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TRIBUTE: Senator Bayo Salami’s Painful Passage

TRIBUTE: Senator Bayo Salami’s Painful Passage
  • PublishedJanuary 24, 2021

By Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

THE passage of Senator Bayo Salami in faraway United States was very devastating and filled me with unspeakable grief. Reminiscing on his life and times brought back memories – sweet and sour.

Senator Salami was one of the leaders of our party that I consulted way back in 2004, before I contested the governorship election of 2007. At the time, he was the most senior active politician in Osun, besides Baba Bisi Akande. He supported me with everything he had.

Our path first faintly crossed in Kaduna in 1980 when I went to participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme. He was an accountant at the company that was my place of primary assignment, where we remotely connected. He was at the head office in the central business district, while I was in the Kakuri industrial estate in Kaduna South. 

I must add that he accompanied the Cicero of Esa-Oke, Chief Bola Ige, once or twice to the then residence and campaign office of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Sunday Adigun Street, Ikeja, Lagos in 1998, in the build-up to the formation of our mother party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), of course, where we met at each of the visits.

Quite significantly, we were together at Imesi-Ile Day of 2004 where I confided in him the urge I felt enroute the festival. On the way to the event, in the towns and settlements, we saw aged women and urchins in throes of extreme poverty and misery. There and then, I became determined to make a difference. 

He was a major stakeholder in my quest to clinch our party’s ticket, my campaign for the election and the nearly four years it took for me to reclaim my mandate. He was with me all through the eight years I was the governor and he never wavered in his support for the administration throughout my tenure.

My re-election in 2014 was an epic story and where he played an unforgettable role. The PDP’s Federal Government was fiendish in its determination to deny me a second term. The then president had told some mutual friends that he would take Osun from Rauf, even if heaven would fall. It literally invaded Osun with the largest security deployment and cash in recent memory. 

The Federal authority was therefore brutal in its commitment to instal its candidate as the governor by whatever means possible. Carrot and stick strategy was used to manipulate our supporters, whom we directed to collect the cash but never to vote for them, which they did. But it was a different kettle of fish with our leaders. When they found our leaders impregnable with cash, they went after them with demonic fury. On the eve of the election, they started arresting them. Pa J. O. Fakayode of Oke-Ila; an octogenarian and lawyer, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, and several of our leaders were picked up and subjected to harrowing torture and humiliation. Senator Isiaka Adeleke was put under house arrest in his country home in Ede.

They came to Senator Salami’s house and besieged his residence all night, spraying his house with high calibre bullets, as if it was a military stronghold. But in spite of this we won the election with a wide margin of over 100,000 votes.

He was one of my closest friends, allies and associates. He was a close confidant. All through my tenure, he never failed to accompany me to Jumat on Fridays, except when either or both of us was or were not in town.

It is the way of democracy to have disagreements. It is normal and expected. He therefore disagreed with me on our succession plan, towards the end of my tenure on who was most suited to be the governor of our state and keep the flag flying.  Someone close to both of us called a meeting to iron out this disagreement but he stuck to his guns. He was a man of his convictions and you know where you stand with him at any time and on any issue. 

He left our party and fielded another candidate. His candidate lost. But his disagreement with me was principled and without malice.

He was a man of deep faith and served his Creator with all he got. He was instrumental to the completion of the Osogbo Central Mosque and he was committed to the cause of Islam as he was to humanity in his lifetime. He will be greatly missed.

His exit was totally unexpected and caught us unawares. But as a Muslim, I (and we should all) take solace in the Quran, Surah Baqarah ayah 156: “Who, when disaster strikes them say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to him we will return.”

It is my prayer that Allah SWT will comfort his entire family, the Ataoja and the good people of Osogbo and the State Government of Osun on the demise of a father, husband, grandfather, patriarch and patriot.

May Allah forgive his misdeeds and grant him Aljannah Firdaus

  • Ogbeni Aregbesola is the immediate past Governor of Osun and Minister of Interior, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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