An Epitaph for Pa Adesanya

by Uche Ohia

In 1999 the trenchant social commentator, Joe Igbokwe, wrote what should qualify as the best epitaph ever scripted for Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya, the late Yoruba and Afenifere leader who was interred last week. In his book Heroes of Democracy published that year, Igbokwe wrote: “Nigerians must extol the virtues of Chief Abraham Adesanya, the man who stood his ground in the face of intimidation, harassment, and threats to his life for our sake and that of generations yet unborn.” From the moment his death was announced up to his burial, Nigerians in leadership positions, as usual, scrambled for the most picturesque words to pen tributes to a man who, in his lifetime, symbolized the struggle for democracy and the essence of Yoruba political Puritanism.

Pa Adesanya, elder statesman, lawyer, former senator and an irrepressible opponent of military adventurism remained consistently dedicated to his belief in good leadership and accountability. In an era when the virtues of honesty and consistency have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, in a polity where mediocrity and sycophancy have become the best qualifications for leadership, Adesanya was a beacon of hope. It is a great irony that while national honours have been bestowed even on persons who did not merit or deserve them, this colossus was never found fit for a national honour in Nigeria.

Men like Pa Adesanya who never flinch from fighting for the common good at the risk of their own lives deserve to be honoured in their lifetime so that the youth will appreciate selfless service. We should not wait for them to die so that we can deliver platitudes about their lives in what has become, clearly, a hollow ritual.

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