Sir Michael Otedola Nigerians Celebrate The Life And Times Of A Former Governor And Statesman

Wherever exemplary
leadership, good governance and a life of consistent commitment to people-
oriented service are discussed, no doubt exists that the name of Sir Michael
Agbolade Otedola, the second Executive Governor of Lagos State will always
occupy the top echelon of that list. Sir Michael was a good man with a great
name who set out from the get go to make a difference. He was an epitome of
excellence, and that was the reason when it was time to choose a tagline for
Nigeria’s commercial capital, he chose the inspirational words “Centre of
Excellence”, a testimony to his ambitious dream of transforming Lagos into
a super city, a vision he pursued with so much vigor that despite spending so
short a time in the helm of affairs, his legacy remains legendary and his name
is still firmly etched on many hearts. Fondly called Baba Go-Slow, Governor
Otedola may have been slow to act but was quick in execution.


He was a democrat par
excellence, a true man of the people in every sense of the word, little wonder
that despite his clout, connection and wealth, after his tenure, he went home
to live and settle with his people in Odoragushin, Epe! It is men like Governor
Otedola that the great English Poet, Alexander Pope described as : “Statesman,
yet friend to truth! Of soul sincere, in action faithful, and in honour clear,
who broke no promise, served no private end, who gained no title, and who lost
no friend; ennobled by himself, by all approved, praised, wept, and honoured.”


These immortal words
which are engraved on a 1727 statue of James Craggs (Secretary of State and
Privy Counselor to King George I of Great Britain) at the chapel of St. George
in the iconic Westminster Abbey in England encapsulates the life of this
illustrious Lagosian; a towering Nigerian personality, a consummate journalist,
an accomplished Public Relations expert, a renowned philanthropist, a sagacious
elder statesman, a wonderful husband and a great father. Ever before the name
Babatunde Raji Fashola became a phenomenon in the annals of exemplary civilian
leadership, the inimitable and prescient Sir Michael already held a pride of
place in the state’s rich history. As a matter of fact, Fashola’s current
accomplishments for which he is adored nationally was built on the solid
foundation occasioned by the sterling strides of Sir Michael while in office
between 1992 and 1993. When Otedola died, transitioning from mortality to
immortality on Monday, May 5, 2014, news of his death, just like his life and
achievements resonated across the country.


For Lagosians
specifically, and Nigerians generally, who relished the rewards of the
visionary leadership he provided, his death reawakened and brought to the fore,
nostalgic recollections of a short but glorious tenure in office. For those too
young to remember his astonishing accomplishments or who weren’t even born at
the time to witness them, his death evoked a history lesson enriched greatly by
a catalogue of unforgettable contributions that are now proudly enshrined in
the state’s archives. In Sir Michael, Lagosians were blessed with a governor in
whom the dignity of the man and the sanctity of the office found perfect harmony,
both elements combining to work such a delightful seduction that could make
several of today’s public officials green with envy. He was, without a doubt,
the quintessence of all the virtues and qualities begging to no avail for expression
in many of today’s political figures.


The Holy Bible which
he lived by, states in Proverbs 20:6: “Most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness;
but a faithful man who can find?” Sir Michael’s life was a glowing and patent answer
to that question. His faithfulness found expression in his accountable and
transparent leadership. Geared on by a compelling obsession to serve and to
deliver tangible democracy dividends, Governor Otedola, an Apostle of
Government 101, (which is another name for Government of Service to the
People), knew full well that he contested and won against all odds on the
platform of a minority opposition party in the state, therefore, he drove
himself passionately and purposefully into the folklore of uncommon leadership.


He worked with so
much gusto like a man who had premonition that he had a very short time to
shine-and what a good decision it turned to be because unlike his peers, he
came, he saw and left with a great impact. Though he campaigned and won
election into the Office of Governor on the platform of the defunct opposition
National Republican Convention (NRC), he went about fulfilling his executive
responsibilities in the spirit and strength of the predominant theme of the era
– the “Hope 93” agenda which was set and championed by his friend, Chief
Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Governor Otedola was a social democrat extraordinaire. His desire was to make
Lagos and its people great again that was why his campaign slogan was simply
“That Lagos May Excel”! And under him, Lagos indeed excelled.


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May 2024