Losing friends to power, By Simbo Olorunfemi

Losing friends to power, By Simbo Olorunfemi
Simbo Olorunfemi

Two things.

First, yesterday’s post by my friend, Bimbo Daramola, which he built around the prayer by Maitama Sule: “…May God give us leaders who will not be clouded by the allures of power; those who power will not corrupt…” The post itself was an acknowledgement of Emeka Nwajiuba, Minister of Education (State) for his ‘unusual’ disposition towards life, in spite of being a person of power and considerable influence.

The Minister, according to Bimbo, “… till this day uses his personal vehicle that I knew him with, not the official one… Emeka Nwajiuba will pick his calls more often than not, if he misses your call, the chances are such that you can stake a bet that he will call back much later. He would reply your chats, the times when I had reasons to see him, and I try to ask for an formal appointment,  he would say, Bimbo, anytime!  An Unusual Minister! And I discovered that he does that for almost everyone.

Emeka does not move around in long convoys, no retinue of aides, very spartan public office lifestyle and Yes, no menacingly terrorising security aides making innocent Nigerians miserable because they need to show that they are ferrying a big man!

It is true that we get to lose friends to power. For some, it is not even political power, it is assuming positions of influence or visibility in the private sector.

We got on the plane, he quietly took his seat without any airs, I was waiting for the Pilot to welcome Honourable Minister on board as I have heard and witnessed the airlines do severally, sometimes its the Minister who encourages the aide to inform the Pilot that he is on board, and they too would say we have the privilege of flying so so Minister or Governor today.”

Power, indeed, is an intoxicant. Bimbo contrasts what he has observed about the Minister with what is more commonplace in the arena of power. As soon as some ‘assume’ power, they assume “chips on their shoulders, they won’t take calls anymore, indeed the first thing they usually do is to change their mobile phone numbers and block everyone on their previous contact list…look down on others, (with) elevated impressions of themselves”.

Indeed, few are better placed to know this as deeply as Bimbo, who has been there, who has seen power at close quarters. Good thing, he is not one of the friends we lost to power. He raises an important point about the corrosive influence of power.

But I will build on his point from the angle of the need to celebrate those who stand out from the pack, which itself is my second point, that being my position that we should celebrate people while still here rather taking to eulogies after they have passed on.

Interesting that like Emeka Nwajiuba, who did not find it beneath him to carry his own bags, same was what I saw with Festus Keyamo last Friday as we boarded same flight to Lagos. Like the other Minister, he was simply himself, just another regular passenger in the economy class.

Losing friends to power, By Simbo Olorunfemi
Femi Adesina

It is true that we get to lose friends to power. For some, it is not even political power, it is assuming positions of influence or visibility in the private sector. For some reason, which they have a right to, they prefer to cut off from people who had been around them, some who might have been benefactors in the past. They assume some tasks and association now beneath them. Good luck to them.

But some of us are fortunate to have some friends in power who never let power get into their heads. I have a number I can single out, and I have celebrated some here before now. One person who comes to my mind, thinking about this is Femi Adesina.

Coincidentally, he was also on that same flight to Lagos. That day, we briefly chatted before we boarded the plane and at the Airport in Lagos. The surprise was that, unknown to us before then, we were both billed to be at the same event the following day. But the real surprise was on getting to the venue the following day to meet him and his wife already seated. I had made the joke about that being the first time I would see him in Agbada, little did I know that he had a role to play. He was the MC.

But some of us are fortunate to have some friends in power who never let power get into their heads. I have a number I can single out, and I have celebrated some here before now.

This was the inauguration of Gracelife ministry founded by the immediate past General Overseer of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, Rev Felix Meduoye, with the objective of providing mission support, capacity building and meeting the needs of the underprivileged. As anyone would guess, it was not such a huge event. Perhaps about 100 people present, but the Special Adviser to the President might as well be conducting an event at the Villa with the way he invested himself fully into the task. This was obviously an assignment he took to out of a sense of loyalty and fidelity to the right values, refusing to forget where he was coming from.  He did so well that I wondered if it was not something he had been doing more regularly.

I have known Femi Adesina for about 30 years and I can attest that in all these years, in the different offices he has occupied, that has seen me engage with him, he has largely remained the same. His signature laughter best describes his essence. He is always accessible and ever helpful. As long as what you want of him does not go against his beliefs and philosophy, being so highly principled, you can bet that you will have his ears.

On those little things that set those who have been overtaken by power and those who remain themselves, there is no denying which category he falls into. On occasions you call without a response, he will always call back. He will always, and promptly too, respond to messages. This might be something little to some, but if you know, you know.

He remains himself, in spite of power and influence. Nothing about him suggestive of the “big man mentality” that our Congressman addressed. I quote Bimbo again, “it’s refreshingly different to me that we have a man in power who still fits the requirement and prayer of Maitama Sule in this day and age. Very Unusual”.  I dare say Femi Adesina is one such man. He is definitely not a friend you lose to power.