Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly
If you are a Yoruba person, South West of Nigeria, and you had your childhood in between 30s and 80s, there is probability that you might have heard some proverbs relating to Sanusi Adebisi Idikan and Salami Agbaje, the two great men with contrasting features in Ibadan.
The former was fondly called Adebisi Idikan, and he made fortune from "Aso ofi" and cocoa plantation, while Salami Agbaje made his wealth from timber, for he supplied railway slippers that were used to construct train track from Lagos to Ibadan that was opened in 1901. But Adebisi made history because he chose to live for others; while Agbaje lived for his children. Of course, both are acceptable, but living for others is more worthwhile.
As at the time Adebisi was sitting on sprawling wealth as the first man to use car aside from horde of horses in Ibadan, and gave the cosmopolitan city the first architectural masterpiece as his residence, taxable adults were in serious trauma, for majority could not afford to pay tax levied by the colonial authority, due to the fact that they were subsistent farmers.
It is given that tax is a must anywhere in the world, and it was an offence that attracted detention in Mapo prison then. So, many Ibadan natives were languished in detention for tax evasion. It was so horrible that Balogun Ola, the son of Baale committed suicide, because he could no longer afford the pain people were going through in detention at Mapo, an action that earned him an epithet-"kobomoje" meaning a brave one.
Adebisi Idikan took it upon himself to end the sorrow of the taxable adults in Ibadan, as he drove to the colonial office to demand for the total cost of taxes of all taxable adults, and from then he chose to foot the bill as long as he lived, a philanthropic gesture that saved many people from detention and agony of tax debt.
From that time, the elders have a way of remembering Adebisi Idikan as an unsung hero, who lived and died for his people. In Ejigbo, an ancient town in the State of Osun, today, one man appears to have breasted the ribbon of Adebisi Idikan who lived for his people; the man is Najeem Folasayo Salaam. The difference is that Adebisi was a very wealthy business man, while Salaam is a poor politician with mind of uncommon generosity. The common denominator between the two is philanthropism.
Salaam's philanthropy is not premised on the magnitude of his wealth, which he does not have anyway, but his willingness to part with the little he has, marks him out as generous, for he has the capacity to deny himself to bail people of critical challenges. Analytically, one is generous if one can part with little from little than to part from plenty.
Salaam, some years back was only known among his friends and relations as a man of robust patience and tigeritude, suggesting that he has the mastery of being gentle with gentle people, and could be tough with tough ones, as it was espoused in in the letter the Great Abraham Lincoln wrote to the teacher of his son.
As an orphan, there was nothing that marked Najeem out as special. Of course, he could not have been among the special breed whose fathers' wealth was subject of envy, because he had no such luxury, and he must have been a victim intra-personal depression each time occasion demanded for parental chemistry, but the strength of courage he deployed to weather the storm of life seems legendary.
However, he chose a path of self-made, bearing in mind that the road to success is always rough. As at the time he was growing up, there were various options opened to him: to either learn trade or take to farming or pursue education, but he chose the latter, knowing full well that he would have to double up his perseverance, so as ease the burden of his aunt who had undertaken his care from very tender age.
Having crossed the hurdles of the first degree and had stunt in business, Salaam joined politics, and understudied the practical of what he learnt in the university from elders who had mastered the turf. But his combination of the wisdom of fox and energy of lion together made politics a natural call for him. Let whoever chooses to disprove this piece visit his constituency and conduct a discrete investigation.
There was a time he contested for the post of council chairman under the platform of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), the electorate stood by him, but the hostility of the then ruling party denied him his victory, and instead of jumping the ship, he took a philosophical calmness and identified with the progressive camp, and the hostility did not cease when he won the election that took him to Osun State House of Assembly, as the same bully ruling party got a party that did contest election to fight a battle of conspiracy in election tribunal. As programmed, his mandate was truncated through a rerun election that was more of a gang-up than free and fair exercise.
Along the line, he got some overture that could make any politician ditch principle for filthy lucre, but Salaam is one man who follows his conscience; he rejected good offer when it was obvious that he had no financial strength. Rather he threw his hat on the ring again and won resoundingly in 2011; that was the journey that brought him to number three position in the State of Osun till date.
Rt. Hon. Najeem Salaam could not be counted among the wealth or politicians whose least of their troubles is money, but his sprawling popularity engendered through philanthropy and political sagacity. He is leading a parliament of 26 different people, of different value, different world-views, different backgrounds and pedigree, and for five years no single case of rancor or treachery was recorded. Even Governor Rauf Aregbesola is in the habit of telling whoever cares a hoot that the synergy between the executive and Najeem Salaam led parliament is what led to monumental development in the state.
Some pundits would rush to describe his parliament a "rubber stamp" legislature, but Salaam has vowed to continue with the tradition of a parliament that facilitates development of the state, instead of radicalism that would decrease the good of the greatest number. That is the picture of the man and his principle.
Happy birthday Mr. Speaker.
BUTIKA is the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, state of Osun House of Assenbly.
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