BY Tony Olutomiwa
IT was the Scottish writer, Thomas Carlyle, who famously stated that the history of the world is but the biography of great men, reflecting his belief that heroes shape history through both their personal attributes and divine inspiration. But Carlyle had only popularized The great man theory, an idea which explains history via the impact of great men or heroes on society.
For obvious reasons, the above represents a fitting reflection of the life of Princess Adenrele Oyebola Adeniran Ogunsanya, former Secretary to the Lagos State Government, who turns 70 today.
As we rejoice with her on this historic day even as we also pay attention to her enviable life of service and dedication to humanity, we are confronted with the remarkable impact of her father on her journey, which indeed shaped her essence. For coming with her father from Manchester in England to Lagos as a toddler, navigating the landscape from their ancestral home in Ikorodu to Apapa Road where she had her childhood years and later in Surulere, it has been an eventful life.
And expectedly, politics has dominated her public persona as many know her mainly as a politician without acknowledging her as an astute technocrat who served for a considerable period in the oil giant, Shell and later flourished in business.
But such perception could hardly be different considering the political profile of her great father, the indomitable and outspoken lawyer, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya of blessed memory, who, like a colossus, dominated Lagos politics in the 80s rising from the Zikist Movement and the NCNC to national acclaim. He was a political ally of the equally great Owelle Onitsha, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe.
So it is not a mistaken identity when people usually identify the Ikorodu princess with politics because she’s born into it and grew to make a lasting impact of her own.
Looking back now, it is therefore easy to postulate that her ascendancy to political might and clout especially in the Lagos political firmament was due to the faith of her father, whose encouragement and values molded her political grounding, thus affirming the epitaph of risingfrom a strong political tradition of high standard and public morality. To a large extent, her father’s values, symbolized by such a noble character, a gift of inheritance even from the grand –father, Chief Suberu Ogunsanya, Odofin of Ikorodu, defined her politics and leadership later in life.
Although she was privileged, she was not unduly pampered nor cut corners because she was a daughter of a prominent man. She passed through the normal furnace of life, attended both private and public schools (of that era) as well as fighting, figuratively, for her special place in the social status reckoning at different stages. But invariably, that great family name, Ogunsanya, made the difference at some critical times — either attending the Zikist Movement meetings with her father or the Zikist National Vanguard and those other important caucuses where she met and interacted with very notable names in Lagos politics at a young age and served her political tutelage.
Then she came of age politically, maturing not only in political aspiration and running for office but also leading men and women and the story has been quite interesting. For a long period of time, she chose to follow in her father’s path, in the context of appreciating politics as a major tool to change society and wrought positive impact.
One salient thing about Princess Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya as I know her is her courage and sense of purpose and devotion. She’s grassroots oriented, always eager to feel the pulse of the people and make herself available to solve their problems. Also whenever she realizes that a trodden path may not get the desired result, she recoils in critical thinking and evaluation to seek a more realistic route to the achievement of a cause. We saw this even in her political career, having to abandon what could be seen as a conservative political relationship to the Progressives as a necessity to serve the people. She never forgets her associates and friends.
Ahead of the strategic political cross-over to the Action Congress over some ten years ago, she invited me and made it possible, among others, to meet with the essential Jagaban, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the first time at his Bourdillon residence in Ikoyi talking politics. And when she was appointed the SSG she also invited me to serve in her office. These two instances remain indelible in my mind, signposting, in my view, those very bright stripes of her kind of political leadership. Yes, you can’t miss her generosity of spirit, doing good. I think I should, however, point out here that her expedient and rewarding exit from the PDP at that time was alsoinfluenced by the sudden death of Engr. Funsho Williams, leaving the party with an uninspiring leadership riven by internal leadership struggle on account of contradictions in interest aggregation. Then something had to give in and the time was perfect to move on.
This woman of style is an amazing person one can trust to do the right things and hold firmly to some sound principles and judgements, in spite of the prevailing circumstances and this speaks to her valuable leadership. Her family house in Oke Ota-Ona in Ikorodu is Mecca of sorts to many who come to see her for different reasons on a weekly basis, but mostly on political matters and empowerment and she obliges as much as she could cope. Yet every moment here comes with a snap smile, suggesting that she loves relating with the people. Or the unspoken belief and interest that politics is life and indeed that the people are at the centre of it all!
This observation actually defines her social duality at intervals: at one time she’s with the downtrodden sharing their concerns so intimately and the other time, she’s with the high and mighty, talking the substantive issues of the day. Without doubt, I think her humanity is real. She is a different kind of feminist who believes in traditional family values, a community organizer and advocate of women empowerment.
Princess Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya’s meritorious life has earned her numerous awards for outstanding and purposeful leadership, having served in a number of federal boards and agencies. She is the Omowonuade of Owu Kingdom in Abeokuta, a coveted chieftaincy title conferred on her by the Obaof Owu Kingdom, Kabiyesi(Dr) Olusanya Adegboyega Dosunmu (Amororo 11) for her contribution to national development.
Of course, her remarkable success as the Secretary to the Lagos State Government proved conclusively that she’s thorough bred and deserved every accolade that trailed her enviable stewardship as we also celebrate her at this momentous occasion in her joyful life. She’s undoubtedly, the People’s Princess and it’s pleasant to say that at 70 years, she has made her mark as a worthy Lagosian. She evidently remains a gem in altruistic endeavours particularly those concerning Lagos State and indeed that of the nation. Our collective gratitude goes to God on this milestone as we say congratulations to a dear aunty.
– Olutomiwa is the CEO, Mixot Media Limited, Lagos.
-The opinions and views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer/author, and do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Headline News Nigeria.