Senator Yayi at 50

NEARLY one year and couple of months ago when I turned 50, I recall that before stepping out of my room after my effusive gratitude and appreciation to my creator, the next thing I did was deep introspection and reflection about my 50 years sojourn on this side of the great divide. The Bible admonishes us to number our days so that we can apply ourselves unto wisdom, and I believe one of the wisest things to do in life is to reflect and think back. Because life is a journey and, like all journeys, there will be many experiences, there will be moments one will go through a stretch plain when the journey will be smooth and you will be tempted to put on the auto cruise. And there will come moments when the journey will cascade through valleys and the traverse will be through undulating  plains. But the ultimate desire is to arrive at the destination, ahead of the terminal point, when you come way and it’s been a good ride, you look forward to the other half with joy.

In my moment of introspection at 50, I tried to visualise the journey and a number of personalities and events come out so graphically to me that I will be eternally grateful  to God that they happened, either meeting with personalities or events that happened. Today, I am compelled to highlight  this young man popularly known and addressed in Lagos, Ogun and by all his friends by the alias Yayi. By that alias, I don’t know how he came by it but if I interpret it in the context of my Yoruba Language , it would mean, I guess a pleasant, warm, amiable and affable personality. Senator Solomon Olamilekan is generically all of these but to me much more. True to his name, going by the biblical King Solomon, Yayi has lived up to the identity of the biblical Solomon as a wise man.  For a man to have had such a chequered political trajectory after qualifying as a chartered accountant, and going from there to become two-term member of the Lagos House of Assembly, both times I guess as chairman public accounts, a committee popularly referred to as “juicy committee”, and proceeding to the House of Representatives, (2011-2015) there again he became chairman Public Accounts.

While some of us got bruised and bloodied in the pursuit of the interest and well being of the people on the altar of our party starting from Action Congress that eventually metamorphosed into today’s All Progressives Congress. We did not succeed at getting our seats back in the House of Representatives. But through “Solomonic” wisdom and good representation, YAYI did not come back to House of Representatives but was “promoted” to the Nigerian Senate. While at the Senate (2015-2019) he was being  groomed for the Oke Mosan seat in Ogun State,  well he did make his mark with that move. He pushed hard, but guess it was not time. But he got the ticket back to the Nigerian Senate.

Going by the experiences of many, without “Solomonic” wisdom, his political career may have taken a downward spiral from that “unrealised” bid but Yayi survived. Now to further buttress his wisdom, one day we were talking and he taught me a proverb that till now I have held close to my heart because it has proved to be so true. I was sharing  with him how our society could be so twisted that you could be so venerated today and tomorrow stripped of the benefits of that veneration if the tide turns, without recourse to whatever good or service you have rendered.  Yayi listened intently and said, “Broda mii, won ki yago fun elesin ana”. Meaning “my brother, nobody paves way for the man who rode the horse yesterday if he is not riding the horse today”. What a wisdom!!! Till then, I never heard of that proverb before. Maybe if I had, I would have understood how to survive fair-weather friends and personalities whose memories  are  conveniently short; those one would believe or assume  should be eternal repository of good works. Anyway thank you Yayi for that lesson.

I met Solomon Yayi Olamilekan as one of the newly-elected members from Lagos State to the House of Representatives in 2011 on the platform of the ACN. No matter who you are, Yayi will disarm you with his infectious warmth. If that does not cut it, he will with his ability to listen before talking. If that does not, he will with his witty remarks and above all with a smile or laughter that transparently shows you his kind of heart. Above all, if all these virtues fail in endearing YAYI to anybody, his unfailing key is his respectful nature and humility. He would never be short of saying “egbon mi, egbon mi”  to anybody he perceives to be older than him and to the younger ones he still gives them recognition that you will be inclined to think you had been acquainted for years. Little wonder, I began to call him “broda miii” or Yayi ni ooo, as his supporters call him.

I remember when his opponent was alleged to have gone to shell his campaign office on Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, Lagos. I know Yayi has the capacity and firepower to fight back but he held back.  I saw the bullet holes and the shattered windows. Yayi could have deployed the Lagos establishment might that he had been a part of to his  advantage if he chose to fight back but he chose to walk away. I remember asking him why because with that provocation I am personally not likely to. So we went on into the 7th House of Representatives and the placement for committees got underway. I had the good fortune of being well grounded into the then Aminu Tambuwal Speakership- Emeka Ihedioha project and it was obvious to all, as it is my nature. You will know where I stand.  One day as we were walking to our offices, alongside Yayi, he said “Broda mi sebi you and Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha (now Governor of Imo State) are said to be friends that predates the House.” I said yes. He said, “I am interested in Public Accounts Committee and, as a chartered accountant with cognate knowledge from Lagos, he said he was super qualified and I should enlist the support of DS alongside other efforts since he heard DS (usually deputy speakers are influential in selection of leadership of House Committees) was looking in another direction.

I said  no problem. So I moved in and did my little bit and escalated it to then Speaker Tambuwal (now governor Sokoto State). Well as the Lord will have it, I just did my own bit  and it pleased God. When the list came out the then Honourable Solomon Olamilekan emerged as the chairman, Public Accounts. From then our relationship took a new turn and we related as brothers. He was a fantastic chairman in the management of the committee, a good stakeholder manager. He did his job most professionally; he engaged the government  MDAs well. Not once was he found wanting, nor involved in any scandal.  I am aware that Yayi was the shield for a number of people. Most of our colleagues at the 7th House will affectionately call him a good man leading the pack of chairmen.

  • Honourable Daramola was a member of the House of Representatives