They have served Nigeria meritoriously in many capacities, but many years after they exit public office, not much has been heard about them again. ELEOJO IDACHABA writes.
Professor Akin Mabogunje is known in public circles as the father of modern Social Sciences, especially in Nigeria, being the first Nigerian professor of Geography. This octogenarian is almost 90 years old now. In another way, Prof Mabogunje is referred to as the father of African Geography for his distinctive contributions to the field of that area of human endeavour. He bagged a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Geography in 1953 from the University College, London at Ibadan which was later to become the University of Ibadan.
Looking at the life of Prof Mabogunje, he has been a persistent advocate of urban development and to that extent, he has argued in some of his works that some of the major challenges of local government areas in Nigeria and in Africa generally around the urbanisation project can be partially blamed for the lack of understanding; hence, the failure to appreciate the importance of having active and viable city centres with modern amenities. For example, in Nigeria, he served in various capacities in the Nigerian public and private sectors.
His enormous contributions include developing the master plan of the present Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ogun state, planning the seat of power in Nigeria which is the Federal Capital Territory and working on the DAWN project in South-west just to name a few of his achievements.
Prof Mabogunje, according to Toyin Falola, another distinguished scholar is, “Someone that embodies the aesthetics of ‘citiness’ through his entire career, the ability to be the sum of many parts because you are created by everybody and everything. He represents both the interweave of the global and the local; the sophistication of the Afropolitan combined with the rustic beauty of the essential African; the combination of empirical education and quantitative ‘theorecity’ of academic discipline with the instinctual knowledge of the native; the grace to ‘feel at home’ in rural and urban locations in Nigeria.” For a long while now, not much has been heard about this octogenarian again.
Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho, a former broadcaster, was also the director-general of Nigeria Tourism Development Commission (NTDC) where she worked tirelessly to turn the face of the organisation around. Her face used to be regular on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) in the 90s when she presented a programme entitled ‘Towards a Greater Nigeria’. At a young age of 32, Mrs. Omotosho was appointed board chairman of Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation where she turned things around like bringing back to shape the Lagos- state owned television and Eko FM. According to reports, it seemed that was the height of her success even at that age; but that was merely a tip of what destiny had for her in the course of her career.
According to Omolabake Fasogbon, while writing about her, she said, “Aside from the output of her 30-year-old Towards a Greater Nigeria television programme by which she addressed political and economy issues, her footprint in the nation’s tourism sector as a former DG of NTDC is legendary. Till date, nobody has been able to rival her achievements in the industry. Still, she owes her feat to grace from above. On earth, she is grateful to her parents and husband’s teaching. Her alias, ‘Madam Tourism’ didn’t come as cheaply as she had to break all known and unknown barriers to place Nigerian tourism at a very attractive spot on the global map. This period, according to her, was no doubt challenging but an indelible moment of her life. Highly spiritual and religious as she may be, she never fails to neglect the rule of beauty, no wonder she is untouched by age even at over 55.”
For a while now, Mrs. Omotosho appears to have retired finally as no one has heard anything about her again.
Chief Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo is a one-time governor of Kwara state, later as minister and before then, he was a senator. Far back as 1979 on the platform of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), he was elected as a senator and was in that capacity till 1983 when he contested for the governorship seat of his state and won. His tenure was, however, truncated by the 1983 coup that terminated that administration. Chief Adebayo was into private business thereafter until sometimes in 1995 in the wake of the Abacha regime which was widely resisted in the South-west. That prompted him to join the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a group that called for the restoration of democracy during the regime of Abacha. To placate him, he was however offered ministerial position, but he turned it down on the ground of principle. When therefore a bomb exploded in Ilorin in May 1995, he and other members of NADECO were picked and interrogated by the police on the ground that they were involved in the plot.
He was, however, undaunted as the fight to liberate Nigeria from the shackles of military rule continued until 1999. Following the re-election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, Adebayo was made the minister of communications. Under him, the deregulation of the telecommunication industry that had been on the drawing board for years became a reality.
That was the inception of what is today known as the GSM revolution that has caught the entire country like a bug. Also during his time as minister, he pushed for the privatisation of NITEL which was becoming moribund even as Mtel, the mobile arm of the company, was also being repositioned to add 2.5 million lines of capacity to the existing one. He was in this capacity until September 2006 when he was deployed to the Ministry of Works as minister. Chief Adebayo was, however, implicated in a financial scandal bothering on bribery by Siemens to secure contract. Because of this, when late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua came to power, he ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate and prosecute him and others culpable in the scandal.
According to a statement by Olusegun Adeniyi, the spokesperson to the late president, “The attention of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has been drawn to media reports of the alleged bribery by an international telecoms company (Siemens) of some past Nigerian public officials and wishes to assure the nation.
The president has, therefore, directed all the relevant security agencies to thoroughly investigate the allegations and take appropriate legal actions against anybody implicated in corrupt practices. The president also wishes to assure all Nigerians that in the new nation that we seek to build under his watch, any public official found to have abused his or her oath of office will not go unpunished. The president further assures that in this Siemens scandal, as in all cases that border on good governance and transparency, there will neither be sacred cows nor a cover up for anybody found culpable of breaching the law.”
This man who has served Nigeria meritoriously in many capacities has not been seen and nothing heard about him in the recent past.