Myself: AG Sir, when are you likely to be available this week to accommodate me in your schedule for an appointment(August 20 at 13:30)
SRJ: I’m going to Abuja today to be back on Wednesday.(August 20 at 13:44)
I will be doing this piece injustice if I fail to state from the onset that its mission here in the public space is definitely not for hagiography because if it is, it could do better than the one you will be reading. Rather it is a kind of self imposed effort to make available for posterity a recent encounter with the subject matter of this article, the current Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the State of Osun, Dr Ajibola Basiru popularly known as SRJ who unfortunately has been a victim of ill motivated abuses and wrongly assessed in respect of his personality.
Just like Nasir El Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State disclosed in his widely read book, ACCIDENTAL PUBLIC SERVANT that his entrance into Nigerian politics is an accident, the birth of this piece is also a product of accident.
Before I drew curtain on my chat with him, I told him about my recent encounter with SRJ and that THE AJIBOLA BASIRU I MET is far from the arrogant type that the public is made to believe. I, then promised to do an account of that nearly two hours interactive session for the consumption of the public. This is exactly what informs this treatise you are reading.
Now to the rex of the matter.
As we exited the palatial gate of the on-going construction of the New Osogbo Eid Prayer ground, Oke Baale, Osogbo on that sunny noon of Sunday, August 20, 2017, our discussion veered from the appreciation of the commendable work that has so far been done on the Eid to the personality (SRJ) of whomAllah used as an instrument of favour to make the work a reality.
I was at the Eid prayer ground in company of two of my friends, Ademola Fasunloye,Fafemi Afeez and an elderly neighbour, Engineer Mummen Sawewe whose expertise in religious politics and politics of the Osogbo Central Mosque is something to reckon with, to have first hand information about the new Eid. We were actually pleasantly surprised with the quantity and quality of efforts that have already been invested in that virgin land which has now taken a look of a modern Eid prayer ground.
Apparently dazzled with the efforts, it was Engineer Sawewe that bell the cat: ‘’Basiru has really tried here but some people are misunderstanding him’’. He added: ‘’He needs to re –strategise’’. Whoever is aware of the dust that the construction of the new Osogbo Eid praying ground generated and saw the quality of work so far done in the place will not but express this kind of sentiment expressed by Engineer Sawewe.
As a student of communication, I know there is a problem somewhere. If you’re sending a message as an encoder and your message could not be decoded or interpreted by the receiver who is a decoder, then there must be noise.
It could be physical noise, psychological noise or semantic noise. So, “I must find out the type of noise and the cause(s) that caused the misinterpretation of SRJ’s effort ’’, I told myself. Seeking consent of nobody, I picked up my Camon X phone, with the assistance of Facebook Messenger, I sent a message to SRJ for an appointment. ‘’AG Sir, when are you likely to be available this week to accommodate me in your schedule for an appointment’’,
I humbly requested! In no time, he replied, “I’m going to Abuja today to be back on Wednesday’’.
Deliberately, I didn’t do any follow up because I knew he would be busy throughout that week as it was the same week that Nigerian Bar Association held its 57th 2017 Annual General Conference at Landmark, Centre, Lagos.
It was to my utter charging when my phone rang in the evening of Saturday, August 26 and the caller was Ajibola Basiru. ‘’My name is Ajibola Basiru, I want to speak to Dawood Ajetunmobi’’, the caller said. ‘’Good afternoon Sir! I replied ( I actually made a mistake, I should have said, good evening) ‘’I am in town now, can we meet this evening? He requested. ‘’Ermn..What about tomorrow sir? What is your schedule tomorrow?’’,
I tactically rescheduled the appointment.
‘’Okay, you can call me around 5pm tomorrow’’, he responded. My schedule that evening could still accommodate the appointment but i didn’t want to meet him alone, but since I didn’t know the schedule of other members of our team ,I had to change the appointment to the following day so as to accommodate them. As a matter of fact, when the call came in, I couldn’t believe my ears because of the polite and respectful way he communicated with me contrary to the stereotyped image of the ‘bullish and arrogant Basiru’ his adversaries have implanted in our minds.
I later learnt that the call he made was actually his second attempt, he had earlier called a friend and a former staff of Aljazeera Nigeria, Barr. Folarin Sode,mistaking his mobile no for that of mine. When Folarin told me of the call, we concluded that ‘’Basiru could not have been a snub’’ as he is publicly projected, If he had to invest such an effort to reach me.
I am supposed to be the one that will be doing the follow up since I was the one who requested for the appointment and more so, he didn’t even know the subject matter of the appointment I sought for maybe I wanted to do ‘fine bara’ ni.
So around 6 pm on Sunday, August 27, as requested, I put a call to him. “Come to my house at GRA’’, that was his response to my call. Though I had never been to his house before that day and I didn’t ask him for the description because I wrongly assumed that locating his house in GRA would not be an issue. I was actually thinking that given the rumour of the money to have been ‘stolen’ to build a ‘palatial house’, and the unbridled hype over the house, I thought I was going to see a Skyscraper like the one that littered the streets of the City of Medina in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. How wrong I was! We later paid for this fallacy of false assumption as it took us some time before we eventually located his modest architectural edifice.
Not long after we were ushered into his tastefully furnished living room where we met some known faces, our host breezed out of his study and sought our understanding to conclude a meeting he was holding with a ranking cabinet member of the Executive Council in the State of Osun before he could attend to us. What an humility! We used the waiting period maximally to cross-fertilize ideas with like minds in the living room on topical national issues,state of politics in the State of Osun and the recent appointment of Egbon Abass Onaolapo, as Senior Special Assistant on Policy Coordination to the Governor who someone innocently dubbed as facade.
We later went for Solat Maghreb inside a small mosque in the building.
‘’Sir, people seems to misinterpret your actions and inactions these days, does it give you any concern?’’ That was how I opened our discussion with the Attorney General after some preambles.
From non-verbal communication (gesticulations) that accompanied the question, he was able to decode that I didn’t expect an immediate answer, so he offered none! I went on to explain the wrong perception of his person, ideals and ideas in some quarters which need to be urgently addressed. When the floor was yielded to him for his reaction, we got more than we bargained for in terms of satisfactory answers.
He explained that since the birth of his active politics by virtue of his appointment as Commissioner in the first term of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s government, his actions and utterances are motivated by genuine considerations to put his people first as far as welfare, empowerment, assistance, giving due recognition to whom is due etc. are concerned. He went from specifics to general, naming names, and citing instances to buttress his points.
He posited further that he is not unaware of the fact that there are certain expectations that are largely not in the interest of the public from certain quarters which they want him to meet, but practically impossible to meet.
According to him, his inability to meet those self-interest expectations automatically brings him to the black book of the promoters of the said expectations, hence, the black propaganda being waged against his name.
“Aljazeera, you can also testify to the fact that I am a busy person. Apart from the fact that the constitutional responsibilities of my office as Attorney General of the State of Osun is highly demanding, I also handle some assignments for the State which are no less demanding. This is in addition to other personal things that I must attend to, my students at UNIOSUN and I am also writing some academic books. That is why I hardly have time to spend more than 15 minutes in any social engagement. If you can’t find me here at home, I am either behind my desk in my office in the State Secretariat or in my office at Government Annex or in my Chamber. My movement is not more than that anytime I’m in town. So, if they do not see me daily in the house of a political leader warming the seats in his living room or see me in the entourage of a community man to social gathering, they should be able to understand’’, he explained.
Our discussion also briefly dwelled on the construction of the new Eid prayer ground which he is largely financing. He explained that, as a member of Senator Bayo Salami led committee saddled with the responsibility of giving Osogbo a new befitting Eid prayer ground and new Central Mosque for Jumatservices, he felt unease when he heard that assistance of a non indigene was sought for the construction of the perimeter fence of the Eid, something that could be done by Osogbo Indigenes.
He said further that, he took up the construction in the interest of the image and pride of Osogbo and the verdict that history may pronounce on her people that when the ‘’Osogbo Eid prayer ground needs perimeter fence, it was Ilobu that people of Osogbo ran to, for help’’. According to him, that will be unsavoury judgement.
That, is not a judgment of history to be proud of by well-meaning people of Osogbo. He added that, aside the fact that he got the blessing of Ataoja ofOsogbo and the Imams –in- Council before he commenced the project, along the way, numerous illustrious sons and daughters of the town did not only bless his effort but some even supported him materially. He made mention of an illustrious son of Osogbo, in person of Dr Jimoh Adebayo, former GMD,Odua Investments, who supported the construction with two thousand blocks. ‘’Dawood, do you think, I’m alone in this struggle?’’, he asked rhetorically.
When he was told of our visit to the construction site and commended the material and human effort invested so far in the project, he was very delighted and promised to take press men to the site in order for the generality of people to know the state of work at the place since not everyone will be opportuned or interested in visiting the place as we did.
So, when one of his critics, a very good friend of mine, interpreted the press inspection of the place few days to Ileya as SRJ lording himself over the new Eid prayer ground, and as such, he deserved a condemnable aggression meted to his team on the Eid day, I laughed my ass out. The reason behind the inspection of that day was simply to update the Muslim faithful how ready the prayer ground was.
The other issue we discussed was his rumoured gubernatorial ambition. ‘’Are you interested to vie for the Osun Guber seat?’’, I fired the question at him looking straight into his eyes. Although he didn’t provide a YES or NO answer as I expected but his answer came swiftly. “I’m qualified to govern the State’’. He went on to explain why he is qualified, taking us into historical excursion to the wealth of experience he has gathered as an Advocate and Solicitor of Supreme Court of Nigeria, Cabinet member in the State of Osun and his interactions with politicians and involvement in politics. He, however quickly added that his gubernatorial ambition cannot be his personal decision but a collective decision of the leaders of his party and that of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who he described as his political Leader and a major stakeholder in his life.
Throughout nearly two hours that the interactive session lasted, there was never a dull moment despite the steady flow of human traffic in and out of the house and occasionally calls from some of his colleagues in State Executive Council and others, in addition to his fingers that were almost permanently on the key board of his laptop, that sometimes punctuated our flow of discussion. Interestingly, these ‘distractions’ provided another glimpse into who DR AJIBOLA BASIRU is.
Permit my indulgence to cite some. For instance, in the cause of our discussion, a call came from one of the few reputable industrialists in Osogbo and the subject matter of their discussion suggested that there is a full blown working relationship between the duo. Hardly had the call ended, there was another ‘distraction’ from one of his friends, Engineer Taofeek Badmus who briefly came to the ante-room where we were holding our discussion to remind SRJ of a request from one of the well-known Osogbo Elders who asked ‘’you to see him tomorrow but don’t forget, he said you must come alone’’ . These instances make a mess of the unfounded allegation on the social media that SRJ is not in the good book of the elders of the town and that he is alone.
On one or two occasions, Her lorship, Magistrate Habibah Ajibola, punctuated our discussion to seek certain clarifications from her husband. The courtesy she accorded us and the respectable manner in which the couple communicated portrayed her as one woman that knows her onion when it comes to playing the role of a housewife. In short, she does not allow her judicial position as a Magistrate to enter her head.
The benevolent part of SRJ which his critics have beclouded with negativities came out in one of the ‘distractions’. One of my immediate senior colleagues at the Faculty of Law, OAU who was apparently on a ‘’thank you’’ visit to SRJ for the support rendered to him for his Law School programme came to say‘’goodnight’’. ‘’What are you doing now?, SRJ asked him. Apparently sensing from the guy’s body language that he had not been fixed after his return from Law school, “You better come and resume in my Chamber’’ The guy couldn’t believe his ears. He was stupefied by the offer that came on the platter of gold. SRJ followed his words with action and handed him over to the head of his Chamber. That is the compassionate SRJ for you!
When we looked at the clock and discovered that time was already ageing, we politely announced our readiness to take our exit, I told him: ‘’It has been a day. Thank you for the audience sir”. Sensing that we were ready to leave, he fired back;’’ Nooo, you can’t just leave like that. You have been my guests for the past two hours, I would have to see you off. Please let me quickly send this mail to the governor’’. It was then we realised that his hands that had been on the keyboard since is for a purpose. He was actually handling an assignment for the State. Not even a phone call that came him from the Governor during our discussion could give us that inkling! How did he have the sanity of mind to engage us the way he did and at the same time doing some intellectual work simultaneously is appears as a riddle to us. To say that SRJ is endowed with intellectual capacity that is of sages is stating the obvious. He practically displayed this while responding to some suggested ideas offered in the course of our discussions. Some, he rejected with superior arguments, facts and data, some he agreed with us. Occasionally, he laced his analysis with Arabic poems and verses from the Holy Quran.
As he saw us off to where our car was packed, myself, Fafemi Afeez and Adegboyega Tajudeen had a brief review of our encounter with this Icon and concluded that the man is neither the arrogant nor the bad type as being maligned by his critics.
The mind boggling question now is ‘if he is not, why the negativities about him in some quarters?’.
My mind quickly razed to what my Journalism lecturer taught me ‘’In the Introduction to Mass Communication Class’’, a decade and half ago at the Department of Mass Communication, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta about ‘’Noise’’ in Communication.
Noise, as defined, is ‘any type of disruption that interferes with transmission or interpretation of information from the sender to the receiver. It could be physical noise, psychological noise or even semantic noise.
Permit me to use ‘’the noise analogy’’ to solve the riddle from my earlier question. For instance, according to Wikipedia, ‘Psychological noise is as a result of preconceived notions that are brought to conversations, such as racial stereotypes, reputation biases and assumptions.’ ‘’When we come into a conversation with ideas about what other person is going to say and why, we can easily become blinded to their original message’’. From a personal research, I am able to discover that the bulk of the alleged ‘’issues’’ that SRJ has with people is as a result of preconceived notions, stereotypes, reputation biases and assumptions. It is interesting to note that the larger percentage of those who complain about him have never met SRJ in person. Then, what exactly is the matter?
The matter may not be divorced from the very fact that when toxic persons can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. But no matter how potent their blackmail is, one day, people will eventually see the truth. One thing that is not open to any argument is that no matter what anybody says about SRJ, he will continue to march through history with pride as a result of who he is, not as a result of the amount of propaganda his adversaries are able to wage against him.
Thank God, as Baba Akande (Chief Bisi Akande) puts in an article ‘Treading the path of history’ published in ‘’The Essential Ige, Tribute to Uncle Bola at 70’’edited by Professor Akinyemi Onigbinde; ‘’history Is not always as blind as political rivals and occasional adversaries’’.
For SRJ, I leave him with immutable words of Dele Giwa as quoted by Dele Olojede and Late Onukaba Adinoyi – Ojo in the jointly authored book; BORN TO RUN; The story of Dele GIwa: “If the end proves me right, all that is said about me won’t amount to anything, but if the end proves me wrong, then the angels swearing that I am right will make no difference’’.
Dr Ajibola Basiru, may the end prove you right. (Ameen)