A Toast to Two Giant Patriots at 69

by Sam Kargbo

Students of creation believe that God – the incomparable master geometrician – designed, created and sustained the universe on mathematical laws and numbers.

“To whom then will you compare Me, or who is My equal?’ says the Holy One. ‘Lift up your eyes on high, and behold, who has created these things, who brings out their host by number” (Isaiah 40:25).

It is, therefore, no surprise that numbers have such a profound meaning and significance in the life of man and the universe. For instance, the age of 70 has a spiritual signature. According to David in Psalm 90:10, it is the number of years that a human being is expected to live. Although those years could be increased by the individual’s health and strength, they are short as they are soon gone, or would fly away. For the African, the average lifespan is shorter, not out of spite or bias by God, but because of many environmental and socio-economic factors. Be that as it may, every age or every number of years covered by man is a threshold that defines his relationship with the rest of humanity. It is in that spirit that I want us to reflect on the twilight of 70.

Unlike the number 70, I could not find a Biblical verse that portrays a spiritual significance for the number 69. That does not by itself strip the number of all celestial values. Numerologists say that the number 69 combines the energy and vibration of the numbers 6 and 9. Note that God created man on the sixth day and that number, therefore, represents man and the entirety of his environment that includes home, stability, family, balance, unconditional love, responsibility, gratitude, cooperative solutions, compromise, and material aspects of life. The number 9, on the other hand, is the ultimate digit that represents finality. From a Biblical point of view, 69 symbolizes man’s dominion over the universe. In a few words, it means leadership. When considered as a unit, 69 symbolizes spiritual harmony, family, home and society. It signifies selflessness and sacrifices for communal and societal good. It is the age to put family, homes, society and nation first. The Quran relates the number 69 to the al-Haqqah that sits as the 69th chapter of the Quran and symbolizes the inevitable hour or the indubitable truth that with death comes judgment. It signifies ending and payment for past good or bad deeds.

In relationship with 70, the number 69 is a transitional point that urges one to free oneself from the shackles of the past and its materialism, and calls for one to embrace a world of abstinence, inner strength and spiritual awakening that will enable one to understand or realize his purpose on earth.

A rational 69-year-old person can hardly be a novice about life. S/he should be equipped with knowledge-giving life experiences for informed and self-preserving decisions and choices. S/he would have known that wealth, fame, influence and power are not as valuable as a good family or a good home or a good and reliable cycle of friends. 69 is an age for reminiscence and self-evaluation. It offers an opportunity for ego-manumission or self-freedom. It is not an age in which one can gainfully pursue selfish ends. It is a payback time to society and to be thankful to God for getting to the banks of the other life.

Irrespective of the background, getting to 69 is a victorious feat and a significant milestone worth celebrating. I will, in that sense, implore you to join me in celebrating two iconic personalities who turned 69 recently. The first is the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu, the Lion of Bourdillion and Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom, who turned 69 on 29 March 2021. The second is Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, the former Governor of Edo State and former National Chairman of the APC. The two had had outstanding, extraordinary national personalities long before the birth of this republic. They have, in their respective ways, fought life’s battles on the side of the people.

I have had reasons to write about Tinubu on some other occasions in the past. The first was in 2006 when I identified him as a Lion in Bourdillion transforming Lagos into a modern city. Those who didn’t see what I saw in him then thought that I was a joke. Today, the appellation is not only apt but indicative of what he is to the politics of Nigeria. Under his oversight, the annual revenue of Lagos has been rising at an exponential rate. The annual budgets of Lagos are now in the range of trillions. According to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Lagos now has the largest concentration of young, skilled, and educated workforce, including the largest tourism and entertainment industry in Africa and the best city for start-ups in Africa. I celebrated Tinubu’s 64th birthday with an ode in which I made the point that what stands him out, and for which I admire him the more, is the fact that his catalogue of beneficiaries does not only include all classes of people but also cuts across all tribes and regions of Nigeria. I also highlighted the fact that Tinubu is deliberate and painstaking in the aggregation of his political clout. He understands the ability of business to cement relationships. He does not restrict his business ventures to his relations and cronies. He transacts his business along strict business and corporate lines. Because of his ability to spot and hone talents, he benefits from the aggregate of outstanding talents around him. He is a professional’s delight. With his pool of extraordinary talents and professionals, Tinubu is easily able to transverse the corporate and political climes with equal zest and dexterity. If Tinubu were to be an institution, he would have been an investment and development bank. He buys and invests in ideas.

I met Oshiomhole in the company of my brother and lifelong friend, Honourable Patrick Ikhariale. No introductions were made. we just got talking and discussed and argued over a cocktail of political issues. He did not ask questions or feel inhibited by my presence. We took pictures together and made a toast to the occasion, and by the time I left his home – very late that night, I took away a picture of a courageous, extensively knowledgeable man. In the course of the last two years, I have had the opportunity to meet and relate with him. I had almost an uninterrupted five-hour one-on-one with him. He loves knowledge, has acquired knowledge and he is, without doubt, exceedingly intelligent. His analytical skills – ability to identify issues and push arguments with punchlines – are legendary. He does not deviate or leave a subject hanging. At the bottom of his oratory skills are wit and spellbinding humour. He is not one you intimidate with half-baked professionalism or bombastic reasoning. You do not win his admiration by patronizing him or sucking up to him.

His life seems to reflect the influence of his humble background. Oshimhole survived poverty and deprivation. He sees himself as a shepherd for the poor and the working class. He is a fighter’s fighter. He considers himself as an agent of change and would never back out in a fight to effect necessary change, even at a dire personal cost and loss. You could say that Oshiomhole may be trapped in a crisis of conscience but you cannot justifiable accuse him of being hypocritical. He is never ambivalent on issues or cautious in siding factions. Unlike those who visit houses of God in the day and attend the council of witches and wizards at night, Oshiomhole is consistent and predictable. He believes in the sanctity of agreements and the necessity of protecting the small, poor man from the big, powerful man. In the fight between the weak and the strong, you can always count on Oshiomhole siding the weak.

On his 69th Birthday, Oshiomhole should be a happy family man. I have met one of his daughters and he has talked to me with pride about another who is a multiple award-winning medical doctor. I am, therefore, in agreement with President Muhammadu Buhari when he urged him to continue to dedicate himself to the cause of his people and humanity as a whole. At 69 Oshiomhole should combine his inextinguishable fighting spirit with the love for the people of Edo State and Nigeria in general, to join other progressives to push the frontiers of liberty and deepen democratic governance in the country. As I wish him many more happy and healthy birthdays, I pray that he sees the need to thank God for a life well lived by dedicating the rest of his life to the good of mankind.

I wish the Lion of Bourdillion many more blissful years and good health. May he remain steadfast, undeterred in his fight to unite Nigeria around the goal of peaceful, sustainable development.

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