Festus Adedayo: A Postscript!

Olawale Olaleye

Historian and biographer, Professor Doris Kearns Goodwin was just 24 years old and in her prime – promising, ambitious and impressionable. She was at the time an active participant in the anti-Vietnam movement in the United States.

For many reasons that she too could not fathom, she had something against a former US President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and had always wrestled with his place in history. Johnson assumed office as president following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, being his deputy.

Months before the 1968 national elections, when President Johnson sought re-election, she and a fellow graduate, who shared the same views about Johnson had written a scathing article against him, specifically calling for a third party candidate to challenge him and sent to The New Republic, a newspaper for publication.

But for some of the familiar newsroom glitches, the article was not published immediately. She and her friend had, perhaps, forgotten they even wrote an article.

However, life soon dealt Johnson a big blow, as he did not win his party’s nomination to the election. He lost to Richard Nixon. But around this time, Doris Goodwin too had applied for White House Fellowship.

Unfortunately for her, the newspaper published the article a few days after her selection as a White House Fellow was announced. She simply concluded it was never going to happen with her criticisms of the president, believed to have contributed to his losing the party’s nomination. The opportunity was dead on arrival, she thought. In fact, she was certain she would be dismissed from the programme.

Thus, the fear of bringing in an enemy as White House Fellow was brought to the attention of President Johnson, who had just about a year more in office. But rather than listen to the sycophants, who were probably waiting to fill the slot, he said, “Oh, bring her down here for a year and if I can’t win her over, no one can.”

She not only completed her fellowship, she stayed on after and when Johnson’s presidency was over, she accompanied him to the Texas Ranch to assist with his memoirs. They both learned of each other in ways they never imagined and went on to appreciate the simple logic that criticism cannot be interpreted to mean cynicism in public service except where it is established. That was America in 1968.

Senate President Ahmed Lawan faced his first major test – a similar one – not only as the number three citizen of Nigeria, but a true test of leadership and he failed, albeit in my opinion, which however resonates with many like-minds.

I have always shared some of the views of an American patriot, Abigail Adams that “great necessities call out great virtues” and I believe it is vice-versa. She would argue further that, “The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.” Somebody just failed this.

When I learned in the morning of yesterday that Lawan had been “summoned” to the Villa, I just squealed to myself that his leadership was going to confront its first test. He would confirm if he was his own man or not, because the appointment in question was personal.

In fact, he was allegedly guided by one of the longest serving senators, who had walked up to him and advised against rescinding his decision on Dr. Festus Adedayo, because of the impression it could create, adding that he had a rare opportunity to prove he was not a Villa lackey, even if just to feign it.

But Villa was overwhelming, I guess, and he came back looking like a weak president of the senate, further sanctioning insinuations that his choice and election were truly designed and delivered by the Villa. That’s Lawan, PhD, Nigeria in 2019.

Even where one picks up leadership courses every other month in some of the best institutions across the globe, a degree of the traits of a great leader with a large heart must be innate and it is those traits that your many courses help to hone and prepare you for the challenges ahead.

But then, who gives what he does not have? I would have thought that such a turnaround was good only for a feeble and tawdry mind.

Regardless, Senator Lawan still deserves his chances. Like one of my very good role models, Mr. Babatunde Fashola always says to me, some people manifest their potential maximally as a result of many chances, because he (BRF) is a product of such grace.

Perhaps, Lawan is one of such too. We’ll assume he still needs some more chances to change the swirling narrative of a stooge around him and deliver sound leadership. It is always better when the issue is circumstantial.

To my brother, Dr. Adedayo, please, note that history will record this as their loss, not yours. They have made you more popular than you had even prepared for. The mileage from this is incalculable. You could not have hit such sudden stardom in 24 hours except by divine intervention.

Please, go on and conquer the law school. You have only proven that you didn’t pick your doctorate by the roadside. The world shall be waiting for you to unleash in due time. Another medal in the bag…Professor of law loading!

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