That Last Meeting With Bola Ige
Prof. Sola Adeyeye,
Member, Nigerian House of Representatives
Text of a statement by Prof. Sola Adeyeye on the face-off between Prof. Wole
Soyinka and President Olusegun Obasanjo
IT was a very busy afternoon in the mass spectrometry room of the Department of
Biochemistry, University Odense, Denmark, where I was on a two-month visit. A
telephone call from Chief Bola Ige was the last thing I had expected to
interrupt my total preoccupation that afternoon with the analysis of cuticular
proteins of ticks. My instantaneous recognition of his voice elicited a barrage
of questions: "Where are you? Are you in Geneva? How did you get this number? Oh
my God, has my father died?"
After allaying my fears, Chief Ige explained that he would be receiving an award
from the Association of Nigerian lawyers in Los Angeles, California, USA.
He wanted me to be present on the occasion. More importantly, he had some vital
issues to discuss with Kehinde and I; he insisted that the three of us would
meet at Idiroko. 'Kehinde' was one of the three code names we had long adopted
for Professor Wole Soyinka (WS); 'Idiroko' referred to his (WS)residence.
I emphatically told him that I would not be able to join WS and himself in
California for two reasons. First, I was too busy with my research. Second, with
such a short notice as he had just given me, the airfare would be prohibitively
costly. Chief Ige insisted he would reimburse my airfare. He disclosed that the
issues to be discussed with Professor Soyinka and myself were so important that
I just must meet him in California. Hence, I departed Copenhagen on Friday,
November 30, 2001. Chief Ige was at the Los Angeles Airport with Dapo Ayodele to
welcome me. It was a happy reunion.
The next day (Saturday, December 1,2001) Chief Ige and I attended the banquet
dinner where he was honored by the association of Nigerian lawyers and by the
City of Los Angeles. On Sunday, December 2, Sola Ayodele drove Chief Ige and me
to 'Idiroko' where Professor Soyinka and his family accorded us a very
affectionate reception. We arrived some minutes past 9a.m and departed just
before 6p.m Apart from the lunch hour, and time spent for greetings during our
arrival and departure, Chief Ige, Professor Soyinka and I spent all of the time
in the library of Professor Soyinka. In other words, our discussion lasted about
Our discussion resembled a mini parliament where alliances were formed,
dissolved and reassembled in the course of fiercely debating various issues of
national importance. The issues discussed included the urgency for true
federalism, Bakasi, On-shore/Off-shore Bill the Niger Delta, Sovereign National
Conference, the Obasanjo Presidency, the 2003 election and other sundry matters.
We also talked at length on what the role of each of us might be in the pending
task of reinventing a new Nigeria. On some issues, the three of us shared
congruent views and quite easily reached consensus. On others, our disagreements
were robust. At times, Professor Soyinka and I were aligned against Chief Ige's
viewpoint. On some issues, it was Chief Ige and I that pitched against Professor
Soyinka's position. And on one or two issues; Professor Soyinka and Chief Ige
were aligned against my stance! We did not mince words with one another.
Having to disagree with one another was nothing new with the three of us. It had
always been easy for us to disagree in good conscience without becoming
Discretion dictates that, even now, certain aspects of what Chief Ige told us
that day should not be divulged to the public. I will be glad to meet with
President Obasanjo, swear on the Bible and disclose some of what Chief Ige said
that should not be revealed for public consumption at this time. If the
President is well disposed to such a meeting, I will plead that Brigadier
Oluwole Rotimi be in attendance for reasons that will become obvious in the
course of the proposed meeting. For now, one can disclose a few things:
Chief Ige asserted that a return to true federalism was the only hope for
Nigeria. He wanted Chief Emeka Anyaoku to lead the discourse at a National
Conference for the restructuring of Nigeria; he wished for a few others
including myself to play specific roles. He reminded us that he had wanted me to
return to Nigeria in 1999; he insisted that I must return in 2002 to join the
onerous effort of building a new Nigeria. My jaw was left ajar when he disclosed
his plan for my return to Nigeria.
Chief Ige reminded Professor Soyinka and I that he had asked for and obtained
our blessings to serve in the cabinet of President Obasanjo. My mind flashed
back to the seemingly endless teleconferences where we had exhaustively
discussed the pros and cons of his serving in OO's cabinet. I have deliberately
written "OO" just to remind Professor Soyinka that Cicero's affectionate code
name for the President was "Olori Oko" (head of the farm). Chief Ige stated that
he was bowing out of his cabinet position to devote his energy to the
reorganization of Afenifere, the revitalization of the AD and the re-election of
President Obasanjo. Chief Ige was categorical that President Obasanjo was
oblivious to the dangers facing his office and person. He stated that winning
the PDP nomination would be a Herculean task and that only Vice President Atiku
Abubakar's unflinching support could guarantee the emergence of President
Obasanjo as the PDP's flag bearer in 2003. Chief Ige was convinced that the PDP
would break up with a sizeable chunk of it joining the ANPP. I countermanded
that the PDP would not break up. I proffered that although a few people might
have reasons to abandon the PDP, the availability of largess and patronage from
the Federal Government would keep up the vast majority in the party.
In any case, Chief Ige wasn't bothered by the probable break up of the PDP but
except that whatever remained of it would be so desperate that it would have to
resort to untoward contradictions to retain power. He was categorical that the
elections would not be free. He stated that the PDP's grand design would be
unleashed first in Osun State and that Chief Bisi Akande would be fiercely
targeted. He also spoke at length about PDP's plans to ensure Governors Tinubu's
and Osoba's electoral loss by hook or by crook.
He was emphatic that the PDP power Lords would sacrifice President Obasanjo if
he stood in their ways. As he spoke, Chief Ige repeatedly interjected his
concerns about the personal safety of the President. Several times during his
briefing, he said that there were apaniyan ( murderers) among the PDP.
I told him that whoever wanted Obasanjo dead would also wish Ige dead. I pleaded
that he should be as concerned for his own safety as he was for the President's.
Chief Ige's concern for the President's safety was extra ordinary as revealed by
what transpired on our way back from "Idi Iroko".
In more than 35 years of friendship with Chief Ige, only once had I seen him cry
before December 2,2001. But that evening, I was taken aback by tears that
streamed from his eyes as we drove back to Los Angeles. When I asked for what
might be the cause for his tears, he explained that he was burdened for his
senior brother, who was seriously ill and for President Obasanjo who was in
imminent danger! As if he knew that he, rather than Uncle George or President
Obasanjo would be the one to die first he turned to his niece, Mrs. Sola Ayodele,
and reintroduced me to her as his own "blood brother". He admonished Sola to be
close to me because, in his own words, " you won't find a better uncle
anywhere". Conversely, he instructed me to extend to Sola the same love and
affection that I have for Funso, Tokunbo and Muyiwa ( Ige's biological
daughter-in- law). Then quite strangely, he turned to me and said, Sola, no
matter what happens, you and Wole must not let Obasanjo fail. He must not fail".
I must tell my readers that tears are flowing down my cheeks as I write now.
Oh Lord, this is so painful! I had written a tribute which Mummy (Auntie Tinuke
Ige) had insisted I must read at Uncle Bola's graveside. However, none of us
could control the events of the day Uncle Bola was buried; my tribute could not
be read. As we moved from the graveside, Professor Soyinka held Auntie Tinuke
while I held Uncle Dele Ige. When much later we got Auntie Tinuke and Uncle Dele
to calm down, I took Professor Soyinka outside; my intention was to extract a
promise from him on Uncle Bola's grave. Because of the endless crowd of
onlookers, I could not proceed to the grave. Even so, I extracted the promise
when I said to Professor Soyinka: "Because of Uncle Bola, Obasanjo must not
fail!". His response was that "we will do all in our power to ensure that he
does not fail". Yes, on the very night that Chief Bola Ige was buried, Professor
Wole Soyinka and I committed ourselves a new to the success of the Obasanjo
Presidency. A few weeks ago, Mr. Sola Bakare (an Abuja-based businessman) and I
had breakfast with Professor Soyinka at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. I expressed
my apprehensions about contemporary Nigeria to Professor Soyinka.
Again, I asserted that "we must not let Obasanjo fail".
The truth, of course, is that Wole Soyinka and Sola Adeyeye cannot, by
themselves alone, ensure success (or failure) for the presidency of Chief
Obasanjo. Political success or failure is determined by God's inexorable law of
sowing and reaping. The law of sowing and reaping is as efficacious as those of
gravity, thermodynamics or relativity. This law does not succumb to wishful
thinking and the religious abracadabra that have anesthetized Nigerians into
mass stupor and national malaise. Whatever a nation sows, the same she shall
Unfortunately, as Nigeria sows the seeds of injustice, she reaps the
concomitant bumper harvest of conflicts and stagnation. We endlessly inject out
polity with lethal pathogens but turn around to mock God as we pray for healing
at endless prayer vigils! We forget that God's words remain immutable:
"Righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people".
Jesus spoke about how difficult it was for a camel to pass through the needle's
eye. Poor Jesus! He was not a Nigerian. Nigeria is an ill nation. She must be
healed. However, the law of sowing and reaping dictates that Nigeria's healing
shall remain deferred for as long it is easy for pregnant camels of corruption
to pass through our needle's eye of justice . Yes, some of these camels have not
just danced on Bola Ige's grave, they have gleefully urinated on it.
Mafia-like godfatherism is not an Anambra scourge; it is a Nigerian
pestilence. Are Nigerians ready to stem this plague? Will the President provide
the lead for the requisite gargantuan effort?. This righteousness that exalts a
nation is not erected on religious jamborees; its implacable foundation is
justice. May God grant President Obasanjo the humility and courage to steer us
from extant perilous waters of egregious injustice.
Finally, I must in tears remind Professor Soyinka of our pledge on the night
Bola Ige was buried:
"We will do all in our power
to ensure that Obasanjo
does not fail!"
That much we owe Bola Ige. That
much we owe Nigeria.