By Uthman Shodipe

There was a certain rudeness about the shocking news which one heard on the solitary road along the peninsula in the early morn of December 24. It was as shocking as it was unbelievable. Indeed it is true, the cruel murder of Bola Ige should diminish everyone who appreciates the dignity of human freedom, the caring for the enhancement of progressive civilization. How could it happen? How is it possible? And can we just continue as if all is well with the polity?

The assassination of Bola Ige within what ought to be the secured confines of his private home is a testimony that this nation is being provoked by some hidden agents into a new dark corner of gory conflagration. Again, this death has equally reinforced the perishability of the human frame and of course the deathlessness of an ideological resolve.

Well, the evil has been done, the murderers, whoever they are will soon find out that though the physical frame of Bola Ige has been brutally cut down, what the man represents (yes, represents) remains valid, infinite, forever etched in enviable accommodation.
Though one had been much acquainted with the philosophical purity of the famed Cicero of Esa-Oke, one had met the man only once at his residence in Ibadan, wherein one had been in the company of very senior politicians who had all been invited by the Cicero himself barely within the first three months of this democratic dawn.

There was a certain vigour about the man. He was ever alert, sharp, and brilliant in his thought processes. He was an eager listener as well as he was a reflective articulator of the progressive content. In fact, contrary to the perception of some muddled critics, 1ge was never rigid in his enlightenment. It is true that 1ge had about him a certain sense of rationality and ratiocination; he was logical, defined by empirical balance. He insisted like all men of enlightenment that the democratic space can only be nurtured and cultivated, upon a liberal podium where truth, honesty and decorum are the prompt motivations.

Draped in a well-cut gray pinstriped suit, with a well-knotted blue tie, Ige was as polished in his accoutrements as he was in his general reflections. Again, the critics had it wrong. Ige never strutted in absolutist swagger. Never, not once. He encouraged everyone present to be stirred in independent instinctiveness. He gave the impression undoubtedly that he enjoyed more than anything else the rigour of intellectual discussion, the matured exchange of ideological tussle. He was benignly combative, resolute in his views, decisively borne upon the thematic stricture of Christian values. He hated deceit and the mercenary sway.

While Ige believed in the Awoist tradition of deference to the content of leadership, he equally held that the followership should not merely imbibe the position of leadership without reflections. He insisted that leadership can be engaged in rational challenge without the followership necessarily being disrespectful to the constituents of power. Never did he accommodate the primitive withdrawal into a traditionalist covering where power believes nothing should be challenged or contradicted.

Here, on this occasion, one had equally noticed the relentless democratic passion of this great man. Here one had observed at very close quarters the swell and boom of Ige’s democratic devotion. He had told this writer who had been privileged to be within the team of some elected Senators and party leaders, that the protection of this democracy cannot be the burden of the politicians alone. He had advised them that the role of the media in ensuring the continuity of this cradled democracy is even greater than that of the politicians.

Again observing the great man, amid the vibrant, spatial consanguinity, one acknowledged the declarative assertions of a man who apparently had for long been deepened by ceaseless confrontations and challenges of life. His voice rang with unpretended piety and firmness of purpose. Sometimes, he could be stern without being severe; he was morally upright without being pedantic, he could be borne upon by vigorous resolve and yet without being rigid.

He was equally pragmatic, liberal enough to be swayed by superior arguments. We had stayed with 1ge for about three hours in the waning days of 1999 and had discussed virtually every topic, all issues as at then confronting our party, the Alliance for Democracy, and largely about the survival of the democratic polity.

While Ige was naturally the Field Marshal, ensuring a faithful adherence to the content of the podium, he never hovered in over-bearing majesty, neither did he pretend a heedless absolutist pattern, invoking an unerring philosophy that cannot be controverted. No. Ige passionately stilted in liberal expansiveness. He was witty yet serious; he was firm in his position without being heedless. He was fair, principled, totally charismatic in the depths of his philosophical dynamism. He was extremely lovable and even enviable amid the vast theatre of his ideological frame.

Ige’s weapon was his knowledge. Not once did he canvass the primitive urge of violence. Here, he was unshakable in his resolve that enlightenment is more superior as a tool of enhancing the democratic fabric. He counseled that the good leader is the one who is motivated by a selfless challenge to develop a society. He was a simple man, unadorned in sybaritic engagements. And why will they kill such a man of peace?

But the murderers are wrong. Bola 1ge cannot die. For he lives forever in the hearts of everyone, regardless of clime or creed, who believes that violence, no matter the prompting, has no place in civilized polity and that murder is a tool of the deranged.

First published Friday, 28 December, 2001

About the author

Uthman Shodipe

Uthman Ademilade Shodipe, a descendant of King Ado, the first King of Lagos, is from the Dosunmu Royal House. A student of Classical Antiquity and History of Political Thought, he studied Comparative Literature and Intellectual History of Europe 18th Century at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).