My closest contact with the departed distinguished Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa was in the year 2013, when he was still national chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), while I was national chairman of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA).
Although I was not in any way oblivious of his fame and accomplishments as a truly distinguishable teacher and lawmaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not until my close association and discussion on that fateful day at Eko Hotel, Lagos, did I come to terms with the genius and integrity the soul of Senator Moji Akinfenwa embodied.
The British Department for International Development (DFID) had organised a workshop for national chairmen of political parties in Nigeria in the old city of Lagos and both of us were in attendance, but not to the exclusion of over 50 others. This number of chairmen in attendance would certainly have been double, were the workshop to hold today.
Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa became national chairman of the AD after the former chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Abdulkadir, abdicated the office and invited him to take over. Former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, emerged the factional chairman, with the support of the state governors produced by the AD, while Senator Akinfenwa was supported by the apex Yoruba cultural group, the Afenifere. The confusion remained until 2006 when many prominent leaders of AD, including Bisi Akande, left the party to found the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Moji Akinfenwa clung to the dwindling AD, almost becoming a life chairman, deep into his dying days.
Who would believe that two bosom friends, Moji Akinfenwa and Bisi Akande, who were commissioners in the government of Bola Ige in the old Oyo State and served as prison inmates for serving the same master, would get involved in such a political dogfight, which no one could separate?
It was such an irony reading Chief Bisi Akande’s heartfelt, sympathetic and emotional account of the good old days he had with Senator Moji Akinfenwa. Chief Akande recalled his long-standing friendship with his later archrival of the AD fame, which spanned over four decades. According to him, it all began during the formative days of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), was founded by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was also one of the foundation pillars of modern Nigeria.
While at the National Assembly as a senator, the consummate educationist, who many years ago served as commissioner for education in Old Oyo, also served in many committees, including education, banking and currrency, solid minerals and Senate services. Of course, Senator Akinfenwa discharged his duties with utmost dignity, diligence and competence, according to colleagues who served with him in the Senate between 1999 and 2003.
By the time this writer became national chairman of the PPA in late December 2010, Senator Akinfenwa was already an acclaimed doyen of political party administration in Nigeria, having been, albeit controversially, anointed by his predecessor without an election. However, that did not take away the quality of the man known for high integrity and probity.
The encounter between Senator Mojisoluwa and this writer at the Lagos workshop for national chairmen of political parties was a further eye-opener to what many people may not have known about the elder statesman. After the morning session of the workshop came the afternoon segment, during which the over 50 political party chairmen were placed in about 10 groups of about five in one. I was fortunate to belong to the group that had Senator Moji Akinfenwa and Chief Olu Falaye, among others.
Soon, a small argument ensued as to who should be the secretary of my group. Clearly, Senator Akinfenwa was the oldest at our table, as he was then 83 years of age, while Chief Olu Falaye was 79 years. The national chairman of the AD was not a man that took ‘no’ for an answer. He insisted he was going to do the writing and won the argument. I was angry within me, but could not express it. I wanted to let the old man know that I had written reports all my life, having been a journalist for over 40 years; but seeing the big elephant in the room, Chief Olu Falaye, who had been Secretary for Government of the Federation (SGF) answering to the old man “sir, sir”, I knew I had a case.
When Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa was done with the report, every member of the group agreed there was nothing else to add or subtract. And the Eko Hotel meeting was the last I saw of him, even as I was later to learn that he drove himself to the venue at the age of 83.