are not only brutally frank when it comes to speaking your mind, your courage and ability to speak truth to power is an eloquent distinction of your persona.
“You have remained your effervescent self for years, exuding greatness, with a burning desire to alter ugly narratives for the good of mankind. Life, just like series of snapshots contained in an album, has its different phases. This is the phase to slow down. It is a phase of recollections and sober reflections. It is a phase of fond memories of a memorable past, even as you prepare to commence life afresh in your journey of life into a retiring future.”
On whether he ever thought he would clock the age of 80 Osoba standing tall to relish the accolades provided by the celebration sagely informed that, “To have been able to reach the age of 80, having survived major assassination attempts, by the immense grace of God, that is why I take every day as an extra day from God and I give glory to Him.”
Osoba, said his major battle in life was survival in the hands of Sergeant Roger, who was ordered by the despotic ruler, late Sani Abacha to kill him.
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