By Omowumi Ekundayo, PhD
Lee David Daniels says that ‘Greatness is attainable. Greatness is multiple small achievements built over a period of time.’ One of Nigeria’s finest elder statesmen has achieved greatness over time and sailed home his voyage with a ship loaded with achievements worth celebrating. In Ecclesiastes chapter three, verses one to eight, one of the greatest sages that has sojourned on earth incontrovertibly asserts that ‘there is time for everything and activity under the sun: a time to live, a time to die…, a time to sing and dance, a time to celebrate…’
‘Fellow Nigerians,’ and the great people of Okpameri, it is time to celebrate one of our sparkling stars in the competing multitudes of the galaxies. His compact life, crowded with achievements, is manifest in different struggles and intrifuing phases. Phase one had him searching for knowledge through primary, secondary and higher institutions at home and abroad. Phase two presented him as a handsome and promising lad, a humble and vibrant teacher and civil servant, his days of little beginnings, which he never undermined. Phase three showcased him as a shaggy green lion who swaggered in the vast military scape of the Nigerian forest. In phase four, he changed attire from green army khaki to fitting civilian muftis, surplus agbada well embroidered, which he neatly wore and courageously spread ajar or folded around himself like an experienced peacock blessed with multicoloured plumes in the hallowed Chambers of the National Assembly in Abuja. After triumphantly serving Akoko Edo Federal Constituency as an Honourable Representative for two terms of eight years, he retired from active on-the-field politics to the phase five of his life: the age of elder statesmanship and then he achieved 80 years today, the 17th of July, 2021. The gallant green lion from the rocky terrains of Kukuruku is 80! In addition to this achievement, this year is the golden jubilee of his love and marital life. Fifty successful years in marriage with bliss, full life and very successful children! Indeed, it is time to celebrate the two Falcon and the Falconer whose things never fell apart, whose centre ever holds together in tempest and in calm.
In Nigeria today, to achieve life in sound health, to subjugate penury and keep one’s beloved family members safe and healthy are the greatest of all achievements. And then, to hit 80 years in a war-torn country whose streets are seething with ‘violences’ of horrible kinds and strewn with strange maladies of weird nomenclature, where life expectancy is pegged at 54, to reach 80 years is a huge feat indeed.
With his peculiar destiny he was born humbly to a humble family on the 17th of July, 1941 in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, which later became Mid-West, Bendel State and now Edo State. Somewhere on the stretch of the dilapidated road that meanders, like an interminable continuum of boas from Auchi, where he was born, down to Issua and Ikare Akoko in Ondo State, somewhere on this decaying road that government should rehabilitate, just after Igarra and Uneme Nekhua, and surrounded by Somorika, Ugboshi and Ogugu is a rustic village called Aiyegunle, also well known as Osi, where God and Nature have erected towering mountains and bounders embracing bounders and gazing perpetually at the sky, Osi is his humble land of origin. Can something good come out Bethlehem or Osi? O yes! He came out of Osi, proudly Okpameri, proudly Akoko Edo.
William Shakespeare, the inimitable English dramatist and poet, says that some people are ‘born great, some have greatness thrust on them, and some achieve greatness.’ This patriarch of Akoko Edo politics was not born into a family of affluence or into any dynasty of pomp and power. No one thrust ready-made splendour and treasures on him as family inheritance. Whatever he has achieved, he belongs to the category of industrious mortals who achieved their own greatness, which I believe is the most inspiring quintessence of greatness. Even a glance at his résumé does reveal that he steadily ascended the ladder of life beginning from the lowest step and soldiered on to its luminous peaks by taking tottering and giant strides.
He had his early education from primary to tertiary level in the defunct Mid-Western, Western, Middle Belt Nigeria and in the United Kingdom. St. Michael’s Primary School, Uzebba, Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongida-Ora, Abeokuta Grammar School, Abeokuta, University of Ibadan, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Jos, Plateau State and Industrial Training Centre, London, among others, stand distinct in this regard. In addition to spending quality times in these famous institutions, he has attended many seminars and conferences to widen the horizons of his knowledge and skills. From a class room teacher in Abeokuta in 1965 to a Civil Servant between 1966 and 1968; an Adjunctant in the Nigeria Defence Academy in 1969 to a commanding Officer, 3rd Commando, Port-Harcourt in 1970 and 1971; then a Deputy Commandant and Acting Commandant, Nigerian Army Education, Ilorin (1971-1975), climbing up to Assistant Director of Army Education, 2nd Infantry Division, Ibadan, 4th Division Lagos and 82 Division, Enugu from August 1975 to July 1982, then Deputy Commandant, Bonny Camp, Lagos from 1989 to 1990, Sole Administrator, National Archive and Minister of State for Culture and Tourism in General Ibrahim Babaginda’s regime in the late 1980s. Indeed, his ascension to the peak of his military career was steady and progressive during which he impacted positively on many young military personnel and imparted knowledge to his students and trainees.
Moving on, he served in many national and international committees and councils of eminence, too numerous to list in this short piece, either as Assistant or the Leader and Commandant. For instance, he was a Member of the National Commission on UNESCO, 1985 to 1988, Chairman, National Committee on World Decade for Cultural Development, 1989 to 1988, Chairman, National Participation Committee for FESTAC 88, Dakar Senegal, 1985-1988, Leader and Deputy Leader of over twenty Nigerian delegations to international events from 1986 to 2009, including the prodigious event of the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Professor Wole Soyinka in 1986, and Member, University of Jos Governing Council 2013 to 2017. And his contributions and industry did not fade unsung or unrewarded. He won many medals, received many letters of recommendation and honours such as Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), Knight of Saint Christopher (KSC), Forces Service Stars (FES), (Silver Jubilee Medal (SJM), General Service Medal (GSM), Republic Medal (RM), National Service Medal (NSM) and Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR). He retired from the Nigerian Army in1990 at middle age and rechanneled his vibrancy and accumulated experiences into entrepreneurship in Minosi Nigeria Ltd, Minosi Computers and Communications.
Having excelled as a gallant Green Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and as a post retirement entrepreneur, he entered the tough arena of politics, joining the United Nigerian Congress Party (UNCP) and emerging its gubernatorial flag bearer (standard bearer) for Edo State in 1999. He later joined the reigning People’s Democratic Party on which platform he contested in 2003 (for) the House of Representative to serve Akoko Edo people in the National Assembly. Of course, he won the elections twice and served as Honourable Member of the House of Representative from 2003-2011, a period in which he was Leader, House of Representative, Leader PDP Caucus, Member, National Executive Council of PDP, and Member, National Caucus of PDP.
Today, he is 80 years and his God-ordained marriage is 50 years. As the aphorism goes, ‘behind every successful man is a woman’. I prefer to use ‘around every successful man is a woman.’ Honourable Mrs Tumini Akogun, an amazon of elegance and splendour, deserves our songs and ovation here for always being around him in the physical and in the spirit, as we do say. Clearly, her divinely perfumed aura, her ‘fervent and effectual prayers’ have assisted her dearest husband to surmount obstacles and achieve victories in the past fifty years. In addition, her very fertile womb and cautious attention to the details of child up-bringing, home management and ‘husband management’, perhaps the hardest of it all, have blessed the heavenly arranged family with five very lovely and successful children and many grand children. Dr Mrs Tumini Christy Akogun is a vivacious Moremi of the Niger Delta. She was the Pioneer Secretary of the Nigerian Officers Wives Association in Ilorin, NAOWA, PRO NAOWA, Ibadan, and the Inaugural Chairwoman of Retired Army and Police Officers’ Wives Association. A glamorous social mobiliser, impressjve social mixer and entrepreneur effervescing with the affable aura of splendour, sincere motherliness and excellence. Fate joined Dr Tumini and Honourable Tunde Akogun on 17th July, 1971, his birthday. Those whom a divine order has put together who can put them asunder?
Ladies and gentlemen, let us jam our hands together, rise and fill your glasses to their brims, click them, beat the drums of honour and chant hurrahs to Honourable Colonel Sir Tunde Akogun, OFR, mni, an elder statesman who has reached the age of eighty years today and his dear wife Dame Dr Tumini Christy Akogun, a shining example of a mother and home manager. Honourable Akogun is a jack of all trades and the master of all: a gifted teacher and trainer, an accomplished military officer, a successful entrepreneur, a distinguished politician, a philanthropist imbued with love for humanity, an outstanding Nigerian cultural ambassador, a deep lover of arts and tourism, a historian and scholar, a loving and successful father and husband and now an inspiring elder statesman, great human qualities which his lovely wife also exudes.
The fulfilling life which you two have lived and are yet living reminds us of that fine observation in the Holy Quran: ‘There are two blessings which many people lose. They are health and free time for doing good’ (Bhukari). However, you have lost none of it. You have them all: good health and the free time to do good. On this occasion of your 80th birthday and the Golden Jubilee of your wedding and marriage, the innumerable Nigerians whose lives you have touched over the years are proud of you. Edo people are proud of you. The many lives you have lifted and emboldened with hopes and means in Akoko Edo are proud of you. We will never forget the many projects and infrastructures that you executed for our people as our Honourable Representation in the National Assembly. Although passing seasons and the elements have made some of them wear out, the people of Okpameri and Akoko Edo you blood and plasma to live are flourishing, testifying to your kindness and greatness. The Okpameri nation is proud of you. Okpameri Descendants Union, Okpameri Unity Forum, Okpameri Progressive Youths and Osi people, young and old are proud of you, the green and khaki lion of the Kukuruku hills! We wish you sound health, sagehood is your portion, longevity your ration. For he is a jolly good fellow, for he is a jolly good fellow, for he is a jolly good fellow…
Omowumi Olabode Steven Ekundayo (PhD), University of Benin, Benin City, [email protected]