From YINKA FABOWALE, Ibadan
Alhaji Lamidi Onaolapo Adesina (aka Lam Ade) was, until he breathed his last early yesterday, a staunch progressive politician, one of the national leaders of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and die-hard disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose ideals guided his political career. Born in Ibadan on January 20, 1939 into the middle class family of Alhaji Gbadamosi Olowoporoku Adesina and his wife, Alhaja Ayisat Asabi, little ‘Lam’, as he was fondly called, began his primary education at the United Anglican Primary School, Ikija in Oluyole Local Government Area of Oyo State in 1939, but his mother’s death in 1950 forced him to leave the village for Ibadan, where he joined other young boys at St. Luke’s Demonstration School, Molete and later transferred to St. Patrick Catholic School, Oke Padre in 1951, where he completed his primary education in 1953. He later attended the prestigious Loyola College, Ibadan for his secondary education, where he finished with grade one (distinction) in 1959. He afterwards worked briefly as a clerical officer and internal auditor at the former Ibadan District Council Treasury, Mapo before proceeding to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1961, graduating in History in 1965. Even this early, young Lam had begun to nurture interest in activism and politics, as he served as the first president of the Ibadan Students Union and also as an active member of the Students Representatives Council of the university between 1964 and 1965. While on campus, he was a close friend and soul mate of the late Ijaw/Niger Delta Emancipation Movement leader, Adaka Boro, killed by the Federal Government for allegedly leading an armed struggle.
Lam in an earlier interview told Daily Sun that the execution of the late Ijaw leader marked one of the most distressing chapters of his life. Adesina later took up a teaching appointment with the defunct Western State Schools Board, working as a teacher in several secondary schools including Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan Grammar School, Nawar-Ur-Deen Grammar School, Abeokuta, Anglican Grammar School, near Aperin, Ibadan to which he was posted upon creation of Oyo among the seven additional states to the existing 12 by the Murtala/Obasanjo military regime. He later also headed the Ahmaddiya Grammar School until 1979 when he resigned to contest election into the House of Representatives, which he won on the platform of Awolowo- led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). His in-road into full-time partisan politics thus effectively began with his election as the representative for Ibadan South Federal Constituency in the lower national legislative chamber.
A firebrand politician and pro-democracy activist, Lam’s activities did not end with the return of the military in 1983. He was a member of the defunct Constituent Assembly between 1988 and 1989, representing Ibadan South Federal Constituency. His activism and brilliant contributions on the floor of the Assembly made the Constituent Assembly chairman to nickname him ‘Mr. Point of Order’. Before his election as the governor of Oyo State in1999, Alhaji Adesina was into private business with interests in educational materials and consultancy. Apart from this, the hitherto ebullient politician was also a fiery public affairs commentator and columnist with the Ibadan-based Nigerian Tribune. The column, which he started in 1972, depicted him as a fearless and uncompromising advocate of the uplift of the living standard of the Nigerian masses. The writings reproved the society and authorities of corruption, injustice, high-handedness, mismanagement, laziness and mediocrity, while championing the ideals of honesty, diligence, perseverance and integrity. In fact, he was a thorn in the flesh of the then Governor David Jemibewon of Oyo State, whose administration he criticized so trenchantly. He was to also fight and win many battles against oppressive regimes including his role as a vocal critic and member of the famous National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) for which he was imprisoned and tried along with radical Marxist scholar and rights activist, Comrade Ola Oni and a journalist, now Deputy Editor of Daily Sun, Femi Adeoti, under the late Abacha dictatorship. In fact, Ahmed Usman, an Army Colonel and military administrator of Oyo State then, who herded the trio into the gulag tagged them ‘Prisoners of war (POW)’. The title ‘Majiyagbe’ (one who did not suffer in vain), which Alhaji Adesina dubbed himself while taking the oath of office as governor, ironically once occupied by Usman, was thus a reference to his path of torture, deprivation, persecution and perseverance. Unfortunately, the late politician was not perceived as being exceptional in government, perhaps, because of high expectation people held for people like him, who had been career critics of government all along. It is probably because of this that he probably lost his re-election bid in 2003.
However, Lam, alongside his other four Alliance for Democracy (AD) brother- governors in Ekiti, Ondo Osun and Ogun states, blamed their defeat on alleged treachery and deceit by the then president Olusegun Obasanjo, who they accused of ditching them and betraying an accord to work for one another’s electoral success in that year’s polls. Since then, Alhaji Adesina has remained a political potentate and power-broker in his home state, leading the ACN into which AD transmuted, to massive victory in the last general election. He has, however, been battling with ill health to which he apparently succumbed yesterday.