They have uncanny and uncommon courage. They are extremely strong-willed and have eagle eyes for even the smallest details. They have high appetite for equally high quality. Nothing, in fact, no one can intimidate them.
These traits they have demonstrated separately many times over in the past. Trust them, they are not tired of showcasing those phenomenal qualities in them. They proudly flaunt them. They would not shiver, they would not budge.
Not even old age can deter or discourage these oldies. Yes, they are the duo of Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, 82, and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, 90. Both are elder statesmen. They are not strangers to the weird happenings in Nigeria. They speak their minds whether convenient or inconvenient. They have never minded for once whose ox was gored or brutally bruised.
The cardinal is a respected Catholic clergy. He is fiery and upright. He was former Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Lagos. Gen. Sani Abacha would not want to forget (and forgive?) him in a hurry, even in his (dirty?) grave. Okogie was a thorn in his flesh until he allegedly ate the forbidden apple.
Pa Adebanjo, on the other hand, is a renowned politician and prominent chieftain of the pan-Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere. He never pretended about his stance on issues.
His antecedents since the days of the Action Group (AG), in the First Republic, through the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), in the Second Republic, to the Alliance for Democracy (AD), in the Fourth Republic, till now are intimidating. He too gave Abacha a run for his money.
Again, the duo came out of their shells last week. They were practically forced out from their “comfort zones.” And when they opened up separately, they never lost the fire in them. They were as blunt as ever. They were fuming and boiling at the same time. I admire them a great lot.
First to speak was the Cardinal. He was compelled to write an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. And in the correspondence he did call a spade a spade. He is still his old self. He fears nobody. Excerpts:
“The latest killings in Plateau State make us wonder: Where were you Mr. President, while innocent lives were being wasted? Where were your service chiefs when babies were being ripped out of their mothers’ wombs by men who claimed to do so because of their cows?
“A member of the Miyetti Allah appeared on television, justifying as retaliatory the killings in Plateau State. He was not the first member of Miyetti Allah to make the statement.
“You described what is going on as a clash between herdsmen and farmers, if the identities of these criminals are not hidden, why has the Nigerian intelligence community, under your watch, failed to prevent them from shedding blood?”
The Cardinal concluded his submission with a bang: “If, more than three years into your administration, you have been unable to stop these killings, why don’t you seriously consider the option of an honourable renunciation of the presidential seat?”
What audacity from the Cardinal.
He is anxiously waiting for possible reply from the Presidency. Pray, may the Cardinal not wait endlessly.
Pa Adebanjo was emboldened to pick the gauntlet from there. And he did not disappoint. He couldn’t have caved in anyway. He took up Buhari on a different issue this time around. It was on his recent comment on the vexed issue of restructuring.
The President had arrogantly remarked that those clamouring for restructuring are doing so for hidden agenda. He insisted they are simply out to serve and service their selfish interests. What sense that makes! Pa Adebanjo responded all the same. Excerpts:
“Let Buhari speak more responsibly. Who is he insulting by that statement? When he was contesting election in 2007 and Afenifere supported him, he didn’t question our agenda.
“This is the same restructuring we were talking of when (Pastor Tunde) Bakare was his running mate in 2011. Didn’t he agree at that time? Restructuring was also one of the promises of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.
“His utterances are not consistent with the integrity he claims to possess. Does it mean that the restructuring committee of the APC has ulterior motives?” Perhaps!
Then, we wonder aloud: who is fooling whom? Who actually is having a hidden agenda? Who really wants to service selfish interest?
Aptly, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere’s spokesman, came to fill in the gaps: “When they (APC) thought it (restructuring) would help them to win elections, they put it in their manifesto, but when they got to power, they did not know the meaning again.” Vintage Odumakin.
Okogie and Adebanjio are men of valour, fortitude and grit. They are fearless with gumption. That is why they are not given to frivolities and flippancy.
You dare not resist their high quality superior arguments. They are not found wanting, always profound and focused.
These are the oracles of our times. They are our rare gems. They are truly two of a kind.
We agree they are not perfect. Only God is. They are not angels, just human beings.
All the same, these elders have spoken, and have spoken well!