Olu Adebanjo : Exit of a media-political icon
OTUNBA Timothy Olufunmilopeda Adebanjo, founding editor of the defunct Daily Express, former Special Adviser on Information to former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and a foremost chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) worked vigorously for change.
Utilising his wealth of experience, professionalism and intellect, this man of the people whose Otunba Funsegbuwa Villa gates at Idowa in Odogbolu Local Government Area are always wide open to receive visitors from different communities in Ogun State, campaigned relentlessly for Governor Ibikunle Amosun and President Muhammadu Buhari.
He developed a scientific template called “Search and Rescue, Search and Recover” to ensure that energy is not only concentrated on APC members and admirers but also on professionals, traders, artisans, farmers and other eligible voters who were yet to determine whom they will vote for.
The importance of convincing every Permanent Voter Card (PVC) holder in each unit of every ward, he would stress, is the gateway to success. While he was on his sick bed due to old age-related sickness during the election time, he was glued to his television and telephone, monitoring, mobilising and strategising.
The placebo effect towards getting better was the victory of Buhari, Amosun and many other APC candidates at the polls. Papa Olu Adebanjo got discharged at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu full of praises towards Almighty God and the electorate that change had indeed come.
However, as God works in a mysterious way, a change occurred in the life of this elder statesman, an associate of Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and one of the esteemed chiefs and friend of His Royal Majesty, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebu land. He translated from mortality to immortality on Thursday May 7, 2015, 27 days before the May 29, 2015 of the inauguration of the change agents – Muhammadu Buhari, Ibikunle Amosun and others.
Three days had been set aside for the celebration of life of this quintessential politician, beginning with a service of songs, a Christian wake keep and a funeral service at Saint Peters Anglican Church, Idowa on Friday, June 19, 2015.
The somewhat somnolent town of Idowa will be pulling a crowd of political juggernauts, just like the late media chief hosted political and business giants such as the late Premier of defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Adeola Odutola, Otunba Solanke Onasanya, Chief S.O. Shonibare and several other dignitaries at the final outing service for his late father, Papa John Banjo Agbasale in 1962. Adebanjo was 30 years old then. He was a man of principle; highly disciplined, honest and very accommodating. A courageous person, blunt in speaking the truth.
Before the 2015 election, a group of APC party stalwarts came to him to endorse a movement called SIA Vanguards. (SIA stands for Senator Ibikunle Amosun). Adebanjo reportedly told the group that he was SIA number one. However, he added that his own SIA was not just as a supporter of Amosun.
The full meaning of his own SIA, he told them, is sincerity, integrity and accommodation. He pointed out to the group that no other person from the APC had come out from the party to contest against Amosun and therefore SIA Vanguards will not add any value to the electoral victory of Amosun, but will create unnecessary insinuation that some people are more loyal. This position taken by him put an end to the formation of that group.
On November 23, 1965 the then 31-year old editor of Daily Express lost his job, an aftermath of the crisis in the defunct Western Region, which made the Coker inquiry instituted by the Federal Government to destabilise the activities and assets of the National Investment and Property Corporation (NIPC). NIPC is owned by the Amalgamated Press of Nigeria , publishers of Sunday Express and Daily Express. The publications had to fold up due to lack of funds. He left Nigeria for United Kingdom to explore some temporary job opportunity.
He came back to Nigeria and joined the Federal Civil Service on December 8, 1966, spent 10 years, retired voluntarily as a Director on December 31, 1976 at the age of 45; and joined partisan politics as he envisaged the military would quit and allow democracy to grow. He came back to Idowa and picked a job as the first General Manager of Wadai Leather Industry at Ijebu Ode, with Oba Sikiru Adetona as Chairman of the company. The urge to play a major role made him leave this job after a year and 10 months.
Adebanjo joined the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) as a founding member and served as Director of Publicity at the Presidential Campaign Office from December 1978 to September 1979. Apart from being appointed Special Adviser to the President on Information Matters, he was also the Sole Administrator of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and later the Chairman of the boards of NTA and FRCN.
However, Adebanjo resigned from these plum jobs and also from the NPN on July 27, 1983 on principle. In his biography “Chronicle of a Federalist” he stated that President Shehu Shagari breached the NPN transition agreement on the office/post of Special Adviser (Information) and Minister of Information as the decision was that if the President had a Special Adviser (Information), there would be no Minister of Information and vice versa. But Shagari appointed the now late Mr. Garba Wushishi as Minister of Information in addition to Adebanjo as Special Adviser on Information.
Secondly, he said Shagari consented to the political manoeuvre to change the NPN gubernatorial candidate for Ogun State, Chief Alani Bankole, after Bankole had been democratically elected at a properly constituted state congress of the party, substituting him with late Chief Soji Odunjo. It can only take a principled mind to quit his comfort zone on issues that most politicians will gloss over to keep their job.
In the words of the precious husband of Mrs. Ayodeji Adebanjo, “ With the continued grace of God, I will like to be remembered as someone who has done his best to contribute to the welfare and happiness of fellow men and women, his community and the land of his birth.”
Until his death, Otunba Olu Adebanjo was the leader of the APC in Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State and one of the revered elders/leaders in the state. Adieu to a great leader and a mentor of so many people including this writer.
• Sina Ogunbambo, a journalist and public affairs analyst, was a national delegate of APC.