By Olumuyiwa Jimoh
“…We have fought our common enemy together before in the same trench, we have tasted the bruises, the deprivations and isolations that came as a result but I have also seen some of us within this room today that betrayed our cause and committed ultruistic suicide; mere opportunists who saw our movement as a means to filthy lucre and self-aggrandisement. I do not want Nigerians to be left in the lurch again by those who ought to protect them. I therefore ask you today; are you ready and totally prepared to join hands with us to change the Nigerian nation for good beginning from Now?…”
That was Baba speaking recently in a gathering that was convened by activists to seek ways at confronting the developmental challenges that are presently holding the nation in its thralls. I have chosen to quote this excerpt because it captures the character and the forthrightness with which Baba pursued everything that he engaged in. It summarises his persona for while others were busy with high–sounding words, he went for the jugular isolating the rot which he has identified amongst the class that ought to be the bastion of the conscience of the Nigerian masses and which is expected to lead the people out of its present misery foisted on them by decades of impunity in public administration in the country.
This is one of the reasons why the news of his demise in the early hours of 19 October, 2013 as a result of cardiac arrest came to me as a rude shock. Shocking because my mind went swooning on realising the vacuum which his departure has immediately created within the Socialist progressive movement of which he was one of the founding pillars in Nigeria and one of the very few remaining apostles of the dictates of this beautiful but pragmatic ideology.
He was one of the foot soldiers of the nationalists struggle for an independent Nigeria. In conjunction with the late Mokwugo Okoye, Mbonu Ojike (boycot the boycottable), Professor Eskor Toyo and Pa Enahoro and others, they provided the popular ideological but vibrant basis for the nationalist struggle. He was one of the technical socialists that zealously stood against the domination of the nation’s polity by the colonial masters. He with these other patriots saw the present rot as a future for the nation if men without character grounded in proper ideology were allowed to hijack the realms of power. Perhaps, that explains why he later chose the role he was playing in the nation’s political life as his fears about that future unfortunately became our lot.
Baba and others engaged the imperialists at the various trenches and battle fields which in the case of Nigeria were fought not with guns but with grit, intellect and determination. He was a combination of all these and immersed himself totally and selflessly in the pursuit of the onerous task that was ridding the nation of the cancer that the imperialists had come to represent. His pens and quibbles dripped blood and fire while his tireless advocacy outreaches and “barricademanship” earned him the respect of both the colonial masters and his fellow comrades.
He was always a voice of reason and calm even in the midst of staccato of dissenting voices and was ever ready to pursue his convictions to their logical conclusions no matter the quantum of opposition arrayed against him. He does not wield his position lightly and when he has decided that a position is clearly the best for the masses, he becomes an ardent apostle and would doggedly stand his ground.
It was such principled posture that Baba carried into post-independence life and while many others were busy pursuing objectives other than the emancipation of the masses of the country, he pursued the noble and the sublime. He was one of the few voices that spoke out against the Nigerian civil war and the pogrom that led to it. He had countless opportunities for primitive accumulation but abhorred them, remaining stoically against all the appearances of Capitalist decadence which had lured away and is still luring away many of his comrades.
Whenever the ferment of socialists tenets are mentioned especially in Western Nigeria and indeed Nigeria just before Independence and after, Baba Oluwide Ajibola Omojola will always be found in it as one of the major players. He kept some of us immersed in the waters of its very profound predicates showing us the beauty of the framework both as a tool for social analysis and as a mode of production including its consistent application to objective realities of the Nigerian situation.
At a time when the Nigerian state has decided to dilute and hijack our long call for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) which we had believed would have brought sanity to our nation, his death is a huge loss not only to me and some of us that have drunk from his fiery crucible but to the socialist community whose numbers of genuine ideologues are increasingly being decimated including the progressive community and of course our beloved country Nigeria which this great titan had served in the quiet doggedness and resistance which he has brought to bear upon our numerous struggles. When I was preparing to go to him for a thorough discourse on the proposed conference, the news of his exit came. I am completely sure that Baba’s position would have been as principled, instructive and incisive as ever.
We shall all miss him dearly but his life and principles should be a standard which the younger generation of Nigerians aspiring to cause fundamental change in the country must learn from. His philosophy of inclusiveness, patience and participation should be seriously adhered to and upheld within the progressive movement. His contentment and relation with material acquisition must be part of the repertoire. This is the immortality that we can give to Baba by ensuring that the light which he lit with his good works is not extinguished. However, we call passionately on the Lagos State Government to immortalise this great son of Nigeria the same way it has correctly done for others.
Baba was like a father to me and treated me as one. No wonder his children flourished under his guidance as he developed a relationship that is akin to friendship with them which included some of us his adopted sons and daughters all over the progressive movement.
You are gone to be with our creator but you still remain evergreen in our lives and in the ideas and vision that you have implanted in some of us. You have indeed left an indelible mark. This is eternal and cannot be taken away; not by death and not by time. You shall live forever! I am sure that if there are more battles to be fought in the realm where you have found yourself, you will not hesitate to join it and of course, if there are contributions you will further make from there for the benefit of humanity and Nigeria in particular, you will surely do it.
Adieu Baba! Forever may you live!! In our hearts; at Campos Square; at Yaba and at the various theatres of the struggle for the emancipation of Nigerian people; Baba your Sun still shines!!!
•Jimoh is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Apapa II Constituency.