Loyalty is dead. It is with a heavy heart that I make that obituary. With a heavier heart, I regret to add that Loyalty was buried last Friday somewhere in the deep south of Nigeria, the world’s most stubbornly peculiar country. Until that last whistle, Loyalty was an enigma, a puzzle, a mystery.
Throughout the years, Loyalty was a sweet soul. Loyalty lived for others. Loyalty raised, introduced, galvanised, integrated, and positioned millions. As a brand, Loyalty was not only completely true he was equally truly complete.
I first had the honour of meeting Loyalty up close in either the twilight of 2004 or the dawn of 2005. At the time, Loyalty was the Special Somebody with the onerous responsibility of advising his state governor on everything politics and lawmaking. When he called to book an interview spot on our daily live television breakfast, his humility as evinced by his words choice and tone compelled me to accept the invitation to a pre-broadcast meeting in his office. As happened in most of such offices in any corner of Nigeria, the place was a market when I arrived.
Instantly, I experienced another virtuous trait of his. Having invited me, he had -and was- prepared for me. That’s a plus most Nigerian political office holders are deficient in. Most of them think keeping someone they invited waiting for hours on end shows they are incredibly busy or powerful or important -or all.
But, it is not and never shall be so. No matter how busy or powerful or important or all you are, keeping people you invited (especially without intermittent apologies) minuses so much from your persona. You are seen and hated and consequently asterisked away as arrogant, detached, disorganised, disrespectful, exploitative, insensitive and uncaring. Any leader who believes in their heart that they have performed well but whose people continue to say otherwise must immediately check how detached they are from the masses!
Before that unnecessary deviation -for which I apolgise- I was telling you about my first encounter with Loyalty. The moment he was told I had come, the humble, supermeticulous functionary asked that I be brought into what Billionaire Prince White calls, ‘the inner echelon’ of his office. He was sitting behind a fat desk and had about five guests hovering over him with half a dozen more waiting in the oblong space. I remember and so must add that the office was located on the fringes of Government House, on Wellington Bassey Way end, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.
Once I was inside, he broke away momentarily from what was clearly an important meeting, looked up to welcome me, pointed to a seat before resuming what he was doing with the promise he would be done soon. Of course, as political things go in Nigeria, that soon was not soon; that soon was later. Yet, I didn’t feel anything other than love for this host because every three or five minutes, he would look up or call out with apologies delivered in the most humorous annang dialect I ever heard. That was something else I really liked: Loyalty was quite funny -he was real fun to be with.
I think the interview was great. ‘I think’ because (I recall) at least one of his colleagues on the state executive council confided in me many months after that the aerial session did not go down well with the administration. And, it wasn’t long thereafter that he left the system. It would take almost a decade for us to run into each other again when we met at least once in 2014 and twice in 2015 after our flight landed in Abuja.
On all three occasions, Loyalty was himself: affable, humorous, and wondered why we had cut off communication. There was something reassuring the way he put that question. Intermittently, I kept going back -years later- to that question as his voice replayed in my mind’s ear. Then, he became Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
In 2017, on a telephone conversation, he invited me to his office located this time not just outside Government House as the other, but right inside. It was a brief, uneventful meeting, this. I sense his good nature troubled him to make amends because at least twice, thereafter, he called and made overtures that stunned me. One, he asked for direction so he could visit and two, if I wanted to join him to church.
None of those happened, but in our hearts we drew closer. We neither met nor talked in all of 2018 but we lost nothing. I say that because of the sequence of events later. In 2019, during a 15-second chance meeting in a packed hall, the only time we met throughout that year, Loyalty asked me a double-barrelled question (about my personal wellbeing and home Local Government Area traditional leadership); a question that further deepened my respect and love for him.
Please roll the tape to June, July of 2020. Arrangement had reached a crescendo for Loyalty’s shock deployment (as it were) from commissioner to ctate chairman of Peoples Democratic Party. Then, suddenly, with just a fortnight to D-Day, I received a telephone call and the message was that Loyalty needed a private meeting with me in his Uyo home. The morning that I arrived and was ushered in to see him, after a five-minute wait, remains evergreen as it marked the beginning of our incredible six-month walk together; six months which unfortunately were his last on earth.
… to be concluded next Monday
The Michael BUSH @ 50 school project
This is just a little feedforward. The main announcement should come in no time. To immortalise my golden jubilee that falls on August 12, this year, I have chosen Adiahaobong Secondary School in my village, Ekpene Ukim, Uruan LGA of Akwa Ibom state, as the one and only project my sponsors, friends and fans should help with.
I have been there to see things for myself, and met with the authorities. Government cannot do everything alone, and I believe the world would help me on this one intervention. A committee is working on the finer details complete with the cost implications.
Please, plan to support this project, no matter what. It is the only 50th birthday gift I crave from everyone who has ever enjoyed or gained from anything me or Bush House Nigeria. Many thanks, and God bless!